Vet made secret trip to Vietnam
Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series published each Monday between Memorial Day and Veterans Day honoring local veterans.
WARREN – Bruce Harned’s military discharge papers do not show the 67-year-old served in Vietnam, but he says he most certainly was there in 1964.
He was in the Southeast Asian country at a time when the U.S. was increasing its troop presence there, but before the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which thrust the U.S. into a full-blown military campaign.
Harned says he was shipped from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to Vietnam, where he drove truck, hauling large slabs of concrete that were used to build portable runways.
”In other words, they were gearing up, they were preparing,” said Harned of Leavittsburg.
Harned said he was 17 when he volunteered to join the National Guard ”right out of high school” in Troy, Mich. For a short period, he drove the bus that transported troops to the training center at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, but he grew to dislike the National Guard and enlisted in the Army.
He was whisked off to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for vehicle driving training, which set the tone for the rest of his military career and life after.
Next stop was Fort Bragg, where he was in the 541st Transportation Company, 24th Transport Battalion, in ”direct support” of the 82nd Airborne Division.
He drove a troop hauler – a flatbed truck with benches for soldier seating – and carried supplies for the 82nd Airborne.
”That’s where supply and transport comes in. We hauled their supplies and transported them,” Harned said.
Harned said he spent about a year in North Carolina and then was transferred to Vietnam, which he kept secret from his parents for years. He said he wrote home during that time, but his parents remained unaware because the letters were forwarded through Fort Bragg.
After the time spent in Vietnam, he was transferred back to North Carolina and then ordered to Germany, which almost didn’t happen. Harned said before he was to ship out, he received a letter ordering him back to Vietnam, but during processing, ”they decided they had enough truck drivers” and he ended up in Germany after all.
Toward the close of 1967, Harned made his way back to the states and Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Wash., where he spent the remainder of his time in the Army.
”Five years, 11 months and 27 days,” Harned said was his total time spent in the military.
The return home was a tough readjustment and psychologically damaging because of how people military folk during the Vietnam War, Harned said.
”We were just taboo because we were in the military. People didn’t respect us because of what was happening over there,” Harned said.
He came home to Michigan and then in 1977 he moved to Trumbull County. The skills he learned in the military translated to the civilian life – he stayed a truck driver, driving a car hauler for 30 years. Most the time he worked hauling General Motors vehicles and then he branched out solo for two years. He also drove a truck for an excavating company, a job he still works part-time now.
Just recently, Harned helped open and is helping to run the new Army / Navy Garrison Post 283 on Parkman Road N.W.