One reason is that many Vietnam-era soldiers understand the trauma that some of today's returning fighters are going through and want to help them in ways they feel they never were. Kenny is currently mentoring five Iraq war veterans. When he looks at today's young soldiers, he sees a mirror image of himself returning from Southeast Asia at 19. "That's where I was," he says. "I don't want to turn my back on them."
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On the surface, Kenny and Workman seem like strange barracks fellows. Thirty-four years separate them in age, and their personalities have significant differences. Workman is from a small Ohio town and carries himself with a quiet strength. Kenny grew up in the projects on New York's Lower East Side. He wears overalls and sandals, and booms everything in a New York accent. He used to have a ponytail, a hair style that offended Workman's Marine sensibilities.
Not surprisingly, Workman doubted Kenny's intentions when the two men met last year in a bookstore in Quantico, Va., where Workman now lives. Soldiers tend to flock to Workman because of his medal. But a few minutes into the conversation, he and Kenny discovered a friend in common: a young marine, Jason Dunham, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.