Military devotion leads to love of freedom

May 29, 2011|By DAN DEARTH |
  • William Young
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

Bill Young’s deployment to Vietnam as a legal officer in 1967 has morphed into a calling to help the poor of Southeast Asia.

As a member of the Global Community Service Foundation, Young of Hagerstown said he and his wife, Frances, have traveled numerous times to Myanmar and Vietnam to provide education and clean drinking water to the poorest of the poor.

“We do humanitarian work there, and we do it at our own risk,” Young said. “I can’t wait to go back. The rewards are just unbelievable.”

He said traveling to countries with oppressive governments and widespread poverty makes him appreciate the freedoms that Americans take for granted.

Young was in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Johns Hopkins University and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1962. The Army gave him a deferment to attend law school at the University of Maryland and, upon graduation, he reported for active duty in 1966.

He said he worked as a prosecutor and a defense attorney in the United States until he was sent to Vietnam.

Young was stationed mainly at Long Binh, a large military complex near Saigon, where he served as the legal adviser to the American commander. During this time, Young also acted as an American liaison to establish favorable relations with the Vietnamese.

“It was very important to have good relations with the hamlets and villages that surrounded our southern perimeter,” he said.

When the Viet Cong mounted the Tet Offensive in January 1968, Long Binh wasn’t hit as heavily as other American installations, such as the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, but Young said there was “a sustained fire.”

He stayed in Vietnam for 13 months and was discharged in 1971.

Despite the war, Americans are accepted warmly in Vietnam, Young said. The only exception that he experienced was at My Lai, where on March 16, 1968, American soldiers massacred Vietnamese civilians. Some estimates place the number of dead at more than 500.

He said one of the victim’s relatives gave him a cold reception when he visited the museum there.

“I can understand why she was bitter and wouldn’t want to see another American,” Young said.

He said Memorial Day reminds him of the millions of people around the world who don’t have the same rights as Americans.

“I have the right to free speech and political dissent without fear that I will be arrested,” Young said. “I’m able to do that because throughout our history, men and women have paid the ultimate price to be free. Why do I go back (to Southeast Asia) year after year? I believe everyone deserves some semblance of freedom — even those who live under the most tyrannical circumstances.”

Young told the story of a Burmese friend who recently visited Washington, D.C. The friend said he was afraid that he would be arrested if he laid in the grass at the National Mall. When the friend finally did and looked up at the sky without being harassed, he said, “Now I know what it means to be free.”

Master Sgt. Daniel Kline, 46, Greencastle, Pa.

As first sergeant of the Security Forces Squadron for the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard in Martinsburg, W.Va., Kline knows what it’s like to leave his family while he serves his country.

In his 25 years of military service, Kline has been deployed 15 times to various parts of the world. He said his first deployment was 21 years ago, when he was sent to the Middle East as part of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

“It’s hard,” said Kline, who has three children. “I’ve been deployed a lot. Every time is as hard as the first.”

Kline said he is responsible for overseeing the needs of the airmen in his unit, which include helping them get information on furthering their education.

Airmen who serve in the Security Force typically protect dignitaries and installations that are considered potential targets for hostile forces.

Kline said he joined the Guard in 1984 and went active in 1998. His deployments have taken him to Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Qatar, Guam, Germany and Canada.

He said he believes it is an honor to serve the United States and West Virginia, especially on Memorial Day when the country comes together to honor those who have given their lives.

“Memorial Day is honoring those that have given the ultimate sacrifice and those who continue to serve,” Kline said. “It’s also a chance to remember the innocents who died on 9/11. It’s everyone together remembering this country and the sacrifices that the military and civilians have given.”

1st Lt. Nathan Mueller, 32, Gerrardstown, W.Va.

Mueller flies one of the largest airplanes in the world.
He joined the West Virginia Air National Guard man 10 years ago and patiently waited until he was accepted into flight school. Now, he flies C-5 Galaxies all over the world.

“I enlisted in the unit with the intention of getting a flying position,” Mueller said. “I had to compete for a chance to go.”

Mueller started in a finance position with the 167th Airlift Wing and began to compete for flight school about six years into his enlistment.

He said he was deployed to Afghanistan from April to October 2010, flying supplies for the war effort.

Deployments for the pilots of the 167th are different from ground missions because they return home between flights. The flight crews typically leave Martinsburg and pick up supplies at Dover (Del.) Air Force Base before flying to their destination. He said the time in the air adds up to about 24 hours, which doesn’t include stops along the way.

Because the cargo is so heavy, C-5s take off with a minimal amount of fuel and meet with air tankers to refuel over the Atlantic.

He said the air crews don’t get to spend a lot of time with their families because they have to rest before the next mission begins in a few days.

“I love what I do ... But they (family members) sacrifice more by allowing me to go and do what I do,” said Mueller, who has two daughters with his wife, Kim.

Mueller said the job can be demanding because he is asked to drop everything in his civilian life when the Air Force calls.

“You’re putting your own needs and wants aside to answer the nation’s call,” Mueller said. “If troops need moved somewhere and you already have a vacation planned with the family, the mission comes first.”

He said he believes that Memorial Day is a time for all Americans to remember those who have served in the military.

Editor’s note: In observance of Memorial Day, The Herald-Mail is running a two-part series telling the stories of six local veterans and active-duty military personnel who have served since the Korean War.

Today’s coverage features the stories of two members of the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing and Hagerstown attorney Bill Young, who served in Vietnam as a legal officer and periodically returns to Southeast Asia to help the poor of that region.

Sunday’s coverage featured the stories of three Korean War veterans who fought at the Chosin Reservoir, a battle that marked the beginning of China’s involvement in that conflict.

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