Read the service reflections of US Army veteran:
1SG Carl E. Howard
U.S. Army (Ret)
Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/bio/Carl.Howard
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
Growing up in a poor neighborhood and wanting to make more for myself than what was around me played a major role in my decision to join the military. Not to mention the attractive GI Bill sold very well by my recruiter. I knew early on that serving my country would be the biggest event I ever took on in my life. I was so right!
WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
My service career path started out in the administrative field. I initially wanted to serve three years, earn my GI Bill, and go to college. However, towards the end of my 1st term, I realized that the Army meant so much more to me than just the GI Bill. It had become a way of life for me, so I changed my MOS to Infantry to be all I could be and the rest is history.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
I participated in four areas of combat operations. The Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. All of these operations were significant in their own individual ways. The Gulf War was my first combat deployment as a Specialist/E-4. I can remember being on edge almost every minute of the day not knowing what the unexpected was. It was a life changing event for me and I’m sure for all who experienced it. When I deployed to Kosovo, I was a fully mature Infantry Platoon Sergeant (Bradley Fighting Vehicles). It was my responsibility to ensure all of my men (The Mad Dogs) returned safely home. I did just that! My next experience was Afghanistan. I deployed an Infantry Company to Afghanistan by volunteering to put on the diamond. This was another unique experience as we delivered a shocking blow to the Taliban fighters deep in the Afghan mountains. This was the beginning of the end for me. I didn’t lose a life, but some of my brave warriors were bruised up. (Don’t feel bad, you should see the bad guys..lol). This was the decision maker for retirement. Upon retirement, I took a job in Iraq for a year (as a Defense Contractor), where I experienced a whole new set of emotions. Needless to say, I came home (for good) after completing my tour of duty.
WHICH, OF THE DUTY STATIONS OR LOCATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED OR DEPLOYED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?
Another tough one! Choosing one, I would have to chose Fort Benning, GA. Fort Benning really allowed me to grow as a Non-Commissioned Officer. This is where I served as a Drill Sergeant, met the love of my life, had my first child, was blessed with another child, and was promoted to senior NCO. Yeah, this had to be the one!
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
My Mad Dogs! These Soldiers were amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I have served with some of the most remarkable people I have ever met. However, my Mad Dogs were more like family. These Soldiers looked after one another and exemplify the phrase “Brotherhood”. Also, my memories as a Drill Sergeant are forever imprinted in my mind. Those were some of my most fondest memories as I was fortunate enough to train and mentor some of Americas bravest Soldiers. I am truly grateful!
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
That’s a tough one. I have many medals, awards and qualification badges that mean a whole lot to me. If I had to choose only one, it would probably be my Drill Sergeant Badge. A Drill Sergeant is the epitomy of the Army’s NCO Corps. The Drill Sergeant is the first impression a Soldier receives upon enlistment. You have a very demanding and tough job instilling Army values, training and discipline in new recruits. There is no room for error! Your dedicated from sun up to sun down seven days per week. The reward is watching the look of achievement and pride on the faces of the Army’s future march on the parade field. What a great feeling and joy!
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
Wow! Another tough one. I had so many who touched my life both NCO and Officer. The one that stands out the most would be Sergeant Williams. SGT Williams was my squad leader when I was a Private. He basically taught me everything about being “Squared Away”. From unannounced room inspections to surprise “GI Partys”, SGT Williams was on the job. Thank you SGT Williams!
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
I can remember when I was in Saudi Arabia, I was detailed to drive a 4×4 pick up truck to the burn pit outside the Assembly Area (AA) along with SPC Brown. Brown was the TC and I was the driver. After we burned all of the material, we headed back to the AA. SPC Brown rode in the back of the truck and was standing up holding on to the cab. As I approached the entrance to the AA, Brown said “I bet you won’t floor it”. Of course, I did floor it and the truck (and Brown) went Airborne. As we went through the entrance, I saw the Detachment Sergeant (SFC Johnson) running behind the truck trying to signal me to stop. I was hysterical. When he finally caught up with us, he went off. He said ” Are you crazy! You could have killed him”. His kevlar was on his head sideways, his weapon was at sling arms and I just burst out laughing. He was so furious, he just walked off. SFC Johnson was a Soldiers’ Soldier and a true warrior, but that was a hysterical event.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I am a life member of the VFW. The benefits I derive are knowing that the VFW goes the extra mile to care for our Veterans in need.
HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
The military has been the best decision I have ever made. I am a disciplined person who has a purpose in this world who prides himself on contributing to the workforce post retirement. I am a dedicated citizen who believes in giving back to the community and to the less fortunate. I am a supporter of my civilian and military leadership, no matter who’s in office or position. I am conservative in what I do as far as resources. I ensure my children appreciate everything they receive and I teach them that helping others and doing something bigger than yourself is the way to success in this life. I contribute 90% of that to the military.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
Togetherweserved is outstanding! I am sharing it with anyone I come in contact with associated with the military. This is truly a remarkable way to stay in contact and to find those with whom you served so many years ago. I love this website.
Read the service reflections of U.S. Army Soldier:
SP 4 Tom Hirst
Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/bio/Tom.Hirst
(Veterans, if you would like to share your story and leave a lasting legacy of your time in the service, join us at http://togetherweserved.com
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE ARMY?
After graduating from high school in 1967, I did what my parents wanted me to do: Stay in school. So I went on to college for one year and maintained my II-S student deferment. I left college and took a job at the local Dodge dealership in Washington D.C. My life was work and fast cars, a girlfriend and spending most every weekend at the local drag strips. Life was good! The realities of the “my world” were measured in a quarter mile at a time. Not that I wasn’t aware of the escalation of the Vietnam War. I watched footage of it on the evening news but I didn’t really pay too much attention. It never occurred to me that I might be in those news reels myself someday. I guess I was a little naive about what was happening in the “real world” and what losing my student deferment would really mean.
