Veterans remember experiences in Vietnam, WWII

Published 11:55 pm Monday, November 10, 2008

Willie Locke Sr. and Harry Lloyd Sr. are two veterans of two wars with different experiences; however, both will tell you that being a U.S. veteran is both a privilege and an honor.

Locke is an Andalusia native and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served during the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War.

He can tell you exactly how long served — three years and 23 days — but what he won’t tell you is what he experienced while there.

He stone-walls when asked about specific incidents, about what he remembers as his most prolific moment overseas. Instead he speaks in general terms about the campaign.

“When I served in the war, I served under the Tet Offensive and that was one of the hardest parts of the war,” Locke said. “I got wounded twice over there. I know how my momma felt when she got notice that her son had been wounded. I don’t like to talk about Vietnam. It brings back too many memories. I won’t even talk to my wife about Vietnam. I tell her to just let that dog lie. I lost a really good friend over there.”

Locke said the best experience he had while serving was coming home.

“The good moment for me was when I left Vietnam to come home,” he said. “When I got home my country turned against me. When we came off the plane we got spit on. I didn’t ask to go over there. My country asked me to go over there. We got off the plane and we were met with protest. That is the one thing I remember.”

And according to Locke, that’s the whole basis of being a soldier, of being a veteran and on the day dedicated to those men and women who served their country.

“Veterans Day means a lot to me,” he said. “I am always with the veterans. We shed our blood for this country, and I love this country.

“If the country calls you, then you need to serve,” he said. “When I went into the military, they had the draft. They don’t have the draft now. It is all volunteers. If you love this country, then you will serve this country. You will give your blood and your life for it.”

Locke has also instilled that belief in his son, Willie James Locke Jr., who is lieutenant colonel in the Army currently serving in Iraq.

“I feel passionate about (the war) because I have a son serving over there,” he said. “Even though I might disagree with the way we go into it, as a veteran I am going to support the veterans over there. We have to gradually bring (our troops) out. We have to leave gracefully and get our respect back overseas.

“When I was in the military and we went overseas, then they would respect you,” he said. “It is not the same now. We have to get our respect back.”

The wartime experience for World War II veteran Harry “Fuzzy” Lloyd Sr. was like night and day compared to Locke’s.

For Lloyd, his one-and-a-half year stint in the U.S. Navy was “quiet and uneventful.” He called his desire to enlist “the best decision I ever made.”

“I was 17 when I joined. My dad had to sign for me,” said the 80-year-old Lloyd. “I felt like it was the right the thing to do — to enlist. It was 1945 and after basic (training), they sent me to the Philippines.”

While there, Lloyd served as shore patrol, a position similar to military police, whose main duty was to guard the high commissioner of the Philippines.

“He was the highest ranking person on the islands,” he said. “The most excitement we had while I was there was when I got to see Herbert Hoover. Naturally, I didn’t go up and introduce myself.”

Lloyd said he was never in any danger but he understands now what being a veteran means.

“I was very fortunate during the war,” he said. “I did my time and came home. It made me appreciate the things back home all that more.”