Veterans History Project: Willie Stallworth - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

12/15/08

Veterans History Project: Willie Stallworth

By Jennifer Martin - email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - From a young age, Willie Stallworth envisioned a life of military service.

"I was a Boy Scout as a youngster. I knew from 1st grade, I wanted to be a military person. I went in the military hoping to serve a 30 year tour of duty," Stallworth said.

He enlisted in the Army at 19. He joined the 128th Assault Helicopter Company, 1st Aviation Brigade and headed for Vietnam.

"When you get there it hits you like a sledgehammer, first the heat, then the smell; all the fields were filled with human feces. And that's all you smell, it just permeates the air," Stallworth added.

He would serve two tours.

"I was a Flight Line Platoon Sergeant, but my last trip over I had something like 1600 combat flying hours," Stallworth said.

The toughest part was watching his fellow soldiers die.

"Seeing guys that young dying is stressful. When one gets wounded the fist thing they holler for is their mother. Saw one burned alive in a helicopter," Stallworth said.

"I don't know if there is any truth to the saying only the good die young. The good guys in my platoon it seemed something happened to. Out of about 26 guys in my platoon, about 7 was killed," Stallworth added.

The stress ended up being too much for him.

"After serving two trips to Vietnam, having more responsibility than I should have had, I ended up suffering from post traumatic stress," Stallworth recalls.

He was brokenhearted when he left the service.

"It was the worst day of my life. Once it's in your blood you never get it out. I feel like I'm going to be a GI for the rest of my life," Stallworth said.

The signs of PTSD became more and more pronounced as he led life as a civilian.

"I knew something was wrong broke up a month after combat. Used to get in a lot of fights. It was chaotic," Stallworth added.

"I noticed I couldn't stand fireworks or a car backfiring. For awhile I got away with it because of my lifestyle. I was homeless for awhile, had been an alcoholic for awhile, even drug addicted, incarcerated several times."

Things began to turn around once he started treatment for his post traumatic stress.

Now he longs to reconnect with the men he served with in Vietnam.

"I have their faces and names burned into my memory forever," Stallworth added.

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