Snuff the Rooster

Posted: June 14, 2014 in Military
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imageRibbons and signs, welcome home parties, and happy families are often associated with troops returning home. The support of our troops could be better than just outward signs and symbolism, but it’s much better than it was decades ago.

Remember the Vietnam War? Do you remember how our troops were treated when they returned home? They were called terrible names. People spit on them. They were rejected as outcasts. Even to this day, they are still disrespected by those who claim those things never happened to them. Sadly, our veterans, who faced atrocious things in faraway lands, faced atrocious behavior in their own homeland.

Yes, I am a Vietnam veteran who was spat upon — literally and figuratively. By hippies? I don’t know. In the airport? Yes. San Francisco International Airport on October 11, 1971 at 3:15 p.m., and yes, I was still in uniform. To be exact, it was the same uniform that I wore during the last Fire Support Mission I was involved in, just 36 hours before landing in San Francisco Airport. No, I didn’t have mud, dirt, or gunpowder on my uniform. A very kind Vietnamese woman at the Transit Company washed and ironed it for me so that I could come home to the country I love looking nice. This was one hell of a lot more than I received upon arrival…[A] person who spat on me was wearing a shirt that said ‘Welcome Home Baby-Killer.’ Robert E. McClelland, Massillon, Ohio

I am a retired Catholic chaplain who served the Air Force community for twenty years. I had two tours in Vietnam (Phan Rang and Bien Hoa)…While I was leaving the JFK airport to catch a bus to the city, a lady (around 43-years old) told me that ‘I napalm babies’ and she spit on me. – Father Guy Morgan, Fort Collins, Colorado

Late at night in mid-August 1969, I was spat upon in the San Francisco airport by a man in his early twenties. I had just returned from my tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam…and was waiting at the airport for an early morning flight to my Denver home. The man who spat on me ran up to me from my left rear, spat, and turned to face me. The spittle hit me on the left shoulder and on my few military decorations about my left breast pockets. He then shouted at me that I was a ‘mother-f*ing murderer.’…The spitter then called me a ‘mother-f*ing chicken-sh*t.’ He was balling up his fists when he yelled this. – Douglas D. Detmer, Farmington, New Mexico

These are just a few of the many stories of Vietnam veterans being spat upon and called names, but it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of how reprehensibly our veterans were treated. Jane Fonda’s betrayal of American troops with her anti-war activism along with (Secretary of State) John Kerry’s lies and slander of our troops were blatant betrayals of our Vietnam veterans.

Tragically, some veterans, scorned by the antiwar movement and their allies, retreated to a life of despair and suicide. Two of my crewmates were among them. For that there is no forgiveness. – Richard O’Mara

I was a red-hot leftist (marxist) revolutionary back then, and I did spit on a couple of returning vets. From the safety of a crowd, behind a barricade and a police line. I was an America-hating asshole and a coward. I’ve learned better, and I’ve learned to feel regret for my shameful actions then. Can’t say the same for the current crowd of shameless, cowardly, America-hating leftist jerks, though. – Bill Quick,

Over 20 years ago, the grunge band Alice in Chains produced a song called Rooster, with an accompanying video that helped people visualize the terrors of the Vietnam war. Warriors Inc. was asked to assist in the making of the video to help authenticate it. Rooster was written by Jerry Cantrell, the guitarist for the band, and the son of Jerry Cantrell, Sr., the Vietnam veteran who is the subject of the song.

Jerry Cantrell, Sr. was nicknamed “Rooster” due to the way his hair would stand up on end when he was younger. In Vietnam, he served in the 101st Airborne Division.

The song is his son’s perception of what his father faced.

I was never in Vietnam…but when I wrote this it felt right…like these were things he might have felt or thought. And I remember when we played it he was back by the soundboard and I could see him. He was back there with his big gray Stetson and his cowboy boots — he’s a total Oklahoma man — and at the end, he took his hat off and just held it in the air. And he was crying the whole time. – Jerry Cantrell

Personally, I have always hated this song, mainly because I only heard the phrase “snuff the rooster.” I love animals (in a non-PETA-crazy way), and I didn’t want to listen to a song about killing animals. Sadly, it has taken me just over two decades to learn that Rooster is a tribute to aVietnam veteran and those that served. A twitter friend of mine and Navy veteran, @jaxmo73, posted the video and I immediately began to cry as I watched it.

Walkin’ tall, machine gun man
They spit on me, in my home land…

Got my pills against mosquito death
My buddy’s breathin’ his dyin’ breath

Oh God please won’t you help me make it through?

Here they come to snuff the rooster…
You know he ain’t gonna die

You may not like Alice in Chains or grunge music in general, but I encourage you to read the lyricsand watch the video. War is ugly under any circumstances and politics make it dirty. However, brave men and women sacrificed their lives for YOU. Honor our veterans and thank our active duty military every chance you get.

For more Vietnam war stories by the veterans who lived through it, see

Soldier on…


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