Michael Fleming, lead clerk of Pope Field post office was born in Canada and has worn many hats during his life. But the hat he donned on his journey to America in 1968 is special to him.
“I came to America in 1968,” said Fleming. “I went to an Army recruiting office in Buffalo, N.Y. and told the recruiter, ‘I’m from Canada. I want to enlist in the Army. I want to go to Vietnam.’”
Fleming took his strong sense of duty and deep pride with him to help fight in Vietnam.
“I believed that the United States was correct in being in Vietnam in the war,” said Fleming. “I believed that Vietnam was very much like Korea and I believed that all those countries of the United Nations that had been involved in Korea should also be involved in Vietnam.”
Fleming doesn’t tell his story to bring recognition to himself. He opens up to dispel the myth that Canada was just a haven for those looking to escape military obligation during the war.
“I can be very passionate about certain issues,” said Fleming. “(At the time) I was angry that America was being slammed and of course, (being) 18 years old and like all teenagers, I thought I knew everything about the world. I wanted to do something and I knew I could offer myself. I was fueled by some anger because the United States was being slammed throughout the world for its presence in Vietnam.“
Fleming served three years in Vietnam as an infantryman. During his he tour he said he took away several lessons from his time served during the war.
“I discovered that I was a good Soldier,” said Fleming. “I was willing to work hard, deal with what came and that I could be depended upon to follow orders, but also to be concerned about the men with whom I was serving.”
Fleming isn’t looking to be elevated or recognized above anyone else, but does hope to shed light on the rest of the story.
“There was a gentlemen who once said historically Canada was a sanctuary for American draft dodgers and deserters during Vietnam historically, but the rest of the story is that Canadians came (to serve),“ said Fleming.
To Fleming, the price of war was steep, but he didn’t let the cost stop him from joining the war.
“We did not come to die for the United States,” said Fleming. “I think it’s accurate to say, no Soldier serves with the intent to die.