Randy Keho en Veterans: To Honor, Lifestyle, Publishers & Bloggers On Site Coordinator • Aramark Uniform Services 11/11/2016 · 5 min de lectura · +500

Salute to a Special Friend on Veteran's Day

Today is recognized in the United States as Veteran's Day, observed annually on Nov. 11. It honors military veterans and coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day in other countries, that mark the end of World War I. To commemorate this day, I've chosen to salute a hometown friend of mine, Gary Babbitt, for his service in Vietnam. 

Salute to a Special Friend on Veteran's Day

It was December of 1966. The Monkees had recently released their self-titled debut album featuring "Last Train to Clarksville." The song had topped the Billboard Top 100 the previous month.
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart had written it as a protest to the Vietnam War. But, in order to get it recorded, they had to disguise it. As a result, the majority of people remain unaware of this fact.
It was before protest songs became fashionable and blatantly obvious. 
It's about a guy who's been drafted and is about to board a train headed to an army base, from which he expects to be sent off to Vietnam. That's why he says, "I don't know if I'm ever coming home."
I've linked a Youtube video of the Monkees performing the song at the end of this post.
Well, my good friend, Gary Babbitt, 19-years-old at the time, was also on his way to that base. It was Fort Campbell.
Fort Campbell, which sits astride Clarksville, Tennessee, and Hopkinsville, Kentucky, served as a major induction center during

Salute to a Special Friend on Veteran's Day    the Vietnam War. It's currently home to the 101st Airborne Division and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
He'd left junior college following his freshman year, losing his deferment.
He fully expected to be drafted. It was early in the war and the lottery had yet to be enacted.
He served two years.
"It'll be 47 years next month since I was released from active duty," he remarked. "Wow. I can't believe it's been that long."
After arriving at the fabled base, he was instructed to undergo a series of tests to determine his assigned duties..
Not everyone ended up as an infantryman toting the recently introduced M-16 assault rifle.
Babbitt ended up in the Medical Service Corp., in which he was trained to become a corpsman, more commonly referred to as a medic.
He was sent to Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas, which serves as the headquarters for the Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) and the Army Medical Department Center and School (AMEDD). Salute to a Special Friend on Veteran's Day
The Combat Medic Memorial, pictured above, is located on the grounds of that installation.
After 16 weeks of advanced individual training, he was sent back to Fort Campbell.
From there, he was sent to Vietnam.
In the summer of 1967, he flew into Da Nang, South Vietnam, the site of a major U.S. airbase. The 9th U.S. Marine Expeditionary force had waded ashore there in 1965, representing the first combat troops to be deployed in the war.
From there, it was off to An Khe, where he would spend the next three-and-half months.Salute to a Special Friend on Veteran's Day
The rudimentary base at An Khe was carved out of a remote valley in the shadow of Hon Kong Mountain in the Central Highlands. It was referred to by its inhabitants, the 1st Air Cavalry Division, as the "Golf Course." An Khe is highlighted in red on the adjoining map.
"It was more than interesting," says Babbitt, who's now 69 years old. "I couldn't do now what I did then, like going on patrol. "
At the time, the base camp featured no permanent structures, which is why it resembled a golf course.
"Early on, everything was kind of fluid," added Babbitt. "Ammunition was kept in tents and the enemy blew one up."
Babbitt was wounded during the attack and ended up in an evacuation hospital similar to the one depicted in the late-1980s network television show, "China Beach."
"It was a small wound," recalls Babbitt. "But, I found out I was a bleeder. I didn't even know it. It was no big deal."
He was eventually sent back to Fort Campbell, where he was assigned to the dispensary.
"It was boring," says Babbitt, having been relegated to conducting routine activities, such as physicals.
"I knew a guy in the department of personnel and I told him I wanted to do something more interesting."
His buddy told him about an opening in Western Europe, which turned out to be in Germany.
As a member of the replacement battalion, he was sent to Pirmesens, Germany, near Frankfurt.
He was assigned to the 33rd Missile Battalion, which was located 40 miles away in Zweibruchen.Salute to a Special Friend on Veteran's Day
He was now an operating medic, but, most of his operating was done while traveling around Germany with a buddy who was a Northern Cheyenne Indian.
"Europeans were enamored with American Indians, says Babbitt, having only seen them in the movies. We were once sent a bottle of wine by a German woman and her daughter while having dinner. All they wanted to do was meet a real American Indian. We kindly obliged them."
It gave me a chance to test my questionable German, he added, which was adequate enough to converse.
The women didn't speak English.
"Heidelberg was beautiful then, even only 20 years after the war," says Babbitt, referring to World War II. "A restaurant owner said he'd teach us to speak German if we promised to eat and drink at his place on weekends. We were there in 1968 to see Pablo Casals."
Casals, from Catalonia, Spain, is regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century.
They even hopped on a bus and visited East Berlin using their military IDs.
"The border guards stared us down. It was just intimidation," says Babbitt. "We were young, we didn't give a shit about that."
After the medic he replaced returned from visiting family at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Babbitt was flown home on a DC-8.
"That's what gave me the wanderlust (having seen Europe).That's the good part," says Babbitt. "I've been all over the world since then."
Although he was back home, he served out his time as part of the Ready Active Reserve.
 "We called it the Radio Active Reserve. Actually, I was never officially notified when my service was up."
He used the G.I. Bill to return to college, while also working in production control at Sundstrand Aviation.
Now known as Hamilton-Sundstrand, the company remains world-renowned for its contributions to the aerospace and airline industry, as well as the United States Defense Department.
They were involved in the design of the F-22 Raptor, which is the country's latest tactical fighter jet.
Upon graduation from nearby Northern Illinois University with a bachelor's degree in music, he soon realized he probably wasn't going to realize his dream.
"My plan to become a famous jazz musician didn't work out," says Babbitt, who plays an assortment of reed instruments.
He would accept a position at National-Detroit Inc., a longtime manufacturer of pneumatic sanders. He was laid off upon Salute to a Special Friend on Veteran's Day    completion of a government contract in 2010. As a result, he retired, after having been with the company for 38 years.
"I enjoyed making things," says Babbitt. " I did lots of things there. I didn't leave by choice."
The local facility was shutdown in 2015 and production was moved to Clarence, New York.
His wanderlust is what's kept him busy. 
"I've been to 11 countries in Western Europe and 49 of the 50 states," Babbitt says with a smile. "Oregon is the last one."
He's also visited nine of the 10 Canadian provinces.
However, he doesn't foresee a return trip to Vietnam.
"Been there, done that," he says. "I have coffee at home from Vietnam, but I don't like it."
Babbitt doesn't belong to any veteran's organizations, although he lost a friend to the lingering effects of Agent Orange, which was a chemical often sprayed throughout Vietnam to clear vegetation.
"Everything shuts down at once," he recalls. "It's kind of ominous. He was in his early-to-mid 30s."
Ironically, our hometown of Rockford, Illinois, is the national headquarters of VietNow, which is a veteran's organization.
It's devoted to serving all veterans and their families from 1957 to the present. They offer help to veterans who not only suffer from Agent Orange, but from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), among other issues.
I've provided a link to their website below.
A monument was recently erected to honor the nine local veterans who have died as the result of coming into contact with Agent Orange.  Unfortunately, the organization expects to be adding more names to the list.
It stands near the LZ Peace Memorial, which resembles The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall  in Washington D.C.
Etched upon it are the names of 75 local veterans who died in service to their country in Vietnam.
Nonetheless, Babbitt appears to be doing just fine and is enjoying his retirement.
We regularly meet for fish on Friday nights at our home away from home: the Latham Tap.
We met through a mutual friend, who's one of the charming bartenders.
Go figure.

