Forest Man Remembers Being Onboard U.S.S. Newport News - WSET.com - ABC13

Forest Man Remembers Being Onboard U.S.S. Newport News

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Forest, VA - A Forest man doesn't talk much about his time in Vietnam. He wasn't a prisoner of war or injured in combat. But he was proud to serve his country and leaving everything behind.

Patriotism and sacrifice seem to run in the Sander's family.

"There had been one of our ancestors that fought every war this country's ever fought since the beginning of it," Dixon Sanders said.

So at 21 years-old Dixon Sanders joined the Navy, and set off on a new adventure across the Pacific.

"I think reality set in that I was actually in war, the morning I woke up on the ship," Sanders said.

He shot artillery guns onboard the U.S.S. Newport News, stationed five miles off the coast of South Vietnam.

"I know we're bound to have shot and killed people," he said. "But it was a long range thing and so I didn't think too much about it. And I'm glad. I couldn't imagine what it was like to actually face people."

After five to six months of fighting, Sanders and most of his men returned home. But instead of parades they were greeted by protesters.

"It was like, we were the first time losers of a war that America had ever fought," Sanders said.

He enrolled in college, burying memories of battle, until one day he turned on the T.V. and heard about a navy ship explosion that killed 20 people.

"It kind of shook me a little bit. I thought, god that was my ship," Sanders recalled.

Sanders met his wife, Connie ten years after he returned home. They were set up on a blind date.

"The minute he opened the door that night, it just clicked," Connie recalled of their first date.

They have pictures of their son, five-month-old granddaughter and the U.S.S. Newport News in their living room. It's a reminder of the sacrifice Dixon Sanders was willing to give.

"It's a place that I live. It's a country that I love. And I'm glad that I live in America," he added.

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