By Christy Porter, Managing Editor
Licking and the surrounding communities, like so many others in our country, have had multiple family members serving in the U.S. military simultaneously. Whether by draft or by choice, it began with the Revolutionary War and continues until today.
Three elder Gorman brothers served during WWII, and succeeding them would be three younger Gorman brothers, all serving during the Vietnam conflict. This is the younger Gorman brothers’ story.
Gary, Michael and Jerry Gorman were all born in California and, with their parents, would come to settle in the Montauk community of Missouri. They would attend school in Licking, and after completing their service, would return to become contributing citizens to this area.
Gary Gorman, the eldest of the three, a 1965 LHS graduate, volunteered with the U.S. Air Force in June 1966, at the age of 19. His service with the USAF would continue until April 1, 1970.
He would complete his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and complete technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita, Texas. Gary would continue his service at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio in the 19th Military Airlift Squadron until August 1967; he then was transferred to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand until September 1968. His duties were as a flightline aircraft mechanic, Crew Chief on a C-123 Provider, and flying status with the 606th Air Commando Squadron, 56th Air Commando Wing. Gary finished his military tenure as a Sgt. E-4 at Luke AFB, Glendale, Ariz. He received the U.S. Air Force Commendation for Military Merit, Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
Utilizing the GI Bill, Gary continued his education after leaving the U.S. Air Force, receiving a BS degree in Education and then a Master of Arts in Education. He continues his military connection as a member of Licking VFW Post 6337.
“The Air Force provided many opportunities for memorable stories; the most memorable stories happened after I was sent to Southeast Asia in early October 1967,” said Gary.
“My orders sent me to Nakhon Phanom RTAFB (Royal Thai Air Force Base) in Northeast Thailand located near the Mekong River and Laos. After being there a short period, I was assigned as crew chief and then put on flying status on a UC-123B aircraft. The main mission of the 606th Air Commando Squadron was to drop flares on the Ho Chi Minh Trail at night and recon in fighters and bombers to limit supplies and equipment to South Vietnam.
“Being put on flying status gave me the opportunity to fly day missions all over Thailand and South Vietnam several times. We flew to Tan Son Nhut, near Saigon, which was surrounded by rice paddies; to Da Nang near the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and then known as Rocket City; once to Hong Kong to take Navy pilots for R&R; and to Bangkok for supplies and missions. We flew to Chiang Mai in Northeast Thailand, for maintenance reasons, and saw the giant Buddha statues while there. Being on flying status allowed me to see most of Southeast Asia as a 20 – 21-year old.
“Like every other airman, most of my time spent there was 12 – 13 hour days, six or seven days a week. We worked during the dust and heat of winter, and the rain and mud of the monsoon summer months. The Tet offensive of January and February 1968 left an impression on most of us,” shared Gary.
Michael Gorman followed his older brother into the service when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in February 1969, at the age of 20; they would then both be in service at the same time through the spring of 1970.
He would do his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood and go on to serve in Vietnam.
Michael remembers “running the mile in under six minutes with combat boots on and getting very sick afterwards.” Due to his dedication in training, he was chosen the Most Outstanding Trainee of his cycle.
On his way to Vietnam, Michael would stop at Luke AFB, Ariz., to see older brother Gary. He commented, “The Air Force food was better when compared to the Army’s.”
His most harrowing moments would be when fighting a NVA (North Vietnamese Army) soldier in hand-to-hand combat while in Vietnam. “One scary night,” is how Michael described it. “Earlier that morning another platoon had been ambushed, so we were already on guard. It was dusk and I was setting up a mine when approached by the NVA soldier. Using the element of surprise, I screamed and took his AK-47 from him. We fought and when it was over, we both went our separate ways.” This incident would earn Michael a Bronze Star for valor.
Just 20 days later, “a short, high explosive round exploded and landed in front of the 3rd Platoon, which was above my unit. There were 17 soldiers of 30 killed in action (KIA) or wounded in action (WIA). My platoon was doing a field operation, clearing the area to set up a landing zone (LZ) pad to get the KIA and WIA out. A white phosphorus grenade went off and catapulted about 50-feet; initially it was thought to be enemy but was a non-intentional friendly accident, which sometimes occurs in wartime situations,” shared Michael. The white phosphorus burned many of the soldiers, including Michael; in honor of their hazardous service conditions and their injuries, they were later awarded the Purple Heart.
Michael was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army as a Sergeant on Feb. 21, 1971. For his service he was awarded three Bronze Stars, one for valor; the Vietnam Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; a Good Conduct Medal and a Purple Heart.
“It was good to get home,” says Michael of returning home from service. He worked in various vocations and pastoral work upon his return. He is also a member of the VFW.
Jerry Gorman is the youngest of the three brothers to serve our country during the Vietnam conflict. He was drafted into the U.S. Army at the age of 19, on Feb. 20, 1970, approximately 1-1/2-years after his 1968 high school graduation.
All three brothers would serve simultaneously from Feb. 20, 1970, through April 1970; and after different tenures, Jerry’s military service would close their collective service with his honorable discharge on Oct. 18, 1971. He had a 120-day drop due to only four months service remaining, and was therefore classified as “not deployable” for overseas duty.
Jerry would do his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood and then was transferred to Fort Sill, Okla., for AIT (advanced individual training); he also received his artillery 13A10-MOS (military occupational specialty) while there. He would continue training with Red Eye Missiles training as a Red Eye gunner at Fort Bliss, Texas.
During the Vietnam conflict, Jerry would serve with the 8th Army Division in Germany, an artillery unit, “Germany didn’t have Red Eye missiles, so the men that were trained for that and above moved into something else. I moved to a Battalion S-2 clerk,” explained Jerry. He would achieve the rank of Specialist SP4, and would bring home the National Defense Service Medal (NDSM) and qualification as an expert rifleman with the .223 M16 rifle.
“In the fall of 1970 our unit was put on Red Alert to go into the country of Jordan. The battalion was readied with vehicles loaded in a convoy to leave, but at the last minute the issues were worked out and things settled so we didn’t have to go in,” said Jerry, sharing a tense moment of his service.
When serving during war, even leisure time can lead to tense moments. “Once two friends and I took leisure time, borrowed a jeep and without the intention of doing so, ended up one kilometer from the Czech border. We turned around,” continued Jerry.
While friendships were oftentimes difficult to achieve while serving in wartime, they were also sometimes difficult to maintain. This was not the case with Jerry and Jerry White of Rector, Ark., who had a military friendship that has survived the years.
Jerry did utilize the G.I. Bill and retired from 26-years of civil service at Fort Leonard Wood in 2011.
As was often the case, each Gorman brother had a unique experience while in service to his country. Each one came home and became productive members of their communities. Thank you Gary, Michael and Jerry Gorman for your service to our country.