Vietnam Vet Shares Experiences with Students

JACKSON, Tenn. — In honor of Student Veterans Week, proclaimed by Gov. Bill Haslam, Woodie Robinson shared his personal story as a Vietnam veteran on Sept. 28 at Jackson State Community College.

“America was totally different,” Robinson said. “(Americans) resented the Vietnam veterans. They called us baby killers; they called us everything.”

Robinson was drafted right after high school at 19 years old. He served from 1966-69, and then from 1980-2001 in the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer 4.

Within six months of being drafted, Robinson was sent to combat in Vietnam.

Because a great number of soldiers were needed in a short time, they were not as well trained as soldiers today are, Robinson said.

“It wasn’t as orderly as it normally is,” he added.

Robinson said sharing his story provides history to younger vets, as their experiences are a lot different.
American people respond so great to Iraqi war veterans, but that was not the case when Vietnam vets came home.
“People didn’t like you,” Robinson said.

Soldiers were told to not wear their military haircuts or uniforms because people were so angry at them.
“From a perspective of loyalty and loving your country you were willing to go, but you were not expecting for people to hate you when you came back,” Robinson said.

People could see what was happening on TV, but the soldiers didn’t know all the issues surrounding the war, he said. They were just there to fight for our country and do their job.

Combat was stressful and lonely, Robinson noted, but that was not all there was to being in the military.
“It provided me with an opportunity to see the world in a different light,” Robinson said. “It just opened my eyes to a new world.”


Jackson State has about 102 members in its Student Veterans of America chapter, SVA President David Sarnick said.

The most exciting part of the week was the college being honored by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) as a VETS Designated campus, meaning it supports veterans and active duty military students, Veterans and Adult Students Coordinator Lynda Davis said.

Jackson state was also honored by THEC with a $44,500 grant to improve services for student veterans by helping more of them receive academic credit for their experience in the military.

More NFL players have joined in on the “take a knee” movement started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the pre-season of 2016.

Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest against police brutality.

“I don’t like it, but it isn’t like you don’t care about America,” Robinson said.

Robinson said he will always stand for the American flag and national anthem, but people have the right not to.

Recalling all the times he’s attended professional sports games, a lot of people are using the bathroom, buying food, walking in the stadium or talking during the anthem anyway, so what about them he asked.


“The flag to me is in here,” Robinson said, pointing to his heart.

You can say the Pledge of Allegiance or stand for the flag when the national anthem is played but “how do you respond when America needs you,” he asked, adding that some people complaining about the movement wouldn’t be willing to fight for this country.

“I’m proud of the flag and I’ll put my life on the line for the flag, but that doesn’t mean everybody (doesn’t) have the right to kneel,” he said.

Growing up in the Martin Luther King Jr. era, Robinson knows all about the injustices in this country and doesn’t want to see people going through the same things he watched his parents go through.

“There’s opportunities here, and it’s the greatest country in the world — but that doesn’t mean it’s right all the time,” Robinson said.

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