Interview of Nhan Ai Simms by Amanda Gautier and Megan Osborn on November 1, 2015 for the Elizabeth V. and George F. Gardner Digital Library. The interview focuses on the Simms family and experiences in Carlisle and Cumberland County after Vietnam.
Michael Collins: This morning, it's a quarter to eleven on the twenty-eighth of January, 2015. We're interviewing Mr. Jesse W. Long of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Jesse is a Vietnam War veteran, and we'll be getting into that shortly, but first of all, I wanted to ask Jesse what your current age is. What are you up to these days?
Jesse Long: Sixty-seven, I'm retired.
JL: Retired and enjoying my farming. I have a small farm which I live on now. That keeps me busy, and [I'm] just taking it easy.
MC: Good. I understand you grew up in Carlisle Springs?
JL: I did.
MC: Can you tell us a little bit about that?
JL: I was born and raised in Carlisle Springs on a farm [with] eight kids. We just had kind of an ordinary farm family, I guess, but a lot of work and good times. I went to school at Cumberland Valley High School, graduated from there, went to HACC [Harrisburg Area Community College] for a couple of years. Then I didn't apply myself as well as I probably should have, so I had to into the service because I was getting a draft notice, and I decided to sign up for the Army.
MC: So you thought you'd beat them to the punch on that one? Maybe have some [say]?
JL: Yeah, it was about to change to the draft.
MC: What were your feelings of entering the service? What year did you go in?
JL: Nineteen sixty-seven. I really didn't think too much about it. There were three of us, two of my buddies in Carlisle Springs, and we decided to go talk to the recruiter, and we did. He was a good salesman, decided to talk us into four years instead of three years, which the Army was to be three years. Because [he was going to?] put us in the Army Security Agency, we had this honor for four years. We said, That sounds like a good deal, and they don't go to Vietnam. The Army Security Agency's not in Vietnam. But it didn't take too long to figure out that they were changing the name when we got to Vietnam.
MC: So your feelings about Vietnam at that time, was that a concern, or was that kind of put on the backburner when he said they didn't send ASA people over there?
JL: It really didn't affect me, I don't think, either way. I wasn't opposed to going to Vietnam, it's just that he talked us in because of our scores. We were all relatively high scores in high school, not completely--we weren't geniuses, but we passed the scores with flying colors and got eligibility to join the ASA, so we did.
MC: Can you explain what ASA is?
JL: It's Army Security Agency; the headquarters was in Vint Hill Farms, Virginia. Not really knowing a whole lot about that when we signed up for the Army, it just sounded good. The Army Security Agency, [it says?] good jobs, we'll be in security details. After we got to training, got through basic training, we got split up anyway. Our deal was that we would be together, but that didn't work. [We] got through basic training, and we went two different ways at that point. Then when we got to Vietnam, the other guy and I had to split up too, so they didn't really fulfill their promise of a buddy system.
MC: What type of specialized training did you get at ASA school?
JL: I was in Morse code training. The Vietnamese used Morse code to communicate, and our job was to intercept the Morse code daily. [That was] the two of us that went to Fort Devens together to ASA training, which was Morse code training, and sat in front of the keyboard for eight hours a day learning Morse code, most of which I have forgotten by now.
MC: Did you get any language training or anything like that?
JL: No, we didn't have any language training.
MC: No Vietnamese or French Vietnamese, anything like that?
JL: No Vietnamese.
MC: Other than basic combat training, basic training, and then ASA school, did you receive any other specialty schooling?
JL: When we finished our Morse code, we had ten days of jungle training out at Fort Devens, going through the process of being captured, and escape and evasion training and those type of things, but just for ten days. It wasn't a serious--not like an Infantry six-weeks training, but it was a ten-day course in escape and evasion and those types of things. [00:05:00.05]
MC: Now when you were finished with that, your first duty station, did you stay stateside initially?
JL: No, we went directly to Vietnam after Fort Devens. Ninety-some percent of our class was sent to Vietnam even though--like I said, we were changed to Radio Research people then. That's what it was called.