Follow the link below to watch and listen to the Monkees perform "Last Train to Clarksville." It's a clip from their popular television show from the mid-1960s.

The link below will take you to the VietNow homepage, which provides information regarding their ongoing efforts.

To read more articles honoring veterans from around the world, please follow the link below. It will take you to the Veteran's to Honor Hive. I am proud to be a co-administrator of the hive.

Salute to a Special Friend on Veteran's Day

#3 Lovin' the walk through time, culture, language, explosions, risk, cello and nostalia. My father served in the Korean war and my uncle was shot down in Vietnam, held as a POW for 9 mo before President Nixon brought him back. I am enamored that 👷🏽Babbit liked to be where the action was, even though he was a 'bleeder.' Hat's off and Salute. Lovin' what you do on Veterans: To Honor.

+2 +2
John Valledor 11/11/2016 · #5

#3David, in honor of your father's faithful service to a proud and grateful nation, I would like to say, "Climb to Glory!"

By the way, that is the motto of the 10th Mountain Division. Dates back to service in WWII in the Italian campaign and their train up for war in the Colorado mountain ranges.

Today, if you were to travel to Fort Drum, NY (home of the 10th Mountain Division) you will often see and hear Soldiers saluting their officers saying, "Climb to Glory Sir!" To which officers quickly return the salute and reply with, "To the Top!"

10th Mountain Division Combat Veteran

Last shared insight. The WWII 10th Mountain Division veterans came back from that war and returned to their beloved Colorado ski ranges and established the current ski resorts that dot their picturesque ridge lines e.g., Aspen, Vail and so on. In fact, in honor of their contributions to Colorado's ski industry the state offers vehicle license plates with the 10th Mountain logo and the words, "Ski Troops!"

Kevin Pashuk 11/11/2016 · #4

You write a mighty fine tribute Mr. Keho...

+3 +3
David B. Grinberg 11/11/2016 · #3

Thank you, Randy, for an excellent read on Veterans Day. I admire and salute your friend, as well as all U.S. veterans today and every day. My late father served in the Army, 10th Mountain Division as a 1st Lt. in the special explosives unit. The skills and experience he learned in the military were instrumental in shaping his career in the private sector as president and CEO of a textile manufacturing corporation in NYC. He was always so proud of his military experience and serving out great nation. I'll always remember the Taps salute and American flag placed over his coffin at the funeral. That flag is encased today in my home next to a photo of him as a young officer.
God Bless America and all who served -- not only today, but every day of the year.

+5 +5
Albert Gibel 11/11/2016 · #2

Este usuario ha eliminado este comentario

+3 +3
Pascal Derrien 11/11/2016 · #1

Its armistice day in France, my great grand father on my grand mother's side died in the Somme, we owe big time to the likes of Gary and wwhile I don't subscribe to any war or system leading to it, it would be unfair and not right not to recognize the heroism of individuals that got swallowed in those turbulent times... say hi to Gary for me :-)

+6 +6