Bobby Byrd Speaks to Local Rotarians
(Left to Right) Bobby Byrd, Ann Jolley Byrd, Gil McArthur, and Dewey Williams (Rotary President).
Bobby Byrd, a Rotarian and past Clearwater Rotary President spoke about his experience as a Captain and Naval Aviator during the Vietnam War from 1962-68 at a recent meeting of Clearwater Rotary. Mr. Byrd was active in real estate, land acquisition, and development in Pinellas County before retiring to Tallahassee. Mr. Byrd is a decorated Vietnam veteran with medals including: Distinguished Flying Cross, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and an astounding 23 Air Medals.
Mr. Byrd notes that the Vietnam War has grown in popularity recently. He states that 2.7 million Americans served overall in this war but as of 2005, 14 million people claimed to have served in the conflict! He laughs at the change in public sentiment toward the war. In another interesting fact, Mr. Byrd recounts that 2/3 of the Vietnam soldiers volunteered while for WWII, 2/3 of the soldiers did not volunteer.
Mr. Byrd was an Aviator, flying both airplanes and helicopters. Much of his time was spent flying soldiers to and from combat zones. The Vietnam War was the first major engagement to utilize helicopters on a mass scale in this manner. As a result Vietnam soldiers saw more combat time and importantly had better recovery rates from wounds than any other conflict. The soldiers worked all day and all night often in "dirty" living conditions. He recalls that it was hot and dry for months or rained for months, with little in between. He remembers picking up soldiers after only a week in the jungle and seeing their uniforms falling apart, literally peeling away, rotted. The jungle was a harsh place to live.
He is often asked the question "Should we have been there?" to which he replies, "As a soldier that is not my question. As a soldier there is never a debate, or ever came up." Mr. Byrd remarks that no war is popular when it is going on, it is just a necessity. Mr. Byrd reminds us that the bottom line is "Our troops answer the call."
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