AUGUSTA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Whitewater native was nearly 30 years old when he signed up to go to Vietnam.
He did so to ensure his younger brothers didn’t see war.
Jerry Partridge now calls Augusta home.
He said he tried to sign up for the Navy, but he ended up in the Army.
Partridge said he learned quickly the mechanic skills he had from rural Kansas would come in handy in the jungle.
Partridge said there were also plenty of nights there where he wasn’t sure if he would ever make it home.
“That’s just the way it was,” Vietnam Veteran Jerry Partridge said.
Partridge signed up for the Army to protect his little brothers.
“I figured if I went in maybe I could stop them from going to Vietnam,” Partridge said.
That’s exactly where he was soon headed on a C-130.
“It’s like a bird, that flaps its wings, and you could feel it every time it went to flap its wings, you could feel it,” Partridge said.
He said he had no fear when it came to his assignment.
“I said, I’m not afraid to carry a rifle, and I was put on not just a rifle but a machine gun,” Partridge said.
He was on a .50 caliber machine gun team.
“I loved them all, you know, you know I got to be best friends with some of them,” Partridge said.
He said they rarely went into the jungle to hunt the Viet Cong because they were usually coming at them.
“Watching down the road and anything that moved down there, you had, you had to shoot at or tell them to hold it, halt,” Partridge said.
He said no place was safe.
“We had a barber, we went up and got our hair cut that day, and that night we shot the barber coming through the wire,” Partridge said.
Although he was skilled with a weapon, it was his mechanic skills that kept him busy.
“I took care of those wreckers, and I went out on calls,” Partridge said.
He was in charge of the motor pool at Bien Hoa at what he called the United States Army Depot Long Binh.
He said there he did whatever it took, even if it meant doing it, himself.
“I took my wrecker and ran the boom out and raised it way up and crawled up about 25 feet up on that boom,” Partridge said.
He said that sure paid off.
“I looked down, and all of my lights lit up in my tent,” Partridge said.
He said he worked alongside two Vietnamese boys, who were great assistants, one they called Wild Man.
“He was a Wild Man, but I loved those two boys and I was going to bring them home if I could,” Partridge said.
He said when he finally made it home, the journey was much like the one that took him to Vietnam.
“There was only two times, that I was scared, and one was when I come in for a landing, and one was when I took off to come home,” Partridge said.
He said it took about 30 years for folks to start acknowledging what all the troops endured in Vietnam.
He still deals with the effects of Agent Orange.
He was recently given a hero’s salute, and for the first time heard the thunder of pipes, and a resounding ‘thank you’ from so many.
Partridge was this year’s honoree for the Kansas Wounded Vet Run.
Right by his side, all along the way, were his two little brothers, who never saw war, because of their hero.
“I thank God a million times, since then, that they didn’t let Bo or Sam, either one, to go over there,” Partridge said.
The Partridge brothers were raised with a good understanding of service and sacrifice, their father was a member of the Greatest Generation, and fought at the Battle of the Bulge.