MC: Did you inially land at Tan Son Nhut [Air Base] and go to MACV, Military Assistance Command Vietnam and then get stationed out?
JL: We landed in Saigon, which was the headquarters for the Army [Security??]--the Radio Research group headquarters was in Saigon. The group was there, Battalion Headquarters was at Long Binh, and then from there we were detachments, and each detachment was attached to a combat unit. I was attached to the Eleventh Armored Cavalry.
MC: What year was that, that you went with the Blackhorse [Regiment]?
JL: That was in '68, July of '68.
MC: So you were stationed initially, you came in at Tan Son Nhut and then went to Long Binh, and where was the Eleventh Cav?
JL: At Xuan Loc; it's a little town north of Long Binh about fifty miles, nothing there. The town of Xuan Loc was like ten miles down the road; we were out in the middle of a jungle. [I'm just clearing up??], we had a base there, but that's where the Eleventh Armored Cavalry was when I went there.
MC: Now when you went to the Eleventh Armored Cav, did you go to regimental headquarters, battalion, or [down??] to troop level with the Eleventh Armored?
JL: Eleventh Armored--their whole command was right there at Xuan Loc. We were attached to the command level because every morning [they??] briefed the Cavalry on communications that were held the night before. The Cav was deployed from Xuan Loc to different locations, to [Quan Loi??] and places up north further, and even into Cambodia. So I had, we had three armored personnel carriers in our unit in a detachment where our equipment was in, and also some trucks.
MC: What type of equipment did you have that you operated? Radios, I'm sure.
JL: Yeah, but the interesting part is there were a lot of them. We called them ditty boppers because of the Morse code name, it became ditty boppers. But when I got to my unit, they had enough MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] ditty boppers, or Morse code interceptors, that they didn't really need me in there. They needed somebody in the motor pool. My background and what I grew up--like I said, I grew up on a farm, but also my grandfather had a garage, so I was there at night, most every night, helping him. So I knew more about mechanics, but I volunteered to work in a motor pool. So I really never worked my original training premise.
MC: Your primary MOS; did they award you a second MOS for mechanics?
JL: Yes, eventually after working in the motor pool for a number of months, and the motor sergeant left, and I took over the motor pool. I became a Sixty-Three Charlie, which was a mechanic. So I became the motor sergeant for our detachment for the rest of that term, and then I could say I extended three times. I had four tours in Vietnam. The original tour, I became a motor sergeant and took care of the APCs, the trucks, the jeeps and all that.
MC: All the [mech??] stuff and wheeled vehicles.
MC: What tour were you on when the Eleventh Armored got the word they were going into Cambodia?
JL: That would've been in--
MC: [Nineteen] seventy?
JL: We moved down to [Xian??] from Blackhorse after the first year, during my second tour. I was there for a year the first tour, and then I went back every six months three times. We were down in [Xian??], the whole group moved to [Xian??], and then we deployed from there, but they went up into Cambodia and Laos from there. [Quan Loi??] was the outpost they worked from, and like I said, being at the motor pool, I never got out there in the Cambodian area.
MC: What operations did you participate in with the regiment?
JL: The problem is, not the problem, but the reason I didn't get out there is that like I said, I was back taking care of the vehicles. So they would be deployed for a number of months and then come back to base camp, stand down, rework the tracks and take off again. [00:10:27.24]
MC: So I'd be curious why you kept extending. You ended up with four tours. Had you found a home in the Army, really enjoyed it?
JL: I did in the fact that the guys I had working for me in the motor pool were my buddies, and we really worked together, and they all had the same type of term, except one of them was drafted. He came from the actual MOS there, but he worked for me. We had a really good group and didn't really think too much about the danger as much as being out on the front lines. So we were back there; it didn't seem like the thing to do. We had a good group, and also I wasn't thinking of making the Army a career, and they were giving five month early outs if we left for Vietnam. So extending three times, three six-month tours, they gave me a thirty-day home leave in between each one. We kind of all stuck together and did the same thing, and we just had a group of good buddies, and that's kind of the reason. There wasn't any thinking about it. There wasn't thinking about what's going to happen to me next. I don't know, at that time of my life, it was just the thing to do.
