and son, GABE KELLY

I graduated from Clarke Community High School in 1967. That fall I enlisted in the Air Force for four years. I went to Amarillo, Texas for basic training, then to Wichita Falls. I really wanted to be in construction, but we were given an aptitude test, and maybe I wasn't qualified for that. Instead I was assigned to the medical field. I really don't know why unless it was because I had a lot of science in high school, and liked it. At one point in those days, I thought I might want to become a physical trainer for an athletic team. I helped at the Drake Relays one year with Cramer Brothers. They made analgesic balm and that sort of product. They did a lot of training. One year they took on help at the Relays and I was one they selected. That also may have had something to do with my being assigned to the medical field, but in the military we are not required to understand, We just do what we are told. I was told I was a medic so I was a medic.

I was at Wichita Falls for approximately three months for Tech School before I went to Blytheville, Arkansas, which is on the Mississippi River, just below the boot-heel of Missouri. I was there for approximately 2 1/2 years and worked OB (obstetrics) — yes, helping deliver babies in the medical dispensary. There was a doctor, nurse, and corpsman in the delivery room and I assisted the doctor and nurse in bringing babies of the wives of military personnel into the world. Of course, we took care of other patients, too, but that was my main job.

I thought I was going to escape going to Vietnam but when I had about a year left to serve, I got notice that I was going. I spent 12 months there at several places. In the beginning I was at Phu Cat, which is in northern South Vietnam. I was only there a very short time before they decided they had too many people. I was in the medical field there, also. Their dispensaries were trailers put together on piers. They were little hospitals, similar to a M.A.S.H. (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) except we didn't have tents. We were in an actual building.

We treated about everything connected with the war — wounds, Malaria, Hepatitis, and psychiatric patients. The latter were fellows who simply couldn't handle what was going on. Drug users who were brought in were also sent to the psychiatric unit. Drug abuse was real bad at that time. There was marijuana, heroin, and other drugs — I don't know what they were. They had street names. I assume they got them there, because it was understood that the surrounding countries produced a lot of that stuff, including opium.

From there I was sent to Cam Ranh Bay, where I spent the longest time, maybe six months. Again, I was in what was called the medical ward. It was internal medicines. We had a lot of hepatitis and malaria patients. Our training dealt a little with this but most of it was OJT (on the job training). Whenever we tested for another rank, there were books and articles we had to read and be tested on, so the longer we were in there, the more medical knowledge we acquired.

The last three months I spent at the Tan Sanut Air Base in Saigon, where I worked air-vac, in which basically we transported patients from the dispensary to the flight line, from where they were flown to Yakota, Japan, and from there to the United States. I stayed at Saigon. It started out that anybody who was wounded was transferred to Saigon but during that time, they started an amnesty program. If someone was a drug user and turned him- or her-self in, they were given amnesty. They had to go through a treatment program and then be discharged from the military, I am not sure what kind of discharge they were given. It wasn't dishonorable and it wasn't medical; but it was not honorable. It was something in between. They were brought in, housed overnight and transferred. We had to strap them on a stretcher and carry them on the flight, for fear some of them would go psychotic and cause harm.

They were flown in a KC-30 transport plane that was set up so we could put stretchers in it. Those were the amnesty people and I think there was a flight every day. We probably had three flights a week of people with medical problems, and then there were ROK flights of Koreans. These were the soldiers of the Republic of Korea whom we called ROKs. They were wounded, sick, or what have you. We sent them back to Korea. They were good people. We were lucky to have them.

That was how I spent my four years, from October 1st or 2nd 1967 to September of 1971, There was nothing very exciting about my military life, but I don't ever regret being in the service. I didn't like some of the things that went on but at the same time it was a great experience. I saw parts of the world I'd never have seen otherwise. I was in Australia on my R & R (Rest and Recuperation). Australia was nice. Except for the war going on, Vietnam is a beautiful country, with mountains and jungles. It is right on the ocean, and Cam Ranh was on the South China Sea. It was interesting to see a lot of French influence, which was natural because there was a period in time when France ruled that country. There were a lot of buildings that were reminders of something to be seen in France.

When I came back I discovered I'd been disillusioned. We were told that Vietnam veterans would have preference for jobs. I sent in my application to the union for construction jobs even before I got out of the military. When I got back I went to the Union Hall in Des Moines and they would hardly even talk to me. The fellow I applied to pointed to the stack of applications three feet high lying on the floor to show me how many he had. I said, "I'm a Vietnam veteran." To which he answered, "That don't make any difference to me,"

I came back to Osceola and found there was a temporary position open at the post office. I carried mail for 1 1/2 years, but I kept checking back and finally I got into construction as a carpenter, That was actually about 1 1/2 years after I got out of the military and I worked as an apprentice carpenter for two years, then came here and started working. I've been here ever since and it is home.

I grew up here. My parents, Jerry and Eva Kelly, had three children — myself and two girls: Michele, who lives in Ft. Worth, Texas and Melanie who lives in Lexington, Kentucky. Both are married and have children. I married Kathy Blair and we have four children.

Gabe, our oldest, is in the Seabees, which is the construction part of the Navy. He graduated from high school and went to work for Godwin Brothers in Indianola in their construction business. Then he worked for me for awhile, at which time he said he and his wife wanted to help other people, so he got in the SeaBees. branch of the Navy. I think he was 28 years old when he went in. They gave him credit for his experience so he got a little more rank, but he still had to go through all the basic training in Great Lakes. He's been in the service 3 1/2 to four years, He is in Okinawa now (November, 2008) but his wife and two boys live on the base in Gulfport, Mississippi.

They have weathered two or three hurricanes, they had to evacuate twice and should have evacuated three times. They've had mostly wind damage — a few shingles blown off and maybe the air conditioner damaged; but their house was fine. There is a railroad track just outside the base and that stopped the water from coming onto the base. There wasn't nearly the damage that was done elsewhere. Gulfport was a mess! Highway 90 goes across the gulf and had lots of nice restaurants, multi-million dollar homes that are just gone — completely gone! There were casinos, and they are gone. Of course, that is the first thing they built back but they brought them inland. We've been down there a couple times. They are just now starting to build back.

Cade has his own framing construction in Des Moines. He and his wife Tara live in Waukee. She is a pyschologist in the Waukee school district.

Our daughter, Jordanna, lives in Philadelphia. She is single and works for CTN Solutions, which is information technology. They contract out to small businesses to do computer repair, update, and things like that. Cade and Jordanna both graduated from Simpson.

Our son Keysto will graduate from Northwest in Maryville, Missouri in December with a masters in elementary education, so he hopes and expects to teach.




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Last Revised June 6, 2015