Veteran’s memories hold lessons

My grandpa Denny Leroy Salmon, Sr. was 20 years old when he was drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in the Vietnam War in January 1969. He was drafted by a group of draft board numbers. They had lots of regulations that they had to go by. He got a letter, and on Nov. 9, 1969, he was in Vietnam.

Before entering the war, my grandpa got married to my grandma Shirley Yoder, and they just had a son who happened to be my dad Denny Leroy Salmon, Jr. My grandpa did not want to leave his newborn and his wife, but he was required to go, and there was no way out it for him.

Before joining the war, he knew that the war was going to be hard fought. He wasn’t totally against it, but he felt that it was unnecessary. He wasn’t there during the Tet Offensive, but he knew it was a terrible conflict in fighting and a lot of service members died (American and Viet Cong).

The first day he was at the camp he realized the war wasn’t easy. He came into Cameron Bay right by the ocean, and the hospital that was in that camp got overrun by the Viet Cong, so they had to take cover in the sewer lines. They could hear the Viet Congs’  footsteps, as they were killing people. Seventeen soldiers and nurses were killed during that night.

After the Viet Cong left, the soldiers then were packed up that night at 1:30 in the morning and were taken to Bien Hoa camp. They picked the soldiers up in a half ton truck and took him to the plantation where he stayed there the whole time.

His camp was between Bien Hoa and Long Bend at two field headquarters, and he said it was very nice. They all were taken very well care of and they had plentiful amounts of supplies. He recalls it being a comfortable place for them. The camp had very wonderful food and plenty of it for all of them.

There were about 11,000 soldiers at his camp. Only members of the Army were allowed. At the camp, most everyone felt good about what they were in the war for, and they all tried to be proud and honor their country.

He missed his family like crazy, but he was allowed to write my grandma letters every single day. My grandma replied to him every single day, and during his time in Vietnam, my uncle Tim was born on March 27, 1970. My grandpa wasn’t able to meet his new son until he was about seven months old.

Life was tough for my grandma back at home since she had to take care of two young children by herself. My grandpa had the hardest time because he wasn’t able to meet his newborn son.

My grandpa’s job at the camp was repairing radios and driving around in Saigon, which is the capital of Vietnam. His MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 31-B. 31 Bravo is a radio specialist, and there were only about 30 other soldiers in his department.

After being a radio specialist, he was an aide to the Italian headquarters. He was commanded by General Westmoreland, Colonel Fail and Major Purdy. He respected Westmoreland a lot and very much liked him.

My grandpa’s job was that he worked on top security with communicators, which is the highest clearance one could have in the Army. He flew in helicopters and made sure that the soldiers on the fields had communications with radios. He was shot down four times, but survived all of them and never had a casualty when he was fighting there that year. He made sure all communications were up and running for the soldiers, so they had aircraft support, medical support and artillery support.

Overall, he said he felt very lucky for his job and serving his country. Many soldiers had a hard time staying positive during the war because of missing home and not having the upperhand in the war. It wasn’t hard for my grandpa to stay positive. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, and he did his job for America.

In Vietnam, he said he had to be on his toes 24/7 against the Viet Cong and always be ready for everything, but he also realized throughout his experience that the Vietnamese people were very friendly, and he treated them well. The VC would come into the camp without Americans knowing they were VC, as Americans thought they were civilians. My grandpa said he didn’t like communism, but he didn’t elaborate on it at all, and he didn’t have to.

One of the hardest things about being in Vietnam was that everyone thought that America would win the war, but it didn’t end up that way in the end. My grandpa realized after he got home that we shouldn’t have been in Vietnam in the first place. Something that I found out that was very interesting was that while my grandpa was in Vietnam, he never once heard anything about politics back in America. He didn’t hear about Nixon’s Vietnamization plans and the 1968 election. He didn’t hear anything about politics until he returned home.

Before he left Vietnam, there was a small ceremony honoring soldiers, including my grandpa. He was awarded a bronze star along with the army commendation. The bronze star is the fourth highest award, and he earned it when his helo was shot down.

While he was shot down, he had to protect himself until someone was able to help him. He was the only one who had any ammunition, and he was on the ground for four hours before help arrived.

After the ceremony, my grandpa returned to America on Oct. 16, 1970. He was very surprised coming home two weeks early. His commanding officers let him go home early. A colonel called him and told him he was going home early. When he finally came home, he felt fantastic.

He missed his family terribly, and he was especially excited to meet his new son, Tim. He was nervous at first coming home since he hadn’t seen his family in a year, and he had never met his son.

After coming home, he didn’t work for a month. Instead of my grandpa working, my grandparents found a new home and took time settling in it. My grandma was still a stay-at-home mom at the time, so they were all together in peace for a while until my grandpa had to get a job.

After a month passed, he found a job in central Iowa as a salesman, and he has been a salesman since then. His first sales job was at an international bakery. After about three years, he got back into the swing of things, but he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder for many years after Vietnam. When the war was finally over, he felt very glad because that means that his friends still down in Vietnam could then go home to their loved ones.

My grandpa fought in Vietnam for 11 months, two weeks, two days and eight hours, and he remembers every single detail of this war, a war he and America will never forget.

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