Memorial Day Placard Details An Ongoing Toll of Vietnam Service
One doesn’t need to ask Gordon B. Baird (Gordie) what he will be doing on the national holiday, May 28. He carries his placard message and a personal flag along streets, in community buildings, anywhere a spectator might be curious about his message.
The last Monday in May, in the U.S., is declared Memorial Day, the federal holiday created to give recognition and remembrance of those who died in the armed forces while serving this country. Baird’s personal placard offers a chilling reminder: “VIETNAM IS STILL KILLING US”. His emphasis, he says, is the word STILL. Baird’s life is being claimed now, 50 years after his service in Long Binh, Vietnam. After being cured of an initial cancer, the disease has now spread to bones and other areas of his body. Asked about any prognoses that he’s been given by doctors, his reply is three words, “about a year.”
History of the Vietnam War documents the use of Agent Orange. In order to locate Viet Cong troops and for other tactical reasons, the U.S. Military resorted to destruction from the air by spraying the herbicide Agent Orange in heavily forested and agricultural areas. Nearly 12,000 square miles of defoliation was “reaching its peak from 1967 to 1969”; those years include the two of Baird’s tour of duty in 1968 and 1969 in Long Binh. He was exposed. Agent Orange causes various kinds of cancer. Baird has cancer.
On the upside, Baird is still recalling with joy those days in the sixties when he developed a passion for dance. On a weekly basis, he’s still out dancing at ‘the best of country and rock ‘n roll’ locations. He effortlessly does the swing and offers a delightful spectacle for onlookers who are amazed by the 73-year old’s dance attributes. He circles his hips around, and with bended knees goes from a standing position to the floor and back up while doing the twist.
Known as “Mr. Stars and Stripes” for his crafty clothing befitting a flag bearer, Baird is enthusiastically talkative while sharing memories of past Memorial Day celebrations, especially the towns that celebrated the holiday with parades, marching, music, and flags. He is searching out a current venue for participation on May 28.
Gordon B. Baird’s framed Vietnam photos in uniform and in active duty include the information:
U.S. Army May 1967-1969 – Rank: SP5/E5
Military Specialty Branch: Engineer-Bridge Builder, Dump Truck Driver
Assignments: 1967: Basic Training, Ft. Lewis, WA, 1967: Advanced Individual Training, Ft. Ord, CA and 1968-69 Long Binh Vietnam, 104thEngineer Co, Dump Truck Driver & Bridge Builder
Miscellaneous/Awards: Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Marksmanship Medal.