I got my first reality check in December 1968, when I received word that one of my high school friends had been killed in Vietnam. Nolan Byrd had been “In-Country” for a short time when he was killed in a fire fight. Nolan became a “Medic, which was unusually for a couple of reasons. At my high school, everyone was trained to be a Medic. We even had a pseudo military organization called the Medical Cadet Corps. Also, because of our religious beliefs and family upbringing, we considered ourselves “Consciences Objectors” (COs). All us guys knew we might eventually be called upon to fulfill our military obligation but because we were assigned a draft rating of IA-O, we knew it would be in a noncombatant position.
Returning home from work during the first week of August 1969, I found a letter in my mailbox from the Selective Service System. Printed at the top of the letter were the words ‘ORDER TO REPORT FOR INDUCTION.’ The body of the letter began with the word “Greetings…” As it turned out, this was the last draft call before the lottery system took effect. My induction was postponed until October 1, 1969 because of my job, but they got me after all. If I had been fortunate enough to skate by for two more months, I would not have been drafted. My lottery number was 322.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.
I don’t know think “career path” applies to me as I was a two-year draftee and a conscientious objector with limited possibilities. As it turns out and what I had already figured, the only MOS for me was Medic 91A10 . I was sent to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas to attend a 10-week Combat Medic Course.
One night in early December 1969, a sergeant with a clip board greeted us outside the mess hall one evening and said, “Listen Up! If your last name falls between the letter “A” through “M”, you are going to Vietnam!” My “career path” just got a little clearer. Of the 150-200 medics in training at Ft. Sam. half of us went to ‘Nam and the others went to Germany.
As the plane descended into Bien Hoa AFB in the early morning hours of March 5, 1970, I wondered where I was going to end up. As we taxied to the terminal, the stewardess’ attitude changed from “Fly the friendly skies” to “In the case of a rocket attack……” When we boarded a bus taking me to my next adventure, I was starting to realize that things could get a little hairy. I asked the soldier next to me, who was on his second tour, if it was this hot all the time and what the metal screen was for over the bus windows was for? He looked at me and said, “Well, FNG, this here heat is cool ’cause it still early. The ass kicking heat begins a little before noon and lasts until nightfall. Now that mesh there, it’s to keep grenades from being thrown into the bus!” I rode silently for the rest of the bus ride.
I was dropped off at the First Team Academy which I found out was the “Orientation Center” for the First Cavalry Division. Up until this time, I didn’t actually know where I had been assigned or where I was going. After a few days there, I watched as some of my fellow Medics were sent to their respective duty stations. I figured that they must be saving a really good assignment for me.
A couple of days later I got my assignment and took my first helicopter ride to a place called “Song Be” where I was to report to the 12th Cavalry Regiment’s Battalion Aid Station. It was hot when we took off but as we climbed higher, cool air blew through the open side doors. It was a refreshing surprise. Below the countryside was becoming more rural, some farms but mostly rice paddies and green jungle as far as the eye could see. But mostly my attention was on the two gunners on each side of the helicopter. Both looked to be seasoned warriors ready to immediately swing their M60 machine guns into action. That’s when the realization hit me: I was heading into a real war where people are trying to kill each other.
Arriving at the Aid Station, I spent a few days handing out pills at Sick Call. This wouldn’t be too bad. It was more like a dispensary with no badly wounded to take care or bed pans to empty. A week went by and finally I was told that I was going to replace one of the field medics in the 3rd Platoon of Charlie Company 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment. More reality set in when they offered me a .45 caliber pistol and said, “You might need this!” and that I would probably spend the next 6 months with an infantry company in “the bush.” I thought about the impending journey and opted for an M-16, rationalizing it would be a much better “patient protector” than a .45 caliber pistol.
Landing Zone (LZ) Snuffy was at the end of my next chopper ride. Wasn’t much there other than mud, sandbags, bunkers and 105mm artillery pieces. I was told that “log day” (resupply) was the next day and it was time for me to get ready to meet Charlie Company’s third platoon already in the field. There seemed to be a lot of excitement that day since the company had been in “contact” that morning and there was one KIA and one WIA. When the chopper landed, I jumped off as a “body bag” was loaded on. One hell of a way to spend Easter Sunday!
For the next 7.5 months, my career path would be humping the jungles and hard packed, slick trails with 75 pounds on my back.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
When I flew out to join Charlie Company for the first time, I’d been told we may be landing in a “hot LZ,” meaning there had been a firefight in the area earlier. The LZ itself was small, just big enough for one helicopter and surrounded with thick jungle on all sides. When it set down, I jumped off and Ken Garski, the soldier that had been killed, was placed inside and the helicopter took off.
That evening as we set up our NDP (night defensive position), I found out what an “ARC Light” felt like when 500 pound bombs dropped by B52s thousands of feet overhead exploded a few clicks (kilometers) from our position, shaking the earth like a 6-point earthquake.
For the next few weeks Charlie Company conducted “search and destroy” missions along the Cambodia border. I spent most of my time treating minor injuries and jungle rot as well as dispenses anti-malaria pills. In fact, malaria was so bad, the company had to report to battalion every morning that all men had been seen taking their pills. I also had my first Medevac when Greg Egan got a bad reaction to a bee sting.
After I had been with 3rd platoon for about a month, we were called back to Fire Support Base (FSB) Buttons near the village of Song Be for a “secret mission.” We were issued a lot of replacements and new equipment, some we normally didn’t carry such as handheld M-72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapons) and 90mm Recoilless Rifles. On the minds of all of us was, where are we going? We found out that night.
