Suffolk Veteran one of 50 inductees in Virginia War Memorial Vietnam Exhibit

Published 9:14 pm Monday, February 6, 2023

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Vietnam veteran and Suffolk native Robert R. Brinkley is one of 50 inductees honored in the new Virginia War Memorial exhibit, “50 Years Beyond: The Vietnam Veteran Experience.” 

Brinkley enlisted on Aug. 30, 1966 and served as a Transportation Movement Specialist. After his basic training and stateside advance training, Brinkley received his orders to deploy to Vietnam on Feb. 13, 1967 which lasted until Feb. 12, 1968. Brinkley was then assigned to serve in Germany on March 16, 1968 and was honorably discharged on August 10, 1969.

“As a Transportation Movement Specialist, it was my duty to coordinate, monitor, control, and supervise the movement of equipment and cargo by air, land and sea, ” Brinkley said in a Friday interview.

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He reflected on the biggest life aspect he took away from his service.

“After my tour of duty in Vietnam, I am proud to be an American,” Brinkley said.

Virginia War Memorial Operations Director and Iraq War Veteran Benjamin King spoke highly of Brinkley and his induction into the exhibit, which opened Jan. 27 at the memorial, 621 S. Belvidere Street in Richmond

“Mr. Brinkley is a man of few words, so it was rewarding and inspiring to see him willing to share a story he hasn’t told very often,” said King. “It was also a real pleasure to meet his family, in particular his wife who he brought to the interview with him.  In many ways his hesitancy to talk about Vietnam before this is typical of the Vietnam veteran experience.”

King provided details on how the exhibit that showcases the 50 Vietnam Veterans came together.

“Each panel has a professional portrait, a candid photo of them while in Vietnam, two to three quotes from the veteran and a QR code that has a 90 sec clip of the veteran being interviewed,” King described. “A lot of the experience was fun in a way that is very stereotypically military. For example, at the nametag table, the marine veterans only wanted to use the red sharpie. Army veterans the green and the navy and airforce wanted blue and the Coast Guard wanted orange.”

King said everyone got a kick out of giving the other branches grief. 

“Before the unveiling, we got close to 200 people together in our Veteran Hall. There, Virginia War Memorial Director Dr. Clay Mountcastle, welcomed the veterans and their families,” he said. “Dr. Mountcastle commented on how much wisdom was shared by the veterans in their interviews. Not just wisdom about war and service, but also about life in general. As a Veteran of the Global war on terror, Dr. Mountcastle made it very clear that the modern generations owe our Vietnam veterans a huge debt of gratitude.”

Brinkley spoke on feelings of being at the unveiling of the 50 Years Beyond exhibit.

“It was an overwhelming, honorable experience,” Brinkley said about the experience. “It made me humble and proud to have been chosen for this honor.”

King called the unveiling among the fellow attending veterans “joyful and cathartic.”

“Several veterans described this experience as the first time anyone ever asked about their story and the first time they really felt comfortable sharing,” King said. “Family members expressed how proud they were of their veteran and how meaningful it was for many of them to feel seen and appreciated.”

Finally, Brinkley talked about the effect of his service for the future generations.

“I’m proud to have served so the generations to come will enjoy the freedom we have living here in America,” he said.

Editor’s note: Updated second passage on 7:08 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 8 to reflect accurate enlistment and service dates.