Veteran Spotlight - Lou Diamond, U.S. Army
Murphy resident, Lou Diamond was drafted into the army in 1966 when he was 19 years old. When he first found out that he had been drafted, he was shocked. He was attending Kent State University on a baseball scholarship and thought he would qualify for a student deferment. However, once he realized he was truly being drafted, he felt serving in the military would be a good thing. He came from a military family in that his father had served in the navy during WWII. His two younger brothers joined the military after Lou.
In December of 1966, Lou married his high school sweetheart, Sue. In March of 1967, he went to Vietnam where he served for one year with the 25thinfantry division, Wolfhounds. Diamond was an S-3 Operations (radio operations) and was on the front lines with the troops. His responsibilities included keeping in communication with the base and other companies and supplying maps for operations. He said, “I liked being on the radio because it kept me informed.” When not in the field, he worked at the T.O.C. (Tactical Operations Center). Diamond reached the rank of Sergeant. He served for six years, two active and four inactive.
Diamond said, “What impressed me was that we were all the same. Whether we came from the Rockefellers or sharecroppers, everyone started in the same spot. You could go as high as you wanted.” He remembers a fellow recruit who was given his very first pair of shoes and the happiness this person felt. Diamond said, “When he was given his second pair, he was in heaven.” Regarding the army issued uniform and supplies, the question became, “Now what are you going to do with it?”
Being in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive is one of the events that stands out during his military career. “The Tet Offensivewas a series of surprise attacks by the Vietcong (rebel forces sponsored by North Vietnam) and North Vietnamese forces, on scores of cities, towns, and hamlets throughout South Vietnam. It was considered to be a turning point in the Vietnam War.” (u-s-history.com) Diamond was stationed in Cu Chi and half of the base camp was destroyed.
While in Vietnam, he was in 150 combat assaults. He and members of his division were dropped at locations by helicopter. For safety reasons, as soon as they landed they immediately got away from the helicopters. Diamond said, “80% of the time nothing happened. The other 20% made up for it.” They mostly operated in rice paddies brimming with leeches and bugs. They were also at the Michelin Rubber Plantation. He said, “The enemy decided when they were ready to battle, i.e. snipers.”
He feels his most important contribution to the military was being a link in the chain of communications. He had the ability to read a map and gave coordinates as to where people should land. He said, “At 19-years-old, I was able to decipher crypto (code). The training was good. A lot of young guys had positions that held so much responsibility. It was exciting.”
During the war, he sent his wife flowers. He thought this was a very nice thing to do. However, the kind gesture was not met with the expected response of happiness. When Sue saw the uniformed person (man delivering flowers) at her door, she feared the worst. She made her mom answer the door. Lou said, “If I had known that, I wouldn’t have sent the flowers.”
During his time in the military he reports that he matured and learned how to shoot a rifle. He said, “I was 19-years-old. I was a boy when I went in and came back as a 40-year-old man. There was so much our eyes saw that they shouldn’t see at 19-years-old.” His dad gave him the advice, “Keep your mouth shut and your ears open. Listen to the old guys; they got old for a reason.” Diamond said, “That’s what I did.” He added, “Drill sergeants are just like what you see in the movies.”
Diamond recommends the military life. He said the experience will allow you to get an education and take responsibility for your life. He said, “I felt like I was earning my right to be a citizen.”
Lou Diamond will be the guest speaker at the Nov. 12 Exchange Club of Murphy meeting. The meeting will begin at noon and is held at Country Burger, Murphy.