WASHINGTON- As we approach Veterans Day, U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the military career of Lieutenant Colonel (retired) R. Winston Fulmer, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Fulmer grew up in Arkadelphia. He stayed in town for college, where he studied at Ouachita Baptist University and completed the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program. After marrying his wife, Linda, the couple was ready for their first military assignment, but it wasn’t one they were expecting.
“I got ready to leave the campus. I went by to pick up my orders. I looked and said ‘what do you mean my orders to Korea? I can’t go to Korea. I just got married,” Fulmer said.
As a young Second Lieutenant, Fulmer said he did a lot of growing up in Korea. “You learn a lot of responsibility. You learn that as an officer you’ve got your people you’ve got to take care of. A lot of decisions that you make depends on whether people live or die.”
Korea was a good training ground that Fulmer says he took full advantage of and proved beneficial to his military career.
Fulmer was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas when he and his wife welcomed their first daughter. It was also there that he received orders for Vietnam.
“I was ready. I wanted to go. I knew how to handle myself. I knew how to handle whatever job they gave me,” Fulmer said.
By then, he was a Captain, a rank that usually takes longer to achieve. Fulmer says the Army was accelerating promotions to Captain because of the expanded force structure.
Fulmer was first assigned as the brigade fire support officer, so his job was to run the tactical operation center for the artillery and brief the brigade commander early in the morning and late at night. He enjoyed the work, but wanted to see more action. “I wanted to get into the fray and the best way to do that is to be in one of the maneuver battalions,” Fulmer said.
His outpost was attacked during the Tet Offensive. Fulmer fondly recalled the money he was about to win in a card game when “all hell broke loose.”
After his tour in Vietnam, Fulmer was assigned to the ROTC department at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. He saw firsthand the anti-war sentiment during his first day on campus. Students started a fire and were tearing out pages from a yearbook to burn. “The year before they had dedicated the annual to the ROTC department. This was their way of protesting the war in Vietnam,” Fulmer said.
He followed up this assignment with an intense course in the Thai language for placement in Thailand at the conclusion of the 47-week course. Plans changed, and after 37 weeks, he was reassigned to a position in Hawaii.
“Hawaii was just outstanding,” Fulmer said. “We did a gang busters job in that battalion. I had so much time in air mobile operations and I just really enjoyed it and I had a battalion to play with and not get shot at.”
He was laying the groundwork for a future job in the Aloha State, but the Army had other ideas. He finished his career at Fort Sill, Oklahoma after serving more than 20 years in uniform.
Today, Fulmer calls Fort Smith home. He is past president of the William O. Darby Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) chapter where he has received the Distinguished Patriotic Achievement Award and the MOAA Leadership Award. He was inducted into the Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame in 2018.
“Lt. Col. Fulmer has dedicated his life to serving his country, demonstrating selfless sacrifice, courage and leadership in uniform in assignments in Korea and Vietnam. His memories of his time in uniform are an important part of our history as much as his own story. I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Fulmer’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.