The next day, May 5, 1970, we made a combat assault into Cambodia where we spent the better part of the next two months before returning to Vietnam June 29, 1970. It didn’t take too long to find the enemy. We had many encounters with Vietcong and North Vietnamese Regulars during this operation. [See VIETNAM MAGAZINE, AUG 2010 issue]
One night, as we sat in our NDP, we saw flashlights and the sound of a small group speaking Vietnamese coming toward us. What they didn’t know is we had put out a number of automatic ambushes (AA) along the trails leading into our NDP. Automatic ambushes were claymores daisy chained together by electricity that would go off when a trip wire was engaged. Anyone caught in the killing zone would be a goner. We heard one explosion go off. A few minutes later, another went off. We heard moaning for a few hours and then a single gunshot. In the morning we found 9 NVA bodies, one who had killed himself with his rifle by his pulling the trigger with his toe. We also found one wounded who had survived the blast. He was put on a helicopter but we heard later he too had died.
We found many bunker complexes of significant size during our patrols. As odd as it may seem, while the NVA higher command knew we had invaded their sanctuary , many field units didn’t know we were in the area. On one patrol we walked right up on soldiers playing cards after dinner. The platoon sniper started the firefight by doing his job and the rest of us chimed in to help. We called air support and the Cobras showed up and did their work for the rest of the day. The next day we returned to recon the area. It was a huge complex and we were only platoon size. There was a brief firefight before the few enemy withdrew. We were lucky that the rest of the NVA were not at home that day.
For a month and a half, we had suffered a few minor wounds but no deaths while eliminating dozens enemy. But our luck changed on June 14th.
While following a very well-used trail with signs of recent movement, we ran into the proverbial “hornet’s nest.” First Platoon was on point and my 3rd Platoon was on drag. Second platoon was in the middle. Moving slowly and looking in all directions, the point element spotted NVA in the processes of setting up a hasty ambush. They signaled their sighting and then let loose with their M-16’s on full automatic. The enemy fired back with everything they had and because they were in bunkers and semi-set up, they had the advantage. The first platoon and my platoons moved against the bunkers under heavy fire. Second platoon became the center of our hastily drawn perimeter. Within a few minutes, we suffered our first casualty while in Cambodia. Sgt. Mickey Wright was killed and Tom “TJ” Johnson was badly wounded. Making things worse we were in an area that hampered our radio contact with any support elements. Eventually with the heroics of one of the forward observers, Spec. 4 Tom Thon, who held the radio up over his head while hiding behind a tree, we were able to get air and fire support. We found numerous blood trails and the next day found 10 freshly dug graves.
The next morning we evacuate Mickey’s body and stayed in the same LZ for a resupply. As food and ammunition was coming in, we heard a loud explosion coming from the bunker complex were we had the firefight the day before. We figured it was the automatic ambushes our company commander, Capt. Michael Christy, wanted left in place until after we were resupplied. When we checked it out, we found three dead enemy; one was carrying an RPG with many rounds and other two carrying AK-47s with hundreds of rounds ammunition. They ‘d plan to hurt us bad but never got the chance.
Our tour in Cambodia turned out to be pretty devastating for the enemy. We found many caches with tons of rice, 55 gallon drums of gasoline that were destroyed and a large motor pool with 25 trucks. Drawing from my old “drag racing” days and tinkering with cars in general, I was able to “hot wire” many of the trucks and jeeps that we found. Using the captured trucks, we loaded up all of the usable supplies that we found in that “motor pool cache.” Tires, tools, bicycles, spare parts and even a diesel powered arc welder were “convoyed” back to LZ Evans with the 1/9th Pink Teams flying “cover” for us and telling us which way to go. At LZ Evans the equipment was airlifted back to the rear area in Bien Hoa. Chinooks with deuce and half’s underneath them made for a pretty strange picture! The unserviceable trucks we destroyed. We keep two trucks to carry our heavy packs marking Charlie Company a kind of a quasi-mechanized unit. It only lasted a couple of day until we got back into thicker jungle but those two days were like heaven.
On June 28th we were told that we had to be back in Vietnam by noon on the 29th, the next day. Although Nixon’s “incursion” was to end June 30, he had ordered us out one day earlier. We had a pretty good distance to travel but in the open fields of Cambodia, the “humping” was easy. Midway between the river we were to cross into Vietnam, a dozen print and television journalists were flown in to accompany us the rest of the way out of Cambodia. It seemed we were the last rifle company to leave Cambodia. With movie cameras and note pads in hand, they interviewed people from their own hometown areas and we got our 15 minutes of fame.
We made it out by the deadline only to be caught up in another unfortunate circumstance later that night. In the early morning hours of June 30, 1970, three mortar rounds from our own fire base smashed into our perimeter. The intent was to fire at suspected enemy positions. Only two of the rounds exploded, but those two rounds killed Denny Dentino and Michael Waters and wounded more than 25 others from our company. Forty decades later we are all still trying to come to grips with that tragic incident.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
According to my DD Form 214, I spent 13 months and 5 days in ‘Nam which was my only duty station other than basic training and AIT. After my 7 months “in the bush” with Charlie Company’s 3rd platoon, I got a really “cushy job” as the Colonel’s driver at the Division Surgeon’s Office, 15th Medical Battalion at Phouc Vinh.
I was truly a R.E.M.F.! Every day I “broke starch” and wore jungle boots shined by mama-san and every night, I went to sleep in a bed. I also had a 24 hour dispatch on the Colonel’s jeep! After I drove the Colonel to the Tactical Operation Center (TOC) around 6:45 am each day, I was off for the rest of the day unless somebody needed a jeep to go do an inspection or to the PX or just take a ride around Phouc Vinh on a “photo op”. [See my profile photo section for scenes around Phouc Vinh and Song be and many “BUSH” pictures]
One day the Colonel said he wanted to go to Vung Tau and do some in country R&R. He added that he would like to have the jeep down there as well. The Colonel took one of our choppers and flew down while I grabbed one of the other guys from 15th Med and a couple of M-16s along with the .45 caliber “grease gun” that I brought back from Cambodia and drove down to Vung Tau from Phouc Vinh. This was a distance of 150 miles or so. Everybody thought I was NUTS! A single jeep with two people all the way down through Bien Hoa/ Long Binh to Vung Tau and back. No big deal. Maybe that R.E.M.F. mentality of invincibility had actually taken effect.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
Sadly, the things that made the biggest impression on me were the men killed in my company. The things that I saw being a combat medic were pretty horrific. I suppose it can be rationalized that combat deaths are inevitable in war, but the stupid mistakes that kill and wound people, like “friendly fire” is an OXYMORON!
