Being part of a war effort that required a draft, Vietnam veteran Levi Pence has become a firm believer in having everyone serve their country.
“They don’t have to be infantry or anything like that, but take whatever skills they have and utilize them,” Pence said. “I knew people back when I was in the service when I was drafted who worked in hospitals, so its one of those things where everyone can serve, finding the position which matches their skills.”
Pence served with the 101st Airborne Division 327th Infantry Headquarters Company.
“I went over as infantry. I was drafted and went to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for my basic training,” Pence said. “I spent an additional six weeks for advanced infantry training.”
Pence was transferred to Vietnam after basic training.
“I remember being transferred on a deuce and a half was dropped off at the 327th Battallion,” Pence said. “They were in need of a clerk typist, so I told them I was a typist.”
Pence was transferred out of the infantry after being tested as a typist. His MOS changed to 71B, and he was stationed 15 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone in Vietnam.
“I graduated with my degree from AIB College of Business, so I had the skill set to fill the needed position,” Pence said.
The structure of life in Vietnam made an impact on Pence’s life.
“The military training — it was the chain of command type of mentality — I found was very useful in life in general,” Pence said. “It was having structure in my life.”
Pence has been a long-time resident in Newton and has grown an appreciation for how Newton loves those who have served their country.
“When I came home from Vietnam, it was very subdued. I think the Korean Veterans realized that when they came back as well,” Pence said. “It has become a love that has achieved a renewed awakening because what Jasper County has done for its veterans in the last several years with the trips to Washington, D.C.”
Pence commented about how much the citizens of Jasper County are willing to invest in their veterans.
“It’s an indication that they’re willing to spend their finances to recognize veterans in this county and it tells me that the people of Jasper County are willing to spend their assets to recognize those veterans who perhaps didn’t receive the recognition when they left the service,” Pence said. “It tells me they recognize what the veterans have done for them in maintaining freedom in this country.”
Pence is now a funeral director, who has been planned many final services for the men and women who have died after serving their country.
“The idea of final services has changed since the days of Vietnam with traditional funeral services, but now services have become more personalized towards the individual being celebrated,” Pence said.
The military services in Newton have been shown to be community oriented with the local VFW and American Legion involvement.
“The Legion and VFW are dedicated to serving as firing squad for military veterans in Jasper County,” Pence said. “You look at that and say you know its nice, but you don’t realize what kind of commitment those individuals have made. When you think about the number of veterans who are deceased in Jasper County and the number of times they have to commit to these events.”
Being a funeral director, Pence has seen many older veterans pass away, but the services of the men and women who don’t make it home due to dying in action pulls at Pence’s heart.
“We have conducted many services for those men and women who were killed while serving our country,” Pence said. “I think its partially because when a solider is killed action the military step up by sending a major officer to recognize those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.”
Staff writer Zach Johnson may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.