Veterans Day has many meanings for McLean County veterans who have served.

For Richard Crabtree, who serves as the commander for the Veterans of Foreign War Post 5415, Veterans Day, recognized each year on Nov. 11, means a day to honor and remember the soldiers both alive and dead who had to undergo hostile situations on the behalf of the American people.

Crabtree's military beginnings started on March 15, 1966. He said he received his draft notice to enlist but instead volunteered to do so at the last minute. This meant that he had to serve an extra year in service, but he got to pick where he wanted to serve.

After going through a year of training, Crabtree was sent to south Vietnam and landed on the beach of Vung Tau, where he served with the 9th Infantry Division until May 1968. Crabtree's military career kept him in south Vietnam for a year, where he was stationed at the infantry's headquarters, named Camp Bearcat, near Bien Hoa. He then transferred to the Mekong Delta.

When he returned from Vietnam, Crabtree spent the rest of his time in Fort Lewis, Washington, and was released as on March 15, 1969.

After his service ended, Crabtree said he was blessed by God that he got to come home in one piece and suffered only a minor infection in his leg during his time in Vietnam.

see veterans/page A3

"I had a lot of folks back home that was lifting my name up in prayer every time in church," Crabtree said. "Services were held, and my parents were quite devout, and they lifted my (name) up daily."

While he made it through his service time alive, Crabtree said others weren't so lucky. One such person was a very good friend of his who was involved in a helicopter crash. Crabtree said nothing identifiable was found in the crash.

"For a person who has never been there or never have witnessed these situations, they have no way of understanding, but they should at least have the respect to honor them and remember what was done on their behalf," Crabtree said.

For John D. "Sonny" Renfrow Jr., who serves as the chairman of Livermore's Veterans Memorial Walkway Committee, Veterans Day means a celebration to honor American veterans for their patriotism and for their willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

His six years of service began in the U.S. Air Force, where he served from 1965 to 1971. He entered his military career and basic training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. From there, he departed to Travis Air Force Base in California, where he served for a little more than a year, before heading to help efforts in Vietnam.

His overseas flight took him to Thailand, where he landed at U-Tapao Air Base, located 80 miles south of Bangkok. Renfrow became part of the 3rd Air Division of the 7th Air Force and worked with the 635th combat support group to support the movement of the U.S. Army and Marine troops and helped transition the influx of people moving in and out of the country. He then served a temporary position in Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, Vietnam.

"We had an opportunity to be both in support of and closer to some of the activities that were going on in Vietnam during that period," Renfrow said.

Renfrow also served as a protocol representative and got the opportunity to join both the Strategic Air Command and the Military Airlift Command during his military career. He also got to meet former president Lyndon B. Johnson during an unannounced visit.

"It gave me an opportunity to meet him out there in the midst of the zones, so it's always, I think, a boost to all of the military folks to have the commander in chief come by your area," Renfrow said.

While he witnessed a lot of unpleasant sites while on active duty, he also got to see a remarkable amount of patriotism as well, which is an esprit de corps that is very prevalent in the military, he said.

This continued appreciation is fitting for those who gave up their time and energy and were willing to sacrifice for the love of their country and the flag that it represents, Renfrow said.

For Calhoun Mayor David Abrams, Veterans Day is a time to recognize the efforts from those who fought in the many wars while in service.

The Cold War was the starting point for Abrams' own Air Force career, which landed him in Germany during the early 1960s. After wrapping up business during that time, Abrams landed back onto U.S. soil and stayed in Delaware for five years. He was then transferred to Japan in 1967 for a few months and later found himself in Hawaii.

"Both of those places were supporting the Vietnam War," he said.

From there, he flew east to Ohio for a 15-month stay, and then followed that with a stay in Thailand where he worked on B-52 and KC 135 aircrafts to help support the efforts of the Vietnam War. After his service was complete in Thailand, he was shipped to Loring Air Force Base in Maine.

"I spent a year in Thailand and I don't think it got below 90 degrees, and when I got to Loring, Maine, it was 20 below," Abrams said.

From Maine, his final stop landed him at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, where he ended his career after 20 years of service.

But whether a soldier has returned from serving on foreign soil or was caught in the line of fire, Abrams said they still need to be recognized for their service.

And for Joy "Bud" Nickells, the owner and operator of Wooden Bridge Antiques in Island, Veterans Day is an appreciation of others appreciating the time of service that soldiers perform to serve their country, and the pride that he has for performing his part in as well.

His service included four years of active naval duty from February 1972 to February 1976. He said he was home ported out of Charleston, South Carolina, on the USS Mount Baker, which was an ammunition escort.

"We onloaded and offloaded all of the ships, and then we unloaded all the ships coming back from Vietnam after the war," Nickells said.

He also did three tours of the Mediterranean Sea and helped supply the 6th Fleet with ammunition while on duty.

"It was a good time, good memories," Nickells said. "I should have stayed in, but after Vietnam, there wasn't much call."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.