The company was supposed to be airlifted by Chinook for an in-country R&R in Bien Hoa once we arrived at FSB Thor. Unfortunately for us, there were not enough helicopters available that afternoon. This forced us into an NDP outside FSB Thor until the next day. During that night of 29/30 June, our mortar platoon, “E” Company 1/12th, fired mortar rounds at a “suspected enemy” trying to get back across the border into Cambodia. Three rounds fell short of the objective and landed directly on top of Charlie Company’s NDP, killing two and wounding twenty five. This horrible incident is the one memory that stands out the most and it is the one that can never be erased from my memory.
A better memory stems from the recent visit to the Vietnam Memorial where Danny Long, Al Wall, Keith Forry and Mickey Wright’s little sister Anita Rosenberg and her husband joined us in honoring our fallen brothers. “Operation Wall to Wall” was originally spawned one day when I realized that I still had four T-Shirts that were not “claimed” after the reunion in Myrtle Beach. I figured these are the T-Shirts I that would have been worn by Mickey Wright, Denny Dentino, Michael Waters and David Osborne.
Unfortunately these were the four brothers in arms that were killed while I was with Charlie Company. Using the T-Shirts as the back drop in a shadow box worked out well.
Danny Long made DVD’s of photographs that plays a slide show with music. Name plates were donated by the local trophy company and Vietnam magazine donated copies of the August 2010 issue that we put in the back of the shadow box. Each soldier’s medal board from The Wall was also printed out and placed in the shadowbox. It was my first trip to The Wall and it felt pretty good. I tried to visit the Moving Wall back in the 80’s when it came to town, but I couldn’t finish the visit. I got as far as the directory for panel numbers but could not make it down to The Wall itself.
Two more donated T-Shirts made up shadow boxes for Larry Downs and Ken Garski. All total, we left six shadow boxes to honor Charlie Company Brothers. I also left tributes to two high school and college friends who died in Vietnam. Both were medics: Nolan Byrd and Jay T. Diller.
IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.
The other two Medics, “Doc” [Steve] Willey and “Doc” [Larry] Stansberry and me were all awarded the Army Commendation Medal for our actions on June 30, 1970. We had dead and wounded troopers all over the place. It was a pretty hectic/chaotic morning. I guess this medal is the most important to me. I realize that it is below the Bronze Star that I received, but I think it is the most important one in my collection. My Combat Medics Badge ranks right up there as well.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
Of the awards I received, my Combat Medics Badge is one of my more prized possessions. It is the single greatest recognition for all combat medics. It tell the world that I served as a combat medic while serving the infantryman “out in the bush.”
The other medal that I was presented was the Army Commendation Medal with Valor device for the not so “friendly fire incident” on 30 June 1970. Our head medic, “Doc Johnson” was severely wounded by the mortar rounds that hit us. This left us one medic short to treat all of the wounded and we did the best we could. Captain Christy nominated the three remaining medics, “Doc Willey”, “Doc Stansberry, and me, to honor our efforts that early morning. I think if you ask the other two “Doc’s”, they would have the same response.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
To say any “ONE” individual had the biggest influence on me would be negating my respect for all of the people that helped me during these days. My first day, 3rd platoon RTO (Radio Operator) Gene Tetzlaff took me under his wing and helped the “FNG” get squared away.
As I became more aware of my surroundings, I realized just how lucky I had been being assigned to a very competent bunch of INDIAN FIGHTERS! Capt. Michael Christy led Charlie Company; 1st Lt. Rick Friedrich was my platoon leader in 3rd platoon (photo is Lt. Rick on left and me)and other enlisted NCO’s like “Pappy” and “Oz” kept us all inline.
The simple fact that I AM HERE to report on the days that I spent with Charlie Company is what makes the biggest impact on me!
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
We lived in miserably hot, humid weather most of the time and because we were out humping the jungle 30-days at a time, we went weeks without bathing. That’s why I spent a lot of time dealing with hygiene problems. And the two most common problems were ringworm and crotch rot, both made worse by a lack of clean clothes.
The subject of ringworm came up at our 40th reunion in Myrtle Beach 2010. Jim Wilson, one of the guys in my platoon came up to me and said, “Doc, I think about you every time my ass itches!” That made me laugh and reminded me of the antifungal medication treatment I used on ringworm that the guys called “liquid fire.” It never seemed to fail that Jim or somebody else would show up for “treatment” just when I was ready to eat my dinner. Thinking about it now, I did take some perverse pleasure in watching them run around the NDP wanting to shout out just how much this stuff burned, but they COULDN’T MAKE ANY NOISE for fear it might be heard by the enemy.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
After Nam, I went back to the Chrysler/Plymouth Dealership in Washington D.C. before I got drafted. Things in the “postwar era” were pretty dull considering where I had spent the previous year or so. I worked for a year and then decided to quit working and take advantage of the GI Bill. Seven to eight years later, having exhausted the government dole, I opened my own auto repair business. During this time period, I discovered the marine industry.
Using my mechanical abilities to repair boats seemed like more fun than working on greasy old cars. Besides, people that owned boats were more “appreciative” than people that only owned cars. During this time period, I worked for Zodiac of North America in a support role for the Government Sales Division. In 1980, we developed the “prototype” of the F470 Assault boat which the SEALS and Rangers still use today. You probably have seen the ARMY STRONG commercial where they drive the inflatable boat up into the back of the hovering Chinook and take off….this is the boat that I got to develop and play with. I spent time with the Army Rangers at Eglin AFB, Florida and the Navy Seals at Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia and the Forward Air Control at Pope AFB in the middle of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. All these guys are pretty crazy!
