Honoring our Military - Veterans' Day 2023

Ortonville resident Ron Allen, 1965 Brandon High School graduate, enlisted in the Army on March 9, 1966. “The sergeant at the enlistment office said after three years I could pick any place that I want to be, so I enlisted,” he explains. “Back then, my government was asking us to fight, to kill or be killed and we stepped up and did it.”  He strongly felt too that war is not good. Yet this war was on someone else’s turf and he and his friends did not want the war to come to the United States.

Allen headed to Fort Knox, Kentucky for his Advanced Individual Training (AIT), which is the Army’s program for individualized job training. He then moved to Germany with the 68th Armor Division.  “I was so bored in Germany; we were just training and playing games,” he said, “so I said, ‘Okay, I want to go to Vietnam.’”  In August 1967, he flew home on a 30-day leave and then flew to join his outfit – the 2nd 34th Armed Division - in Vietnam. He added, “You do get a bit crazy when you are single!”

Their outfit’s tanks were loaded on LSTs (landing ship tank) and transported for 2 to 3 days - instead of traveling down the infamous Ho Chin Minh Trail – and they ultimately were on guard duty in the Tay-Minh Province. His first Purple Heart was awarded for injuries he sustained when “all hell broke loose when they opened fire on us big time,” Allen explains. “They fixed me up in the field when I was wounded in the shoulder during that firefight after catching some shrapnel. We lost our tank commander there who was shot by a sniper.”

During his time in Vietnam, Allen said some of the men had to be drafted and some also were reenlisting because they felt safer in Vietnam because of the sentiments around the United States’ involvement in the war. “We didn’t know what was going on at home,” Allen says. “Our general told us we were doing a great job. We were proud because we had been doing what our government was asking of us.”

In May 1968, Allen was sitting inside his tank and chatting with a medic through the commander’s hatch when suddenly a M-79 grenade hit the tank.  The medic was killed, and Allen was hit across his back and head from metal from the grenade. He was flown to Japan and spent 30 days enduring multiple surgeries to take shrapnel from his back, alleviate pressure on his brain and rebuild a portion of his skull. A complete reconstruction of the skull was not possible, so he lives with the enduring reminder of his physical sacrifices.

He returned to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington DC for his final phase of recovery and then completed his service in Fort Knox, Kentucky. On March 8, 1969, he was discharged and advised to wear civilian clothes on his flight home, so he wasn’t disrespected due to the negative sentiments regarding the Vietnam War at the time.  “It was a tough time,” he explains. “You had to have been involved in it before you can understand it.    When I was back from Vietnam, you just didn’t talk about it.  I couldn’t make heads or tails of it because I had done what I was told to do, and I was doing something for my country.

He received two Purple Hearts (awarded by the President of the United States for those wounded or killed during service time) for both of his combat injuries. He says he would do it all again too – “We are living a good life because your military kept forces from coming to our soil… we kept out communism and other bad stuff.”

He and his wife Candee were married in 1971 and have a daughter, a son and two grandsons. “I’ve had great life and I’m so grateful,” he says, “A lot of guys died because our government asked us to fight.”


Leave a Reply 1 comments

> More Comments

We appreciate your interest in this topic
In accordance with our policy, this
message has been declined.