Kansas students surprise Vietnam War vet with DC trip
By ERIC WILEY | The Salina Journal (Tribune News Service) | Published: March 16, 2017
Vietnam War veteran Doug Randolph has spoken to students in Alan English’s American history class at Salina Central High School in Salina, Kan. the past four years.
Each time he spoke to them about his nine months in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971, Randolph was presented with what English called an “inadequate” gift.
This year, Randolph received a surprise — a trip to Washington, D.C., through the Kansas Honor Flights program, which flies World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans to Washington to see war memorials and other sites.
“This project was a great opportunity for the students to collaboratively work toward a goal. Through this they have also developed a better appreciation for veterans,” English said Wednesday, when Randolph made his latest annual visit to the school.
English said about 100 students helped raise money for Randolph's trip by hosting tailgate events during football games, helping advertise events and performing other tasks.
“Each student had a role and played a part in helping us make this happen for Doug,” he said. “We’ve raised enough money to send not just Doug but two veterans to D.C. We’re hoping to raise enough to send three or four.”
English and his students are hosting concession stands this spring during track meets, he said.
Randolph was surprised by the students' efforts.
"The kids here are fantastic," he said. "This was a great surprise."
Speaking sometimes rough
He said he enjoys speaking to them, but it was rough the first couple of years.
"There are some things I'd rather not speak about," he said.
His involvement in the Vietnam War ended when he was shot in the abdomen Jan. 13, 1971.
Randolph was stationed outside of Da Nang in Vietnam.
On Wednesday, as he told students about his experiences, he allowed them to hold his medals and view pictures of his wartime buddies.
“Zippo lighters were our best friend during the war," Randolph said. "We used them to burn lots of villages."
Painting verbal pictures
Randolph painted verbal pictures of various events, including an incident in which a sniper in his unit killed a snake that would have bit one of them and members of his unit cutting off enemies' ears and hanging them around their necks.
“I also wrote lots of letters. Most of them were asking for hot sauce, jellybeans, Beefaroni — food mainly,” he said. “I had a way with words, so I wrote a lot of the love letters for our group. I had to have written letters to at least 10 to 15 girls I never laid eyes on. I also got extra food for doing that. Anything for the food.”
Randolph also spoke about the sacrifices of joining the military.
“At the time, I thought about going to Canada instead of Vietnam, but that was the easy way out,” he said. “Going over there took a lot of guts. You’re giving up everything you have — your family, girl, friends. You’re giving it all up.”
©2017 The Salina Journal (Salina, Kan.)
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