Veterans come back from their service with memories — fond ones and difficult ones.
Jake Floyd’s memories of his exit from the military, and rough re-entry into civilian life, have had an enduring impact. Now age 91, he’s a proud, retired Army Air Corps and Air Force veteran who served in both Korea and Vietnam.
On this Veterans Day, local edition of StoryCorps, we’re airing part of a conversation he had with his daughter Cherie Floyd Bailey in WPLN’s studio.
Floyd remembers exactly the day he left Vietnam — Aug. 29, 1967. Not just because he was coming home. But because of what happened as they were departing.
“I still hear those kids screaming.”
The aircraft in front of his took fire from the Viet Cong and went down, Floyd says.
“We could see this black smoke billowing before we took off. That was my worst experience in my whole 20 years, six months and 19 days of total, active, continuous service,” he says.
“That’s why you’re here today, baby. It’s because I told your mother one day, ‘We just need another one.’ It helped me at night. And it still does, because you’re there.”
Coping in private is how veterans like Floyd had to do it, he recalls. Many Americans didn’t respect the sacrifices that military life required — of the servicemen and of their families back home.
It’s different now, he says. When he wears his Air Force cap in public, people stop him to thank him for his service.
“I always tell them, if they would’ve said that, if I could have heard their words when I got off that aircraft, when I came back from Vietnam…” he says.
“I’m proud down in my soul of everything that I did to support my country, support the men who were up there fighting, and I’ll never regret that.”
Jake Floyd’s conversation was produced for WPLN by Tasha Lemley, and it will be archived in the Library of Congress. Find more stories from Tennessee veterans at wpln.org/storycorps.