TOPEKA (KSNT) – Ron Whitney was a sergeant in the U.S. Army during the buildup of the Vietnam war. After he graduated from Emporia State in 1968, he chose to join the military on his own terms – rather than getting drafted.

“I figured, well after four years, then probably the Vietnam war would be over with by then,” Whitney said.

He thought his degree would defer him from serving in Vietnam, but of course, Vietnam would rage on for almost another decade. Whitney’s father-in-law was on the draft board all those years ago – at that point, he knew becoming a soldier was inevitable so he went into the service, making the best of it.

“The minute we hit the floor in basic training they said you’re going to Vietnam eventually sometime and they were right,” Whitney said. “Course we didn’t want to believe that but they were right.”

Whitney served one tour in Vietnam in the summer of ’69.

“It was hot and it was dusty and sandy,” Whitney said.

He spent most of his time there in Cam Ranh Bay doing administration work, making sure that troops had all of the supplies they needed. He said he’s grateful he never experienced some of the horrors of Vietnam.

“We did have a few instances but nothing like being out in the field 365 days,” Whitney said.

When he returned home to the states, he and his wife Linda spent the last 14 months of his service in fort Carson Colorado.

For the soldiers who made it out of Vietnam, Whitney says it wasn’t exactly a warm welcome home.

“The ’60s were crazy times for sure. A lot of war protests were going on and it was a very ugly, ugly time here in the United States,” Whitney said.

That’s part of why he’s so passionate about showing other veterans appreciation.

“When other veterans come home from war zones that they are recognized and not looked upon as a lower-class person,” Whitney said.

Ron continues to help other veterans receive the services they deserve. He’s currently the Commander of the Emporia American Legion, All Veterans Memorial, and is also a member of the VFW.

We’re highlighting veterans in our community every week just like Ron. If you’d like to nominate someone for our Veteran Salute Segment, please email Kelli.Peltier@KSNT.com with the subject line VETERAN SALUTE. Include the veteran’s name, military branch, rank, years of service, a short biography and a number to contact them.