We were young, invincible, and we knew the awful things would happen to the other guy. The war in Vietnam was nothing more than a stumbling block, something our country needed us to do before we continued on with our lives, our educations, marriages, raising rug rats, growing old with a sweetheart. Our tools of war were lethal and high tech, the best bombs and bullets taxpayer money could buy. Turn us loose, let us do what we were trained to do, and we will win this war then bring us home to a grateful nation.
Their military uniforms are packed away in a storage bin somewhere in a dusty attic, or perhaps hanging in the back room closet protected by a sheet of plastic, yet still discolored from years of disuse. Row upon row of multi-hued service ribbons are still pinned over the left breast pocket. Few, if any, of the veterans attempt to squeeze into their old threads of service since age and one too many chocolate donuts have taken a toll, yet these senior warriors continue to serve most honorably in so many different ways.
Habitually identified as the Splinter Fleet, the tiny 110 foot wood-hulled Sub Chasers of WWII held the title as the smallest commissioned ship in the US Navy. A Sub Chaser cruised at around 12 knots with flank speed no more than 20 knots. The more popular PT-Boats of McHales's Navy renown were only 80 feet in length and commonly hit 40 knots, but PT-Boats were commissioned collectively in squadrons, not individually.
The B-24 Liberator was overdue. Ugly gray clouds and a misty overcast cut visibility to less than a mile. Hot and sticky, the crewmembers had been airborne most of the day and they were eager to land. Big sweat beads rolled off their faces and dripped onto the metal floor. The nose art on front of the B-24 identified her as Diamond Lil. Ground personnel were anxious, hoping Diamond Lil could make the airfield. Unattractive and ungraceful, the B-24 merited a reputation for difficult handling and unpredictable flight characteristics.
Aboard the battleship USS California, Dec. 7, 1941. The time: 7:55 a.m. Wayne Shelnut was nursing a hot cup of coffee after breakfast when someone screamed, "What is that airplane doing up there?" Wayne walked a few steps to the door and looked up. A plane with a big red ball painted on the fuselage passed over the California then dropped a bomb on Ford Island. General quarters sounded and startled sailors ran to their battle stations. 100 crewmembers would die and 62 others would be wounded. World War II had caught our Pacific Fleet sound asleep at ...
November 28, 1972 - Udorn AFB, Thailand: The F-4 Phantom jet lifts off with Captain Jack Harvey at the controls. Flight surgeon Major Bobby Jones rides in the backseat. Major Jones is on the non-combat 'hop' to Da Nang, Vietnam, for one reason, to log the needed hours to maintain his flight surgeon status. The flight is uneventful until about 18 miles out from Da Nang. Something has gone horribly wrong in the vicinity of cloud-covered Bach Ma Mountain.
Due to the ingenuity and can-do attitude of Yanks in World War II, the British witnessed their London Lorries remodeled into odd-looking clubmobiles that smelled of coffee and donuts. In July and August of 1944, brand-new clubmobiles crossed the stormy English Channel as remodeled two-and-a-half ton Army trucks. These vehicles also smacked of hot Joe and circular pastry. Eventually 80 clubmobiles and 320 females known as "clubmobile girls" braved the hazards of war to provide our soldiers with familiar tastes and a touch of home. Fifty-two of the ladies would die in the line of duty.
November, 1965 - the Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam.
The 750-horsepower Pratt and Whitney Hornet engines turned over four propellers sending a beautiful yet chaotic melody of mechanical jazz to those encased in the belly of the flying time capsule that is the Liberty Foundation's B-17 Memphis Belle at the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport Thursday.
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Twelve heroes from Newton County and 11 of their brothers from Rockdale County are coming home. Befitting the 40th Anniversary of the ending of the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Moving Wall will be on display in May at the Walk of Heroes War Memorial. And thanks to one man - Bud Sosebee - our heroes will have a noble venue for their homecoming.
Eleven heroes from Rockdale County and twelve of their brothers from Newton County are coming home. Befitting the 40th Anniversary of the ending of the Vietnam War, the Moving Wall – a traveling half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. – will be on display at the Walk of Heroes War Memorial in Rockdale County, May 6-12. And thanks to one man, Bud Sosebee, our heroes will have a noble venue for their homecoming.
