Appalachian State University American Military History Course Veterans Oral History Project


Each semester, the students of the American Military History Course at Appalachian State University conduct interviews with military veterans and record their military experiences in order to create an archive of oral history interviews that are publicly accessible to researchers. The oral histories are permanently available in the Appalachian State University Special Collections. The project is supervised by Dr. Judkin Browning, Associate Professor of History at Appalachian State University and all interviews are transcribed by the student interviewers. Copyright Notice: Copyright for the Veterans Oral History Project’s audio and transcripts is held by Appalachian State University. These materials are available for free personal, non-commercial, and educational use, provided that proper citation is used (e.g. Veterans Oral History Project, University Archives and Records, Special Collections, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC).

Jack W. Alexander, interviewed by Sean Bolick, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on November 9, 1924. Alexander talks about his experiences as a pilot during World War II.

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Zack Crittenden interviews Leonard Blevins on his time in the Army Special Forces. Mr. Blevins discusses his duties in Kosovo and talked about his military training

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Greg Boyd, Army and Army National Guard, was born in 1961 and joined the armory at age 17 as an E-2. He discusses meeting his wife while in service, family, training, and deployments to Honduras and Ecuador as well as domestic deployments.

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Jim Brewer, interviewed by Jeremy Gilley, was born in Siler City, North Carolina in December 1936. He was drafted into the Army in 1959, took his training at Fort Jackson, and served in the 28th Field Artillery. In the interview he discusses his deployment in Germany, his job duties in artillery, and how technology has changed the military.

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Lieutenant Colonel Steven Crowe, interviewed by Seth Revetta, was born in Valdese, NC in 1962. He attended Appalachian State University for Military Science and entered the Army as an officer and graduated from Airborne School. His first station was in South Korea. Mr. Crowe discusses his training, which also included Ranger School and some of the difficulties he faced as an officer.

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Korean War Conley Call, Army National Guard, was born August 29, 1931. He discusses his reasons for joining the military as well as several personal anecdotes during training. He also discusses how his military experience influenced his thoughts on war.

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Rachel Crisp interviews Bill Downs about his experiences in the United States Navy during the Korean War. He grew up on campus at the Edwards Military Institute, and eventually began working in sonar aboard the USS Vammen.

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Barry Craig Forrest, interviewed by William C. Forrest, enlisted in the NC State University ROTC and the NC National Guard in 1980. He served 28 years in the Army as an armor officer and combat engineer. Although he served in the First and Second Gulf War, in this interview he mainly discusses his service in Germany.

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Jeff Gordon, born September 18, 1960, served 17 and a half years in the U.S. Army (enlisting in 1979), retiring as a Veteran Sergeant First Class. He served as a cannon crewman and interrogator (Human Intelligence Collector). In the interview he talks about his career (including service in seven states, Germany, and Poland) plus the benefits for U.S. youth to see the world through military service.

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Walter R. Hamilton enlisted in the Navy and served four years. He was trained in maintenance for airplanes and fighter-jets. He served a six month tour of the pacific following the end of the Korean War.

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Harrison Fletcher interviews John Helms who served in the United States Army during World War II. He joined the military right out of high school because he was living in poverty in the United States, and he saw it as the only way to make money. He served in the 83rd Infantry Division, and was in the front lines the entire time he served in Europe. He walked straight through France and Germany, and said he was never transported anywhere. He fought in both the Normandy landings and the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded four times, but says that morale among the American soldiers was high.

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Francesca Johnson, interviewed by Steven Folts, was born December 14, 1977 in Anaheim, California. She enlisted in the United States Army in February 2000 and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the interview she discusses her experiences in training and her job duties.

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Adam Jorgenson, born June 26, 1981, served as an Army Specialist in the Iraq War, South Baghdad. In this interview, he discusses a routine day of visiting communities, searching for weapon caches, and what soldiers did in their free time.

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Haimes Kilgore, interviewed by Judkin Browning, enlisted in the Mississippi National Guard at age 17. He was deployed into combat twice, the first time during Operation Desert Storm and the second time to Saudi Arabia, and speaks of his experiences.

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Ralph A. Lerch talks about his experience as a Vietnam War veteran and pilot for the U.S. Air Force. He served in Vietnam transporting cargo, which he described as "kind of a stupid war." He entered the Aviation Cadet Program, but crashed during training and broke his thigh which took a long time to heal. After a year he was able to re-enter and he was eventually deployed. He never saw combat or came into contact with the NVA, but was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross Award.

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Marshall Ospina interviews Paul Maney who served during the Vietnam War. He describes his time in Basic Training as very dark and disturbing. He was trained in Fort Dix, but never deployed, and spent most of his time doing administrative work in Colorado. He did not like serving in the military and got out as soon as he could. He used the GI Bill to go to school and eventually became a professor of military history.

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William Benson Marsh joined the Army Reserve in High School, 1944. The interview talks about his service during World War II, the USO shows to entertain the troops, basic training, and the dropping of the atomic bomb.

