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A Cherokee veteran is featured in a video put out by the Department of Defense.
After wanting to travel there for years, Keith Smith and wife, Margaret recently took a trip to Washington D.C.
Keith had been there before but it was during his training. He was stationed at Quantico base.
While in Washington D.C., the Smiths traveled to the WWII memorial in the early morning. Their next stop was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
When they arrived, they saw a man taking pictures and didn’t think much of it. He approached them and introduced himself. The man worked for the Department of Defense and was doing a documentary on Vietnam veterans.
Keith agreed to do the video and talked about his time served during the conflict. Keith and another buddy had lost a friend in November of 1967.
Keith’s friend, Jerry Johnson, had only been in the country 10 or 11 days when he was killed.
Keith went to Washington D.C. to find Johnson’s name on the wall.
“I happened to show up at the right place at the right time,” Keith said.
Keith enlisted right after graduation in the Marines in 1966.
“Forty-eight hours after graduation I was standing on yellow footprints in California ready to become a Marine,” Keith said.
Keith was a sergeant with the 3rd Marine, 4th Combined Action Company.
Vietnam of June 1967 was his initial service term. After he came home for a 30-day leave, he would return to Vietnam for another deployment term. Followed by a third deployment, he returned home for a final time in October of 1969.
Keith’s interest in serving in the military came from his father, who had served in WWII and Korea.
A lot of people Keith’s age had fathers who were WWII or Korea veterans or both.
“A lot of us wanted to be John Wayne,” Keith said.
The company he was with had seven or eight Marines, one Navy corpsman and 20-25 South Vietnamese.
The group stayed in a village about 4 miles from the DMZ. From there they would go out on patrol and ambush. The corpsman would treat the people in the villages.
There mission was to win the hearts and minds of the locals, to train the soldiers, pick up intelligence on enemy movements and take prisoners.
In their training, the group was taught to hate the people of Vietnam.
“We got just a two week course in the language and customs,” Keith said.
By the end of Keith’s time there, new groups were coming in trained.
Keith saw action during his service, but he would also go 30 days without any fighting. The company could see the action going on miles away. Then like a switch, it would flip and the conflict would come to them.