MC: Well you're young, you've got a good crew, you're enjoying the work that you're doing, and you're supporting the guys that are out in the bush.
MC: That's the important stuff. What would you say are some of the most important skills that you learned in the Army?
JL: What are the skills? Well I think friendship was a big thing and how to be a friend, my buddies and I. I'm not saying it wasn't dangerous; I mean I lost a great buddy in the Jeep beside me one day on the road because of snipers. Those kinds of things really push you back, but it happened, and you can't dwell on it, you know? I guess [it's about] just going back and trying to make things better.
MC: Now did you find in your support area what seemed to be, as I understand, a pretty common occurrence, rocket and mortar attacks on your position?
JL: Rocket and mortar attacks were very--my first location at Xuan Loc, I remember not being there a month, and we're in the hooch sleeping that night. All of a sudden, you got woke up with a big bang, and not a hundred, two hundred feet from the hooch, there's a big hole in the ground and you're finding a bunker. But I mean, it became kind of like second nature. You find a hole and crawl in when it's happening, and it's over and you move on. You just can't let it get to you. But yes, rocket and mortar attacks were common, especially at night. They knew the base was there, and that's where they were trying to do damage.
MC: Did your area of operations sustain many casualties because of these, or was it more harassment than anything else?
JL: No, not in the base. The 409th Radio Research Detachment that I was with the Cav had two casualties in the whole Vietnam tour. One of them was my buddy, and another was a lieutenant that was there in '66 or '67, I believe. So our group, our detachment, being a support activity to the Cav, wasn't in the front as much as they were. So we did not have a lot of casualties, which was good.
MC: But you had ever-present danger.
JL: Yes, of course. The rockets [were] coming, but you just--and there [weren't] as many of us. We were a smaller group compared to the whole Cav, and they're out there in the front further out. I've seen [from] following the Cav, every morning the road had to be de-mined coming out of our base camp because they mined the road at night. But I've seen what they do when I'm following the convoy of minesweepers and how they can blow up, hit a tank and blow it up, blow the track off, and there goes everything. [If] the other tracks go off to the side to guard it, they know where to put the mines. They blow those tanks up. I've seen that, [while] following those guys, happen. Like I said, as my group in the Radio Research Detachment, we're more protected. We're back watching that stuff. [But] it's still there, like you said. It's there and dangerous, but it wasn't something I thought a lot about at the time. I'm young, and something had to be done. [00:15:42.27]
MC: Would you care to relate the instance where you lost your buddy, what you guys were up to, where you were headed, what the mission was for the day?
JL: Unfortunately we were headed to--we had taken one of our guys to [Bien Hoa??] Airforce Base--which was between Long Binh and Saigon, [Bien Hoa??] Airforce Base was there--to get a flight out because he had emergency leave, a family emergency. So we took him down there, and as I said, the roads were mined at night, and they weren't very [safe from??] snipers and things. It wasn't dark, but in hindsight it was too late to come back, and I was driving and he was the passenger. So we didn't get back to base camp before dark, and unfortunately a sniper shot at us, and he didn't make it. I got him to the medevac unit at Xuan Loc, and the last thing he said when they put him in the chopper was, "Those dirty rotten bastards."
MC: That's tough, very tough. You gave us a number of wonderful articles that you used in Vietnam and photographs that were taken of you at Vietnam, and if I may, I'd like to ask you a few questions about this stuff.
MC: I have some copies of the pictures, and the observer won't see this necessarily on camera, but I'll describe it. [I've] got one here of you sitting in a Jeep, looks like it's in a base area, and there's a fellow that's got his foot up on the side with his shirt off. You look kind of cocky sitting there with your hand on your knee. Can you tell me anything about that picture, where it was taken?
JL: That was in the motor pool at Xuan Loc, and that was [Skee Skimowski??], and unfortunately he's passed away now. He lived in New York, and he was--
MC: Looks like you guys were pretty good buddies in this picture.
