Vietnam era Veterans remember getting the news of MLK's death

Posted at 5:20 PM, Jan 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-16 18:26:19-05

KILLEEN, Texas — As the nation celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., many are remembering where they were when they heard the news of his untimely death.

While Dr. King was fighting a war for civil rights, other Americans were fighting a bloody war in Vietnam.

Veterans like James Washington, who had finally gotten some well-deserved time off the week Dr. King was shot.

”I went to Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, which is the capital,” said James Washington, Retired Vietnam Veteran and member of VFW Post 9191.

“We got there on the 2nd of April. We checked into our hotel rooms and then we went down and ate. That was on the second.”

It was only 2 days into the 5-day trip when the tragic news rang through the halls of the hotel.

”They said, they just killed the reverend,” said Washington.

“Because she spoke broken English, she said the reverend Martin Luther King. I said, you mean Dr. Martin Luther King? She said, yes and it just stunned me right there.”

Washington and his fellow soldiers continued to fight in Vietnam while joining the Nation in mourning the loss of a man they deemed a hero.

Now he joins his fellow veterans at VFW Post 9191 every year to honor Dr. King.

”I think today is an important day to celebrate because it was the Civil Rights Movement, and he was changing things for the world,” said Anthony Santos, Retired Army veteran and member of VFW post 9191.

Change they say was severely slowed down when the world lost Dr. King.

”I believe we lost a good man that was going to turn everything around,” said Santos. “He had a dream and I believe we’re still working on it. We're still not there yet.”

Veterans like Washington and Santos say they are proud to celebrate this day at VFW Post 9191 because, like Dr. King, they open their doors to everyone.

”The only thing you have to do is be respectful and carry yourself accordingly and Dr. King, I believe he emphasized that, carry yourself with respect for other people,” said Washington.