Donald Young is 40 years removed from the jungles of Vietnam but he says memories of his 15 months of service there revisit him on a near nightly basis.
A longtime friend and former co-worker called to recommend we hear Mr. Young's story about saving the lives of innocent civilians during a mortar attack. He won praise high in the form of military honors for actions that put him at risk while saving several young lives.
The 63-year-old East Tennessee native also took time to share his memories of a run-in with a python and answered the following questions about the influence of the military on his life.
1. What one person influenced you most in life?
I guess it was my mother. She was always strict and pushed me to do the right thing and she put me on a good road.
2. Do you feel honored and respected for serving your country?
Well, really and truly I don't. Over the years people haven't treated me well because of my service in Vietnam.
3. How can people thank you for your service?
I don't want any thanks. It just means something when someone sits down to talk about my service.
4. How do you honor your fellow service men and women?
I go to the graveyard every year and add flowers to their graves. They shouldn't be forgotten.
5. How do you think this generation of service men and women is different or similar to yours?
We have good men and women in the military. I think they need to continue showing respect for those who served before them.
6. What influence did your military service have on the rest of your life?
When I went to the service they made men out of us overnight.
7. Does your family have a history of military service?
The service on both sides goes back to the Civil War. My grandfathers served in the cavalry and I followed in those footsteps.
8. Would you encourage younger generations in your family to join the service?
Yes I would. I think it is a good thing. If young people are able they should serve their country at least two years, both women and men.
9. How has your opinion of war changed?
I was in high school before I served. So it was a lesson life, death, and lots of things for me.
10. How did your military experience shape your faith?
When I was over there I believe in a supreme being. You get over there and you see these things happen you and when you survive you feel like you have a guardian angel.