WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — More than 58,000 names are on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. A Kansas veteran recently went on a Kansas Honor Flight to see the names of the people he knew and lost during the war.

During his visit to the memorial, he also shared what it was like to be in the Vietnam War.

Jerry Ashenfelter was at Bearcat during the war.

“We had a lot of rocket fire, and just almost constant,” he said.

He was with the 110th, a reserve unit out of Emporia and his hometown of Independence. Ashenfelter recognized several names on the wall.

“He was in our company, and he and another one down here,” he said, pointing at the names. “They were blown up by a rocket when they were getting in the jeep to go on patrol, and it just blew them all apart.”

“They were great guys, you know. That’s the way it always is, you know, the best die young.”

Ashenfelter said the only reason he and others were spared was that they had been on patrol the night before and were sleeping. But they were always prepared for an attack.

“It was always hollering incoming and you got under the bunk,” he said.

He said they spent a lot of time hunkered down.

“Sometimes we would spend nights and days in the bunker because we was just getting hit constantly.”

They were young and trying to get through one of the toughest times of their lives. That is why getting mail from home was so important to them.

It is also why Honor Flight asks family and friends to write letters to the veterans who make the trip to Washington. Organizers then pass out the mail during the trip, so the veterans are reminded of mail call.

Ashenfelter answered the call to serve and decades later was greeted by his community and family with a true welcome home.

To learn more about the program, click on Kansas Honor Flight.