Article Written by Male Veteran of the Quarter David Simpler
I thank pastor and fellow veteran Tom Hogate for asking me to do this! A little history about me. I never thought of myself as a celebrity, just plain ole me.
I was raised on a small dairy farm between Churchill and Sudlersville, MD. in Queens Anne County with my parents and four boys. With a dairy farm and other livestock it was seven days a week work. Sunrise to sunset! I got .25 cents a week allowance and we only went to town one day a week on Sunday morning. My .25 cents got me a 7 oz. Coca Cola and a hand-dipped ice cream cone! I was a happy boy and I worked all week for that Coke and ice cream cone.
I attended high school at Sudlersville High in MD which was known for the major league baseball player, Jimmy Dell Fox. My oldest brother, William A. was named after our father. He joined the National Guard in the 1950’s. My second brother, Kenneth R. joined the Army in the early 1960’s and served in the early days of Vietnam and Germany. My third Brother, Gary A. got married right out of highschool and started a family.
I graduated in 1965 and went to MD State Teacher’s College after highschool. Come summer break you were no longer 4F you were 1A for the draft. The draft was hot hot!! You could not buy a job if you were 1A with the draft board. So, I made the decision to go to the draft board and volunteer to move my number up so I could get it over with. They moved me up! In sight of 3 weeks I was on my way to Fort Holabird, an Army post in the City of Baltimore, MD for induction. Then on a bus to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for basic training. That was physical and military mental training with discipline included at no charge!
I was about 2 years older than most of the inductees, but as a farm boy I was in better physical shape than most. It was an experience to say the least! After 8 weeks of this, I was sent of Fort Sill, Oklahoma for field artillery school. This farm boy got his 1st ride on an airplane. An old jump plane with nylon strapped seats and this airplane rattled and shook all the way there. I think I probably had loose teeth by the time we got there. The barracks were still WW2 era but adequate for the purpose.
Graduation day was late December, however we had an ice storm and nothing moved by land or by air. We stayed in a motel until departure was available. Young and dumb (naive) we only has about 1 week before leaving for Vietnam. Some went via boat and some via air. I went by air, landing in Tuy Hoa on January 1, 1968. We had nothing but the government issued fatigues on and we got hit that night and lost a few guys within 24 hours of landing. We knew nothing of this type of environment.
Young and dumb! We were all separated and sent to various artillery units as needed. We were strictly replacements in one form or another. I was located in I Corps 5/27th B Battery 105-155 Towed Artillery. I thank my Lord and Savior that I survived. The 15 months I survived, I will leave locked in a box and then I returned home to a country that just seemed distant and unfriendly to me. There was no training for this. Being in a rural area, I knew nothing of how the country that I left had changed. I felt like I didn’t belong here again. That’s why a lot of Vietnam veterans re-upped and returned to Vietnam. They felt comfortable there.
I had people tell me that I was not the same person that I was before I left. I could not understand that. As most GI’s, I tried to acquire the American life that we envisioned and held dear to our hearts while in combat in a foreign country. Not knowing that it would be difficult because of the strict discipline, military training and the mental toll of combat that you never knew you had. The ups and downs with hills to climb was a way of life for me. We will leave that in a box also.
In the mid 1980’s I joined a VFW. They needed officers badly, So, I answered the call of duty again. Took on several different offices as needed. When the need for a service officer opened up, I volunteered for it. Again, naive! At that time the State of MD Service Officer was a man named Phil Medlin. He gave great training classes and was very thorough. Through his guidance many lives were changed and helped! The veterans received healthcare, treatment, benefits for their families, and compensation for military-related issues.
For some strange reason many veterans don’t know about the benefits available to them and their family! I call it; lack of communication! Reaching out to others and communicating is still the issue in my opinion. I know because I did without and it took 40 years for me to get any help! So, now as a Service Officer with the DAV, I make it a point to COMMUNICATE; which I find is still a stumbling block. My self made Motto is “I EXTEND THE HAND TO YOU THAT NEVER WAS EXTENDED TO ME!”
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