“I was inducted into the military in March 1967, when I was 19, at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, New York,” recalls Mike Belkin.
Belkin did his advanced infantry training at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
While in Louisiana, his drill sergeants recognized the New York accent he had at the time, Belkin said, and assumed he was either a gangster or a thug from that part of the country. .
“Fortunately, a fellow soldier was a real gangster, so he took my place!” Belkin said.
“In 1967 I was sent to Saigon and assigned to the 25th Armored Infantry Personnel Unit as a rifleman in Cu Chi, Vietnam, and spent the first six months as a infantry, then the next six months with the 25th Aviation Battalion,” he said.
To boost morale, an incentive was issued to transfer from an infantry unit after serving in the field for six months.
“God allowed me to survive the horror of a combat infantryman,” Belkin said.
“A week before the Tet Offensive in January 1968, I was assigned to the 25th Aviation Battalion,” Belkin said. “My infantry platoon was overwhelmed and radio calls for help were sent by the men in the field.
“US intelligence reported enemy activity on New Years Day 1968. Unfortunately for the Americans, the Vietnamese attacked their Lunar New Year in late January and caught us off guard,” Belkin recalled.
“It was the turning point of the war in Vietnam.”
In the film “Platoon,” director Oliver Stone was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division and he was portrayed accurately, Belkin said.
According to the Internet, “Slinky” toys were used in Vietnam as mobile radio antennas suspended from a tree branch, which extended the range of the radios.
Belkin earned a bronze star as a corporal and a combat infantry badge during this tour of duty.
“Although my unit encountered the enemy, we always tried to help the civilian population,” Belkin said.
At the end of his tour, he boarded a plane home.
“To my chagrin, red tracer bullets were fired at my ascending aircraft,” he said.
When asked where he wanted to complete his six months of active duty, he asked for the New York area.
After returning to the United States, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree and served as a member of the New York Police Department in Suffolk County for 30 years.
He was married and had two sons.
“Mike Jr. is a nurse practitioner in Phoenix and Marc just completed 20 years in the US Airforce, Air, Sea, Rescue Team, deployed nine times,” Belkin said.
After visiting several of his friends who moved to Citrus County, Belkin fell in love with the area and moved here after retiring with the police.
He has been here for 20 years now and is very involved in the community.
A member of the VFW and the American Legion, he is president of the Beverly Hills Civic Association and a member of the Citrus County Veterans Honor Guard, which conducts military funerals. Belkin is currently grand knight of Knights of Columbus Council 6186 and president of the North Suncoast Conservative Club.
In his spare time, he arbitrates court cases for the 5th Circuit Court, helping people solve their problems.
Belkin is a dedicated military veteran and during military week at our Citrus County schools, he visits the various schools to talk to students about his military and police experiences.
“For the past 55 years I have been an advocate for veterans, helping those in need,” he said. “I was a Suffolk County Police Officer for 30 years and was instrumental in helping veterans who were negatively involved in the justice system. A criminal record closes the door to many opportunities.
I am proud to be associated with the men and women of Citrus County who have served our country.”