Video: Vietnam vets continue to serve

By Bob Faw Correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/27/2005 7:41:35 PM ET 2005-05-27T23:41:35

The fighting stopped 30 years ago in Vietnam, but for some Vietnam veterans like Bob Canetta, who was then a 21-year-old infantryman, the war has not ended.

"I don't think you can put Vietnam behind you,” says Canetta. “I can't. Like I said, the wounds might have healed, but the scars are still there."

Now, 30 years later, 62-year-old Jack Sharkey, then a captain and fighter pilot, is still coming to terms with Vietnam.

“You just make the commitment to serve the country and you fulfill that commitment,” says Sharkey.

Still shaken three decades later by the death of a dear friend in Vietnam, Sharkey got the military to set aside its mandatory retirement age and, at age 60, along with his National Guard unit, went to Iraq and flew Chinook helicopters.

"You can't ask someone else to do something you're not willing to do yourself," says Sharkey.

Canetta, who lost an eye and leg in Vietnam, serves differently. He’s raising more than $200,000 to help run the Fisher House at Walter Reed Medical Center.  That’s where he recuperated 35 years ago and where, because of his efforts, spouses like Heather Pepper can now stay, for free, to assist her soldier husband, Jason, who was blinded in Iraq.

"If I wasn't able to be here, I don't think Jason, mentally, would be where he's at now," says Pepper.

Canetta is determined these soldiers will be treated better than were soldiers returning from Vietnam.

"I can't be with them over in Iraq and Afghanistan,” says Canetta. “I wish I could, but I can't be there.  But I can certainly do something here. I want to say, ‘somebody cares, somebody does care.’"

Recently, with his unit now back in Hawaii, Sharkey turned in his military gear. Canetta still makes the rounds. Each are reliving an old war while helping in a new one. Two veterans --- committed, still.

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