After my move to Florida in 1984, I went back to the “civilian” boating business where I still work in today. I have worked with all of the marine manufacturers from Johnson/Evinrude to Volvo. Currently, I am still working in the marine industry with the Cummins/Mercury/Suzuki companies. I run the parts department here at the Cummins Dealership in St. Petersburg, Florida.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I joined the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) because I think that this is the best forum for people of our time period. I enjoy their newsletters every month and like reading how other people were affected by their tour of duty.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
I am convinced the biggest impact the military had on my life was that it “cut the apron strings” and made me survive on my own. It also opened my eyes to all the possibilities that exists for those who spend a couple of years within a disciplined structure where following the rules creates good order. It also makes a person grow in self-esteem, giving them the confidence to take risks in order to achieve great results. Frankly, I think a couple of years of mandatory military/civil service would work wonders for today’s youth. It may also reveal a talent they didn’t know they had.
If nothing else, a couple of years in the military makes a person grow tenfold over most entry-level civilian jobs.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE ARMY?
For the active duty folks, I advise them to learn their jobs and the job of the person above them. I also recommend that you consider your time in the military as a valuable learning experience on how to get along with others who have nothing or very little in common with yourself. It’s a skill you can use in your community and in your chosen work field. It will also keep you out of trouble.
I also have some advice for those who got out of military service recently or for old guys like me: Take advantage of the GI Bill, especially the college benefits. I did and I am forever grateful. However, there was one huge benefit I ignored for years: The many program offered by the VA. I just didn’t realize or didn’t want to accept how things I experienced in Vietnam affected me emotionally and physically. Not wanting to come to grips with this reality intensified as the years crept up. A few years ago I finally enrolled in the VA and now use it on a regular basis. My advice to you? Don’t wait like I did.
Fortunately for me, I had developed a skill I could return to in the automobile business where I was employed before I was drafted. Hopefully you active duty types and veterans acquired a skill set that can be employed in today’s work place. If not, use the tools at the VA and get some specialized training in a field that interests you. There’s nothing wrong with working with your hands building or repairing something. This ability is fast becoming a “lost art” in America today.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
Seventeen of my company met at Myrtle Beach for our 40th reunion. I had not seen 16 of them since I left ‘Nam. I even found out one of them from my platoon, Danny Long, live within an hour of my home. I discovered Danny and I had the same email provider which led to our reunion after 38-39 years. (Danny is second row, last person of left. I am just below him in green shirt.)
ATWS also helped us locate many of the other members of Charlie Company that attended the reunion. Danny and I also made a trip to the Vietnam Memorial where we were joined by Al Wall, Keith Forry and the adopted “little sister” of Charlie Company Anita Wright-Rosenberg, sister of Mickey Wright who was KIA in Cambodia.
Hear Tom tell his story in his own words:
Read the service story of US Army Soldier:
Sgt Richard B Martin
Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/375009
TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR REMEMBERED PERSON’S DECISION TO SIGN UP FOR MILITARY SERVICE?
In 1940 the Depression was still adversely affecting the American economy. Employment was hard to find and pay was low, especially for a teenager who had not yet completed high school. So at the age of 16 years and 4 months our father managed to enlist in the 51st Pioneer Infantry, a non-divisional regiment of the New York National Guard. He obfuscated about his age so that he could join the military and begin his transition to adulthood.
TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH THEY TOOK.
On Feb 16, 1940 our father enlisted as a Private in Company “E” of the 51st Pioneer Infantry. The personnel of Company “E” were recruited almost exclusively from our father’s hometown of Binghamton, NY. Since he was only 16 years-old at the time, our father wasn’t completely forthcoming about his
age, because he didn’t want to have to wait another 8 months for his 17th birthday. On Oct 15, 1940, one day before he turned 17 years-old, the 51st was mobilized for federal service and by Oct 23rd the entire unit had been relocated to Fort McClellan, AL. During the following month the 51st was re-designated as the 106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division in which our father was still assigned to Company “E” as a rifleman (MOS 745). On Jun 3, 1941, he was promoted to Cpl, and later that year on Dec 9th, two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor, he was honorably discharged from 106th so that he could join the Regular Army.
On Dec 10, 1941, our father reenlisted for a period of three years in the Regular Army and was assigned to “F” Company, 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division. The 1st Division was nicknamed the “Big Red One” because its distinctive unit insignia has a large red numeral “1” on a forest green background. At the time of his reenlistment, the 1st Division was in the process of relocating from Fort Devens, MA to Camp Blanding, FL. His new unit completed its move to Camp Blanding on Feb 21, 1942 and underwent a program of reorganization and refurbishment with new equipment. On May 15th, the division’s reconfiguration was completed and it was immediately re-designated as the 1st Infantry Division (1ID). By the following week the 1ID was temporarily moved to Fort Benning, GA for one month and then relocated again on Jun 21st to Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA where it underwent final preparations for overseas deployment. On Jul 1, 1942, “F” Company boarded the SS Duchess of Bedford for transport to southern England. Our father’s unit was part of the Advance Party for 1ID and it disembarked in Liverpool on Jul 12th. One month later on Aug 1st, the entire Division boarded the HMS Queen Mary at the New York Port of Embarkation and after a week of transiting the Atlantic Ocean, it disembarked on Aug 8th in southern England. Regiments were billeted at various staging camps located in the vicinity of Beaminster, Dorset County. The 16th Infantry Regiment HQ was assigned to Camp Parnham while “F” Company was billeted at Tidworth Barracks located about 15 miles northeast of Salisbury in Wiltshire County. For three months the Division remained in southern England to conduct unit training and staging preparations for Operation Torch, the invasion of north Africa.
