Jeannette and I both have past family members who were in the military. My grandfather on my Mom's side, Marion Brown from Corning, was in WWI. He didn't go overseas but served at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri. My father, Gerald Scott, served in WWII. He came from a family of nine siblings and every one of the boys and every one of the girl's husbands all served in the military — many of them during WWII. Most of them were from Corning and served from the Adams County area. I am quite proud of that legacy.

My dad was the oldest of the nine. He served in the Army Artillery, took his training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, and went to OCS (Officer Candidate School) at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was a forward observer in Europe during the war — not a pilot but he flew beside a pilot in a Piper Cub Aircraft. He charted the position of the enemy troops. After the war in Europe ended, he went to Japan in the Army of Occupation. He was discharged as a Captain.

I only have one recollection of the Korean War. Our family got up very early one morning for Dad to go take a physical. We drove to Shenandoah from our farm northwest of Diagonal. Having been an officer in WWII, he was subject to recall, and the physical was to see if he would qualify to go back into the military. Either he didn't pass the physical or they didn't need him. I assume it was the latter because he had been a hard working farmer all his life and was pretty healthy.

Dad was the oldest in his family. His brother, Claire, made the Army his career. His sister Illah's husband, Clifford Brown, was also in the Army, as was Ruth's husband Byron Swartz. His sister Norma was married to Bud O'Riley who was in the military, as were Deloris' husband Sam Hollander, and the Scott brothers Marvin Dee, Glenn, and Edward. Many of them were in WWII. There may have been some in Korea, only Claire was in Vietnam. It is no small blessing that all returned home safely. I have always been very proud of coming from a military family, and both our son, Deron, and I were in the service of our country.

Jeannette's grandfather, Leland McMath of Clearfield, served in World War I. Her father, Dale Schlapia was in WWII, serving in the Army Air Corps mostly in England. Her brother, Roger, was in the Air Force during the Vietnam conflict, serving in the States. Our son, Deron, was in the Navy from 1993-'97 serving out of San Diego on the USS Comstock, LSD-45, as an engineer.

I was born on December 29, 1943, and grew up in northwest Ringgold County on a family farm with my parents and three sisters. It was in Lincoln township, eight miles northwest of Diagonal. I attended a one-room country school through eighth grade, and graduated the year our country school closed. Our total enrollment my eighth grade year was six, four of us in the eighth grade. Only two were left when we graduated, and our country school closed. I attended high school in Diagonal and graduated in 1962. I enrolled that fall in Drake University, and went to Pharmacy school. It took me five years to get through college but it wasn't that I went four years and goofed off a year. It was a five-year course.

I had earned a bachelor's degree in pharmacy, but I also needed a year's internship in order to qualify to take the Pharmacy State Board of Registration. I graduated from Drake University in 1967. My fiancee, Jeannette, was in nurses' training at Independence, Missouri so when I graduated from college, I went to Kansas City, Missouri to find employment in order for us to be closer together.

In October of 1967, Jeannette Schlapia and I were married in Mt. Ayr, Iowa and went back to Kansas City. She was training full time at the Independence Sanitarium and Hospital, and I was working for the Crown Drug Company, In March 1968, I had enough internship that I took the Missouri State Board of Pharmacy in March, and in April I got a draft letter from Uncle Sam. I no longer qualified for any kind of deferment. I looked into the possibility of joining the Air Force because they offered direct commissions, but there was a waiting list and I knew Uncle Sam wasn't going to wait for me that long. We decided to wait for things to happen. In the meantime, I transferred my induction site because I was working in Kansas City, and it would be a convenience to be inducted through the Kansas City rather than the Mt. Ayr Board.

The Mt. Ayr Board was sending the inductees to Fort Hood, Texas, for basic training but by going through the Kansas City board, I was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, which was a lot closer to our area. Even though I had a college education and was a registered pharmacist, I was ranked a Pvt. E1 when I entered the service. My qualifications didn't come into play until it came time to be assigned my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). I went in as an E1 and came out an E5 so I went up through the ranks.

When our first anniversary rolled around, Jeannette was still in Nurses' Training with one year to go, and I was in basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, with no way to contact her. It is the nature of the branches of service that at the beginning of Basic Training we are told nothing —where we will be sent or what we will be doing. The situation improved, and just before Christmas completed my Basic, and was sent home for three weeks' leave.

