By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Swayze Walton enlisted in Army Aviation in 1967.
"My dad was in service and my brother was in service at the time too. It was, I guess, a family tradition."
He would serve as a helicopter crew chief in Vietnam.
"On the ground, the helicopter crew chief make sure the helicopter is in good maintenance order. We could say if the helicopter could fly or not. In the air, we were the gunners.
It wasn't like an 8 hour job. We'd be called out at any part of the day. We'd get called in the afternoon, get the helicopter ready for the next day. Before we'd get to the barracks, we'd be called out again. We did a lot of night flying."
Walton had several close-calls in the choppers.
"We was shot down 6 times in Vietnam. Of course, a helicopter's not like an airplane. You can auto rotate down. Most of the time, when we would fly, we was in a flight of 6 or more, so it wouldn't be long before someone could come get us out."
He had friends who were not so fortunate.
"One of the guys I went through AIT with, he got killed 5 months after we was there. We were both on the same mission.. We was going to resupply and my generator went out and I had to go back to the base. And he went back in again and got hit with an RPG."
He often thinks about how lucky he was to survive the war.
"You think to yourself, if I hadn't made it back, I wouldn't have my wife, my daughter. I don't think I talked about it at all for a long, long time. I don't guess you want to talk about it."
Walton says Vietnam was nothing like the great wars of the past.
"The war was different from World War I, World War II. They knew who they were fighting. From Korea on through Vietnam and where we are now, it's guerrilla warfare. That's a tough war to fight."
Tough, but necessary. Walton says he'd serve again if our freedom were on the line, and that's what our soldiers are doing now in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I think we should be there. If we were not there, we might be here fighting one day. And I don't want that. I hope we never see a war here on our land. "
IF YOU HAVE A STORY IDEA CONTACT WLBT/WDBD AT (601) 960-4426 OR EMAIL US AT News@WLBT.COM.
715 South Jefferson Street
Jackson, MS 39201