It did not take much Saturday for watery eyes to swell up and voices to get a bit choked up as Scott County Vietnam veterans talked about their experiences serving in that war.
“It is who I am, what I have become. It was very important to me,” said Gary Robbins of Davenport, who served in the Navy. “I am a caring person. So many people did so many things for our country, and so many did not understand it.
“It was a special time. I was there a full year. I wouldn't have traded it for anything.”
He was among more than 150 veterans who came Friday and Saturday to the Davenport American Legion to receive a free copy of the book titled "Vietnam War 50th Commemoration: A Time to Honor: Stories of Service, Duty and Sacrifice."
The book was available from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. each day to any Scott County Vietnam veteran who served "in country."
David Woods, director of veterans affairs for Scott County and a Vietnam veteran who was wounded, oversaw distribution of the book locally.
The 155-page hardcover book is a publication of Remember My Service, a company that creates commemorative military books, soliciting sponsors to underwrite costs.
The Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs committed $400,000 for 40,000 copies of the book and is making them available to counties based on the number of Vietnam-era veterans living in each.
But because the number of books allocated to Scott County isn't enough for everyone who served during the era, Woods is restricting initial distribution to those who were stationed there.
The first nine pages of the book were written specifically for Iowa audiences, with the remainder containing stories from people across the country. Books published for other states have their own introduction.
Woods said about 130 such veterans stopped Friday to get the book and a Vietnam Veterans pin. But it was much slower Saturday. By 2:30 p.m., only about 25 had showed up.
“We had people calling from the Illinois side asking for the books, but I said no. It was just for Scott County veterans,” he said. “We have given away about a half-dozen books to widows of in-country veterans. I think they are deserving of that.”
“I am proud of my service,” said Brad Campbell of Bettendorf, who served in the Army in Vietnam. “And it is very nice to be recognized for our service. It is about time.”
Harry Griffiths of Davenport, another Army vet, called the book “a great gesture.”
“Like a lot of GIs, I was drafted and didn't know why I was there,” he said. “But over the years, I have read more about it and learned a lot more.”