March, 1966 - Amended excerpts from 'Vietnam Sky Soldiers' by Wayne English. "The Huey crashed nose first into the earth and you could see the door gunner bracing for impact. The engine was still running while the chopper seemed to wallow around before the rotor blades snapped off. Pieces of rotor blades were flying through the air. Then we started receiving small arms fire along with artillery and mortars all around 2nd Battalion's perimeter. The noise was thunderous, the loudest of any battle we had fought so far. Lead was flying everywhere. I took cover behind the massive root system ...
The farm is called English Gap, named after the Vietnam veteran whose heart and soul is dedicated to giving homeless and troubled veterans an opportunity to acclimate their own hearts and souls before returning to society. The challenge is formidable, the results remarkable, the money persistently in short supply but unable to discourage the determination and dedication of founder, Wayne English.
Harry remembered life on the home front. "I split and stacked wood, slopped the hogs, and rounded up tin cans for the war effort. One day I bought some firecrackers, drilled a hole in a piece of fire wood, packed the hole with firecrackers then plugged the hole. Well, sir, two days later our neighbors wood stove blew up and the butter bean pot went clean into the attic. The patched hole can still been seen in the house. Yep, I took care of the fire wood and my dad took care of my rear end."
Ecclesiastes 3 - "To everything there is a season….and a time to every purpose under the heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:8 – "A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."
Flak blackens the sky; a kaleidoscope of anti-aircraft tracers swivel and coil around your aircraft, and you and your passengers are going down. A normal descent is 72 miles per hour, your landing speed 60 mph, at 49 mph your plane could stall, crash, and kill everyone aboard. Manufacturers with names like Ford Motor Company, Gibson Refrigerator, Ward Furniture, a piano manufacturer, Schlitz Brewing Company, a coffin company, and Anheuser-Busch built the aircraft in your 1,400 plane air armada. What could possibly go wrong?
Doctor David Almand opened his medical practice in Conyers when we both were still relatively young. Goodness, how time flies when you're having fun. Albeit, only recently did I find out his father, Frank Almand, was a World War II veteran who served in Europe. This is Frank's story.
She is nationally recognized among lawyers as 'the' veteran's pension expert, yet eldercare attorney Victoria Collier concentrates most of her attention on the older generation.
The Montford Point Marines were all black, separated from white Marines in basic training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. These 'men of color' served their country in time of war yet most American businesses would not serve them. German POWs incarcerated on American soil during WWII were often shepherded to local towns for an American meal in an American restaurant. Any black soldiers on the guard detail would have to wait outside the American restaurant while the enemy POWs ate American food. The wacky parody of that American reality is too deep to fathom.
This journalist is long overdue in expressing my appreciation to the staff and our two editors, Michelle Kim and Bryan Fazio, for their unwavering support of "A Veteran's Story." Likewise, the staunchest of unfaltering supporters is our publisher, Pat Cavanaugh. Pat has always been there for me, to encourage, to offer constructive criticism, to educate, to be a confidante, and occasionally suggest that perhaps I should be measured for a straight jacket along with recommendations for a padded cell.
Harriman, TN - 1966: As one of the eager seniors attending Career Day at Harriman High School, Howard Hendrickson gave the Army recruiter an opportunity to bend his ear. Howard stated, "He kept talking about how bad basic training could be so I didn't even think about joining up." Tech School for data processing seemed the better alternative. "I had the training," he said. "But the albatross around my neck was a draft card with a 1A classification. There wasn't a job in East Tennessee to be had."
Visualize growing up in Idaho to become a University of Idaho 'Vandal', then receiving a 2nd Lieutenant's commission from their Air Force ROTC program with high hopes of soaring even higher as a fighter pilot. Then imagine the disappointment when rejected for pilot training due to the damage you caused your own unprotected ears during repeated target practice with a pistol.
According to legend, in the year 1307 the bailiff/agent of the Hapsburg Duke of Austria placed a Hapsburg hat on a pole in the town square of the small village of Altdorf, Switzerland. Once the hat was in position, he demanded anyone walking by to uncover their hats before it. As a local hunter/farmer and his son passed by, the older man refused to obey the decree.
"I celebrated my 95th birthday this September," Kathleen said proudly, then crooned in a robust voice, "Sometimes I grew weary and wearier, and life became dreary and drearier, but then I was told, 'you're not getting old, you're just chronologically superior.' And it's nice to be superior in at least one category, don't you think?" Kathleen Eidson, originally in Norwegian, Ejdson, shoulders superiority in the noblest category of all: a superior human being. She is also a United States Marine.