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WARREN TOWNSHIP — Ken Nezbeth served with a U.S. Army artillery unit during the Vietnam War.
Nezbeth said after being out of high school for a year, he had plans to join the Army and went to Cleveland where he spoke with an enlistment officer about joining Army intelligence and was about to sign the final paperwork thinking he was signing up for three years.
“When I was told it was for six years, I walked out. Two weeks later, I got drafted,” Nezbeth said.
He went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for basic training and then to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for artillery training and then his unit went for jungle training with makeshift huts.
In December 1969, at the age of 20, Nezbeth was sent to Vietnam.
“We were there to help the South Vietnamese fight for their independence, which was just like the war here in the states during the Civil War. I was stationed in a service battery where we took care of all the supplies and ammunition for the gun units. We ran convoys out with supplies and I always went with them,” he said.
Nezbeth said when he first got to the service battery, he was not sure what his job was going to be, thinking he would be in one of the gun units.
But because he took business classes and bookkeeping in high school, he instead was assigned to do office work.
“They learned I had all that training in high school and made me the clerk for the Army maintenance management system. I took care of all the maintenance scheduling of all the equipment, trucks, forklifts and gun units for oil changes and parts. I would let the motor sergeant know when one of the pieces of equipment was up for maintenance. I also gave driving tests and operating tests on all of the equipment. We used to load all of the pallets of ammunition and artillery shells onto trucks and the convoy would take it out to them,” Nezbeth said.
He said he had a nice office before he was transferred to another unit at an air base, providing equipment to the infantries.
Nezbeth said the North Vietnamese Regiment Army had uniforms that made it easier to recognize them, but with people dressed as civilians, it was hard to tell if they were from the north or south.
“We had a saying that they were the Vietnamese by day and the enemy after dark. There were children passing out cigarette lighters with a C4 inside of it so when you struck it to light a cigarette, it would blow up,” Nezbeth said.
Nezbeth said he read American newspapers in Vietnam and listened on the radio about all of the college protests against the war, and it made him very angry.
“When we did not have the support from people here in the United States and all the protests were going on, it really upset me. I had the support from my immediate family. I wrote letters back and forth to my mom, sisters and brother. My sister used to send me care packages with food and cookies,” Nezbeth said.
He said one time he went from one base camp to another for an infantry unit and he and another soldier encountered direct fire from an open field across from a rubber plantation.
“They were shooting direct fire into the rubber plantation, so we had to be careful,” Nezbeth said.
After being in Vietnam, Nezbeth completed six months at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, completing two years in the military. He also did carpentry work for a contractor in North Carolina.
Nezbeth and his wife, Jamie, are members of Combat Vets Motorcycle Association and the local Harley motorcycle group did rides for veterans. On a ride in 1993 he met other members of the CVMA about fundraising for the Fisher House Foundation at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and one at Wade Park in Cleveland.
Nezbeth said the Fisher House is like a Ronald McDonald House for veterans, covering costs for families of veterans who come to visit and need a place to stay as well as food and other needs.
After his military service, he had worked as a carpenter in Ohio and then got a job in Taylor Winfield as a machinist.
Nezbeth became the Warren Township road supervisor in 1977 and stayed there until retiring in 2012 with 36 1/2 years of service.
He said he is active in helping homeless veterans get furniture and utility assistance by hosting benefits and also helping to deliver the items.
Nezbeth also is active with Howland American Legion Post 700.
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