NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor the military servicemen and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country. For some veterans, this day brings a wave of emotions.
Derl Horn is a decorated Vietnam War Veteran. He says his faith in God, love for his family, and his wife kept him alive on the battlefield and kept him going after he came home.
Derl spent most of his life in Springdale. In 1966, a few years after getting married, he was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corp.
“I got my wife twice and brought her back to Camp Lejeune, thinking I’m going to be staying there. Then they shipped me off to Cuba for 5 1/2 months. I went and got her and then they shipped me to Vietnam for 10 months,” said Derl.
Letters became their lifeline.
“We would go those long lengths of time without any mail … that was really hard because at least when I heard from him I was reassured that he was okay,” said his wife Marilyn Horn.
Horn says he survived some close calls in Vietnam but he still mourns for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“Out of my battalion, there were 749 Marines that were killed during the Vietnam War and I’m just sorry that they didn’t come home and have an enjoyable life as I have,” said Derl.
In 1968, on Valentine’s Day, he was reunited with his wife, and his twin baby girls at Drake Airfield.
“I just ran out to the tarmac and it was the best day of my life,” said Marilyn.
“I’m just proud of being able to serve my country and do what was needed,” said Derl.
Horn says his faith and family gave him purpose and he is using his story to encourage Veterans and to show there is life after war.
Some of his service and war memorabilia are on display at the Arkansas Air and Military Museum for their newest exhibits. It’s called ‘The Forgotten Wars’ and it gives you a glimpse inside the lives of soldiers in the Korean and Vietnam War.
Horn shared the hand-written letters he sent to his wife during his time in service, the Purple Heart medal he was awarded, and the uniform he wore when he returned to Arkansas.
After coming home, it took more than 30 years for Horn to speak about his experience.
His family encouraged him to share his story, and he did. With some support and counseling, he found healing in it.
Now he speaks at Veteran events, advocates for better mental health care services for Veterans and shares his experience through his book ‘Blood, Sweat and Honor: Memoirs of a “Walking Dead Marine” in Vietnam.’