“I thought the event was more than expected and went very well,” said Maj. Tom Handy, the brigade intelligence officer. “The event had strong support from Fort Polk leadership, the local community and the team who worked behind the scenes to make it a great success.”
There were many things for visitors to see in Tiger Land. Museum displays, vehicles and examples of advisor training were just a few of the attractions that veterans and community leaders got a taste of during the four-hour event.
Vietnam-era Tiger Land veteran Steve Fleming said, “(For) each generation, there is a world of difference in the change of vehicles, weapons, aircraft and training methods. It’s just amazing to see how things have changed.”
Handy said he thinks the veterans who attended made the event a great success. “We owe honor to these veterans who served here during a difficult time in our Army's history,” said Handy. “It was a privilege to see them in their Army fatigues and Vietnam memorabilia.”
More than 300 veterans, community leaders and civilians visited the numerous displays that made up “Return to Tiger Land.” The turnout was pretty much what Handy expected for the first event of its kind for the 162nd Inf Bde.
“The veterans enjoyed seeing the historical displays as well as how far the Army has progressed in terms of training and equipment since they served,” Handy said.
The event was about more than just pleasing local veterans or showcasing the type of training taking place at the current incarnation of Tiger Land. Handy said it was about sharing a bond between Soldiers, even when those Soldiers are separated by decades in age.
“There are many veterans we don't see every day but they're out there,” Handy said. “We owe them more than a holiday to show our appreciation for their sacrifice, which many Americans don't see or understand. Serving in the military is like a brotherhood. It's hard for someone to comprehend what veterans have gone through since everyday military members miss birthdays, anniversaries and even the births of our children.”
Sulpher resident Pat Stanley said, “(I am) here to represent all those others who live in other parts of the country who have probably never been back to Louisiana –– they still hold Fort Polk, Louisiana and Tiger Land in their memories.”
“Return to Tiger Land” was the first of event of its kind. It will be an annual event and Handy said he has material prepared for next year's event. The main intent was to attract veterans of Tiger Land and spread awareness of the event to the local community. “Our goal was to attract military veterans to the event, and by the turnout of the attendees, we succeeded,” Handy said. “I'm sure next year we'll have a larger presence of veterans attending the event.”