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Two Patriots reflect on their time in Vietnam and the nation's recognition of those who served

June 7, 2017

With more commemorations than ever before, the nation is officially saying thanks to all those who served in the Vietnam War, and two former warriors with ties to George Mason University say it’s been a long time coming.

Former U.S. Army helicopter pilots Ron Carmichael, the director of administration and operations at George Mason’s Science and Technology Campus, and D. R. Butler, a retired associate athletics director for academics and Intercollegiate Athletics, have welcomed the Vietnam War commemorations that have increased this year in accordance with the 50th anniversary of the war’s major escalation in 1967. The conflict in Southeast Asia claimed more than 58,000 American lives.

“We were not welcomed home, and I think they’re doing a lot of things to change that,” Butler said.

Former President Barack Obama kicked off “The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration” in 2012 to honor all veterans of the armed forces from 1955 to 1975. The program runs through Veterans Day 2025, featuring commemorative ceremonies and activities all around the nation.

“It’s definitely long overdue,” Carmichael said.

Carmichael arrived in Vietnam in December 1967 and spent the next year flying UH-1 and Cobra gunships. Shot down three times, he was a recipient of both the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart and spent 24 years in the Army before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Butler arrived in Vietnam in the summer of 1965, flying UH-1s while seeing extensive action with the First Cavalry Division. He spent 30 years in the Army before retiring as a full colonel.

Both men credited the Army for the people skills, problem-solving abilities and ability to think under duress that served them at Mason.

“All of that exposure helps me today,” Carmichael said.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, nine million Americans served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces during the period of the Vietnam War.

Ron Carmichael can be reached at rcarmic1@gmu.edu or 703-993-8484.

D. R. Butler can be reached at dbutle5@gmu.edu or 703-993-3251.

For more information, contact John Hollis at 703-993-8781 or jhollis2@gmu.edu.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 35,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility