POMEROY — After graduating from Pomeroy High School in 1967, Ron Eastman knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“I wanted to better myself,” he said.
Eastman attended Ohio State University for a year, where he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC. However, beyond his time with ROTC he found that military pride was not something he could display on campus.
“You couldn’t wear your uniform to class,” he said. “There was demonstrating and rioting. The military was looked down upon, and anyone in the military was sort of ostracized. If you were in class, you were spit upon. There were highway patrol troopers on every corner just to keep (the university) open.”
Because of this, Eastman said he needed a change.
“They were not the kind of people I wanted to be around, “he said. “They were not a very good influence. There was a lot of anti-government sentiment.”
So in spring 1969, Eastman traveled to Fort Jackson, S.C., where he practiced combat and aerial assaults with helicopters. He became a member of the 1st Air Cavalry Division in Vietnam in the summer of 1969. Eastman said that during his time in Vietnam, he learned how many misconceptions the United States had about Vietnamese soldiers. He said civilians believed that most Vietnam veterans were draftees, but learned that less than 25 percent were actually drafted. He said the loss of extremities from explosives in Vietnam were worse than he imagined back home as well.
“(Civilians) would just say that Vietnam vets were the lower dregs of society — and they weren’t,” he said. “There were intelligent people there, just like any other society. There were a lot of misconceptions about Vietnam.”
One of the 1st Cavalry’s duties, one of the main things that Eastman remembers about the war, was traveling into Cambodia for the Cambodian Incursion in May 1970. Eastman said one of the cavalry’s main goals while there was to destroy supplies being transported along the Cambodian roads by the Viet Cong — the Vietnamese group fighting against American forces.
“There was not a bare field in the countryside that wasn’t covered with captured supplies,” he said.
Eastman said that looking back on his experience he wishes to remain humble and gives all of the credit to the others in his cavalry group.
“I didn’t do anything other than be there,” he said. “I just served and did my job to the best of my ability. I don’t want to take any credit. Everybody supported each other.”
Eastman was honorably discharged in October 1970. Today, he is a member of American Legion Post 128 in Middleport, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the 1st Cavalry Association, Vietnam Veterans, AMVETS, the 5th U.S. Cavalry Association and Disabled American Veterans.
Reach Lindsay Kriz at 740-992-2155 EXT. 2555.