SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Vietnam veteran Eddie McKinney said he had a feeling it was coming.

“A couple a friends of mine, a close friend of mine, got drafted before I did,” McKinney told 7 NEWS. “So I kind of felt like my time would eventually come.”

At 21, McKinney had just gotten married and was waiting the arrival of his first daughter when he was drafted.

“My first child was about to be born in six months as I had deployed…” he shared. “And so I hadn’t held her, seen her, and that was my goal was to get back and see my baby.”

He served two tours in Vietnam.

“It was hard,” McKinney explained. “The heat year round, moving through the jungle.’

What started as a draft kept McKinney in the Army for twenty years.

He said it’s because of the friendships he made fighting along his brothers and sisters in arms.

“I met some great people in Vietnam and coming back as a unit… All of us were still together,” McKinney said. :And we stayed together at For Bragg until I was deployed to Germany.”

From Germany to Panama and then back to the states at Fort Benning, where McKinney served as an assistant infantry instructor.

But despite the triumphs, McKinney said his days during the war were dark.

“A lot of my my children, or my wife, I have a lot they don’t know about me being in Vietnam,” he shared. “Because I don’t, I don’t like to talk about it…”

It’s a time he wants to forget.

But still lingers with him today.

“I developed diabetes and they said, the Army said diabetes was linked to agent orange,” said McKinney.

He added his his greatest hardship was coming home after the war.

“The war that we fought, I just don’t think it was appreciated by America because they would call us baby killers,” said McKinney.

He said he’s glad to see veterans start to receive thanks for their service.

Now, McKinney spends his retired days frequenting the American Legion in Spartanburg.

That’s where he said he can still find that camaraderie.

“It’s rare to talk to people that that you know, know what you’re talking about,” McKinney said. “Because they’ve been through some the same things that you have.”

Eddie McKinney, Thank You for Your Service.

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