Ken Thomas is from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and he’s a very good friend of Barry Campbell, both drafted during Vietnam.  In fact, both of their wives were pregnant with their first children at the time.  There is a bond there that goes deep.

Ken tries not to dwell on the many bad memories of the war.  Things were tough, of course, there was death and destruction everywhere.  “There was always a lack of good food and cold drinks,” Ken admits.  “What about a simple lack of food and drinks?” Barry chimes in.  The thought of their shared hardship makes the men laugh.  Only they can understand.

After a while, Ken says, what became important was getting out alive. “Politics didn’t matter after you were there.  What mattered was your friend next to you and watching each others’ backs,” Ken emphasizes.

Ken kept getting new battalion commanders and they kept him in the field until Brigadier General James Hollingsworth showed up and reviewed his record.  He wondered why the young infantry officer with so much time in-country was still in the field.  Hollingsworth personally ordered Ken to be sent stateside, by chance on the day before the Tet Offensive began.

(~Mary Wagner)

In Our Own Words

Five close friends and veterans of the Vietnam era from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania share stories of their military experiences.  Featuring Jack Clouds (Army), Jack Damaska (Army), Steve Kisio (Air Force), Barry Campbell (Army), Ken Thomas (Army).  This conversation was recorded June 19, 2013 as part of the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh/Carnegie Free Library of Beaver Falls Oral History Project, Beaver Falls, PA, Interviewer: Kevin Farkas.