Veterans History Project: Jake Smith - - Jackson, MS


Veterans History Project: Jake Smith

By Jennifer Martin

Jake Smith was 22 years-old when he was drafted to go to Vietnam.

"I had quit school so it was probably a foregone conclusion."

He joined the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade, 1st Battalion.

"There were two things I volunteered for, to go to jump school and to walk point.  We had a platoon of about 35 guys and there was about six of us who walked point.  I always brought up the rear. Two of the most important things in a patrol are the slack man who walks behind the point man and the guy at the end, making sure you are not being followed."

He was there from June 1969 to June 1970. Smith says his worst memories are of his brothers in arms, who didn't make it out alive.

"Watching 18, 19 year old men, zipping them up in a body bag, putting them on a chopper. These young men never had the chance to enjoy life."

His transition back into civilian life wasn't as difficult as it was for many other Vietnam vets, mostly because he kept a low profile.

"We just slipped back in to society, because of the unpopularity of the war; calling people a baby killer is pretty harsh, because you're not. What you did, you had no other choice but to serve your country."

Recently, Smith was contacted by a man who found his lost dog tags in Vietnam.

"There is some organization, they go to Vietnam and go to these markets and they have all these lost dog tags; and they're returning them to the families of Vietnam vets."

It's a project he thinks is important.

"I think it gives some closure to some family members."

Smith says after seeing the kind of soldiers the draft brought together for Vietnam, he thinks today's army could benefit from bringing it back.

"You'd be very surprised what you could to get. Some of these young men should be proud to be in the military."

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