Everyone has a story, and so in honor of Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, four of our Vietnam Veterans have willingly shared their military service stories. They almost “tag teamed” in their service in Vietnam, beginning in 1965 through 1971.
Ed Folger’s story, as told to Christy Porter, Managing Editor.
Ed Folger was born in New Castle, Wyo., one of eight children, three girls and five boys. All five boys served their country in the military, something of which Folger’s mother was very proud; four of the five sons served overseas. He recalls that his paternal uncle fought under General George Patton during WWII and brought home souvenirs of his service, including swords and an “Ike” jacket.
Folger grew up in a small community of 2400 people in South Dakota, and had a strong desire to travel and see the world. With the draft looming, a friend tried to talk him into joining the National Guard; he declined. His friends who had joined the National Guard spent their two year fulfillment at Ft. Carson, Colo., replacing base soldiers as the soldiers were rotated out for service overseas. Still today, Folger believes he made the right decision.
He was drafted into the Army at the age of 22 years on Dec. 3, 1963. His first trip to Missouri was to Fort Leonard Wood, where he did his basic training. He then was transferred to Fort Ord, Calif., where he took his Advanced Infantry Training (AIT), then on to Fort Riley, Kan. He served in the Army 1st Infantry Division, also known as the “Big Red One,” or “The Fighting First.”
Beginning at Fort Ord, his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) would be in light vehicle transportation. Graduating at the top of his class, Folger became the driver for the chaplain and was support for his whole division, driving for anyone who needed a driver. While there he also completed radio school and an English class.
Prior to being sent to Vietnam, Folger would again come to Missouri, this time participating in a joint Army-Air Force test and evaluation maneuver called “Exercise Gold Fire I.” The 1st Infantry from Fort Riley, including Folger, would participate in the two-week test run, getting men and supplies to their location. Arriving in a C130, he and other soldiers bivouacked in the fields and woodlands around Licking. Not only was this a test in military tactical maneuvers, but it also brought a wartime setting to peacetime civilian communities.
From Fort Riley, Folger was sent to Vietnam in 1965.
Two dedicated military people who impacted Folger both professionally and personally were Colonel William D. Wade and Sgt. Major Marlow. Folger answered only to these two men while in Vietnam, and was on call for Colonel Wade. Prior to the Vietnam conflict, Folger remembers driving Colonel Wade to meet General Westmoreland, who was the General in charge of the Vietnam conflict.
Colonel Wade was an enlisted WWII soldier, became a battlefield commissioned officer, and worked his way up in rank.
“He was respected and admired; he was enlisted and knew what the enlisted troops’ conditions were. He cared about his troops and did his best for them. He influenced the military and the personnel. I learned a great deal from him,” shared Folger.
While driving Colonel Wade he was not told confidential information, but was told, “that with a few minor changes, the Vietnam Conflict was ‘right on’ with plans that had been made 10 years prior to the beginning of the conflict.”
Sgt. Major Marlow was the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer at that time in that place; he and Folger were to stay in touch after returning home.
“They were both super great guys and it was a blessing and a great learning experience to work for and with both of them,” reiterated Folger.
While Folger never had to fire his weapon, his service was not without danger. Colonel Wade and Folger would most often drive to the villages alone, as opposed to in a convoy. It was safer, because the Viet Cong targeted and hit the convoys. They would also vary their speed along the way, making it more difficult for the Viet Cong to plan an attack.
“We had sniper fire at the compound once and it was my duty to physically drive a general out of the compound. They later found the tunnel where the snipers were coming from,” said Folger.
A friend of Folger in the service at the same time was a tunnel rat. In Vietnam there were miles and miles of a Vietnamese tunnel system. They were equipped for living and close enough to each other, if not connected, that the Vietnamese could easily escape from one to another. If they were surprised by the U.S. troops, sometimes the table would be set with food, but there were be no Viet Cong. When they suspected detection they would remove usable things and either blow up the tunnel or place poisonous snakes, grenades and other detriments in the tunnel.
Folger completed his two years of service and was honorably discharged as a Specialist 4th Class on Dec. 2, 1965.
He returned home to South Dakota after his discharge and began a career in construction. He married and became the father to a daughter; this marriage dissolved in 1984. He remarried with Joyous in 1989, while in St. Thomas, and then moved to North Carolina. Continuing his love of travel, his construction work has taken him to 34 states, and he has visited 47 states. In 2010, Ed and Joyous moved to Licking, following their kids. They plan on staying.
“Listen. Absorb. Do what you’re told. Let the rest go,” are the basic lessons learned from Folger’s service.
Our heartfelt gratitude to Vietnam Veteran Ed Folger for his service to the United States.