District Digest News Stories

Nashville District salutes Vietnam War vets who served with honor

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published March 25, 2015
Lynn Bowden, an Air Force sergeant at Ubon Thailand Royal Air Force Base during the Vietnam War, shares his experiences during a commemorative event honoring Vietnam vets during a retiree luncheon at Piccadilly Restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., March 25, 2015.

Lynn Bowden, an Air Force sergeant at Ubon Thailand Royal Air Force Base during the Vietnam War, shares his experiences during a commemorative event honoring Vietnam vets during a retiree luncheon at Piccadilly Restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., March 25, 2015.

Lynn Bowden, Air Force sergeant at Ubon Thailand Royal Air Force Base during the Vietnam War, shares his experiences during a commemorative event honoring Vietnam vets during a retiree luncheon at Piccadilly Restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., March 25, 2015.

Lynn Bowden, Air Force sergeant at Ubon Thailand Royal Air Force Base during the Vietnam War, shares his experiences during a commemorative event honoring Vietnam vets during a retiree luncheon at Piccadilly Restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., March 25, 2015.

Ed Evans, Marine gunnery sergeant during the Vietnam War, shares his experiences during a commemorative event honoring Vietnam vets during a retiree luncheon at Piccadilly Restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., March 25, 2015.

Ed Evans, Marine gunnery sergeant during the Vietnam War, shares his experiences during a commemorative event honoring Vietnam vets during a retiree luncheon at Piccadilly Restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., March 25, 2015.

Ed Evans, Marine gunnery sergeant during the Vietnam War, shares his experiences during a commemorative event honoring Vietnam vets during a retiree luncheon at Piccadilly Restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., March 25, 2015.

Ed Evans, Marine gunnery sergeant during the Vietnam War, shares his experiences during a commemorative event honoring Vietnam vets during a retiree luncheon at Piccadilly Restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., March 25, 2015.

Maj. Brad Morgan, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District deputy commander, pays tribute to Vietnam veterans who are employees, retirees, and their family members during a Vietnam War commemorative event during a retiree luncheon at Piccadilly Restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., March 25, 2015.

Maj. Brad Morgan, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District deputy commander, pays tribute to Vietnam veterans who are employees, retirees, and their family members during a Vietnam War commemorative event during a retiree luncheon at Piccadilly Restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., March 25, 2015.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 25, 2015) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District held its semiannual retiree luncheon today, but it wasn’t an ordinary get together.  The group decided instead to salute employees, retirees and their family members who served with honor during the Vietnam War.

Maj. Brad Morgan, Nashville District deputy commander, spoke to the retiree group and noted that President Barack Obama signed a presidential proclamation in 2012 paying tribute to the more than three million servicemen and women who left their families to serve bravely, a world away from everything they knew and everyone they loved.

Morgan announced during the meeting held in a local restaurant that the district is a commemorative partner of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration to assist a grateful nation in thanking and honoring Vietnam veterans and their families.

“The Vietnam War was definitely a painful chapter in our American history… how the military was treated during the course of that war, and especially the service members as they returned home, to me it was definitely a national shame,” Morgan said.  “To be quite honest it should never have happened.  It was spun through politics in a very large anti-war movement, and a lot of that was taken out on our soldiers.”

Morgan said the nation’s service men and women were sent abroad to execute the nation’s foreign policy, but when they returned home many quickly changed out of their uniform trying to conceal that they had actually served.

“To me that is really not the way that our nation should have said thanks to their service,” Morgan said.

The major also thanked family members of Vietnam vets for enduring difficult circumstances for sacrificing to support their loved ones defending freedom.

“The true toll of that is felt by the families and those who support those who are forward,” Morgan said.  “It’s easier for us as soldiers and service members to be forward and do our job to get it done, but a lot of the worry and angst – who knows what is going on forward – is really felt by the family members.  So it’s definitely critical to recognize them.”

Two Corps of Engineers retirees who are Vietnam War vets shared their personal wartime accounts, even remembering fallen comrades and friends.

Lynn Bowden, an Air Force sergeant during the war, served from 1967-1968 as a fuel system specialist on F-4 Phantoms in the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thailand Air Force Base, located several hundred miles from the Laotian and Cambodian border.

He recalled working in a safe environment as a member of the “Wolf Pack” on the base with comforts such as a Base Exchange, swimming pool and movie theater, but said he did see aircraft returning from the war zone with damage, which kept him busy repairing fuel pods and configuring jets for upcoming missions.

“Of course we fought the war with F-4s,” Bowden said.  “I worked in the fuel shop… we had to stay ahead of the curve building the (fuel) tanks.”

He said he would deliver the fuel tanks from the tank farm to the aircraft as instructed by the maintenance control tower.  The number of fuel tanks configured on the F-4 depended on the distance of the mission and weapons requirements, he noted.

Bowden added that a highlight of his tour at Ubon was seeing Bob Hope perform a comedy routine live and seeing Actress Raquel Welch during a USO tour.

The Air Force veteran departed Vietnam and spent two years at George Air Force Base, Calif., before being discharged in 1970.  After departing the service Bowden moved to Murphreesboro, Tenn., and worked for a time as a sound engineer for a live show at Opryland and as a disc jockey for several local radio stations.

In 1971 Bowden began working as a laborer for the Corps of Engineers at J. Percy Priest Lake.  The resource manager discovered his hidden broadcasting talents and recruited him to produce a slide projection presentation with music titled “Vandals Wide,” which garnered him the attention of district leadership.  He trail blazed the establishment of the job, creation of an audio visual production specialist, and would later work in the visual information support office.  He became the “voice” of the Nashville District and retired with distinction from the Corps of Engineers in 2006.

Ed Evans, a Marine gunnery sergeant during the war, also recalled his service during the retiree luncheon.  He said that during the Vietnam War he served as an oral history team chief for I Corps in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. He led a team of two Marines using Uher portable tape recorders to document pre-battle, battle, and post-battle actions as part of lessons learned for officer training stateside. During this tour he participated in 17 named operations from Chu Lai north to the demilitarized zone, including the siege of Khe Sanh Combat Base.

Evans recalled the siege of Khe Sanh where the North Vietnamese Army with superior forces surrounded the base.  He said one of the things he remembers during that time was a C-130 carrying a bladder of aviation gas took fire and crashed on the runway.

“It exploded as soon as it was hit by machine gun fire,” Evans said.  “The fellow who introduced my wife and me in 1964, George Walbridge, was on that aircraft, and he did not make it off.”

During the 11-day siege of the base by the NVA, Evans said there were three divisions or 20,000 enemy troops, and only one regiment of Marines with an average age of 21 held the ground and defended Khe Sanh with the help of air support.  There were 402 Marines lost and more than 10,000 enemies killed during the battle.

“We took as many as 1,500 shells a day in that tiny space.  They were shelling us from the DMZ – mortars and artillery shells,” Evans said.  “They cut us off from being resupplied so bullets, bandages and beans came in by low-altitude parachute extraction.”

In 1970 Evans served as a combat photojournalist for Leatherneck Magazine, but his tour was cut short after three months when wounded while with the1st Recon Battalion. Evans retired from the Nashville District as chief of Public Affairs in 2006.

Morgan thanked everyone for honoring the veterans of the Vietnam War, especially those of the Nashville District, and said the U.S. Government is doing everything possible to account for the nation’s missing in action.

“So hopefully today we took another stride in healing what’s happened since that war and take another step toward telling that story of the Vietnam War,” Morgan said.

(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)