“Four hundred straight days of getting shot at, worrying about getting shot at, or worrying about your buddy next to you?” says Paul Palazzolo, referring to the thirteen months vets typically served in Vietnam.  “Then you come back, you’re in your early twenties, and society says, ‘Put it all behind you…’

“That’s a lot easier said than done.”

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is only one of the subjects on which Palazzolo has some strong opinions.

Palazzolo is sitting inside Vietnam Veterans of America Detroit Chapter 9, or ‘LZ Motown’ as he calls it—in front of a wooden Huey set donated from a local stage production of Miss Saigon. 

PTSD is a subject with which Palazzolo is familiar, but even more with ‘Grace Under Fire.’  Stationed outside Bien Hoa in Camp Frenzell-Jones as a member of the 199th Infantry Brigade in he saw heavy combat throughout ‘67/’68  in the area known as ‘the Iron Triangle’

In the worst of those experiences, his platoon was caught in a crossfire ambush in Gia Dinh Province on May 8, 1968, and in the ensuing combat, the ranking officer, Platoon Sgt. Lloyd Eugene Tribbett was hit and mortally wounded.  Palazzolo took charge of the platoon, took out the enemy bunker with a hand grenade, and while still under heavy fire, carried Sgt. Tribbett back to the rear area.  Unfortunately, the 31-year-old Indiana native was to badly hurt to survive.

“I was trained to act,” Palozzolo says with the modest shrug we’ve come to expect out of our truly exceptional military veterans.

With two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star, Palazzolo came home to Detroit a hero, but faced the same re-entry issues as most  of his fellow vets.  That’s why he is one of the lead supporters of the Arsenal of Democracy Park—a project which he’s visionalized for 30 years. 

“Democracy is a heavy word,” he says.  “I think Detroit forgets about its history.  No other city in the world was called the Arsenal of Democracy; if it wasn’t for us, America would have lost World War II.  We used to be, and can become again, the proudest city in the country.  The Arsenal of Democracy Park would be the ideal commemoration of our past, and inspiration for our future.  It has been my labor of love; I’ve spend my life working on ways to see it happen.  I can tell you, something that reminds us of the true spirit of Detroit is something that’s vitally needed at this time.”



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