COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — Master Sgt. Clyde Moore served three separate tours in the Vietnam War, and he's the only person he knows who can say that.
The 81-year-old Air Force veteran, retired car salesman and father of three has spent the last 12 years where he spent his first 16 - in Columbus. In between, he's lived and traveled all over the world. That includes three years in Vietnam during the war from which he received six medals for his service.
"I personally don't know of anyone else who did three tours," he said. “Now ... you can go online and get the Vietnam history. One (historian) says he knows in reality there are some people that exist that served three tours, but he didn't come up with any names or anything.”
Moore joined the Air Force in 1954 when he had just turned 16. He told the recruiters he was 18 so he could make some extra money to support his grandmother, who raised him, and the rest of his family.
"Back in those days, the recruiters didn't care about the age requirements," Moore said. “They were just concerned about getting their quotas. They just took my word for it that I was 18, because I shouldn't have been able to get in.”
After training, Moore spent 10 years as a postal worker. It wasn't until 1964 that he was first sent to Vietnam, which at the time only had about 15,894 U.S. personnel there.
"Nobody had heard of Vietnam back when I went through in '64," Moore said. “It was relatively new and (there were only) 15,000 as opposed to half a million (troops) a little later.”
According to a print-out Moore provided The Dispatch, he arrived at Tan Son Air Base, Saigon, in April and was later transferred to an Army Ranger Special Forces Advisory, even though he had no combat training.
"The Army didn't have any personnel over there to do any postal-type work," he said. “That's how I got stuck there being in the Air Force. ... That's how I got associated with the Rangers and the Advisors and so forth, because there were only two Air Force guys in the compound. There was my co-worker and there was a weatherman who was a second lieutenant in the Air Force.”
Moore doesn't talk much about his experiences, though he said he was involved in the Battle of Pleiku in 1965, when Viet Cong forces attacked Americans at Camp Holloway. In the print-out he provided to The Dispatch, Moore said he had been on guard duty at a compound about six miles from Camp Holloway before the battle began. The man who relieved him was killed in the attack.
He said things weren't significantly better for him when he got back to the United States, where anti-war demonstrations and racial violence had the country in its grip. Moore said he and other service members who had served in Vietnam were treated so badly, it made him return to the war - twice.
"You're going to think to think I'm crazy when I tell you this," he said. “I felt more comfortable over there. Because you knew what was going on. And we really stuck together over there. It was a different world.”
Moore was stationed in Saigon in July 1966 where he served until the following March, and then at Da Nang in March 1970, where he served for a year.
The war's effects followed him back to the United States, where he said he still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition he shares with other veterans he knows.
"When I go to the VA, which I go in Tuscaloosa, I see veterans there and we sit around and talk, while we're waiting to see the doctor, about our different experiences," he said.
Moore's overall 24-year military career took him all over the country and the world, but the last place he was stationed was his favorite: Denver, Colorado, where he retired from the Air Force in 1978 and became a car salesman for Honda.
In fact, to this day, Moore says his proudest accomplishment is being the top salesman in the country for Honda in 1986, out of 6,500 salespeople.
After his first wife died, Moore moved back to his hometown of Columbus where he reconnected with his "childhood sweetheart" and now wife, Christine.
He agrees it's been a full and sometimes exciting life, and he doesn't have many regrets.
"I did what I had to do," he said. “That's the way I felt about it. And I'm proud of it.”
This article was written by ISABELLE ALTMAN, The Dispatch from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.