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Honor Flight Houston selects Katy veteran

October 7, 2018

Stephen Brady of Katy will be among the 31 Vietnam veterans flying to Washington, D.C., Oct. 19-20 as part of Honor Flight Houston’s first All Vietnam Veteran Honor Flight.

The nonprofit transports Houston-area veterans to memorials in the nation’s capital to honor their services and sacrifices. Lynda Harrison, Honor Flight Houston coordinator, said a main focus of this trip will be the Vietnam wall. “Patriot guards will be at the wall when we arrive. The U.S. Army will provide a Color Guard. One member will sing the national anthem for them at the wall.”

The National Archives has an exhibit “Remembering Vietnam” now through Jan. 6 that veterans also will visit, she said. For people who want to greet the veterans when they return to Houston, she suggests arriving at Hobby Airport about 6:30 p.m. and looking for volunteers in bright yellow shirts who will tell them where to go.

Honor Flight Houston processes applications on a first come-first service basis, said Harrison. “Lots of Vietnam veterans applied. We want to honor these guys who hit their 50th anniversary in 2015 and do one special trip for them while we can. There will be more in the future.”

Brady, 69, said, “I am dedicating my flight to my best friend who I served with and was lost when his aircraft was shot down on February 5, 1973.” That friend is Joseph “Kiwi) A. Matejov, who was a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Security Service and one of eight crewmen aboard the plane. Harrison said she has not seen any other veteran dedicate their flight to another.

“Stephen always come from the heart. He’s really passionate about sharing the Vietnam experience with the community, children — with anyone who wants to hear it. He is passionate about giving information to Vietnam veterans about agent orange and anything else.”

Brady is president of Vietnam Veterans of America, (VVA) San Jacinto Chapter 343 - Houston; vice president of VVA Texas State Council, and a VVA National Committee member of Working Group I.

Where were you raised and where did you grow up? I was an Army brat. I spent 10 years in Germany, a year in France. I graduated from high school in New York. I had about two years of college before I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1970.

When and why did you come to Katy? I was discharged from the Air Force in San Angelo, moved to Lubbock. Upon graduation from Texas Tech University I took a job with Amoco in Levelland, then Tulsa and was transferred to Houston/Katy. I retired from BP Amoco Inc., with ~30yrs in 2009.

Where did you serve in the military? I was in the USAF from 1970-77 (Nam 1972-73). After I enlisted, I had basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio. At Keesler AFB in Mississippi, I trained to become a Morse code intercept operator.

My first assignment was in Misawa, Japan. I was in Japan for approximately 18 months, which included temporary assignment to Udorn, Thailand. On my return to Misawa, from Thailand, I requested consideration for assignment to Vietnam with the ARDF Program. I was accepted into the program and spent the first five months of 1972 in specialized training as preparation for flying combat missions in the Vietnam War. Our mission was to conduct EC-47 ARDF (airborne radio direction finding) operations. The flight crews consisting of the pilots, co-pilots, navigators and flight mechanics were assigned to the 360th, 361st, and 362nd Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadrons, respectively. The mission specialists, consisting of Morse Radio Intercept Operators (Ditty-Bops), linguists, communications analysts and equipment repairmen who were assigned to the 6994th Security Squadron and its detachments. I was a Ditty-Bop and a ARDF operator and spent the majority of my 12 month tour in Nakhon Phanom (NKP), Thailand. Although I also flew in and out of Pleiku and Danang, Republic of South Vietnam about 10 percent of my tour.

Brady works with teachers and groups to bring the Vietnam War story to others. Why is it important to tell people about the war? We don’t want anyone to forget the challenges we faced as a country and wars we were involved in. Seventy-five percent of the current Vietnamese were born after 1974. People don’t realize it (the Vietnam War). We don’t realize it. We forget the challenges of war.

I also want to make sure boys and girls remember the price we paid for our freedom. We do have a set of rules and laws in government and we follow those rules and laws. When I came back from Vietnam, when I got to California in 1973, they told me to take my uniform off. People will not appreciate you, they said. They don’t like what you did. It was those people that sent us over there. We did what we were asked to do. You can’t forget us. We paid a price. It didn’t just affect us but the families we’re part of. We need to remember. I speak in school facilities for the Katy VFW and the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 343. I tell them what it’s like to be a veteran. You sign you name on the blank check giving your life to your country. I was a volunteer. I love my country.

When I go to Seven Lakes High School, I speak to 850 11th graders divided over six class periods with lecture, Powerpoint and question-and-answer. The kids really have some good questions. We try to complement what the teachers teach and are there to answer questions for them. We’re as honest as we can be but there are limits on what we say and how we say it. I’ve been doing this for 12 years — just 11th graders. When you do presentations you have six or seven teachers, principals listening and asking questions. When you finish for the day, you’re beat. It’s tiring. I don’t know how teachers do it. It’s a way of remembering. I get emotional just talking about it.

What are your thoughts about Honor Flight Houston? I am honored to have been selected for Honor Flight Houston’s first All Vietnam Veteran Honor Flight. This is an honor I never dreamed of and if I had know it was going to happen I would have put it on my “bucket list.”

About six years ago, we took World War II and Korean veterans to Washington, D.C. I was one of the guardians who went with them. It was unbelievable.

I’ve been to Arlington (National Cemetery). I’ve been to the Wall. I’ve been to his (Matejov’s) grave. It’s a communal grave. Eight men buried in one grave. Only pieces. Not a body. I think about that all the time.

karen.zurawski@chron.com

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