Andrew DeFrancesco joined the Marine Corps shortly after graduating from Don Bosco High School in Boston. He was a member of the Corps’ Force Reconnaissance Unit; his training included scuba diving and parachuting. He served in Okinawa, Australia, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam, and was wounded five times.
Ronald Cole was drafted into the Army in 1968. Trained in power generation repair, he was sent to West Germany. After six months, he was transferred to Vietnam, where he became the crew chief of a Huey helicopter. On missions, he would man a .30-caliber machine gun. He left the Army in late 1969, and joined the Army National Guard. He returned to active duty because “he couldn’t find work,” and served in West Germany and Korea to oversee maintenance of power generators. He was discharged in 1983 with the rank of sergeant.
Vernon Amundson joined the Air Force right after high school in 1954. He would spend 25 years in the USAF, mostly as a navigator on a variety of aircraft, including B-52s, C130s and AC 119s. Amundson served in Europe during the height of the Cold War, as well as in Vietnam. He retired in 1979 with the rank of major.
Paul Carew joined the Marine Corps shortly after graduating from Natick High School in 1970. Trained to be a radio operator, Carew joined the 2nd Battalion, “Hotel Company,” 4th Marines, as part of support for a helicopter force based on the USS Tripoli. He went on missions to Vietnam and Thailand, as well as the Philippines and Japan. As of the interview in 2021, Carew is the Veterans Services Officer for the town of Natick.
Roger Woodbury was a teacher in Rhode Island when he realized that some of his students would soon be eligible for the draft. Asking himself “Why am I exempt,” Woodbury entered the Air Force in 1968. He would become a squadron weapons controller in Massachusetts and in Thailand. After leaving active service in 1973, Woodbury would eventually join the U.S. Air National Guard in Worcester, leaving in 1989 with the rank of major.
Jim Ramsey joined the Naval ROTC just after enrolling at Cornell University in 1961. After graduating in 1965, he received his ensign’s commission and began working with the Naval Construction Battalion (SeaBees) as an administration officer. His duty stations included Long Beach, Calif., Gulfport, Miss. (including two tours of Vietnam) and San Diego. While in Vietnam, Ramsey’s units worked on projects near Da Nang and Dong Ha.
Born and raised in South Boston, Bill Martin was drafted into the Navy in 1966 despite poor eyesight. Because he was a college graduate, he was sent to Officer Candidates School in Newport, R.I. Trained as a supply officer, Martin would serve in active duty and the Reserves for 30 years; he would see action off the coast of Vietnam and take part in Desert Storm. He retired from the Navy in 1997 with the rank of captain. As of this interview in 2019, Martin is the Veterans Services Officer for Kingston, Mass.
James Martin had just become a teacher in the Boston Public Schools when he joined the Marines in early 1967. He would be sent to Officers Candidates School in Quantico, Va.; he would receive further training in infantry and communications before he was sent to Vietnam. He would serve with the 11th Marines in a variety of duties, from signal officer to bartender.
“Pat” Flynn joined the Army in 1943, wanting to join the 10th Mountain Division as a skier. Instead, he was trained for combat infantry. He served with the 157th Infantry Regiment, and saw action in Italy and France. After the war, he stayed a civilian for about a year before rejoining the Army for another 20 years. Flynn would see action in Korea with the 9th Infantry Regiment, and in Vietnam as part of the Special Forces.
Interview conducted by James Ramsey
Kevin Strel left a halfway house in New York City at the age of 17 to join the Army. Trained as a medic, Strel would be sent to Korea as part of the 9th Infantry Regiment. For the next year, he would rotate between patrolling the DMZ and being on base treating personnel and Korean civilians. He would finish his three-year enlistment at Fort Dix and Fort Devens.