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The recipient of an honorary citation from Barton College said Tuesday that more than 58,000 American lives were lost and nothing was gained in the Vietnam War.
Barton recognized Brig. Gen. Norman C. Gaddis — a veteran of three wars and a prisoner of war for 2,124 days with 30 years of service at the end of his career in the Air Force — during its Day of Remembrance ceremony.
Gaddis, 94, of Durham, a friend of the college and distinguished military leader, was with his son, Tony Gaddis, as the honor was presented during the college’s annual memorial service for Sept. 11, 2001.
Gaddis is a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War. Gaddis is a recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with a V for valor and the Distinguished Flying Cross among many other awards including the Purple Heart.
“Gen. Gaddis had flown 72 combat missions in South Vietnam and Laos when on May 12, 1967, his aircraft went down in an engagement with enemy forces,” said Barton President Douglas Searcy. “Gen. Gaddis was listed as missing and action. He was captured, imprisoned and held as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese from May of 1967 until his release in March of 1973.”
Gaddis, a Dandridge, Tennessee native, had 4,300 flight hours as a command pilot when he retired in June 1976.
“I am certainly honored to have the group of people in there recognize that the armed forces of the United States undergo some very difficult times and I just happen to fall into that category, but I managed to survive it with the help of God,” Gaddis said. “I came out after 2,124 days, came back out, was able to get into the regular tune of things in America. Things had moved fast and eventually I had the opportunity to command the same Air Force base that I graduated from in 1944.”
Gaddis said he enjoys sharing memories of his military service and his captivity.
“I hope that somewhere in this series of people that are going through as our leaders now they will see that the loss of lives is very, very painful for our nation —58,000 young Americans lost their lives over there in that. What did we gain? We didn’t gain anything,” Gaddis said. “So, I would hope that those who are in positions of responsibility would not commit our forces on these things that are just not necessary at all and bear no ill will toward us as Americans because of it being involved in so many things like that. It bothers me and I very much am concerned about where we are now and the path that we appear to be on.”
“This marks the 17th anniversary of a tragic and terrible day in our nation’s history,” Searcy said. “Despite the passage of time since Sept. 11, 2001, it remains important that we still come together as a community to remember those lives that were lost in the line of duty, those that have been lost in service to our country and today, to say thank you to all of those within this community who give up their lives to protect others, those abroad in the service to our country in the military and veterans of the armed forces, all who contribute to our safety and well being.”
College chaplain David Finnegan-Hosey called Tuesday “a day of significance and of sorrow for our nation and our world.”
“We gather to honor those lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001 and those lives that have been lost in the proceeding years as a result of our national response to the events of that day, to ask for God’s healing of our memories and of the world and to recognize and thank those who serve in our community as first responders, members of our armed services and veterans, to pray for veterans of war and victims of war and pray, as ever, for peace,” Finnegan-Hosey said.
“It was one of the worst days in our country’s history,” Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose said of 9/11.