Jan 31 2019
WASHINGTON-U.S.Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized John Edmond Ross Sr., a Vietnam War veteran, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series commemorating the military service of Arkansans.
Ross grew up in Kansas during the Great Depression. He was working for Beech Aircraft Corporation in Wichita when he went to the draft board. “They told me I would probably be next month’s pick,” Ross said. Shortly after this meeting, he was inspired by the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movie “Jumping Jacks” about Army paratroopers. “The sergeant was all enthused. He hadn’t recruited a paratrooper in some time and he was telling me how glamorous it was going to be,” Ross said.
It was months before he would experience excitement as a paratrooper. First he had to endure basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and kitchen police duties which included what Ross calls “the filthiest job”—cleaning out the grease traps. Once his eight weeks of basic were completed, he learned that he would have to continue his training before Airborne School because there were no spaces available for new students.
Eventually he started “jump school” at Fort Benning, Georgia and underwent more intense physical training. Many guys washed out because they “just couldn’t take the day-to-day endurance.” Ross and the other students were required to complete five jumps. His first jump was memorable because he became tangled with another parachute, but his training served him well and he and the other paratrooper landed unharmed.
Ross left the Army in 1956, but after getting married he realized how great the paycheck and the benefits were so he rejoined later that year within the allotted time for him to retain his rank.
In 1960, he received orders to go to Vietnam. Ross wasn’t familiar with the country and asked his colleagues who were also uncertain where in the world it was. He looked it up in a geography book to learn where he was going.
“We were there for about a week and they couldn’t find jobs for us,” Ross said. He went to personnel and asked for a job or be sent back home. He was assigned to Duc My Camp in south central Vietnam, with officers and other senior non-commissioned officers. “That was about as un-army as the Army could be.”
He served another tour in Vietnam in 1970. For his service he earned the Bronze Star among other distinctions. Ross retired from military service in 1974. “I loved the Army. It was great. It was my home,” he said.
Today, Ross calls Conway home.
“I am grateful for John Ross’ dedication to our country and his willingness to serve. Capturing his memories and sharing his experiences of serving our nation in uniform is a great tribute to his service,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Ross’ 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.