The Emery County History Society met in the Swell Room of the old courthouse on Thursday to honor Emery County veterans. The evening began with a patriotic video and Ed Geary welcomed members. Suzanne Anderson opened with prayer and Lee Jeffs, a Vietnam veteran, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, as Bernice Payne displayed an Armed Forces medley video, veterans in attendance were asked to stand up when their military branch sounded.
Mack Huntington, a Vietnam officer, was the guest speaker for the evening. He began by noting that the American Legion Post, of which he is a Commander, is honoring an aviator who did not come home at the Veterans’ Day program on Friday, Nov. 10.
Huntington noted that the 1960s was a decade of civil unrest, riots, bigotry, assassinations of several notables and the unpopular Vietnam War. This was an era of confusion — Who am I? Where am I going? Huntington recalled being in a parking lot at the College of Eastern Utah in his ’51 Chevy. He heard, “We interrupt this program to announce that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.”
The draft became a reality for 18-year-old young men as it furnished soldiers for Vietnam, and Huntington decided to enlist. He was already stationed at Fort Benning with orders to go to Vietnam in 1969 when the draft lottery set up the order the men would be called up.
Huntington completed his degree in English with the delayed enlistment program. Degree in hand, he attended officers’ candidate school in January 1969. Initially, his served as a military writer. Huntington was home on leave before his deployment when Wes George from Ferron contacted him and got his orders changed to serve at Long Binh Army Depot as a security officer.
Huntington emphasized that the biggest problem on the bunker line was not the enemy; it was the drug use by the men. Besides marijuana, men would often put heroin in place of a cigarette filter, light up, and take a big drag for the “rush.”
He explained Carl Bott, a Castle Dale veteran, was stationed in a unit near the gruesome My Lai massacre. Major Harvey Brown in charge of the trial where Lt. William Calley was convicted of murder said, “What hurt about the whole thing was that Lt. Calley was one of us!”
Huntington mentioned some excellent soldiers that, with his wife Julie’s help, he has kept in touch with. He recalled Sabatke, who got an artist to paint Snoopy cartoons on the buildings. Despite the chewing out by the depot commander, it proved a big morale booster for the men.
Huntington was also asked to assemble a basketball team and told by his commander they WOULD win the tournament. He helped find 6-7 men, several of whom had played college basketball. Huntington requested that these men were to be excused from all duty except on the basketball court to get them trained and ready. The team won.
What did we learn from the Vietnam War? No side won, peace at any cost and time does not heal all wounds. He thanked the Emery County Archives for preserving history and honoring veterans.
In closing, Huntington recited a poem: “Brave men fight and died…because of them our children will be free….Follow me, Follow me.”