For Operation Torch, the 1ID was assigned to Center Task Force (CTF) which also included the 1st Armored Division (1AD) and the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment. CTF had the mission of conducting an amphibious and airborne assault of Oran, Algeria to seize its port facilities and airfields. The commander of CTF was MGen Lloyd Ralston Fredendall. This operation began on Nov 9, 1942 and “F” Co landed unopposed on “White Beach” near the town of Arzew which is approximately 25 miles northeast of Oran. It wasn’t until the second and third day of the operation that “F” Co encountered stiff resistance from the Vichy French forces before the defenders stood down and CTF was able to occupy Oran without further delay.
Soon after Operation Torch was concluded, CTF was re-designated as II Corps and it consisted of 1ID, 1AD, and the 34th Infantry Division. Our father participated in the American Army’s first battle against Rommel’s Afrika Corps at the Battle of Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia which began on Feb 14, 1943. This encounter with Axis forces was an embarrassment for the US Army since several of II Corps’ forward units were overrun and dispersed. A few days later, the Battle of Kasserine Pass turned into an even greater disaster for the Americans because elements of II Corps were forced to withdraw 50 miles west into the Pass with a significant loss of armor, artillery, and transport vehicles. Despite the chaos of being overrun by German panzers, our father managed to avoid capture, although he became separated from his unit for about 1 1/2 months. He apparently took shelter with a friendly Algerian family until he was able to rejoin “F” Co on Apr 5th. Following this humiliation of US forces by Rommel’s Afrika Korps, MGen Fredendall was relieved of duty as II Corps commander and replaced with MGen George S. Patton.
Subsequently, our father participated in the Allies’ more successful third engagement with the Germans on Apr 21, 1943 at the Battle of Mateur, Tunisia which significantly contributed to the eventual defeat of the Afrika Korps and the expulsion of all German and Italian forces from north Africa.
After the Battle of Mateur our father was promoted to Sgt on Jun 6, 1943 and assumed the duties of an infantry squad leader (MOS 653). Notably, our father turned-in his M1 Garand rifle for a Thompson submachine gun which was the standard issued weapon for a squad leader. Soon after he saw more combat with the 1ID when Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, began on July 10, 1943. US forces in this operation consisted of VII Army which was designated Western Task Force (WTF) and its commander was newly promoted LtGen Patton while II Corps was now commanded by MGen Omar Bradley. The operation began at approximately 0200 with an amphibious and airborne assault to seize the port facilities and airfields of Gela, Sicily. The amphibious phase of Husky was soon followed by a slugfest with German and Italian troops across Sicily’s interior mountainous region. It was at the town of Nicosia where our father was wounded in the right hip by German machinegun fire on Aug 3, 1943. This leg wound probably classified our father as an Echelon IV casualty which entailed initial treatment at a Field Hospital in the battle zone followed by evacuation by ship to a Station Hospital in north Africa, possibly in Oran or Algiers.
Recovering in a Station Hospital in north Africa apparently didn’t appeal to our father because while there he went AWOL on two occasions. The first unauthorized absence was Sep 11 to Oct 1, 1943. It’s unknown if he incurred any punishment for taking off for those three weeks, but nevertheless, he went AWOL again for 74 days on Oct 11 to Dec 23, 1943. After he came back the second time he found out that he had been demoted to the rank of Private effective Oct 28th. Where he went and what he did during these periods of AWOL are unknown, but presumably he got tired of laying on a hospital bed in a recovery ward surrounded by other wounded Soldiers. So once he was able to walk on his wounded leg, he probably went to stay with some buddies in a rear echelon unit, or else he was the house guest of some Algerian friends again.
By Nov 5, 1943, the campaign in Sicily had ended and 1ID was redeployed to England to begin training for the invasion of Normandy, France while our father was still hospitalized in north Africa to continue recovering from his leg wound, battle fatigue, and trench foot. He was finally evacuated to England on Feb 8, 1944 whereupon he was apparently assigned to another Station Hospital. By this time his leg wound had probably healed sufficiently so that he could be returned to duty with his unit, but it appears he was reclassified as an Echelon V casualty because he was eventually evacuated to the US on Apr 27th for treatment of his “battle fatigue.” His enlisted record shows that he arrived in the US on May 9, 1944 and was assigned to the Detachment of Patients, 1263rd SCSU, Mason General Hospital, Brentwood, NY. During WWII, this hospital was primarily dedicated for the rehabilitation of Soldiers who were suffering from “battle fatigue” and our father recalled that part of his “state-of-the-art” recovery process included sessions of electric shock. After almost three months of treatment at this hospital he was deemed sufficiently recovered, both physically and mentally, that he could be released from active duty with the annotation of “CDD” on his discharge certificate which was the WWII acronym for “Certificate of Disability for Discharge.” This innocuous term entitled him to long-term medical treatment at VA hospitals for his service related injuries. Subsequently, our father was honorably discharged on Aug 5, 1944 with the rank of Private, approximately four months before the end of his reenlistment contract in the Regular Army.
Our father was 20 years-old at the time of his discharge, and despite his young age, he had accumulated 4 1/2 years of military service which included 4 years of active duty. Even more impressive is the fact that he was only 19 years-old during the year he served in a war zone and the combat he participated in consisted of two full-scale amphibious assaults against an entrenched enemy; three major land campaigns; service as an infantry squad leader; and injuries including a gunshot wound to the right hip; debilitating battle fatigue; trench foot; and undocumented shrapnel wounds. At such a young age, he had done more than his fair share for his country.
IF HE PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE THOSE YOU FEEL WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO HIM AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
On Jul 1, 1942 our father embarked on the troopship, SS Duchess of Bedford, with the advance elements of the 1st Infantry Division (1ID) for transport by convoy to the European Theater of Operations (ETO). On Jul 12th he arrived at their point of debarkation which was Liverpool, England.