JL: We were.
MC: I will mention these pictures are in our archives, and the public does have access to them, as they will this year.
JL: As I said, we felt secure at the base, except for rocket attacks and things like that, but that was [undecipherable], and one of the trucks was sitting there. We had our times where we'd sit back and relax, enjoy ourselves, and we had moments of [peace]. The big thing was changing tires. Oh my gosh, flat tires on trucks, it was a continual effort.
MC: You're talking about two and a half--
JL: Yes, two and a half ton trucks.
MC: What about breaking track [on something]?
JL: Breaking track was another issue. It's kind of labor intensive, yes, when they'd come back in and we had to replace track.
MC: Now we have another one here where you're sitting on the top of your M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, and it looks like you're giving the signal for a right turn, sitting just above the trim that's on the front of it. Also, it looks like you have an armored machine gun, fifty caliber turret on the back of it. Now is that in the motor pool also?
JL: Yes, about three of those.
MC: And this is what year, '68?
JL: Right, '68, '69. That was--yes, it was still up at [Xian??] because I had that Quonset hut there with the track, and it had to be between sixty--like I said, I got there in July. That was probably maybe in '69; we had a lot of Tet Offensive in '69. I was there until June of '69 when I went home the first time.
MC: We have one more here of you standing beside a sand bag and a screened hooch with your boonie hat on and your jungle fatigues. Is that basically in the same area also, same period of time?
JL: That was our hutch at that time, yes. [00:19:54.12]
MC: Now I noticed you also gave us, like you said, a couple of your jungle tunics, some of your OG sateens [OG-107], fatigues, patches, quite a lot of stuff. I noticed in looking at your jungle tunics that it appears that you have theater-made patches on there, made in Vietnam or in Cambodia. Do you remember having these patches made in-country?
JL: No, I thought we got them from the exchange, I'm not sure. We got them--let me see the--
MC: Here, if you wanted to look at that. The name tapes and then the Blackhorse patch, they're not the subdued, fully embroidered [patches] that the government issues, and also your sergeant stripes on your jungle tunic.
JL: I'm not sure if we got them down in town. At Xuan Loc, we didn't have any hooch maids really. The ground maintenance had some South Vietnamese civilian workers, but [I don't recall??] where we got them sewed on at. I don't remember.
MC: Well it's interesting, you know, I noticed.
JL: I'm pretty sure I didn't sew them on myself, but I might have. I doubt it.
MC: You also gave us a set of your dress greens, and on that you have a number of awards, and also citations, presidential unit citations, over the right breast pocket. I noticed one of your awards is the Bronze Star [Medal]. Can you tell us the particulars on that?
JL: That was based on the--it was in 1970 then, I believe, and we were at [Xian??]. The first sergeant, who was--should've brought it along to read that--basically, for my support in the motor pool and keeping the troops going, [our units??] going, while they were in combat, and that was during the--like I said, they were up at [Quan Loi??], I'm sure, at that time--and just keeping everything in operation and meeting the demands that they needed, so I think that was the gist of it. That was the reasoning for it, but I can't recall what it all reads on there anymore. It was just for support, the best support from keeping the operations going for that period of time.
MC: Well you got what they needed to them, and you got it to them in time, I guess. Also, the Army Commendation Medal?
JL: Yes, I think I have several of those. [By several??], there was a cluster of stars on there when I got Army Commendation Medals. [undecipherable]
MC: Noting several awards [about that??] each cluster, and the Good Conduct Medals, and I think that's what, every three years you get a Good Conduct Medal. You shared that with us too. Now one of the most curious things--I believe your wife brought this stuff over--was a parachute. I'm curious, can you tell a story about the parachute and why you kept it? It's not big enough to make a wedding dress out of.
