GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A sad development for one of the Vietnam veterans selected for Old Glory Honor Flight's "Return to Nam."
Vietnam veteran Rick Chouinard holds a Snoopy figure, a gift from his sister that toured with him in the Vietnam War and will be the unofficial mascot of the "Return to Nam" Old Glory Honor Flight (WBAY photo)
A health condition is forcing Rick Chouinard to miss the two-week trip, but a prized possession will still represent him in Vietnam.
"While we were there, we didn't worry about our back. Our back was covered. We had brothers that would give their lives for us and that we would give our lives for," Chouinard said.
It's that brotherhood Chouinard will miss the most when 52 other veterans depart for Vietnam Sunday.
After having trouble breathing a few days ago at his home in Crivitz, doctors discovered blood clots on his lungs, making air travel too dangerous.
While extremely disappointed, Rick is not giving up his dream of returning to Vietnam someday.
"I've seen a lot of life, and one of the things I've learned is what will be will be, and if I'm supposed to go to Vietnam, I will get there somehow."
Even though Rick can't go this time, something extremely important to him will be traveling.
"So Snoopy will be going to Vietnam for his second tour," Chouinard laughs, holding a plastic likeness of the beagle from the "Peanuts" comic strip.
A Navy mechanic in Vietnam from 1969 through 1971, Chouinard received the Snoopy one Christmas from his sister in Montana.
He's had him by his side ever since.
"And he's been in 20-some places that I've lived over the years. He's still with me."
At Chouinard's request, Old Glory Honor Flight is taking Snoopy to Vietnam as the group mascot.
Chouinard can't wait to see the pictures and has this advice for his 52 brothers making the journey back 50 years later:
"Enjoy yourselves. Take lots of pictures," he says. "Find the closure that you need and share with one another; you're all brothers."
Action 2 News anchor Jeff Alexander and photographer Bill Kumbalek have the honor of traveling with the 52 veterans on their two-week journey back to Vietnam.
They'll have exclusive reports every night on Action 2 News at 10 starting Monday, Feb. 25.