I was born on 28 June 1947 at Scottsburg, Scott County Indiana and enlisted in the USAF Reserve on 8 January 1967 at Bakalar AFB, Columbus, Indiana. On 18 June 1969, I was released from active duty. Attaining the grade of Airman First Class, I earned the Vietnam Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. I was released from military service on 30 November 1970.
I lived in Seymour, Indiana and graduated from Seymour High School in 1965. At the time of enlistment, my wife and I were expecting our first son (Jay was born 16 June 1967). I was employed as a master barber with Don’s Barber Shop in Seymour. Several of my high school classmates were in the military at this time. I joined the Air Force Reserves thinking I could do my small part to serve our country. The barber shop was open every Saturday which was our busiest day of the week. Saturdays provided a large portion of my income. Joining the Reserves at Airman’s pay was not a good financial move.
My Basic Training was completed 7 May 1967 at Lackland AFB, Texas. My specialty title was Inventory Materials. I was called to active duty at Bakalar AFB on May 1968 and assigned to Lockbourne AFB, Ohio in June 1968.
There were many weekends that we carpooled and burned up the highway between home (Seymour/Columbus) and Lockbourne AFB for training. As I recall, we went to Vietnam in three different groups departing from Lockbourne. I was in the last group to depart on 9 December 1968. I was assigned to Nha Trang Beach Front Property.
Those of us who were assigned AF jobs on the base had it made. We had barracks to live in. We had a dry bed. We had mosquito nets over our beds. We had music. We had Mamma Sans to clean our clothes for a small fee. We had (cold) showers. We had beer. We could relax on the beach when we had time off. We had thick sand-bagged walls to protect us.
We would spend evenings sitting under a parachute canopy talking and debating. We had friendships. Compared to those guys that were out in the boonies and battlefields, we were on vacation. I think the Rangers came to Nha Trang for R&R. The only threat that I was aware of was our daily bus trips to the base and back which took us through town.
Occasionally I drove a two-ton truck filled with scrap aircraft parts to an Army depot. The dirt road that led to the depot was mostly pot holes and I was forced to drive slowly. During these trips, I would encounter a group of kids that would jump on the back of my truck and throw off parts. I would stop and they would run away. I would continue and they would jump back on the truck and resume the game.
There was a regular AF military guy assigned to the barracks next door to us that was from Brownstown, Indiana. He couldn’t believe that he had traveled all the way to Southeast Asia to find an entire barrack next door filled with Southern Indiana boys from Columbus, Seymour, North Vernon, Greensburg, Henryville, etc. This blew his mind. I think his last name was White.
Since my occupation prior to active duty was ‘barbering’, several of the guys convinced me to cut their hair during our Vietnam tour of duty. This service was handy for them at a low cost and I could always use the extra cash as an Airman. I started cutting hair in Ohio for $1 per head. After arriving in Nha Trang, my ‘buddies’ convinced me that I should charge them the local hair cutting rate of 25 cents. I guess I was easy because I lowered my rate. One day, one of the guys from another barrack came by complaining about the hair cut he had received in town. It was without a doubt the worst hair cut that I had ever witnessed in my life, even on the first day at barber school. From that day forward I said, “If it ain’t worth a buck to you, just go to town.”
The guys in my barracks were practical jokers. They entertained themselves by burning cigarette holes in my mosquito net while I slept, just to see me get up the next morning with numerous large red bumps all over my extremities. They also liked short-sheeting and putting salt between the sheets. Dale Fleetwood was the ringleader and a full-time participant. His brother-in-law, Jerry Engle, participated a lot of the time, and Wendy Higdon took part when he drank – which was a lot of the time. With friends like that, I didn’t need Charlie! In June 1969, the 71st Special Operations Squadron was released from active duty and we returned to the real world of Hoosiers at Bakalar AFB, Indiana.