JL: It certainly isn't. No, it was just a flare parachute. In your hooch or around your bunk, you hung things up, and that's something I just gathered up one day out of a--I guess that's a flare parachute which--we spent many hours out in the bunker on guard duty, and one of them came down close enough [for me] to end up with it. I took it in and kept it hanging around, just hanging around in my bunk for years, and when I packed up my stuff to come home, I threw it in the box. So it really didn't have any specific agenda as far as where I got it or where it came down, but I just took it in and hung it up, kind of a souvenir for over the years, and as it was hanging I brought it home.
MC: Well it's very unique, and we're certainly glad to have it [for] generations to come. We have nothing else like this in collections. Flares, we go back to mortar and rocket attacks. Did you fellows get hit at night a lot, where they would cause the artillery to throw up a defense?
JL: Right, there was always something out there. It was usually some Vietcong trying to come through the concertina wire at any point. That was their nature, just to get in. So I won't say we got hit every day, but guard duty was not a pleasant duty because--first of all, the bunkers that you are in [on] guard duty weren't exactly clean and free of varmints. Rats and snakes were an issue when you were in those bunkers because they're wet for everything. Personally, I never found a snake on guard duty, but I know a buddy of mine who--one guy that I went into the service together with--he was up at [Cam Ranh Bay??], closer in. They killed an eleven-foot king cobra one night by the bunker, which they [heard some??] the night before. So those things--and I've seen a picture of it--those things are big. That's the kind of thing, but I really didn't--when you're in that bunker, you don't think too much about it, but afterwards you think, Was he in there with me? I don't know, but I don't really like snakes. We had some other encounters with snakes. One day when our troops were down at base for R&R, [whatever, coming in from Quan Loi??], we had a quarry outside the base at [Xian??] and three APCs. They're going to go out and swim one day, and they take these APCs out for guard duty, and they got them all stuck in the rice paddies. They're going to go out and swim one day, and they take these APCs out for guard duty, and they got them all stuck in the rice paddies. [They told me??] I have to go try to get these tracks out. So I get the [cav??] to take the tank retriever out, and they get stuck. I'm standing there one day with this tank retriever spinning its track, and a big snake comes up out of the rice paddy and flies up in the air. I don't like snakes; [I don't] particularly like snakes. I took off and jumped up on our APCs, which [are] pretty high, in one leap, one leap right on top there to get away from that snake. They're just there, a lot of snakes, the small snakes, the deadly snakes, in torn-out stumps or anywhere. [There are snakes everywhere??] That's the kind of stuff that was interesting for guard duty, but back to the parachute. You would call it in if you heard something and then shoot up a flare--
MC: See what's out there.
JL: --see if you could see something. Most of the time, you can't see it anyway because, like I said, they're very black-dressed, black--
MC: They're good.
JL: Yes, they're good, hidden.
MC: Well you mentioned the snakes and the critters and so forth. There's a lot more hazards there than just the enemy, wasn't there?
JL: Yes, yes.
MC: Certainly was. Yes, it's quite interesting, this stuff. We do have one of your tunics out on display in our military section right now, and we'll take you up there to see it when we're done with this here. [00:27:45.23] What year were you discharged?
JL: April of '71.
MC: Seventy-one. Did you have any plans when you got discharged?
JL: No, I didn't. I was just [ready to get out??].
MC: You were discharged in-country, right?
JL: I was discharged at Fort Lewis. That was the other thing: When I came home in April of '71, things were really winding down. A lot of people were coming back at that time. The flights out-of-country, the civilian flights--commercial flights--out of country were booked up for several days, so a buddy and I went to the airport [in Saigon??] and waited. We went over there to see if we could get a military flight out on standby, so we waited and we did. We didn't get one that same day, but when the airport closed that night, we sat there on the benches, and when they closed, the rats came out. The rats, it's like--these big rats--"Make sure we don't fall asleep at the same time and get bit by a rat. We'll be here another fourteen days." So anyway, we waited the next day, and we got a flight. Unfortunately, it was not the best flight home because we were escorting coffins, but it was a C-141. We got on that flight, but it was also full of coffins.
MC: Kind of sad.
JL: Yes. But we got back into--we flew into Anchorage, Alaska, that day. Then they went on to [undecipherable], and we got off there and flew down to Fort Lewis, Washington [D.C.], and processed out.
