Vets talk about difficulties of military life

Dunmore, W.Va. – On Veterans Day, every year, the Pocahontas County Veterans Honors Corps provides supper to all vets at the Dunmore Community Center. I spoke with several local vets at the supper on Sunday and asked them about the difficulties and sacrifices of military service.

Sergeant Major Solomon Workman is a Army Vietnam vet.

“Parts of it was very difficult,” he said. “The hardest part is being separated from your family and especially if you were married and had children. Very difficult. Another difficult thing is – I served during Vietnam, the first time. Basic training was difficult. That’s when you’re first being separated from your family. Then, in service, it was difficult during wartime – losing friends or family. It’s extremely difficult and it still is.”

Interviewer: “Are you glad you served in the military?”

“Yes,” said Workman. “I don’t know. It gives you a sense of camaraderie with other soldiers. It gives you a second family. I wouldn’t trade it, now, for anything. I’m very proud to have served and, by being in the Honors Corps, we still continue to serve, I think.”

Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith worked overseas in Army intelligence.

“I don’t think it was difficult,” he said. “I enjoyed my four years in the military. I was fortunate enough to not be sent to Vietnam, while I was in the service. The hardest thing for me in the service was the loss of friends – not only ones I grew up with here in this community – but also the ones I made while I was in the service, that we did lose because of Vietnam. I spent most of my time in the European Theater, Africa and Turkey and back here in the United States. I lost my best friend. He got killed at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in a freak helicopter accident, training for Vietnam. And then I lost several other classmates. But it wasn’t difficult. The hardest thing was being a2ay from your family.”

Willard Pingley was an Army sergeant during the Vietnam War.

“I was in chemical warfare – and it was a lot different than working out in civilian life,” he said. “Chemical warfare – that’s something I seen a lot of buddies die from. Agent orange, that, and a lot of them are back home right now, suffering, don’t know how long they’re going to be alive.”
Interviewer: “That’s something civilians don’t have to go through, right?”
“Correct,” said Pingley. “One-hundred percent correct.”

Interviewer: “What else do military do that civilians don’t have to go through?”

“Training – hard training – boot camp.”

Interviewer: “How hard was that?”

“For old country boys it’s not bad. But for them city slickers, it’s hell.”
William Vandevender was a radiotelephone operator in an infantry unit during the Vietnam War.

“Well now, it was difficult,” he said. “I mean, you had to live with a helmet and mosquitoes and rain and mud and heat and the enemy – they’re hitting you every night and different things. But it was just a way of life there. You know, you just had to roll with the punches. It was something that you signed up to do and you just did it. You spent your time and you did the best you could and when it was up, you either stayed or, if you didn’t want to stay, you got out. So, I got out. Well, I spent three years of my life there that I was away from my family and all and all like that. But even in all that, I got to see places that I would never have seen. I got to do things I never would have got to do, probably. But it was not only a sacrifice for me, it was a sacrifice for my family because they didn’t know where I was at, a lot of times, or what was going on. So, unless they got letters from me or I got letters from them, we didn’t really know what was going on. But it’s a sacrifice for everybody, some way or another, you know.”

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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