From there they were transferred to Tidworth Barracks near the small town of Salisbury, Wiltshire County which is close to England’s southern coast. This part of southern England had been reserved as a training and staging area for US forces as they prepared for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. 1ID was assigned to Center Task Force (CTF) with Major General Fredenhall as CTF Commander. CTF was given the mission of conducting amphibious and airborne landings to seize the port facilities and airfields at Oran, Algeria. The landings at Oran began on Nov 9, 1942, and our father said they had been hoping that the Vichy French forces would not resist, but unfortunately, the French put up a stiff defense on the 2nd and 3rd day of the operation and inflicted several US casualties before they stood down.
Our father’s next combat operation was during Feb 1943 at the Battles of Sidi Bou Zid and Kasserine Pass, Tunisia. 1ID was now assigned to the newly created II Corps with Major General Fredenhall in command again. These two battles were the US Army’s first ground engagements with Axis forces and the over the period of a week it resulted in a disastrous route of the Americans by Rommel’s Afrika Korps. The poor performance of II Corps resulted in the replacement of Major General Fredenhall on Mar 6th with Major General George S. Patton as the Commander of II Corps. Our father’s unit was apparently overrun by the Germans during the early stages of these battles, and he recounted how he had climbed a tall hill overlooking Kasserine Pass as the day was approaching sunset. He said he could see for miles toward the horizon, and below him in the Pass were dozens of burning tanks, trucks, and jeeps, and hundreds of American Soldiers in retreat. From his vantage point it probably looked like the US Army had been decisively defeated by the Germans and that he was in danger of being captured by the enemy. What he couldn’t know at the time was that the remaining elements of II Corps would eventually regroup 50 miles to the west at the exits of Kasserine Pass and receive British reinforcements to reestablish the Allied line of defense. By the end of Feb this new defensive line would halt the German advance and force the enemy to retreat eastward. While our father was separated from his unit a friendly Algerian family helped hide him, and there is evidence that he also had contact with a unit of the French Foreign Legion before he was able to make his way back to friendly lines.
Our father’s service record shows that he rejoined “F” Co on Apr 5, 1943 which was just in time for him to participate in II Corps’ more successful combat action against the Afrika Korps at the Battle of Mateur, Tunisia on Apr 21st. This battle was one of the final combat actions in Tunisia which led to the decisive defeat of all German and Italian forces in north Africa. Soon after this victory over the Axis, our father was promoted to Sgt on Jun 6, 1943 and made an infantry squad leader which put him in a demanding leadership position for a person who was only 19 years-old and in a unit that was about to undertake another major combat operation.
The next combat action our father participated in was Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. 1ID was still assigned to II Corps, but Patton was now promoted to Lieutenant General and given command of 7th Army while Major General Omar Bradley became the II Corps Commander. During Operation Husky the American forces were designated Western Task Force which included all of 7th Army as the landing force. Their mission was to conduct a nighttime amphibious and airborne assault of the southern coastal town of Gela, Sicily to seize its port facility and airfield. Our father’s regiment, the 16th Infantry, was in the first wave of this nighttime assault which landed at 0200 hours on Jul 10, 1943. Despite stiff resistance by the Italian defenders and frequent air raids by Axis aircraft, the town of Gela fell to Allied control by 0800, although the Italians had managed to destroy Gela’s pier facilities before being overwhelmed by the American landing force. Without pausing, the 16th Infantry began moving inland to seize the high ground which surrounded Gela and the nearby airfield.For this outstanding performance of duty during the first few days of Operation Husky, the our father’s Battalion was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation a year later. During the following 3 weeks the 16th Infantry Regiment continued to battle German and Italian forces across the difficult terrain of Sicily’s mountainous interior, until on Aug 3, 1943 our father was wounded in the right hip by German machinegun fire near the town of Nicosia. At this point in the Sicilian campaign, our father was also suffering from battle fatigue, trench foot and some undocumented shrapnel wounds. Subsequently, he was evacuated to a Station Hospital in northern Africa which was most likely located in Oran, Algeria.
While recuperating in north Africa, our father went AWOL from the hospital on two occasions and was eventually demoted to the rank of Private on Oct 28, 1943. He was then transferred to England on Jan 30, 1944 and arrived there on Feb 8th for more medical treatment. He stayed in England until Apr 27th when he embarked on a troop ship for transport back to the US whereupon he debarked at the port of NYC on May 9,1944. He was assigned to a detachment of patients at Mason General Hospital in Brentwood, NY until his medical rehabilitation was completed upon which he was honorably discharged from the Army as a Private on Aug 5, 1944.
OF ALL THEIR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, ARE YOU AWARE OF ANY HE OR SHE HAD FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS THEIR LEAST FAVORITE?
Our father never spoke of a favorite duty station, but upon his return to England from north Africa, an English newspaper published the gist of one of his letters to a friend which extolled the virtues of returning to England after spending 15 months in north Africa.
FROM THEIR ENTIRE MILITARY SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT OPERATIONS, PLEASE RECOUNT ANY PERSONAL MEMORIES YOU MAY BE AWARE OF WHICH HAD IMPACTED HIM OR HER THE MOST.
Our father related that during the rainy season of one operation he had to spend days at a time in a foxhole that was full of water and mud. No one could safely leave their fighting position to dry their feet because the Germans would immediately start shelling their location.
Consequently, our father developed a severe case of trench foot that plagued him for the rest of his life. He only wore white socks because the dye in dress socks would irritate his feet. It was very common to see him suffer sudden and extreme bouts of itching feet which he relieved by vigorously scratching and then doused with hefty amounts of foot powder.
During one operation our father’s squad was moving down a road when they heard a tank approaching from their front. They quickly hid in the bushes by the roadside and watched as a single German Panzer passed by. One of the squad members had a rifle grenade attached to his M1 Garand rifle and after the tank went by the Soldier fired the grenade into the tank’s engine compartment which immediately disabled it. The German crew promptly bailed out of their tank and were taken prisoner by my father’s squad.
