Sunday, May 28, 2000

Service an obligation of citizenship

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PARK HILLS — Richard Spoor's view of Vietnam, he says, is shared by the majority of those he fought with:

(Tony Jones photo)
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        Military service was honorable. It was expected.

        “As long as those principles remained in a person's mind, he was fine, but if the Vietnam veteran allowed himself to consider himself a dupe or a sucker, then there were problems,” said Mr. Spoor, 55, of Park Hills.

        He took Army ROTC at the University of Cincinnati and was a first lieutenant in the division, the First Air Cavalry, portrayed in Apocalypse Now. He led a platoon that set up landing zones for helicopters and artillery.

        He was wounded twice while defending a landing zone in January 1969 and received two Purple Hearts.

        By September 1969, he was attending Harvard University Law School. But, for the next three years, he could sleep only if he kept a loaded rifle under his bed.

        Today, he said, “I still sleep very light,” and “If I have to walk through the woods, I would rather be armed.”

Spoor in 1967
        He empathizes — to a point — with fellow veterans who had adjustment problems upon returning home.

        “What has bothered me is the image of the Vietnam veteran wallowing in self-pity,” he said. “A lot of it is a mask for alcoholism and drug abuse. A lot of it was promoted by popular culture. A lot of it is phony.”

        Mr. Spoor returned to Cincinnati in 1972 and went to work for a law firm. He was among a group of lawyers who left a second firm last year to open their own — Hemmer, Spoor, Pangburn, DeFrank & Kasson.

        The vast majority of Vietnam veterans have gotten on with their lives, Mr. Spoor said. He and his wife of 22 years, Pamela, have five children. He is a former member of the Park Hills City Council and was appointed city attorney in 1999.

        “We're around,” he said. “We're not ashamed.”


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