(WGHP) — Ask Fred Probst why he went to fight in Vietnam, and his answer is quick and proud.
“Our country wanted us to go, so we went,” Probst said. “What was it all for? They can’t say it was for our freedom because it wasn’t.”
Probst lives near Mocksville but grew up in Arizona where he and three of his high school buddies all volunteered in 1967. It wasn’t because they wanted to fight so much as because they knew the draft would get them. By volunteering, they could choose the branch they wanted and even have some say over what job they got.
Still, Probst and his buddies believed in what they were doing.
“We had to protect the people in the villages, and we had to protect our own troops and stuff like that. That was our number one priority,” Probst said. “And other than that, I want to go home alive…the Vietcong was vicious, and they were spot on with their with their missiles.”
Porter Halyburton also believed he was in Vietnam for the right reasons.
“People really deserve to understand how we got there and the forces that took us there,” said Halyburton, who was a Navy pilot. “Number one is communism because we had a fear of communism. We had what I like to call ‘The Sherman Williams Effect.’ Sherman Williams Paint logo has a globe with red paint. And so that was sort of the idea that there was a threat. Communism was going to take over. And they did it, country by country…so South Vietnam was one area that was threatened by communism not from the Soviets but from the Chinese…there was that general idea of fear of communism. And intellectually, historically, we should have been on the side of the Vietminh because they were the revolutionaries. We are a revolutionary country, and we should be supporting revolutions that fight against the dictatorship or oppressive regimes.”
Like Halyburton, Probst came to see the war as illegitimate not because of what he and his close friends were doing there on the ground but because of how it was handled by the civilians back home.
“I realized that it was a political war,” Probst said. “The people in the White House and in Washington, DC, had control over everything. And what they say was done, and what they say don’t do we didn’t do…to be honest with you, I wouldn’t even classify it as a war other than being political because it was just the stuff that they pulled was crazy…after we had two or three or four weeks of it, we wanted out of there.”
See the thing Fred Probst most regrets and the two people neither Probst nor Halyburton will ever forgive in his edition of The Buckley Report.