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Vietnam vet honored in Franklin

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Vietnam veteran who formerly attended Henry County Schools recently was honored by the Franklin County Veterans’ Memorial Commission.

James Spencer received a certificate from the commission to advise him that a brick bought to honor him will be installed in May in the Franklin County Veterans’ Memorial Park.

Spencer, a member of the Army 1st Air Calvary Scouts during the Vietnam War, currently is facing health issues, according to his brother, Ronnie Spencer.

But he wrote about his experiences in Vietnam in 2009 in a story titled: “On Thanksgiving Day, 1970.”

In the story, James Spencer recalls several members of his unit, a mission that occurred around Thanksgiving, and the number of days some had to live.

For instance, “Henry Adkins ... was a quiet kid from Ohio and loved hunting and fishing as much as I did,” James Spencer wrote. “His is the first name on our KIA (Killed in Action) memorial, and I choke up every time I see it.”

Spencer also recalled his own rendezvous with destiny.

When he took the step into the LOH (Light Observance Helicopter), Spencer wrote he was “taking the last step I would ever take on this earth. I was one hour away from a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart and the beginning of an unbelievable living nightmare.”

After about 15 minutes out on that mission, Spencer wrote that “we spotted several large groups of trees.”

The unit fired on two patches of trees without incident, but as they opened fire on the third patch, “Suddenly, everything went into slow motion ... I heard nothing except a loud ringing in my ears,” Spencer wrote, and his view changed from the target to the ceiling of the helicopter.

He had been shot in the neck with an AK-47. The bullet severed his spinal cord.

At the time, all Spencer knew was that “I couldn’t feel my body, and thoughts raced through my mind; you’re hit in the brain .... No, you’re still thinking. The heart. No, you’re breathing.”

By then, Spencer wrote that he was suspended in mid-air by seat straps in the helicopter.

“Blood was gushing out of my neck like it was coming from a garden hose. A bullet had hit the right side of my neck, severed a main artery, completely severed the spinal cord, and exited the back of my neck, leaving a hole” that was more than one-inch in diameter, he wrote.

“I helplessly watched the blood” cover two of his weapons, “and slowly cover the floor ... until all I could see was red,” he wrote.

“I was wondering when I would die ... I had taken a hit that was almost always fatal and was still alive,” Spencer wrote. “I hung in mid-air, and could move nothing except my head.” The shooting left him “paralyzed for life.”

Although he adjusted and overcame, Spencer wrote that he never really talked about the experience until he wrote the story, in “an attempt to make us remember what Vietnam was about ... to bring us together and stop this silly bickering.”


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