At the beginning of 1969, I was assigned to Fort Rucker, Alabama, the Army Aviation Center. They were training all the warrant officers to be helicopter pilots, and it was impossible to look up night or day without seeing helicopters in the air. I was assigned to the Lister Army Hospital as a pharmacist. The Army made me a pharmacist — my MOS was 91Q20, but being civilian trained, I didn't attend any Army training courses. Had it been otherwise, I would have been sent to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where those courses were given, and where everybody said was a great place to go, but with my background, I went from Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood to my job assignment at Fort Rucker, Alabama without any training between.

I was at Fort Rucker, Alabama from January to July, 1969. In the meantime, Jeannette graduated from Nurses' Training in May of that year, and we had plans to make a life in Fort Rucker, Alabama. We looked for and found a trailer house that we could rent, a few blocks from a civilian hospital in Ozark, Alabama. We made a deposit, and had wonderful plans for our future, but the Army had others. My name appeared on a levy. These were printed about 90 days before orders were cut, and my name was on a levy to go to Vietnam. We would not be living in Alabama.

Based on that notification, I called Jeannette long distance and told her our plans were off. We didn't get to spend the rest of my enlistment in Alabama as we had planned. We lost our deposit, but such is the way of military life. Jeannette did, however, come down after she graduated and before I checked out of Fort Rucker. We lived a couple different places for six weeks or so, and had some wonderful weekends. We spent some time at Panama City Beach in Florida, which was only an hour south of Fort Rucker, and at the end of my time there, we both came back to Iowa on a 30-day leave before I flew out of Des Moines to go to Vietnam.

Around August 1st of 1969, the night before I shipped out, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I had to be at the airport early the next morning so I stayed with my sister in Ankeny in order to be closer to the airport. Neil Armstrong and I each had an adventure. He walked on the moon and the next day I got on a plane to Vietnam. It was surprising to me that we flew over in a commercial plane on a commercial airline with pilots and stewardesses, the whole works. We went through Oakland Army Base in California to be processed, then we flew over Alaska! Why we didn't fly directly west, I have no idea, but we flew over Alaska to Japan, and the first place we landed was in Yakoto, then into Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, then Vietnam.

Once we were on the ground in Vietnam, there was about a week of paper work. My first assignment was to the in-country R & R (Rest and Recuperation) center at Vung Tai on the South China Seas, and I thought, "Man! It isn't going to be too bad being in Vietnam a year." I was assigned to the 36th Evacuation Hospital as a pharmacist. In Vietnam there were three levels of hospitals: surgical hospitals, close to the action, where patients would come in on a Med Evac helicopter, which would pick them up in the field, take them to the first hospital they came to, where there could be surgery or life-saving matters. When they were stabilized and their lives were no longer on the line, but they needed to recuperate, they would usually be taken to an evacuation hospital, which was more secure. If they were patients that needed long term attention they would go to a field hospital. There was one in Saigon called the 3rd Field Hospital.

My assignment was the Evacuation Hospital at Vung Tai on the South China Sea. This was an in-country R & R center where guys would go if they had been in action and needed a break It was on the South China Sea, so there was a beach and an Olympic sized swimming pool. Various countries had an R & R center there — the Australians, South Koreans, and the Americans. It was a very secure area.

About November of 1969, they decided they no longer needed the 36th Evacuation Hospital so I was reassigned in-country. This time they sent me to the other side of Vietnam close to Cambodia. They called it the fishhook area because the border between the two countries was shaped kind of like a fishhook. It was called Tay Ninh Province. Vietnam was divided into four corps or areas. The DMZ (de-militarized zone) was in the first corps, then there was the central highlands, the 2nd corps, and Saigon and most of the population was in the 3rd corps. The Mey Kong Delta was in the 4th Corps. Tay Ninh was 65 miles northwest of Saigon, within six to eight miles on three different sides of Cambodia. I was in the 3rd Corps area so I was never far enough north to be near the DMZ.

In my first assignment in Vietnam, 36th Evac, I was working in an Army pharmacy where we had quite a few civilian patients, so I had to learn some Vietnamese — at least enough to be able to type a prescription label. But once I went to Tay Ninh, we no longer dealt directly with Vietnamese people except once in awhile we would get some South Vietnamese soldier casualties or once in awhile a North Vietnamese casualty came through our unit. But we no longer had much contact with the civilian population in Tay Ninh. The town was off-limits, unlike my first assignment where we could go into town, go off base, in the daytime. Not at night.