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Richard Meyers, born October 2, 1980, enlisted into the Army in 2003. Current position as of 2011--Recruiting Operations Officer for Appalachian State ROTC. Served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq War) for one year, 2008-2009. In this interview, he discusses his experiences doing patrols and advising Iraqi border police in Erbil, a Kurdish region of Iraq.

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Joseph Emerson Mitchell, Sr., interviewed by David Mitchell, first enlisted in the United States Army in 1950 at age 17. Mitchell speaks about his experiences serving during both the Korean and Vietnam wars, including stories of the breakdown of segregation and racism in the military.

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George Murphy, interviewed by Patrick Murphy, served in the United States Army and was stationed in Vietnam.

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Russell Olson Jr., born August 3, 1947, served as a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army for 30 years, including service in Vietnam. In this interview he discusses the draft for the Vietnam war and his personal experience, including living with the Montagnards in the highlands of Vietnam.

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David Owen, Marines, Lance corporal, 22 years old. In this interview David Owen talks about how his boss at work influenced him to join the military. He goes on to discuss his deployment to Afghanistan and some of his experiences there. Some of his experiences include; dealing with the heat and environment, combat, the things he missed, and the bonds that were created with other soldiers.

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Robert Randall, U.S. Army, born on December 15, 1939. In this interview, Robert Randall discusses how his inability to obtain an education led to his decision to join the military. He goes on to further discuss his overall experience in the military. He specifically mentions his involvement in Vietnam as well as his career with the military after Vietnam.

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William Chris Ray, Marine Corporal, was born on December 10, 1988. In this interview he discusses how 9/11 impacted his decision to join the military. He goes on to discuss his experiences in boot camp and his time while being deployed. He also talks about his job as a mortor man and specifically dicusses his time in Afghanistan and how he stayed in touch with his family.

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Daniel P. Sponsel, Army, Sergent First Class, born in 1963. In this interview Daniel Sponsel discusses how the JROTC program influenced his decision to join the military. He goes on to discuss his time as a recruiter as well as his time in active duty. While in active duty he served as a field medic in Korea. Sponsel then discusses his decision to re-class as a chaplain and some of his experiences afterwards. During his time as a chaplain he was deployed to Hungary, Bosnia, Germany, and Croatia. He then goes on to talk about his time in Iraq and finishes up by talking about some of his experiences with the military once he got back to the United States.

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Charles Tye, Sergent First Class, U.S. Army, was born on May 18, 1968. In this interview Charles Tye says that he wanted to join the Army because he wanted to be part of a team and do something for my family to provide better for them. He also discusses his job as a gunner on tanks in the Desert Storm conflict in Iraq. He then finishes up the interview by further explaining his experiences in Iraq.

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Chalk Wetmore, Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, was born on August 17, 1972. In this interview, Chalk Wetmore says that his reasons for joining the military were because he wanted his job and life to have meaning. He goes on to discuss his experience at basic training as well as his experience in active duty. His deployments overseas include time in Cambodia, Afghanistan, Thailand, and other areas as well. Wetmore also gives his take on the War in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Steven Wilkins, Lt. Colonel, US Army, was born on March 27th, 1960. In this Interview Steven Wilkins describes some of the places he has been stationed outside the U.S. during his military career. He talks about being in Korea, Central America, and the Middle East. He mentions his specific job while in the Army. He also discusses his decision and influences to enter the Army and specifically mentions experiences as a child and going through ROTC.

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Interview with Lieutenant Lyndon Bartlett [October 13, 2012]

First Lieutenant Lyndon Bartlett went into the Air Force because he wanted to be a pilot like his father who worked for US Airways. Due to a physical defect, he couldn't continue flying planes, but he went into BSHRED cyber warfare which he describes as very leadership oriented. He plans to make a career in the military.

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Interview with Ambrose Brennan, Major (Retired) [October 12, 2012]

Major Ambrose Brennan, born in 1939, entered the infantry after graduating from the US Military Academy. He didn't really consider any other branch, he just wanted to do what they did in the movies. The majority of his service was during the Cold War and he says the only "shooting war" he served in was Vietnam. He was awarded a myriad of medals, including a purple heart.

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Interview with Drill Sergeant Matthew Bulla [October 6, 2012]

Drill Sergeant Matthew Bulla, born in 1986, entered the Marine Corps and served on a response team in Iraq. He speaks a lot about the civilians he met in Iraq and how they seemed to be "two or three thousand years behind us." He explains that the war is not like how it was reported, and that the US military did a lot of good there winning the hearts of civilians and rebuilding cities.

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Interview with Steven H. Bush [October 5, 2011]

Steven Bush, raised partly in Germany and partly in the United States, grew up in a military family. In the early 1990s he enlisted as an m-day soldier, and then he decided to go for full active duty in the National Guard. He did his basic training in Fort Sill and was deployed three times to Desert Storm, Bosnia, and Iraq.

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Interview with Sergeant Tom Collins [October 14, 2012]

Sergeant Tom Collins, born in 1943 in Philadelphia, was drafted during the Vietnam War and went to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for his basic training. He entered the army and was trained as a military policeman. He served in Saigon on a patrol squad. He says to this day, even in civilian life, he doesn't trust people he doesn't know after his experience in the military and having to constantly be on the look-out.

