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Ashe County Veterans History Project: Montie Blevins
Montie Blevins was born the youngest of a large family, to Oscar and Maggie Blevins in August 1947 at the old hospital in Jefferson, North Carolina. His father was a farmer until he became disabled, and his mother was a homemaker all her life. The older siblings helped out with the farm and the girls, especially, helped out around the home. There were four boys and eight girls all together.
One of Montie’s brothers served in the Army during the 1950s. He was stationed in Alaska and worked as a cook in the mess hall.
Montie attended Lansing Elementary and Lansing High School. He finished school in 1965 and was a member of the last graduating class before Lansing High School and Riverview High School consolidated into Northwest High School.
Following high school, Montie went to work for Sprague Electric. He wasn’t there long, because he got drafted in 1966 and went to serve in the Army.
Montie left for boot camp at Fort Bragg, NC, during the fall of 1966. Boot camp was six weeks of basic training. After a week of leave, he was sent to Fort Dix, NJ, for advanced individual training. This lasted for another six weeks and focused on jungle training, because America was in the middle of the Vietnam Crisis. The whole company was made up of 100 men and all of them, except for two, went to Vietnam. Montie and one other soldier were sent to Okinawa.
Okinawa is a small island off the mainland of Japan. It is about 60 miles wide and twice as long. It has a lot of military bases: Marines, Air Force, and Army soldiers work there. Montie was part of the 541st Supply Company and worked in the cable yard. They shipped cable and different materials from a port in Okinawa to Vietnam.
I was drafted in 1966, back at the time there were a lot of draft dodgers that were going to Canada and different places. It wasn't that I volunteered to go in the service. It was when I got my draft notice, then I knew I had to go. My parents hated to see me go, but we were all proud of America and we really wanted to serve when it was requested.
I think the hardest part of military life was leaving home and getting adjusted. I was over in Okinawa for a majority of my time. I was getting to know the civilian people there and their way of living. It was much different from America. The climate was humid and hot, especially during the summer months. And instead of what we have, hurricanes, they had tsunamis. There were a couple of tsunamis that actually hit land while I was over there. It was scary. We also had an earthquake while I was over there, and that was really scary. I had just left the mess hall and finished eating, so I just dropped to the ground and laid down. I could hear the dishes falling in the mess hall and plates and dishes breaking when they hit the ground. I could feel the ground moving! It wasn't a major earthquake, but it was enough to shake the ground and the buildings.
I had several close friends while I was there, but I don't remember their first names. We all went by last names. I had a good friend from Paduka, KY, and his last name was Bridges. I also made friends with a fellow named Harry Reister who was from Minnesota. I never did stay in contact with any of them after we left there. We had some soldiers that were from North Carolina, too. I know we had one that was from Burlington, NC. We all were close and would watch each other's back. You were supposed to work as a team, like a basketball team or a baseball team, and for the most part, that's what happened. Course you know there would always be one, or two, or three that would kind of break the band and do things outside their jobs. But the majority of our company worked as a team and we all had some good times together. We would count the days off as time went on, marking them on our calendar. It seemed like a long time in one way and it seemed like a short time in other ways.
After working in the cable yard, I was the driver for the company captain for a while. I was also a truck driver and drove a deuce-and-a-half truck hauling soldiers out to the cable ground to work for the day. We went out just like a day that you would work here. We got up at five in the morning. When reveille played, we got up. And we were out in formation, and, of course, after we dispersed every morning, everybody went to their jobs. People had different jobs at different locations. I drove the truck and took several of our soldiers out to Camp Boon. We spent the day out there, and when I come in at 5:00, we had to take our trucks to the depot and leave them there for the night. We were required to do a log on them, check them out, make sure the tires were up, all this type of thing, and make sure they were cleaned up. Well, one day when we came in for supper they had just painted the curbs on the sidewalks and I pulled in on one of those curbs. It so happened that the first sergeant was eating in the mess hall and looking out the glass window there, and he saw where I had run up on that curb. He got on to me and told me I was going to have to go out there and clean that off with a toothbrush. It had left a black mark. That was funny in a way, but it wasn't too funny to me at the time.
I came back home in August of 1968. That was a bad time. A lot of people disagreed with the crisis we had in Vietnam. A lot of soldiers that came back home didn't get much respect back then. They get more respect now; but back then, people would meet you at the airport, and they'd holler at you and make comments. I've even witnessed some of them getting spit on by civilian people. It was a tough time. We couldn't help the crisis, the war in Vietnam, but it was our duty to go. There were just so many American people who disputed it and didn't like it; so they tried to show their disagreement with it by, I guess, taking it out on the soldiers, which was wrong.
When I got back home in 1968, the National Guard Unit started up here in '69 or '70 and I joined them shortly after that. I wasn't one of the original members who joined, but I was in the second group that joined. That was somewhere around 1972. I stayed in the Guard until around 1985.
I had a heart attack when I was 40 years old; and I left the Guard at that time because I couldn't meet up to the standards, with the PT test and that type of thing. I had spent about 13 or 14 years in the Guard and had a lot of friends who stayed 20 years or longer, so a lot of them retired from National Guard service.
I didn't deploy overseas as a Guard member, but we had summer camp in lots of different states, lots of different forts. Every year it was required that we spend at least two weeks in the summertime at a camp. I remember going to Indiana one summer. We drove tractor trailers, we were a transportation company. Those old tractor trailers had a metal floor board and we didn't have any air conditioning. The heat coming up out of the floor board would just about roast you.
I had a good guard buddy named Bill Pruitt, and me and him drove together a lot. We'd go out on bivouac together and pretty much did everything together, hauling fuel, driving fuel tankers until I had to quit. When we had flammable loads, we had to detour any tunnels, we weren't allowed to drive in tunnels. Out on bivouac there were big guns going off around us, and running those road tractors a whole lot, it affects your hearing. Of course we didn't have anything to cover or shield out the noise.... Overall, I was blessed. I didn't get injured.
Service in the military makes you a whole lot more responsible and helps you to communicate with others a lot better. Before I went in you maybe had a couple school buddies, but in there you don't know what one day is going to bring to the next. We were put on alert several times in the Guard when crisis would arise here or overseas. It's just like now, they are serving now at the Capital. The National Guard serves in different capacities. They are state-run organizations, but if the federal government requests states to send the National Guard, then, of course they always follow up with that. In fact, a lot of the National Guard is down on the border now. The Governor of Texas sent a whole lot of National Guard down to the Mexican border. The National Guard still has lots of duties, and they stay on alert. They can be called on at any time.
The Army showed me a lot of respect for my elders. It showed me that you need to know how to take authority and go with it, instead of what I call bellyaching all the time. You found out that you do what you're told to do and that makes you grow as a human being. And, of course, we had pride in America, we had pride in our flag. We wanted to serve after we got in and realized what the flag meant, what America meant to us. We were proud to serve, we wanted to serve. That's why so many Americans give up their lives, not only in Vietnam, but in every World War, Korea, Desert Storm, all the conflicts we've had. The ultimate sacrifice is somebody giving their life. You know, when you stop to think about that, that's what America is all about. That's why America is still free today. We don't like to see our flag torn down, we don't like to see things spoken against America. To a soldier, that's really heartbreaking to see.