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'Good Morning Vietnam' inspiration reflects on veterans' struggles

The man who was the inspiration behind the 1980s movie "Good Morning Vietnam" will be a special guest at Heroes Homecoming events in Fayetteville.

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ROANOKE, VA. — The man who was the inspiration behind the 1980s movie "Good Morning Vietnam" will be a special guest at Heroes Homecoming events in Fayetteville.

Stationed in Vietnam during the war, Adrian Cronauer broadcast a radio show that gave hope and comfort to soldiers.

Cronauer said that, when most people meet him now, they expect him to be Robin Williams, the actor who famously portrayed him in the film.

Cronauer, 73, is quick to admit that he is no Robin Williams. He did make some money off of the 1987 movie, enough to put him through law school.

“I know for a fact that I have lost one or two clients because they would say, ‘Adrian Cronauer? Didn’t you see that movie? He’s an idiot. He’s a nutcase,’” Cronauer said.

The movie is very loosely based on his stint as a deejay in Vietnam in 1965.

Cronauer, who lives in Roanoke, said he did have energy and wit on the air and did, as shown in the movie, teach English.

“I did not teach my class how to swear or use New York’s street slang,” Cronauer said, referencing a scene from the film. “Anyone who’s been in the military will tell you that, if I had done half the stuff that Robin did in that movie, I would still be in Leavenworth instead of Roanoke.”

In 1965, Cronauer was in the Air Force and on the air with the Armed Forces Radio on the Greek island of Crete. In the spring, he took an assignment in Saigon, South Vietnam.

“I saw Saigon go, in one year, from a sleepy little French colonial village to a nightmare with a massive influx of troops and equipment and money,” he said.

For the next decade, Vietnam would dominate the United States’ psyche. The images of war and raucous anti-war protests would appear on television screens.

Soldiers were coming home from battle only to face another foe.

“They were spat on, called baby killers. You were told never to travel in uniform because it would attract protesters. That was terrible,” Cronauer said.

It has been said that Vietnam was lost in the court of public opinion, not on the battlefield.

“There was never a significant battle that we didn’t win,” Cronauer said.

Cronauer said communism is no longer a global threat, in large part because of what Vietnam veterans did.

“They frequently greet each other with the phrase, ‘Welcome home,’ and I believe the reason they feel compelled to say that to each other is that, when they came home themselves, nobody said it to them, which I think is a dirty, rotten, crying shame,” he said.

The Heroes Homecoming is a 10-day ceremony for Vietnam veterans to show the community’s appreciation for their service. It is being held in various locations in Fayetteville.

Cronauer will participate in several events, including a USO of NC Variety Show at the Crown Theatre on Nov. 12.


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