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Interview with Lieutenant Colonel David Cox [October 17, 2011]

Colonel Cox served in the US Army after going to college and went to advanced camp at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in order to become a commissioned officer. He served in the infantry branch and was deployed to Iraq twice, once in 2003 and another time in 2009.

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Interview with Richard Gilbert [October 15, 2012]

Richard Gilbert served in the army for three years during the Vietnam War. He was a volunteer right out of high school, and figured the military was his only way to get to college. He was stationed in Pleiku, Vietnam and worked as a military police officer. He saw very little combat but his base was ambushed a couple of times. After the 3 years were up he majored in art at Applachian State and worked as a middle school art teacher.

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Interview with Lieutenant Colonel Bryan D. Green, U.S. Army (retired) [September 22, 2011]

Lieutenant Colonel Green grew up in a military family in the 1960s in a small town, and saw his chance to make something of himself in the military. He didn't join right after high school, but went to basic training over the summer and started at ASU the following fall as a cadet in Military Science. He served most of his time during the Cold War. He now works for Bandys High School in the Junior ROTC program.

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Interview with Michelle Holmquist, 1st Sergeant, retired [October 12, 2012]

Michelle Holmquist, inspired by her brother, enlisted in the Marine Corps in the 1990s. She said basic training was a jolt because of the huge difference from civilian life, but she loved the experience. She served in the Persian Gulf War and was stationed in Kuwait and Southeast Asia as a gunnery sergeant.

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Interview with Corporal Lloyd L. Hoover, Jr [October 8, 2012]

Corporal Lloyd Hoover was drafted in the early 1950s and served in the Army Finance Department managing millions of dollars. He served during the Korean War, what he calls the Korean Conflict, and saw his military years as a good and formative experience.

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Interview with Patrick  McGarrell, Airman 2nd Class [October 12, 2012]

Patrick McGarrel, born in 1936, went to basic training twice: first for the Naval Reserve and second for the Air Force. After that he went to a language school which he said had "a 97, 98 percent washout rate" and flunked out. He ended up serving at an Air Base in Iceland for a year.

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Interview with Samuel McNeill [October 14, 2012]

Corporal Samuel McNeill, born in 1931, was drafted in the Korean War. He served in the US army and mainly worked in the textiles industry. He traveled often on leave, and got to see Japan and Seoul, Korea.

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Interview with Kenneth Robert Miller [October 14, 2012]

Kenneth Miller, born in 1940, enlisted in the army in 1958 because he did not want to go straight to college after high school. However, he still wanted those in-between years to be productive. He was stationed in Gelnhausen, Germany for two years during the Cold War. He never saw combat, but worked as a tank driver.

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Interview with Melvin Mullis [October 14, 2012

Melvin Mullis served as a 3rd class petty officer in the Navy during WWII. He served aboard the USS Yaupon where he worked on damage control for the ship. He did not see any combat and returned to the States on Christmas Eve after two months aboard the ship. He said he couldn't communicate with his family at all because "mail doesn't run in the center of the ocean."

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Interview with Erik Nicolaysen [October 14, 2012]

Eric Nicolaysen enlisted in the US Army reserves in 1956, served in the Cold War, and spent some time in Korea. He did not see any combat during his time in the military.

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Interview with Doug Patton [October 15, 2012

Doug Patton joined the military after September 11th and entered basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After basic, he went to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) and shortly after was deployed to Kuwait. He says there wasn't much fighting there, only "random firefights."

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Interview with Franklin Omsted Pitzer [November 2, 2012]

Franklin Pitzer made a career in the army and served for over 20 years. He trained at Fort Riley as a part of the 10th Mountain Division and was first deployed to Hamburg. He had many jobs in the army, such as motor sergeant and warrant officer.

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Interview with Larry Richardson [October 11, 2012]

Larry Richardson served in the Navy 1968-74 aboard the USS Keppler. He was an E5 2nd class when he left the army and was a working as a boiler technician, making the steam that would allow the engine to run. His ship came and left out of Pearl Harbor.

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Interview with Eliot White [October 14, 2012]

Eliot White, born in Russia but adopted by American parents, entered the US Navy before starting college. After basic training he went to ITA School and participated in Operation Naval Intelligence working in Washington DC. He was eventually deployed to Bahrain and saw combat a couple of times. He describes his combat experience as "very hectic" and music was the only thing that could calm him after his difficult experiences.

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Dean Williams describes his service in the Air Force as a Russian linguist working in Turkey. He was drafted after he finished his undergraduate degree, studied Russian in Monterey, California for a year, and was then shipped overseas. He describes his work as "boring" but living in the small town of Karamursel was eye-opening and a very positive experience.

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Charles Watkins talks about his service as a typist in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. He spent a year overseas, and finished his 3-year service contract conducting mental health tests in the US.

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Richard L. Thomas enlisted in the US Navy in 1953 and served in the Korean War. He was trained to work in the Combat Info Center where a lot of the work was focused on avoiding submarines.

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