On another occasion our father recounted one instance when his squad was on patrol and they came upon a lone German soldier taking a bath in a pond. Before they could take him prisoner, one of the Soldiers in our father’s squad threw a grenade in the pond that landed right next to the German. The resultant explosion literally blew the German to pieces, and his flesh and blood was splattered all over the bushes and trees that surrounded the pond. I don’t recall in what country this happened or if my father was the squad leader at the time, but I’m sure it was one of many horrific encounters he witnessed during the war. I believe this was the last story he told of his combat in WWII.
When our father finally had orders to return to the US, he turned in his duffel bag for storage in the troop ship’s hold. This duffel bag contained two German Lugers which he had captured as war trophies. Unfortunately, that was the last time he saw his duffel. He figured it was either stolen or lost sometime during the transit of the Atlantic or debarkation at NYC.
IF HE RECEIVED ANY MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS OR QUALIFICATION BADGES FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT OR VALOR, PLEASE DESCRIBE WHAT THESE ARE AND, IF KNOWN, HOW THESE WERE EARNED.
On Aug 3, 1943 our father earned the Purple Heart after getting shot in the right hip by a German machine gun at Nicosia, Sicily during Operation Husky. He had other wounds from shrapnel and a severe case of trench foot, plus he was suffering from “battle fatigue.” These injuries occurred during the heaviest fighting that the Big Red One experienced as it progressed up the mountainous interior of Sicily. At this stage of the battle some American units had lost more than half of their personnel strength.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES HE RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
In 1944 the 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry received the Distinguished Unit Citation for its “outstanding performance of duty in action” during Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. This was in recognition of the valiant effort put forth by the 2d Battalion during the period of Jul 10 to Jul 12, 1943 when it successfully conducted a nighttime amphibious assault against entrenched Italian forces; repulsed numerous German counterattacks; and broke through encirclement by enemy tank forces, despite suffering heavy casualties including the wounding of the Battalion Commander. By the late morning of Jul 13th, the 2d Battalion secured the town of Niscemi which was the 16th Infantry’s primary objective for that stage of the operation. Our father served as an infantry squad leader during this battle, and undoubtedly, he and his men were in the thick of the fighting.
IF YOU ARE AWARE, PLEASE DESCRIBE ANY INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM HIS TIME IN THE MILITARY WHO WERE CLOSE FRIENDS OR STOOD OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON THEM AND WHY?
Our father never spoke of any specific individual in his unit that he was close to. However, he did have a low regard for General Patton who he thought was too eager to put them in hazardous situations. In contrast, our father had a very high regard for General Douglas MacArthur who he thought was a “great man,” and consequently, our youngest brother was named after him.
ARE YOU AWARE OF ANY PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM HIS OR HER SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME BUT STILL MADE THEM LAUGH LATER ON?
Our father never recounted any particular moment of his Army service that he found to be especially humorous. However, he must have had some fun times, because many of the pictures we have of him posing with his buddies invariably show them as young men having a grand time.
IF HE OR SHE SURVIVED MILITARY SERVICE, WHAT PROFESSION(S) DID HE OR SHE FOLLOW AFTER DISCHARGE?
Following his discharge in 1944, our father eventually found employment for several years as an analytical reporter for Dun & Bradstreet in Arkansas. During the mid 1950s, he went to work for the US Postal Service as a mail carrier in El Dorado, AR and later as a front desk mail clerk in Shreveport, LA until his retirement from the Post Office in the 1980s.
IF KNOWN, WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS WAS HE OR SHE A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? ARE YOU AWARE OF ANY SPECIFIC BENEFITS THEY DERIVED FROM THEIR MEMBERSHIPS?
In 1952 our father joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 2413 in El Dorado, AR.. After moving to Louisiana he joined VFW, Post 4588 in Bossier City, LA during Nov 1956. The following year he joined the American Legion, Post 191 in the same town. He was apparently a regular member of both organizations, and besides enjoying the company of other veterans,
IF HE SURVIVED MILITARY SERVICE, IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU BELIEVE HIS OR HER SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY THEY APPROACHED THEIR PERSONAL LIFE, FAMILY LIFE AND CAREER?
Our father frequently stated that he had given the best years of his life to the Army. He entered military service as a young, healthy 16 year-old and left active service as a 20 year-old man who needed a full year of medical treatment and rehabilitation before being able to return to civilian life. Despite the hardships, battle scars, and lingering physical ailments, our father was very proud of his military service and even somewhat amazed that at the age of 19 years-old he had successfully led men in some of the worst combat that WWII could inflict on a Soldier. The only time he talked about his wartime experiences was when he was asked, and even then he didn’t elaborate beyond a short story unless he was prodded for more information. He was probably more forthcoming about his Army service with other WWII veterans, but that is to be expected. Only his fellow veterans could truly appreciate what he had endured as a young Soldier.
IF THEY WERE HERE TODAY, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU THINK HE OR SHE WOULD GIVE TO THOSE WHO FOLLOWED IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS AND RECENTLY ENTERED MILITARY SERVICE?
Our father never encouraged anyone to enter military service because of the horrors he witnessed on the front lines as an infantryman. He also refused to have anything to do with firearms in his post-war years, despite his familiarity with all of the infantry weaponry of WWII.
HOW EFFECTIVE HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM BEEN IN HELPING YOU RECORD YOUR REMEMBERED PERSONS MILITARY SERVICE? DO YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL COMMENTS OR SUGGESTIONS YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE?
It has provided a very organized structure for my family to piece together our father’s service during WWII. Instead of a bunch of miscellaneous pictures and documents of his time in the Army, we now have a coherent record of his military service and how it fit within the historical context of the war.