Rolland Street Interview
Interview: Rolland Street (RS) Medium: Video tape Date: Friday, May 6, 2011 Place: Home of Rolland and Jewel Street Collected by: Emma Highbaugh (EH) EH: For this interview, Mark Highbaugh is the camera man. The person attending this interview is Mrs. Street. The interviewee is Rolland Street and I am Emma Highbaugh. EH: Um, is this… is it okay if this interview between Rolland Street and Emma Highbaugh takes place on Friday, March 6, 2000, May 6, 2011?
RS: That’s right. It’s okay with me. I’m in.
EH: Is it… is it okay if I post this on wikimarion?
RS: Yeah, you can. Yeah.
EH: And is it okay if it’s published on the Library of Congress.
RS: Yes, it’s alright.
EH: Um, when is your birthday date?
RS: I was born November the 18, 1945. Right here in Marion, Indiana.
EH: What branch of service were you in?
RS: I was in the United Stated army.
EH: What was your rank?
RS: I was a sergeant E5 when I got out of the service in 1967.
EH: And um, where did you serve?
RS: Well, well I was drafted her e in Marion, Indiana. I went into the service on December 1, 1965 and I went for my basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky and I came home for two weeks after my basic training and then I went to Fort Polk, Louisiana for my advanced infantry training and after that I came home for two weeks and then I went to Vietnam for a year and I served in the infantry and the army infantry and after I served a year in Vietnam I came back to Fort Jackson, Carolina and I spent six months at Fort Jackson and then I got our of the service and in um, December or November 30, 1967. So I served at those four locations, while I was in the service.
EH: How did you get through it?
RS: How did I get through it? Well I um, I have a civilian job here in Marion after I graduated from high school in 1964 for about a year and a half and I ended up getting a new job at a local company here in Marion and I started there October the 18 and then November the 18 on my 20birthday I got my draft papers and I went in December 1, so … so I was in a new position uh, for a month and a half and I uh, and I was drafted so I had to leave and go into the service you know and um, but I got through it fine you know I uh, couldn’t hardly wait to get back to my civilian job so the two year s went by pretty fast you know. The year in Vietnam uh, also went by pretty fast too you know. I had a lot of connections, I mean my mom and my grandparents wrote me everyday and and um, and everyday I was in the service I got a letter either from my grandparents or my parents and uh, and I think that I got through it real well.
EH: Did you like the food?
RS: Uh, yeah. I didn’t mind the food. Well when we first got over there, uh, I didn’t like the recombined milk they had. I mean they had instant milk uh, and it had a chalky taste if it wasn’t real real cold you know it was chalky. Um, the longer we were over there the meals got better because I was over there early in the war. My unit went over in 1965 from Fort Rally, Kansas and they went over on the boat, so their tour or or the one year or their one year tour of time started from the time they left Fort Rally, Kansas and it took them a couple months by ship to get over there. Well I went over as a replacement and I mean they started having replacements in uh, 1966 in in May after the unit got over there in August of August of ’65 and um, so um, after I got over there they company had there on kitchen and stuff like that you know. We was out in the jungle maybe only two or three weeks at a time. I mean most of our operations weren’t that long, so we ate army sea rations and stuff like that. I, I mean we just had pack; I mean meals in a can that we heated up with C4 explosives what we heated them up with. And um, but after we were over there longer uh, every night they flew out a hot meal from our, our kitchen back at our base camp, so, so one meal a day was a full, full hot meal and uh, wasn’t too bad you know. Sometimes when they’d get a supply ship that would come from the United States sometimes you’d eat stake every night for a month and sometimes you’d eat liver and onions for a month and it depended on whatever they shipped over, you know. Yeah, that’s what the food was.
EH: Did you get stressed a lot when you were over there?