MC: Did you find it was a relief to get off that plane?
MC: Speaking of, you mentioned earlier--and I'm kind of backtracking--between your tours of duty in-country, you had thirty-day leave.
MC: And I take it you came home?
MC: [There was] a lot of unrest in the country, [in] '67, '68. Can you relate what your feelings were with the protests and the hippie movements, integration?
JL: I want to say it wasn't pleasant. When I think about it today where we come home, we came home and nobody came to see us. Nobody did any of that. Like you said, they were actually protesting against us. But anyway, for me, I got in-country and back to Carlisle Springs, so I was kind of away from all of that. So it didn't bother me so much; it bothered me that they protested, but I didn't want to think too much about it or get involved with it. The more I think about it today or as the years go by, it was ridiculous that we didn't [undecipherable].
MC: I think I'd feel that way, but--I'm sorry.
JL: What I'm saying is, people--it wasn't us that caused the war--but anyway.
MC: Did you ever have personal confrontation with anybody?
JL: No, no. As a matter of fact, in the latter years here--I was out in Colorado hunting a couple years ago, and the guide out there he said, when he found out I was a vet, he thanked me for my service and all that. But you know, it's like [you] didn't get too much of that.
MC: I believe that came out pretty much in the eighties with the POW stuff, and some of the movie productions try to bring all that to the forefront. [00:31:19.18] So you came home. You weren't married at the time; you and Joyce weren't together.
JL: No, we weren't married.
MC: You had just Mom and Dad and the farm?
MC: What were your plans? How long a break did you give yourself to adjust?
JL: Not as much as I--if I did more thinking about it, I probably would have changed that and gone back to school at that time. But my uncle owned a Chevrolet dealership at the time, and he said, "I want you to come to work for me." And I did immediately. I didn't even draw unemployment for a month, and I'm back working. Probably I would have thought about that more, gone back and gotten my degree, and then maybe done something a little different, but it was good. It was a job; it wasn't much money, but it was a job. He got for me a job, and I ended up there for nine years or so.
MC: And it's something you're familiar with, if you can [bust track??] and change the tires on deuce-and-a-halfs and five-tons.
JL: Yes. It was a little more sophisticated with cars, but back in the seventies, it wasn't hard to do either. Nowadays, there are a lot more electronics and all that. It was fine, but it wasn't getting me anywhere as far as a lucrative career, I'd say. So I got out of that and decided to go to work for the federal government. I worked down at the Navy Depot for the rest of my career. Anyway, [it offered] more opportunities and more advancement than there was in the business, even though I was going to try to get into the car dealership business and buy into that. But it was a family-owned and operated business, and there was some other family there, and that didn't work out too well. So I moved on.
MC: Do you think that coming right out and transitioning into something that was familiar--mechanics, garage--might have made for an easier transition?
JL: Yes, it did.
MC: [It] allowed you to stay with the familiar and then move on [until] you got your head together.
JL: Yes, that's what happened. Like I said, if I had sat back and thought more about it, I might have gone into pursuing the rest of my engineering degree because I [had] two years at HACC in civil engineering. And I did take some correspondence courses after I got--when I was working at the garage, I went to--it's called ASI, Advanced [??]--some training. Anyway, I had some correspondence courses in electrical and refrigeration and those types of things, which has helped me somewhat because even in the car industry, I was the only one there that did any air conditioning work on vehicles and things. So I did have some correspondence courses, which they paid for, but I think I might have been better off if I had gone back to school. Who knows? I did well in my career after I went to work for the Navy.
MC: Well the correspondence courses allowed you to specialize. [00:34:52.24] So tell me, how'd you meet Joyce? How'd all that come about?
JL: We met a long time before then. Before I went in the service, we went to the same church. She was in Carlisle, right outside of Carlisle Springs. We had a whole gang of guys at Carlisle Springs, and the guys I went to the service with and some others. We used to run around together all weekends and whenever, and like I said, we went to the same church. We stayed together, so she was there the whole time--she was in school at Mansfield the whole time I was in Vietnam or in the service.
