Downers Grove South High School hosted veterans from various American conflicts Wednesday.
Read below for the stories of two of these veterans.
Editor’s note: Yep! Jack Aldworth is the father of DGS Student Activities Director John Aldworth.
Jack Aldworth was drafted into the Army on Oct. 31, 1967 and spent 365 days serving in Vietnam.
Seven days before he left for Vietnam, he got married. “You really shouldn’t get married seven days before leaving for Vietnam.”
Every six to seven days, Aldworth would receive a letter from his wife, he said. “Every day she wrote me a letter. She put them in numerical order and spray each one with Chanel #5. It’s the greatest smell to me in the world.”
She would also put one envelope of Kool-Aid in the envelope. His favorite was black cherry and grape. “It was pretty cool,” he said. “If you found water in a stream you’d put a Halazone tablet in the canteen.”
He flew to Saigon on April 7, 1968 and arrived in Camp Eagle “It was hot and hot and wet,” he said.
One day while shoveling sand bags, he saw a man wearing a necklace with three ears on it. “I thought, ‘Toto, I’m not in Kansas anymore,’” he said. “I never saw it again, but I had the sudden realization that something else was going on. We were not playing anymore.”
On a typical day, Aldworth said he would wake up at 6:30 a.m. and boil some water using a heat packet to make coffee. He would eat Lima beans and Franks. “If you’re lucky, you would get peaches and poundcake,” he said.
Aldworth had an entrenchment shovel to dig up an area to go to the bathroom in.
On a full re-supply day, you would carry 25 pound of rations and eight to 10 quarters of water. You had a machete to cut through the jungle, a steel pot, poncho and five grenades.
Aldworth never saw a village, he said. “It was absolutely jungle,” he said. He walked 1,000 meters a day and never went on a path. “
If there was a path you didn’t go there because it would be boobytrapped, he said. “They wanted to maim you because it was the first war that was televised and they wanted to have an outcry against the war.”
At night, it would take two hours to set up a perimeter. Everyone had two hours of night duty. “Most of the time, you fell asleep,” he said.
Mary Reed is a clinical nurse manager at Hines VA Hospital and has been a nurse in the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps. since 1995.
She said she had three calls to serve. Her father was a sargeant in the United States Army. “Every day my dad told me a story about his service,” she said. “I grew to love the military.”
She became a nurse in the military after getting married and having two children.
“It was my turn to serve,” she said. “I had the American lifestyle – a big house, two cars. I should have been satisfied with it. But I wasn’t.”
She has been deployed twice, once to Germany in 2007 and once to Iraq in 2009. She helped with transporting patients and taking care of them in transit.
“I remember entering the plane in Germany,” she said. “It was cold outside and hot in the plane, and I smelled blood and charred flesh.”
She tended to patients while wearing heavy gear in 120-degree heat. “I knew I would survive,” she said. “My dad survived. We all have to make it.”
The injured who were taken out of Iraq wanted to stay. “The patients on the litter would be yelling, ‘I don’t want to leave my troops,’” she said. “’I don’t want to leave my buddies.’”
Reed said she sought comfort and hope in her faith and would later seek counseling. Her family resented her going, she said.
“My family wasn’t sure if I would come back lame, if I would be injured, or if I would come back at all,” she said.