RS: I didn’t really try to get stressed. I’ve, I’ve always been a laid back person anyways, I mean I wasn’t a person that got let stress get to me, I mean when you’re in a combat situation I think stress or uh, well I told my parents that when I left that I would be home that I wasn’t planning on not coming home. And I know there was a friend of my parents who lived right behind them that and their son had gone over and was going to be coming home right about the same time that I was going over and he was killed and uh, but he had told them that when he went he didn’t think that he would be coming and I think your mental attitude and if you let stress get to you I mean it will make you cause mistakes you know, and if you have uh, problem with that or any stress I mean it could influence what may, may happen to you in a war I think. Yeah, it can.
EH: During your free time, like what did you guys do to entertain yourselves?
RS: Well, like I said, most of the time I was out in the jungle for two or three weeks at a time and then later on we was out for two months at a time and so, uh, besides having certain hours for sleeping, I mean so people would sleep and some people would be on guard over night you know and we’d be on guard for two hours and then maybe sleep for two hours and then, then somebody else would be on guard for two and then we’d sleep you know. Uh, there wasn’t too much that we actually did you know, when we was out in the jungle uh, when we had a monsoon rain or something like that, that was the only time you could really clean your clothes and, and clean yourself really you know cause uh. So you uh, lathered up and soaped up and hoped the rain didn’t stop before you got all the soap off. (Laughing)
EH: Um, what did you think of like your officers or your fellow soldiers?
RS: I liked all of my officers and fellow soldiers and everything uh, uh, I uh, I mean respected the officers and we always did what they said and uh, they were running the show and everything and there wasn’t too much against them or anything. If we thought that they were doing something that we didn’t feel was quite right, I mean we’d bring it up to them and they would change you know. Uh, we had some officers that came over from Germany and been in the safe area for quite a while and they got to Vietnam and, and they were uh, wanting to have a lot more spit and polish and I mean like they did in Germany and just didn’t really workout in the combat environment, you know, and uh, so they uh, I mean talked to us and, and they learned too you know. What they could do and what they couldn’t and keep the troops happy you know and yeah.
EH: Um, while you were in service did you keep a diary?
RS: I didn’t keep a diary or anything uh, I did write letters home maybe once a week like I said I got letters from my grandparents and dad and mother every day and uh, they kept in touch with me and they’d read the media and read the newspaper and watch television and they pretty much knew what was going on where I was at, in fact there was sometimes they questioned whether the news media was giving an accurate account of what was actually going on over there and I’d tell them that what, what was going on in my unit and it pretty much agreed with what the news media was putting out so, so I stayed in contact with my parents and friends back home too while I was over there.
EH: Did you get wounded while in battle?
RS: Yes I did, I was wounded August 25, 1966 and I earned a purple heart from, uh, got wounded by a piece of shrapnel. Yep.
EH: Uh, do you recall the day that your service ended?
RS: What? I didn’t really hear it.
EH: Oh, do you recall the day your service ended?
RS: Ah, yeah. Yeah, I remember the day my service ended. Uh, I mean when I came back from Vietnam, uh, I mean that not when my service ended because I still had six months of service after I got back from the states. Uh, I mean everybody was. Well I mean like on the flight over because I didn’t go on a boat. I mean we flew over on a charter jet, uh, chartered by the federal government. It was a 707 and we flew over and, and the flight was kind of quiet, everybody kind of not excited about going over you know, so the flight was kind of blah you know but on the way home we had a ball. (Laughing) Really had a good time and flew back on Braniff International on a 707 out of Saigon that was shot at, at the time we left the runway uh, we did hear a couple pings where somebody shot at us but uh, it was a good flight home and I was glad to get home and uh, uh, I came home. I told my parents that I was uh, coming home but didn’t say exactly when you know and we bought, I bought our tickets in Vietnam or um, most of the soldiers bought their tickets over there so they could uh, um, could have their tickets already in advance so when we got on the West Coast the Travis Air Force base California they took us by bus over to Oaklyn army terminal and we got issued all new uniforms and everything and we took a taxi cap to the uh, San Francisco airport and got out on, well I think we missed two flights going to Chicago and we got on our flight going to Chicago and I got in right before the last flight going to Marion so I had to stay the night in Chicago but I came in that morning and I got a taxi cap after getting off the airplane at Marion and had the taxi driver drive, I mean park about a block from my house so I walked on in. My dad was out there working on the garden and I hollered at him and it was really neat. And I mean, he took me downtown because my mom was working at the gas company and was eating dinner over, over at Newberry’s that day and I came in and she saw me and just turned white as a sheet. (Laughing) So, I mean they were really glad to see me back, quite a homecoming.