MC: Were you high school sweethearts?
JL: Yes, except that when we started [dating??], she went to Carlisle, and I went to Cumberland Valley, so we weren't in the same high school. But yes, we were [high school sweethearts].
MC: [You were in] that age group.
JL: Yes, that age group.
MC: Did you correspond while you were in Vietnam?
JL: Oh yes, she wrote me every day.
MC: That's sweet. So when you got out, did you hunt her down, ready to resume that relationship?
JL: Oh yes. Like I said, I was home every six months, but yes, we stayed together all that time. She wasn't real happy with me [because I would] keep going back, of course. She went to graduate with a teaching degree in three years because she went all summers, because I wasn't around. So she just went straight through in three years and got her degree, and then she graduated in June or May of '71. I came home in April, and she graduated. She got a job, and we got married, and the rest is [history].
MC: So you guys, you both--you didn't get married until you were done.
JL: Right, we didn't get married until August of '71 after she was done with school.
MC: You got all that behind you.
JL: She was done with school, and I was done with the army, and we were home.
MC: I know you told me that--you'd mentioned a son that's been deployed overseas with the State Department.
JL: I have two sons. One is in Florida; the other one is with the State Department. The oldest one, he's a diplomat, a Foreign Service Officer. He's deployed right now to Serbia; he's in Belgrade, and I was just there a week ago. We spent two weeks with him in early January. Yes, he's doing great. He went to school in California. We kind of wanted him not so far away, but he went to school in California, Pomona College, and got his bachelor's. Then he went to Japan for a couple years, and he came back and went to work in California with a computer [outfit??]. Then he decided to go back to school, and he got his master's at the University of California, San Diego, and got in foreign affairs. Now he's in the diplomatic corps, so he's at the embassy in Belgrade right now. He's been [touring??] Brazil for two years, he was in Mexico for two years, and he speaks about five different languages. So he's doing good.
MC: Now is he married?
JL: He's married, and he's got two kids.
MC: And the family goes with him?
JL: Oh yes. There are certain countries; it's like military, he's [like a military officer??]. He gets his housing and all that. He's at the embassy, and he's in the Political Affairs Office. He's right now working on getting Serbia into the EU [European Union]. See, they're not part of the EU, and that's one of his goals of being in Serbia, to work on getting them into the EU. The youngest son, he's in Oregon--not Oregon, he's in Florida. He got his doctorate degree at Oregon State after he went to Clarkson for four years. Then he went off to Oregon for seven years and got his doctorate degree in engineering. He's with the USGS [United States Geological Survey].
MC: Is he married and got kids too?
JL: He's got two kids, yes. They adopted two; they couldn't have kids, so they adopted two kids from Bulgaria. They're doing good; he works for the USGS. He's also an adjunct professor at the university down in St. Petersburg. The kids are doing good. They're not military--well the oldest one is actually somewhat of a military officer.
MC: I would think that you and your wife would be quite proud.
JL: We are.
MC: When you all get together, you've got a house full, don't you?
JL: We do. This summer, we had them all in Maui for a vacation before they went to Serbia, and we spent a good time. They don't get home altogether too often anymore since they're so far apart.
MC: So it's mostly just you and your wife?
MC: You all take time to do what you want to do.
JL: Yes, we go down to Florida. She's going down next week to keep the kids, their kids, for a week. She's flying down. My daughter-in-law travels a lot; she works for a company in Sweden, and she goes to South Korea. She'll be in South Korea next week, and my wife goes down and helps her with the kids.
MC: I think initially, when all this got kicked off, it was your wife that brought us this stuff.
JL: Yes, we were cleaning out the upstairs, and I said, "This stuff [has] got to go." She said--you know, what do you do with it? So she said, "Let me take it and see if they are interested in it," so it's just something you--what do you do with it? Eventually the kids say they don't know what to do it either, so that's how it goes. So yes, we were cleaning out to do some remodeling up there because of everybody coming home at once; we were trying to fix up that for Christmas last year to get them a place to stay, the room up there for the four kids in the bedroom. Anyway, we decided to get rid of some stuff; that was the stuff.
