VETS: Stories of Service | Vietnam Veterans
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Vietnam Veterans

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Richard Hein 

A Cape Coral resident, Richard Hein was just 19 years old when he joined the Marine Corps in 1968. He trained as a radio operator in an infantry company at Camp Pendleton, Calif, Hein was soon deployed to a U.S. Air Force base in Da Nang, Vietnam. For the next 13 months Lance Cpl. Hein fought courageously alongside fellow Marines in thick jungle terrain, as they battled to counter the advances of North Vietnamese soldiers. Upon his return to the United States, Hein joined the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department where he worked for 25 years before retiring to Florida.

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Terry Brennen 

Commissioned into the United States Army in 1967 as a second lieutenant, Terry Brennen spent his first tour of duty with the tank battalion in Gelnhausen, Germany. But the young officer wanted to serve in Vietnam and applied for a transfer, which initially was refused. Undeterred, Brennen wrote to his local representative, Sen. Everett Dirksen of Chicago. One month later, he was transferred to the 82nd Airborne as tank platoon leader on patrol mostly in the marshy areas northwest of Saigon. A Cape Coral resident, Brennen served as WGCU Public Media’s director of community funding for 15 years before retiring.

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Wayne O. Smith

Now a Naples resident, 1st Lt. Wayne O. Smith was forced to eject over North Vietnam while flying his 90th combat mission on Jan. 18, 1968. On that final mission, Smith was credited with shooting down a MIG-17 in aerial combat before his aircraft was shot down. He was immediately captured and taken as a prisoner of war and spent the next 1,882 days in captivity before being released during Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973. After recovering from his injuries at Maxwell AFB, Ala., Capt. Smith left active duty on Sept. 4, 1973. He served in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard for a year, and then left the reserves in 1976. In 1999 Smith retired from Mid America Energy as executive vice president and chief operating officer. He was a pilot flying Boeing 727s for Eastern Airlines for a short time before becoming a corporate executive. Smith is now retired.

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Dr. Tom Gillaspie 

After graduating from veterinary school, Tom Gillaspie was drafted to the 175th U. S. Army Veterinary Detachment in Chu Lai, Vietnam in 1971. At the height of the Vietnam War it’s estimated there were about 5,000 scout dogs working for the U.S. Armed Forces in this war zone. During his yearlong tour of duty, Capt. Gillaspie traveled throughout Vietnam tending to the needs of sick and injured service dogs. In addition, veterinarians participated in the “Vietnamization” process whereby they tried to win the hearts and minds of local people by treating their livestock. Members of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps were also responsible for all food inspection on U.S. bases. Upon his return to the United States, Gillaspie retired from the Army Veterinary Corps and opened his own veterinary practice in Fort Myers.

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Richard E. Carr 

From the age of 6, retired two-star Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard E. Carr wanted to fly airplanes. Pursuing this passion, Carr flew his first solo flight on his 16th birthday. Ten years later, in 1963, he was deployed to Nha Trang Air Base, South Vietnam, as an advisor and instructor pilot, where he served  until July 1964. He then was transferred to Mather Air Force Base in California where he served as an instructor pilot. After earning his master’s degree, Carr was assigned as an associate professor of mathematics at the Air Force Academy from October 1968 until June 1971. There he was active in the airmanship program and coached the soaring team. After completing RF-4C training at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., in December 1972, Carr returned to Southeast Asia, and was assigned to Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, until July 1974. He served as a flight commander, chief of safety and squadron operations officer while flying more than 200 combat missions in the F4 Phantom fighter planes. After 39 years of service, Carr retired to Florida in 1994.

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