I went from the 36th evac hospital to the 45th surgical hospital in November. When I got there, a pharmacist was already there, so I really wasn't needed in that capacity. Therefore I was assigned to the Motor Pool. Then they needed somebody in Medical Supply, which was more along my line than being a mechanic, so I worked in that unit until the pharmacist who was there ahead of me went home in February.

At the 45th Surgical Hospital, the hospital structures were pressurized air bubbles like inner tubes only a lot bigger. We could walk inside those. They were very temporary. The idea was that within a certain number of hours, if need be, the whole hospital could be moved. If a danger arose, we were supposed to be able to move everything out within 24 hours. I was still a pharmacist, but whenever we had a mass casualty situation, which was usually in the middle of the night, everybody did what they had to do or could do to help out. It could be a fire base somewhere in the area had been overrun or shelled or something had happened, and we would have a bunch of casualties all at once. In those cases, we carried litters; they were shorthanded in x-ray so I learned to shoot x-rays and I did sonic of those. I worked in the motor pool. I was in medical supply. We were a small unit and we just did whatever was needed to get the job done, especially when we were overrun with casualties. Our job there was to stabilize the patients. We had surgeons to do emergency surgery if necessary. Whatever the case called for, we did it as quickly as possible to get the patients out of there, and move them. on.

I can't give you a total number of people assigned to the 45th. It was a small unit. There must have been six to eight doctors and an appropriate number of nurses. We were in a danger area — sometimes we had incoming rockets, at times during the day, but many times at night. We slept in wooden buildings (hooches) behind sandbags. Our bunks were always below the sandbag level. If it wasn't a direct hit, we were probably going to be fine, but we had many noisy nights, especially the night the pharmacy was hit — what a mess, but nobody was hurt.

While I was there in April 1970, President Nixon authorized the military to go into Cambodia to try to shut down the Ho Chi Minh trail. This was a network of jungle paths winding from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam, used as a military line to supply the Viet Cong. When that happened, we had many, many casualties. We were going 24/7 trying to keep up.

After I shipped out and during the year I was overseas, Jeannette went back home to Mt. Ayr, where she stayed with her folks and worked at the Ringgold County Hospital as a registered nurse. We did get to spend a week together in Hawaii. She flew from Mt. Ayr, I flew from Vietnam and we met in Hawaii for a week. I also was privileged to go to Australia on leave, trying to get away from it all. So there were some high lights among the horror of it all. For one thing, the Army saw the wisdom of making me a pharmacist because I was already trained as one. That did not always happen. I always felt fortunate that I did work in my chosen profession while I was in the military.

The first movie I went to when I got home from Vietnam was "M.AS.H" (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). It just happened that it came out then and was the most popular movie at that time. It was, of course, set in the Korean War and it was about a surgical hospital unit. It wasn't all that realistic but it did remind me of my unit back in Vietnam.

When I returned home, in late July or the first of August, 1970, I had spent my year in Vietnam and I had six weeks left of my two-year obligation to the military. Rather than reassign me, they discharged me. I came home and found a job as a pharmacist in Marion, Iowa. That is where both our sons were born — Derek and Deron, in 1971 and 1974, respectively.

In 1975 there was an opportunity to buy a drug store in Afton, so we moved lock, stock and barrel, and bought the store in Afton — Sheets Rexall Drug on the square. We were there until 1990. In the summer we came to Medicap in Osceola and are still here.

Deron graduated from Clarke Community High School in 1992. He now works in Des Moines at Wells Fargo. Our older son Derek graduated in 1989 from East Union. He is also in Des Moines working at Dillards.

Deron married Liline from Taiwan, whom he met on the internet. He went there, she came here, he went there, she came here. Liline was here on a visit at our house in 2001. Remember 9/11/01? She was scheduled to fly home when that happened so she spent a little extra time with us because there were no flights just then. On another trip, they had done all the necessary paper work and were married here in 2004.

I am grateful to all who have served in military service to our country and to their families. Some have sacrificed greatly.






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Last Revised June 13, 2015