Vietnam hero urges pride, community among vets

- Often lost in the politics of the Vietnam War were the stories of soldiers like Army Ranger Gary Littrell.

"I didn't have time to think about dying. It was just, 'I've got a mission,'" Littrell explained of his mindset during the war. 

He was in a fierce battle over a piece of high ground. He went in with nearly 500 men, mostly South Vietnamese rangers. 

"When I came off the hill, I had 41 walking wounded and myself," he recalled.

Littrell received the Medal Of Honor for extraordinary courage. Now, 50 years after the start of the Vietnam War, he speaks forcefully about those who served.

He recently spoke to a group of veterans at the Bay Pines VA Hospital in Pinellas County.

"We stood up and fought the spread of communism," Littrell said from a podium with dozens of veterans applauding his words. "Communism no long exists, so tell me we lost our war. The person that thinks that, can go straight to Hell!"

Littrell doesn't shy away from his feelings about a war that divided the nation.

"Even though we weren't welcomed home properly, I look at myself as a proud Vietnam Veteran. I'm proud of the job that we did," he said.

Retired from the Army and living in St. Pete Beach, Littrell spends much of his time advocating for veterans' causes. He said he traveled to events more than 200 times last year.

"I've made six trips to Iraq and five trips to Afghanistan to visit the troops," he said.

One of  his chief concerns is the high number of suicides among veterans. He called on fellow veterans to help.

"If that means you grab them by the hand and put them in the car and drive down to the hospital, that's your job," he said. "That's what we're here for now, to take care of each other." 

Littell is one of 76 living recipients of the Medal Of Honor.

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