Vietnam Veterans Day ceremonies upcoming

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Retired Air Force Capt. Brian Settles says the experience of being a fighter pilot in Vietnam remains with him to this day.

Captain Brian Settles will speak at the Vietnam Veterans Day program in McDonough. Special photo

“War changes you forever,” he says. “Depending on your sensitivity levels, it changes some people more than others. As a fighter pilot in Vietnam, it’s an unreal reality.”

Settles will discuss his military memories during a program recognizing Vietnam Veterans Day, Sept. 19 at 11 a.m., at Heritage Park in McDonough. The occasion, presented by the Andrew McBride Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, will mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

Following the program, Settles will also be in the park’s Veterans Museum to sign copies of his book titled “Smoke for Breakfast: a Vietnam Combat Pilot’s Story.” The book is an abridged version of an earlier work about his time in the military, titled “No Reason for Dying.”

“A lot of readers were scared off by a 450-page book,” says Settles. “I felt (the new book) would resonate better with my target audience, which is people interested in military aviation history. Unlike a lot of aviation genre combat stories, I have a lot more human-interest stories that I wanted to share to show how the pivotal incidents in our childhood lead us down paths.”

Settles was among the first African-American combat pilots to fly the F-4 Phantom in Vietnam, surviving 199 combat missions. He says his latest book holds nothing back, describing it as a “raw, honest sharing of experiences” that led him from his younger days as a light-skinned, biracial young man in the era of segregation, into being a combat pilot in Vietnam.

Settles, currently an adjunct instructor at Mercer University’s McDonough location, also discusses what he calls “the struggle for faithfulness while dealing with the challenges of pilot ego.”

“I struggled with the faithfulness issues because we lived in a culture that parties hard and, in some cases, has trouble being faithful in our marriages and our relationships,” says Settles. “A lot of airmen, a lot of pilots were uncomfortable that I was so honest in the book.”

Signed copies of Capt. Settles’ book are available online at

On the same day, Vietnam veterans will also be recognized with a Governor’s Certificate of Honor. The presentation will be at 2:30 p.m., in the council chambers of McDonough City Hall.

The event is being organized by Marine Corps League Detach-ments in McDonough, Griffin and Peachtree City, says McDonough MCL member Jim Dunn. Fifty Vietnam veterans in those three cities, he says, have been invited to participate in the event. Also scheduled to appear are Georgia Commissioner for Veterans Affairs, Mike Roby; State House Rep. Andy Welch; and McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland.

Dunn, who served in Vietnam from 1970-71, and says the ceremony is “well overdue.”

“I think it’s finally time that the Vietnam veterans were recognized,” says Dunn.