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VETERAN STORIES: Tingler remembers ‘dream’ of serving in Vietnam
Roger and Tootles Tingler
Roger Tingler, pictured with his wife Tootles, served in the Army for three years during the Vietnam War. Nearly 50 years later, Tingler said his time in service seems like a dream. (Contributed Photo)

COVINGTON, Ga. — The Vietnam War’s ending anniversary is nearing the 50-year mark. For some veterans who served, it seems like it was just yesterday. For others, however, it’s a distant memory. 

Roger Tingler served in the Army during the Vietnam War era.  He had just dropped out of college for a quarter at 18 years old when “Uncle Sam said, ‘We need you, boy.’” 

Now, nearly 50 years removed from returning home, Tingler said he doesn’t really think about his time in service. 

“It just seems like a dream that happened some time back,” Tingler said. “In fact, I’ve put it so far back in my mind that I can’t remember people’s names. I don’t think you can dwell on it every day. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you do.” 

Tingler said his dad, who served in World War II, was the same way. 

Be that as it may, Tingler’s pride for serving his country hasn’t wavered in the least. 

His three-year tenure in the Army began with basic training at Fort Gordon in Augusta. Tingler was then relocated to Robins Air Force base in Marietta for a few months before moving to Fort Benning, near Columbus, at the Ranger’s school.  

When he went over to Vietnam, Tingler was a gunner on a helicopter where he saw a lot of action. 

Tingler recalled his experience that included the “worst day and best day” of his life. 

The worst day was when one of his fellow gunners was killed. 

“I carried my gunner on the other side of the helicopter dead,” Tingler said. “He had just got a telegram 24 hours before saying he had a son born. It was a bad day.” 

The best day, Tingler said, was when he received news that he was coming home. 

Though he was excited to return home, Tingler remembers coming back amid all the Vietnam War protests during that time. That made for quite a hectic arrival. 

But it wasn’t for his return to his Covington, Virginia, home. 

“Now, when I got home, people didn’t treat me like that in a small town,” Tingler said. “It was just in the big cities where they were protesting so much. I got welcomed home with my friends and family when I got to Virginia.” 

It didn’t take long for Tingler to make his way back to Georgia. 

After his stint with the Army, Tingler began working for Hercules that relocated him to Covington, Georgia. 

Upon moving here, Tingler married his wife, Tootles. They have two adult children and now have four grandchildren. He had previously served on the Covington City Council for 20 years. 

Though his time with the Army had concluded, Tingler has still dedicated his life to helping veterans. He’s done so mainly through the American Legion, which he’s been a part of for 48 years. 

Tingler has served in almost every office on the local, district and state levels. In 1999, he was elected National Vice Commander where Tingler would go across the country to different posts giving speeches. 

Mainly going to Washington, D.C, Tingler would talk to congressmen and senators advocating for veterans’ rights.

Doing this is considered a “have to” for Tingler. 

“We have very few people now in politics that were in the military or know anything about the military,” Tingler said. “I was looking through one of the history books with my grandkids. Nothing in there about World War II, Vietnam or Korea. All the hundreds of thousands of people who got killed to give them an opportunity to go to school and the schools don’t teach it anymore about the history of how we got here.”

The Vietnam War lasted for 20 years from Nov. 1, 1955, to April 30, 1975. The United States of America entered the war in March of 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson began Operation Rolling Thunder. President Richard Nixon, in 1969, began slowly removing US troops from the war. 

Later on Jan. 27, 1973, Nixon signed the Paris Peace Accords that ended the US’s direct involvement in Vietnam. 

When the war concluded, an estimated 58,220 Americans died in combat. 

Now, looking back on his time of service, Tingler stressed how gratifying it was to serve his country at a time when the United States needed it most. 

According to Tingler, he “answered the call” just like his dad and other friends did. 

“I’m proud,” Tingler said. “I am proud to stand up and say ‘I’m a veteran of the United States Army’ and serve my country. I think it’s made my family proud and I think it’s made me a better person.”