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Stories SERVICE: Mike Vincent grew up in Chicago. After high school, he went to Butler University and played on its football team for two years, but then, in 1966, decided to enlist in the Marines. “Military service is part of my family,” Vincent says. “My grandfather served in World War I – a doughboy somewhere in France – and my father was a Navy lieutenant in World War II. He served on an LST. And my uncle fought in Korea. He was at Chosin Reservoir, won a Silver Star. So deciding to enlist made sense to me.” His boot camp was at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina. How was it? “About like all the books you read and movies you see of what Parris Island is like,” he says wryly. “Yeah, it was like that.” He trained as a radioman and was next stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C. “We knew we were waiting to get sent to Vietnam,” he said. “Marines shipped out from Camp Pendleton so we figured we were waiting until they needed us and had the space at Pendleton.” In September 1967, that time came. He was assigned to a staging battalion at Pendleton and then shipped out to Da Nang Air Base. “They knew where they needed replacements. There was a big building filled with Marines and their seabags. They didn’t ask us jack – they just knew what they needed and assigned us, one by one.” Vincent was sent to Dong Ha, far north in Quang Tri Province, near the demilitarized zone at the border with North Vietnam, where he was attached to the Third Marine Division. He would participate in scores of operations throughout the province, including heavy fighting at Con Thien and Operation Pegasus, the successful effort to free besieged U.S. Marines at the Khe Sanh Combat Base. Vincent’s finger wanders across a map of Quang Tri province. “Almost died there,” he says. “And there. And there.” He remembers driving into Camp Carroll in a jeep with several others during monsoon season. Everything was a sea of mud and so the trip took a long time. He left the jeep “to take a pee,” and, as he was usxed to doing, hit the deck when he heard an incoming mortar. As he lay face down in the mud, the mortar hit just a few feet away, lifting him up and then slamming him back down into the mud. He said the Marines got used to being shot at every day. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam had artillery just across the border, and so rocket and artillery attacks were daily occurrences. He said one of his friends survived a barrage of some 2,000 rounds over 24 hours, in a bunker. “Or in a trench,” Vincent says. “Whatever you could get to. “There was no hiding from it. It was just the way it was.” M O R E C H A N C E S TO W I N US JOINR A FO G INNIN ! E M Y T W Open 24 HOurs! Co m e J o i n o u r NEW P L AYE RS CLUB – MORE REWARDS MORE FUN & GOOD TYMES CASINO FOOD Fuel 2544 Harrison Butte 782-9359 locally owned & operated Honor Mike Vincent RANK, BRANCH: Sergeant, United States Marine Corps ur Join o new s r Playeb Clu of Fun! “Radiomen were in high demand,” Vincent remembers – for a very good reason. Radiomen were targets. The bulky, heavy gear they carried on their backs – plus a large antenna – made them easily recognizable in a firefight. So he was constantly being sent somewhere to be a replacement for a radioman who had been killed. Vincent was in Vietnam 13 months and four days. “I would have agreed to stay another six months,” he said, “but my sister was getting married. “She may have saved my life.” Coming home was no picnic. On the way home, in Okinawa, he reunited with his dress uniform, which had been left there waiting for him when he shipped out to Vietnam. But an officer saw him in it, and told him he would have to wait two days until it could be re-tailored. He had lost 30 pounds, and the Marine Corps didn’t want Marines showing up stateside in ill-fitting uniforms. When he finally arrived, he experienced not welcome but hostility. The opposition to the war was increasing. “We weren’t what you’d call well-received,” he says now. After his return and before his discharge, he was assigned to a Howitzer battery, and traveled to Puerto Rico, where the Marines tested the huge guns that fired 8-inch shells. DECORATIONS AND AWARDS, Vincent declined, gracefully, to list them. “I have the same three ribbons everybody got,” he said. “I came home with 10 fingers and 10 toes. That’s enough.” COMMUNITY AND VETERANS ACTIVITIES: He enrolled at Southern Illinois University, eventually graduating with a health education degree. In 1970, he was working in the university’s security department. He remembers protesters at a rally after Kent State literally covering him and his colleagues in spit. Despite the SIU degree – and a master’s he earned at San Diego State – he made more money with his expertise in brick work, and that’s what brought him to Butte. For a long time, he didn’t talk at all about his Vietnam experiences – “not to my wife, or family, or anyone” – and he avoided veterans activities. Now, he’s a life member of the Marine Corps League, and has been active with the League in Butte, working on Toys for Tots and other projects. Along with others, he’s heading to Billings next month to help out with the establishment of a Veterans’ Court there. Recently, he visited the VA clinic in Anaconda for a checkup. “It hit me while I was there,” he said. “It was a crowded room, lots of us. I looked around” at age-ravaged bodies – “like my own” – and at faded tattoos, and thought about the faded dreams, and what Vietnam service and its aftermath meant, even to those who survived the war. “I don’t think anybody thinks about that,” he says. “We went and we fought, and a price had to be paid. And it’s still being paid.” The Montana Standard would like to commemorate all of the men and women who have bravely served our country and give our appreciation to the sacrifices they made. We honor all of those who have served and are currently serving. We thank you all. A bunker in front of a barracks where Vincent stayed for awhile. Vincent at Camp Carroll in Quang Tri Province. 917 W Quartz 2 Bed 2 Bath Updated throughout Turn key property Close to Mt Tech $99,000 Tracy Miller, Broker 490-0338 HONORING ALL WHO SERVED

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