WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman recognized the service and sacrifice of Vietnam veteran Bob Graham in his latest edition of ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing military service of Arkansans.
Graham was born in Little Rock on July 26, 1948 and raised in North Little Rock. After graduating from North Little Rock High School he worked for his uncle’s wrecking service.
He enlisted in military service as an 18-year-old after his cousin received his draft notice. The two cousins planned to join the Navy but the service wouldn’t accept Graham’s cousin because he’d been drafted.
“There was a Marine Corps gentleman standing outside the door and he was in such a beautiful dress blue uniform. He looked at us and said ‘boys how would you like to go to San Diego?’ I’d never been out of Arkansas,” Graham recalled.
He and his cousin headed to the west coast less than a month later as members of the Marine Corps.
After finishing basic training in San Diego, Graham continued his military education at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where he trained as a mechanic and truck driver.
He was stationed in a unit in Da Nang, Vietnam and had to learn quickly how to adapt to a combat zone.
Graham described his experience being flown into Vietnam on a C-130 with commissioned and noncommissioned officers who were all carrying weapons. “I had no weapon whatsoever. We get to flying and they came on the intercom system and say they’re taking sniper rounds. The ranking officer said slow down and let him off and let him run across there and see what happens. I’m looking around to see who they’re talking about, obviously not me. Then the sergeant came to tell me that when they slow the airplane down jump off the plane and run across the tarmac as hard as you can run to the bunker over there. I said give me a weapon please.”
One of Graham’s first assignments was to unload the bodies of American service members killed in combat that were flown to the airbase and bring them to the morgue. Graham says one way he coped with this tough duty was to work as many hours as he could.
Graham was injured during the Tet Offensive after a rocket hit his quarters. He declined the Purple Heart he earned because he didn’t think he deserved it, a decision he now regrets.
When he returned to the United States in July 1968 after serving in Vietnam for 13 months, Graham experienced the hate of war protestors.
“I flew into San Francisco. There were war demonstrators there everywhere. We’d heard how bad it was but we had no clue. We came off the plane and these people were throwing stuff at us, spitting on us and calling us baby killers,” Graham said.
The nightmare of combat stayed with him long after returning home. In 1990, he completed his first post traumatic stress disorder program and followed up with several others. Now he uses his experience to mentor other veterans.
“There’s nothing that I’ve found that’s made me feel more alive than the chance and opportunity to give back today,” Graham said.
“Bob Graham has overcome tremendous hurdles and now uses his experiences to help others. He served and sacrificed for our nation and he’s continuing his commitment by helping other veterans. Honoring Bob and our veterans by sharing their stories of service is important to recognizing the dedication of the men and women who defend our freedoms and understanding our nation’s history,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Graham’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.