One Soldier’s Story

North Canton veteran recalls service to country

Camryn Cooney, Entertainment Editor

My grandfather, Mr. Robert Holmes, enlisted in the military in 1967 and decided to join the Army. Serving for about three years, he earned the rank of Spec-4 [Specialist 4]. For the first three months of his service, he was in Panama in order to become accustomed to the weather conditions in Vietnam. Afterward, he spent the next 15 months in Vietnam and the remaining months were stateside training. Grandpa was only 17 when he enlisted. “I wanted to serve my country,” he said. “I wanted to do whatever I could do to help the people we were protecting to be able to have the opportunity to have freedoms like us.” Traveling that far away from home and knowing one is risking life would be extremely scary to anyone, especially when the destination is a place unknown. It causes one to think: If you were to put yourself in that situation, how would you feel? What would be your thoughts? It was unfamiliar to him, going on a plane and traveling outside the country. “When I got there, I was probably just like anybody else,” he said. “I was scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen. All I knew is that I was going to do whatever I was told to do.” Every soldier when they arrived was assigned a job; my grandpa’s in particular was recovery. Whenever vehicles, or any other type of military property, was stuck somewhere behind the enemy lines, they had to destroy it. The feeling of going to war for our country is something that no one, besides the veterans and their families, could even begin to understand. All of the movies about war and fighting in wars are nothing compared to their actual thoughts. For my grandfather, it was probably the hardest thing that anyone has ever had to do but when all is said and done, the feeling he had got is something special. “I felt like I was there to help the Vietnamese receive their freedoms and have the same kind of freedoms that we enjoyed. So, I felt like I was a hero to those people,” he said. In the 1960s and the 1970s, communication with others was very difficult, especially when it is all the way across the globe. The only source of communication for him at the time was one phone call; he was put on a 12-hour waiting list just to speak with one person for three minutes. He had written down three phone numbers, one being his fiancée, the second being his father, and the last one his mother.Whoever would answer when he called, that is to whom he would spend the next three minutes talking. Many people who served experienced hard times and horrible events they will never forget. My grandpa made a lot of friends while he was over in Vietnam, but unfortunately while in the war,
he watched his best friend die from an enemy gunshot. It was the worst memory that he had from his experience. However, despite such tragedy, if he had the opportunity to go back and do it all over again, he would. “Absolutely I would,” he said. “The reason is because I fell in love with knowing that I was trying to help others be free and enjoy the freedoms that I was blessed with and that my families were blessed with.” While honoring our military is something widely recognized today, for some returning home from Vietnam, that was not always the case. For my grandfather, the trip from Vietnam to Chicago to Akron was not the welcome that he expected at all. “Coming home was the worst feeling I have ever had in my life,” he said. “When we landed and got sent on our ways to have our 30-day leave, we were in our uniforms. So, from Chicago to Ohio, I got spit on, I got yelled at and got called everything but a human being.” Whenever he gets the chance to thank a fellow veteran, Grandpa does it; he understands what they went through. Every year, we as a nation celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11 to remember the ending of World War I, “The Great War,” and to honor all those who have served. It also is a day of thanks. If you happen to come across a veteran or even know a few, take a moment to appreciate them for all that they have done. Their lives back then consisted of events and memories that you probably couldn’t even imagine. You don’t know what they could be thinking about or what events could have happened during their service, and going up and thanking them shows we do not take that service and those sacrifices for granted. Those few short words, “Thank you for your service,” really do go a long way.