Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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September 21, 2013

Rain dampens reunion, spirits remain high

Veterans continue to flow into the grounds on Ind. 26.

Mike Metzger of Detroit had his right eye shot out in Iraq in 2006 the same day Saddam Hussein was killed.

Suffering from PTSD after his stint in Iraq, Metzger found solace when he came to the Vietnam Veterans Reunion last year.

“I came with my VFW buddies last year,” he said Friday while walking through the 40-plus acre grounds on Ind. 26.

“Now, I can’t leave,” he said. “I love this place. I’ll be back next year.”

Serving with the Army’s 25th Division out of Hawaii, Metzger was sent to Iraq.

“I jumped out of helicopters and conducted Humvee patrols,” he said of his service. “I was shot in my right eye and was blown up several times. Now, I’m medically retired.”

Once he found the healing field, he knew he was where he belonged.

“I feel safer here,” he said. “It really is a healing field.”

Metzger, 33, is one of a growing number of younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan attending the reunions or who have become members of the veterans organization.

Even though the name says Vietnam veterans, the organization welcomes veterans of all wars.

“I’ve seen a lot more younger veterans this year,” he said.

As Metzger made his way around, veterans from across the country continued to flow into the grounds on the second day of the reunion.

Across the way, several soldiers from the D Company 815th Engineers educated a group of Taylor High School students and let them climb aboard a replica Vietnam-era gun truck called “Wild Thing.”

Along with the 5-ton gun truck, the unit had a 2 ½ ton gun truck called “I’m Not Happy,” and two other jeeps that were part of a convoy during the war.

“Any letter that I wrote home I started it with ‘I’m not happy’. So that’s what I named the truck,” said unit member Randy Recht, who served in Vietnam in 1971.

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