For more than a decade, veteran and Killeen resident Tony Rossi has been a familiar fixture at ceremonies welcoming troops home to Fort Hood after deployments.
The 67-year-old disc jockey spins uplifting and energetic beats at the homecomings, in hopes of giving the returning soldiers something he never received after his 16-month tour to Vietnam — a proper reception.
“I want to make it the Super Bowl of homecomings. I didn’t get it, but they’re going to get it,” Rossi said.
He joined the war in 1969 with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, a unit that had seen its share of combat before Rossi arrived, including the loss of a general.
The tour was “typical,” he said — “infantry patrols, search-and-destroy missions, nothing out of the ordinary.”
But as time passed, so did Rossi’s vigor for a war he grew increasingly unsure of.
“After about three months of walking the boonies, not finding nothing, not only myself, but everybody else, said, ‘What the hell are we doing here?’”
Mostly, it was the politics of war, which he said tainted his view of things, especially hearing the inflated numbers, making their efforts appear more successful than Rossi knew them to be.
“It’s something I’m glad I was able to do, I guess. But it’s nothing I would wish on anybody, especially because of the politics. I think the politics always gets people wondering why. World War II, we had a purpose, we did what we had to do. Korea, the same way. But Vietnam, and now this that we’re going through, if you’re not going to go out there to win, you shouldn’t go at all,” he said.
Despite returning from the war with less confidence in its purpose, something good did come from Rossi’s tour in Vietnam. It was there he met his wife of 44 years.
“She was singing. Filipino bands were plentiful. They would go to military bases and entertain the troops. We fell in love.”
Rossi left the Army following his tour to Vietnam, but returned in the early 1980s, and retired in 2000 as a sergeant first class.
Though he said the war did not affect him as severely as many of his fellow veterans, Rossi said it’s not something he talks about frequently, and is an experience he feels lucky to have survived.
“You really feel it when you go to the memorial,” he said. “But for the grace of God, I could be easily on that wall.”