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Ashe County Veterans History Project: Richard Calloway

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Richard Calloway's Photos

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Lori (Calloway) Wilson's Photos

Richard Calloway's Story

Richard Calloway was drafted into the Army in 1969 at the age of 22 and served a total of 20 years. While in Vietnam he rose to the rank of Sgt E5 and worked closely with the Green Berets.

He went into Cambodia with the 11th Armored Calvary and 5th Special Forces.  During this conflict he was wounded in a helicopter accident and had to be airlifted out by a medevac chopper.  He had been hit hard in the head by parts that flew off of a copter in a crash landing.  He was very lucky to survive this near fatal injury and received a Purple Heart Medal for this injury.

Richard stayed with the 5th Special Forces Green Berets for nine months.  He will always remember two Green Beret friends who were killed in action at an outpost.  "It was not good," he reflects, you don't know what life brings and it can be taken away in an instant.  People who have never been in war, don't understand war."

The 5th Special Forces is one of the most highly-decorated, active duty United States Special Forces Groups in the U.S. Armed Forces. They saw extensive action in the Vietnam War.  Richard fought with troops in the 1970 Cambodian Campaign under significant ground attack and received a Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm.  

As a member of the National Guard, Richard was ordered into active Federal service from October 1990-1991 where he served in Saudi Arabia during the Desert Storm Campaign.  He was assigned to the 1450th Transportation Company and drove 5000 gallon tanker trucks to supply fuel for tanks and other combat vehicles.  In recollecting his military service Richard states, "I would go back today if needed, not because of loving war, but for the love of our country.  Our freedom comes from military protection."

When in Saudi Arabia, camels were a fascination for Richard.  "There were camels everywhere, and they could smell an apple from a mile away!  We had concertina wire on the ground surrounding our camp and the camels would walk right through it. They would come right up to you and try to steal your apples."

 

Lori (Calloway) Wilson's Story

Lori (Calloway) Wilson was sixteen years old, a high school sophomore, when her dad, Richard Calloway, was deployed with the 1450th Transportation Company of the National Guard to serve in Iraq.  Here are some of her memories, looking back on those times:

As a teen I remember vividly the potential that men from our county would be going.  I remember hoping and praying that my dad wouldn’t have to go.  I had heard some stories about the hardships he had suffered in Vietnam, even being awarded the Purple Heart for his bravery and service, and I wondered what this tour would be like for him.  The thought of having a parent go to war brought up feelings of worry.  Your imagination runs wild and you wonder what if something happens?  What would life be like if he wasn’t here?  Facing danger in war time changes your perspective.

There was a big send-off at the National Guard Armory, where all the families gathered for a farewell reception.  This was a very patriotic event with prayers from county officials.  It seemed to go quickly and before you knew it, Dad was on his way to Fort Lee, Virginia.  People lined up along the roads waving with the send-off.  There were tears and uncertainties about not knowing what these soldiers, (my dad!) would be facing overseas. When would he be back? Would he be okay?

We would listen to news on TV and radio for information about where they might be, but it was all secretive. When we started getting letters, Dad still wasn’t allowed to say where he was.  I did my best to keep busy with school, dance and cheer.  I also kept up with my little sister, Emily, who was three years old at the time.  While all this was happening, my grandma was in the nursing home suffering from dementia and cardiac issues.  It was our family’s mission to keep the news of war, and especially Dad serving, a secret from her.

During that time, I learned the power of God’s word to fight my fear. I learned that I could use God’s word as a weapon against fear.  There was no question that this war and those who fought for our country made me appreciate the freedoms we have as Americans.  This freedom comes at a high price and should not be taken for granted. 

When the 1450th Transportation Company came home we went to Beaver Creek High to meet them.  I remember the whole county having a sense of pride and relief that our men had served bravely and were now safely home.  I was ecstatic to have my dad back and thanked God for bringing him home to our family.