By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Rhoden Hallman was only 15 years old when he decided to join the Army.
"Raised out in the country on a farm. Didn't like picking cotton, wasn't doing well in school. Decided to join the Army. Went to 2 or 3 different places to join. They wouldn't take me, said go home and grow up. Hitchhiked to Memphis, Tennessee. I said I'm 18, they said sign here. Been in service 4 years when it caught up with me. I had a pretty good record. I had 2 counts of fraudulent enlistment against me but they kept me anyway."
Hallman was 17 when he went to Korea. He drove the Sherman tanks. He remembers clearly how scared he was in his early days at war.
"It was extremely frightening, particularly to a young kid like I was."
Conditions were terrible, especially in the winter, when temperatures were frigid.
"We would scrape up rocks and make a pile and put the tanks on the rocks. Otherwise it would freeze to the ground and we couldn't move."
As a soldier, he had to do things he never wanted to do.
"We'd go into a village, annihilate it, burn it, whatever. Sometimes we would meet resistance. Sometimes it was just a village and we'd eliminate it so they didn't come back. We did what we had to do and didn't look back."
He would serve in Korea for 13 months. After he left, he stayed with the military. He decided that he wanted to leave tanks and switched to aviation before he was sent to Vietnam.
"I was the company thief. I'd trade generators to have electricity. We had hot showers. I provided a lot of extras we'd need. The Air Force was good to us. We could steal from them real good."
He also found an unspoken agreement with the North Vietnamese to access a nearby ice plant.
"It was understood if you saw a black pajama-clad man you stopped and waited. And while we were in there, we'd have a guy standing out there and if they saw us they didn't bother us. So we had a mutual agreement to get this ice."
He served just over a year in Vietnam. He was only in his 30's but he was able to retire, having spent 20 years in the military.
"Looking back, in the same situation, I'd do it again. An education in the military is fantastic, if you apply yourself. Every young man 18 years old ought to have 2 years in the military to have his head screwed on where he wants to go."
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