EH: When you got back did you work, did you go like right to work?
RS: Uh, pretty much so cause I uh, uh, got out of the service uh, November 30, 1967. I think that December I came back to work at Dana and, and worked another forty years. (Laughing) Then I retired. I, I couldn’t hardly wait to get back.
EH: Um, did your military experiences influence your thinking about the war, about the military in general?
RS: Uh, well at the time I mean after I got out of high school and the war was going on in Vietnam, all they had was military advisers over there and everything they didn’t have regular troops not until Oct, August of 1965. And I didn’t get drafted until November or December of ’65 so it was really, I hadn’t really watched the reports on the war or anything like that you now. So, so I, I didn’t really know what to expect when I went over there you know and uh, uh, I know there’s been wars all the way through our history and everything even they we lost maybe 50,000 people in Vietnam. It’s, it’s not one of the bloodiest wars, I mean probably the bloodiest was our own Civil War right here on our, our own land. I mean, right here the United States was probably had more causalities then uh, a lot of the big World Wars we were in you know. So um, I backed the troops and everything; I mean I support all of the troops that are over seas and fighting. Uh, I think our countries worth it and I think it’s the best country in the world.
EH: How, how did like all of your experiences over there, how did those affect your life?
RS: Well the time that I was in the service I was twenty years old and uh, I think I grew up a lot. I think I grew up a lot in Vietnam and uh, I might of been twenty when I went over but I think I probably matured that I was more like thirty year old when I came home. I mean, I had uh, I seen how the rest of the people in the world lived you know, uh, Vietnam was a backward country. I mean, I mean, they, they were probably twenty years behind, behind the United States. The technology and stuff like that you know they were living uh, farming with or uh, I mean had ox carts and transportation little ambretas the they didn’t have cars and stuff like this you know and uh, I mean, I mean they were way behind us technical wise and everything and it’s probably changed since the wars over. I think they made some strive too, even though they are still a communist country. I mean we fought the war over there and, and, and didn’t win and we gave it back to em and that’s the reason we were fighting to uh, keep the spread of communism in the, in the region and we ended up giving the country back to the communist anyway. So, yeah.
EH: Um, are there like anything you want to add or any stories that you might want to tell?
RS: Mh, no. Uh, well I’m not sure. Well an opportunity, I read in that thing here I mean they ask me whether I had attachments with some of the people who were over in Vietnam with us. We all had a friendship, I think, but we tried not to have any real close friendship because you didn’t know from one day, day to the other I mean, whether somebody was going to die that day, you know. I was telling my wife, I mean forty of my friends are on the, on the Vietnam memorial. So, so it’s kind of hard. Uh, at the time I was over there one of the guys that was in my unit, uh, people weren’t I mean his parents weren’t writing him every single day and I said something to my sister because my sister was two years behind me in high school, actually three and she was a senior at the time I was in Vietnam. And, and this uh, and she kind of wanted to write him you know so she wrote him for about oh, maybe a month and month and a half and when I got shot on the 25 of August 1966, he was killed so.
EH: Didn’t you say that you had like a badge thing or something or the Purple Heart?
RS: Yes, I did get a purple heart yeah.
EH: Do you have it?
RS: Uh, I got it. It’s out in the garage. I don’t have it right now.
EH: Do you want me to put them up against the camera?
RS: So here’s my picture when I was in Vietnam I mean, when I was in basic training and this was in Vietnam here at, at actually at, the Seaon at the Bein air board, air base I guess. Twenty-one years old.
EH: Um, thank you for letting me interview you for my history project.
RS: Alright, alright. I enjoyed doing it for you, I really did. Yeah, I enjoyed it.
EH: Thank you.
RS: Oh, okay. Thank you. I enjoyed it.