Jim: Most Valuable Veteran (MVV)

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Jim: Most Valuable Veteran (MVV)

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This past week, the journalism team had the honor of meeting with Vietnam Veterans to hear their stories and bear witness to living history. I had the pleasure of getting to know Jim, and hear his own personal story. I’m sure everyone could say that their Veteran was truly inspiring, or that he had the most interesting stories, but I believe that Jim’s life was especially, well… special.

It all started in the summer of ’68. Jim went to summer school so that he could attend OU. Jim’s valor never lacked, his grades were certainly far from medal-worthy. Jim was accepted as a student at OU on a football scholarship and was tied to his roots in small-town Nelsonville; several of his friends attended OU and played football for them. This is, in fact, how he ended up in the army. He said, “My buddy, who was a lineman for our team, showed up at my door one morning and said, ‘Come on Jim! We’re joining the army!’ And at first I thought he was crazy, I was about to go to college and play at OU! But after time, I came to believe that it was just the thing to do.” He, like many others in that time, saw his friends, and his team even, enlisting and felt a sense of duty pulling him towards the battlefield.

When Jim enlisted, he did so on a buddy-plan. He described this as, “A deal the army had, where if you enlisted at the same time as your friends, you could stay together throughout your time in the army.” This, unfortunately, didn’t last until their deployment and Jim was separated from his friends.

Initially Jim had to go through Basic Training. He said it wasn’t terrible because he was in peak physical shape. He became a squad leader in no time. This part is remarkable to me because the last night of Basic Training, his unit was running through the woods when Jim caught his foot in a tree root. He broke his foot. Even with a broken foot, his leaders saw him as so valuable and talented, that rather than requiring him to start training all over again, they allowed him to finish. And finish he did, he ranked 3rd in his battalion even with a broken foot!

After Basic, Jim was sent to Radio Operating School and then Mediums Weapons School, where he learned how to fire all the weapons, and assemble and disassemble them. Next came his deployment.

Jim served in Vietnam as a member of the MACV (Military Assistance Command Vietnam). He traveled all over Vietnam to visit his friends and had the rare experience of being able to spend most of his deployment with his buddies. He recalled one Christmas he spent with his friends, eating canned turkey: “I was with my friends, it was the Christmas of ’68. This was a big deal because most soldiers didn’t even know where their friends from home were at all, much less be able to find them and travel to see them. And we had canned turkey, which was worth practically gold. Nobody had turkey. And we shared that and had our Christmas together.”

Like many other veterans, he became unaware to the passing of time and it’s significance. He said, “For me, when I got back home, time had a new meaning. I spent months not knowing what day or month it was, only knowing the time of day.” When he left the army, he left about 3 months late. He recalls, “We were loading bodies onto a transport, and I happened to look down and see the base newspaper. A tiny little thing called “The Stars and Stripes”, and I looked in the corner and saw “August 1969″ and realized to myself ‘I should’ve been out of here in May!’ So I went to my supervisor and I got myself out of there.” He didn’t believe he would come out of Vietnam alive, so he let his grip on reality slip, and he completely lost touch with his home life. For him, going home wasn’t a present thought. During his time in the army, Jim earned many medals. among them, a Purple Heart, and a Medal of Valor from the South Vietnam government.

Veterans like Jim find the true value of their time in the sacrifice that they make for others. Each of them are selfless, and all of them deserve to be recognized for their contributions. So if you see a veteran this Veteran’s Day, be sure to thank them for their service and selflessness.



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