A Vietnam Veteran’s Story from the Memoirs of the Late Harold Lee Wade of Georgia

“Keep your head down and keep moving!” That’s the first words Harold Lee Wade of Georgia heard when he was deployed in the LZ.

This is to introduce a new feature on The Village Smith — Veteran’s Stories. I invite any veteran of any war, who would like to share his story to send it to llmacsmith@gmail.com.A cousin, Trudy Wade, shared some of her late husband’s written records of his personal feelings and memories as a soldier in Vietnam. Here is her introduction to him:

From Trudy Wade

harold

Harold Lee Wade, 1949-1997

The pictures are a very young Harold Lee Wade, just as all of the young men were of the Vietnam era. One in his U.S. Army uniform; the other one made in Vietnam. Harold is on the left. Don ‘t know the other young man’s name. The picture goes well with “Pieces of Paper” where he describes his military attire for when they were not on duty.

Thanks, Linda. Glad you enjoyed his testimony. He was a wonderful Christian man.  We met after he was saved. We were married for 22-1/2 years. Truthfully, for me, not enough time. But, know the Lord does not make mistakes, either.  The best 22-1/2 years of my life — Trudy Wade


Time Flies — by Harold Lee Wade

There are certain events that change our lives forever. Some are
happy; others tragic. We usually don’t have any control over them.

When I was 15 years old, Pa Jack and I were fishing on the river. Pa
said, “Son, it seems like time is moving slow, don’t it?” I told Pa, “Yes, it
is.” Pa said to me, “Time will speed up. The next 30 years will go by before
you know it.”

In January, 1971, I was in Vietnam near the Cambodian Border. I was
lying on a stretcher in a helicopter, thinking I was going to die. I
experienced the most horrible thought that had ever entered my mind. It
was not the thought of dying, but of never seeing my Mama, Daddy, or my
sisters again.

This thought was almost unbearable. My thoughts were coming fast.
I knew I had never been saved; but at that time, I could not ask the Lord to
save me. I could only pray, “Lord, let me live” over and over again.

By God’s amazing grace, He did let me live; and my life was changed. We are mortal people. Many loved ones have left this walk of life. My hope is that I will see them all again one day.

Pa Jack was right. TIME FLIES!!
hlw 1

Pieces of Paper

Before we landed, I heard someone yell over the roar of the helicopter engine, “We’re
landing in a new L. Z. (landing zone). It’s not secure. Keep your head down and keep moving!”

When I saw what was around me through the dust and the whirling wind, I believe my heart jumped into my throat. All around me there was grass as high as my head. Yes, I was scared. The scene looked something like you would expect from a war movie, and I was in the middle of it. At that moment, I don’t believe John Wayne would have been very proud of me.

After being assigned to an A.P.C. (armored personnel carrier), I began to meet new people. The conversation was the same. Where are you from? How much time have you got left, and so on? That night, and the nights to follow, I slept with a loaded M-16 and a full bandoleer of ammo by my side.

During the next months, we moved every three to four days to a different location, never returning to the same spot. I guess that A.P.C. became my “home away from home.” But, not really. I have heard it said, “Home is where the heart is.” No, my heart was not in that place.

My new family did what all families do. We fussed over trivial things, and shared what we had with each other. We were a brotherhood thrown into a different world, with one common goal — survival.

In the evenings we would sit and listen to the radio. Glenn Campbell would carry us back with, “Galveston.” His words were about a sea shore in Texas; but to me, he was singing about a place in North Georgia.

We didn’t wear our dog tags around our necks.The tags were laced into our boots.So, I made a necklace from a bootlace, added a cross that a Catholic Chaplain had given to me to wear around my neck. When I wasn’t doing much during the day, boots, pants and that necklace were all that I wore. At night and when we were on the move, we wore full combat gear.

It was on the back of the armored personnel carrier with machine gun on guard, that I read and cherished the letters from home. It would have been hard to comprehend being in that place and not having the connection with “sanity.” In the letters, I learned: Who came over last night. What TV show they were watching. What they were going to do on Saturday, AND, about washing hair. To some, this information might sound like boring stuff. But to me, these letters linked me to the real world. The world that everyday common people lived in; where people worried about what they were going to wear the next day.

It has been over 25 years since that period of time. Today, when I hear “Galveston” sung, emotions flood my soul. My mind flashes back to a time when the world seemed “upside down.” A time that I walked “alone”, in a dangerous, fantasy mist.

Thank you, Linda.
Thank you, Christine.
Thank you, Jeanette.
Thank you, my daddy’s sisters.

Thank you for taking the time to write “simple words on pieces of paper.” Your letters from home were worth more than gold. Each time letters arrived, they filled a void in my need. They reassured me that there was someone who cared; that there was someone who was faithful; and that there was someone who loved me during a time of uncertainty.

Thank you again for “pieces of paper.”

Harold Lee Wade

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