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My Experience in Vietnam: Richard Gill and Arnold "Arnie" Stanko

My Experience in Vietnam: Richard Gill and Arnold “Arnie” Stanko


Toni Kirk and David Stewart

            For the past 30 years, the Vietnam Moving Wall has been touring the United States, as a half-sized replica of the Vietnam Wall located in Washington, D.C.. On Thursday, September 21 through Sunday, September 24, Perry High School had the honor of housing the Vietnam Moving Wall. The Wall attracted the attention of many Perry Residents, as well as Vietnam Veterans and family members. Among those who visited the Wall were, Richard Gill and Arnie Stanko, Vietnam Veterans.

            Captain Richard Gill served in Vietnam, with the 25th infantry. Going in at 23 years old made Gill one of the older people serving in Vietnam at the time. During his tour in Vietnam, he encountered Combat Journalism. Gill, as Captain, gave and received daily briefs from other armies such as Thailand, Korean Armies, and Australia. At the time, there wasn’t social media or smartphones, which meant that the briefs circulating through the combat journalists were the only way anyone knew what was going on. This was alarming, considering yellow journalism, what we could call now as “fake news” was prevalent in that setting and could have seriously impacted the outcome of the war. Gill was even quoted in NewsWeek Magazine. Richard Gill visited Perry High School, and shared some stories about his time in Vietnam. For example, Gill emphasized his dedication to the United States. While in Cambodia, Gill and other military officials were having a private discussion, in a tent clearly marked for such a conversation. During this, a French journalist walked in, and took it upon herself to take a picture of a map that they had up, clearly marking the positions of U.S. troops, as well as suspected enemy bases. This map showed everything. When he asked for her camera, the journalist refused to give it up, claiming that she did not know how to take out the film. So, Gill did what anyone in his position would do, to keep that kind of information from getting out, he shot her camera.

            Richard Gill came and spoke to his daughter’s, Mrs. Hunter, Journalism class, about his experience in Vietnam. While serving, they came across a plantation that was home to rubber trees, cashews, and almonds. Overall, the plantation was about 100,000 acres (which is four times the size of Lake County). The French troops had been kicked out by the Japanese troops, who were later kicked out as well, causing the French to try and come back, failing. Essentially, the plantation was a neutral ground. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Gill would go and see the plantation owner, keeping the peace, making deals so the plantation owner and his family would not be bothered. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, North Vietnamese leaders would do the same. After the war, Gill recalled everything being completely different. He and his family moved to Louisiana, where he later became a ROTC Reserve Officer and then finally Ohio where he became a school teacher only ten months out of war. While he was a teacher, a sophomore girl had come up behind him and putting her hand on his shoulder to get his attention. Startled, Gill threw her to the ground, as a result of a war flashback. He thought his then short teaching career was over, but luckily the girl’s parents understood what happened. Gill ended up teaching for eight years, before going back to the army and joining the National Guard full-time.

            Arnold “Arnie” Stanko was a part of the Marine Corps during the Vietnam war, serving in 1971. He comes from a military family dating back to WWI, and was drafted when he was 18. During his time in Vietnam, Stanko was a combat engineer and worked with explosives such as C-4. While in Vietnam, Stanko would wake up to machine guns right next to him. A sight like this would be terrifying, especially for a kid. After the Vietnam War, Stanko became a police officer, and later became police chief for both Waite Hill and Middlefield Village. Currently, he is running to become the Perry Township Trustee. Stanko has been on the Moving Wall Committee for about 2 years, and wanted to bring the wall to where his kids went to school, Perry High School. He, many of his comrades, and people he fought with think that the time is now to honor those who lost their lives in Vietnam, after nearly 50 years.