Honored Vietnam veteran recalls coming home

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson (CT-1) presented Bristol resident and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gary Wycko with his service medals. Wycko served during the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1968. Larson presented Wycko with his Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with one Bronze Campaign Star and the Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross Color with palm and frame) ribbon bar. U.S. Rep. John Larson, left, is seen here with U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gary Wycko, center, and Bristol Mayor Ellen Zappo-Sassu.

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

Bristol resident Juan Caban was one of 26 Vietnam veterans to be honored by U.S. Rep. John Larson for their service.

Of the 26 honored, only 14 could attend the event, and they were presented with certificates and Vietnam Veteran lapel pins, in commemoration of the 50 anniversary of the Vietnam War.

Caban, who served as a member of the United States Army and is a retired supervisor with the U.S. Post Office, said he was “very lucky” as he was not assigned with an infantry, but rather, an aviation battalion “attached to the 101 Airborne.”

While in Vietnam, Caban said he and his fellow battalion members slept in hooches, plywood cabins that are surrounded by 55 gallon drums of sand, that also had sandbags on the roof, in order to protect the soldiers from incoming rounds of bullets.

Caban said he was grateful for the experience, as it made him feel like he “earned his stay,” as an American citizen.

He said he was “very appreciative” of the recognition from Larson, as there “wasn’t a warm welcome coming home.” To this day, Caban said, Vietnam veterans greet each other by saying “welcome home,” the way they were not greeted by fellow Americans at the end of the  Vietnam War.

But, he also thinks it is important to remember that there are still veterans and service people serving now, such as his two step-grandsons, who are currently serving.

While Caban was the only Bristol-based veteran who could attend the lapel pinning, also recognized for their service in Vietnam were John Gorcyca (U.S. Navy), Edward Hrubiec (U.S. Army), Ralph Saucier (U.S. Army), and David Swarts (U.S. Army), all of whom are Bristol residents.