MC: Well we're grateful. We got it, and it'll always be here.
JL: I just didn't think it was--that's memories for me, but it doesn't really--
MC: It's significant.
JL: It's significant. [00:41:37.01]
MC: In winding this up, how would you describe your life and how the military impacted it? I'm sure it did; I'm not putting words in your mouth. How was the--if I may call you Jesse--
JL: Yes, sure.
MC: --what's the difference between the pre-Jesse and the post-Vietnam Jesse? You mentioned friendship earlier, you know the bonds that soldiers have.
JL: Yes. I think--and it's got to be a big impact--the world is out there, and me, I'm in Carlisle Springs and [have] never been anywhere except to northern Pennsylvania or something where my dad had a hunting camp, or not seen the world even to--my mom had never seen the ocean until she was eighty or ninety. So we didn't travel, we didn't do anything, but this--I spent a lot of time, not just Vietnam, but when I was there, I took advantage of R&Rs, and I went to Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia. I took advantage of those things and went to those places. It cost money, but it was something I would have never [done]. Now that my kids are out there in the world more, I do more traveling, but I would have never seen parts of the world if I wasn't there. It gave me a big perspective on what's out there in the world, the big thing. And like I said, the friendships and as being a country boy, I just wouldn't have had that opportunity. I think it was a big impact on my life in that respect. Had I not gone there, I may have ended up just being in the garage or being a farmer the rest of my life, which there's nothing wrong with that. I'm still a farmer; I still own a small farm, and even as I was working for the government, I still farmed every night. That's still in my blood. And I do my own mechanical work. I'm not sure what I would have [done] had I not gone in there, but I don't regret it at all. I really do think it was a good decision. Like I said, maybe some of the decisions afterwards might have--I don't know that it would have changed my mind. I did well with my promotions and career at the Navy Depot, so I did well. A lot of people don't get that far. Even what college I had helped me get in there and get to--even the two years. I know the first guy that interviewed me said--my job there was technical, but it was all deskwork, all buying parts for the Navy ships. His thing was, "Well we do a fair amount of writing," and he said, "I know that you had two years of college, and you've had college English courses. I really look at that." And that's one of the things, so it helped me. But had it gone on, it might have gotten me further; it might not have, I don't know.
MC: It appears to me that in essence--I'm not putting words in your mouth--the service time made you a bit more worldly--
MC: --where you realized there was a bigger perimeter than Carlisle Springs.
JL: Like I said, I wouldn't have gotten there otherwise because the family, a small farm with eight kids, we didn't do much.
MC: Eight kids; where'd you fall in that group?
JL: Kind of in the middle. I have three [siblings] after me, but my younger brother was six--[it was] six years between me and the next one. So my mom thought she done, but all of a sudden she had three more. That's what she always said.
MC: Alright, well do you have anything else that you'd like to say while we've got you here?
JL: I can't think of anything. It was a good decision, going into the service. I often sometimes thought--I think I would have had a good career there too had I stayed because I was--as far as rank goes, it was easy to get--not easy, but easier to get in Vietnam during a war. I know I would have probably gone on to be a warrant officer in my career; the way I was headed, I would have been a warrant officer. So I could have had a career there too, but at that time, I just wanted to get out just because it was not the thing to do. It could have been a thing to do; it just wasn't in my head right then at that time. So I got out, and I got a good career otherwise.
MC: It sounds like you got out, and you made a good life for yourself and your wife and your family.
JL: We did.
MC: That's the prize. Well we've been talking with Mr. Jesse W. Long of Carlisle, and my name's Michael Collins. I'm a Cumberland County Historical Society volunteer. Jesse has shared a lot of information with us concerning his pre-military life, his service time, and what's been going on with him and his family since then. At this time, we'll conclude this interview, and thank you very much.
JL: Thank you. [00:47:08.03] End of interview