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Ohio veteran fixed planes in Vietnam

WARREN — Stanley Gregory, 72, comes from a military family — all six of his brothers were in the service.

“All of my family … was in the military. Most of my uncles and cousins — all of them were in the military,” he said.

Gregory grew up in Greene. When he graduated from Maplewood High School in 1967, his oldest brother already had joined the Marines, and his second-oldest brother was in the Navy.

So, when his younger brother graduated a year later and asked him to join the service, Gregory didn’t hesitate.

“He said to me, ‘If I go into the Army, will you go into the Air Force?’ The dumb statement I made: ‘Sure, because they don’t have planes in Vietnam,'” Gregory said.

Gregory did his tech school in Texas and then his whole squadron was “red lined” to Vietnam, he said.

“I was there one year and two weeks, and I did get to visit my brother who was in the Army,” Gregory said. He said when his brother visited Bein Hoa Air Base, he was jealous of their “chow hall” and all the good food they had there.

On the trip overseas and back, Gregory was not allowed to leave the tarmac at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. It was only later that Gregory found out anti-war protests were going on nearby.

In Vietnam, Gregory worked on the flight line directing airplanes that were landing and later worked at changing tires and towing.

Once, when Gregory was helping to tow a disabled C-123, the base commander asked the men if they had credentials to work with munitions. They didn’t, Gregory said.

“We did not know it was loaded with ammunition,” Gregory said of the plane. “It didn’t blow up on us, luckily.”

Gregory also worked on different airplanes, including some that had their tails shot off.

He said he saw “things I probably shouldn’t have seen,” in Vietnam. He talked about bodies in bags, waiting for transport.

“There was 14 South Koreans that were ready to depart, go back to South Korea — they were there for five days,” Gregory said.

Gregory also saw some things he did not expect — he once looked down the flight line to see a young man from Greene in the distance.

“That meant there was more people than me over there from my hometown,” Gregory said.

Vietnam was hot, and it rained a lot during the monsoon seasons, Gregory said. While he was there, around 21 rocket attacks were made at the base, he said.

While on R&R, Gregory got to spend seven days in Australia, where he got to tour the unfinished Sydney Opera House and visit the famous bar, Down Under.

Gregory said he lost about 20 pounds in Vietnam.

“My mom said, ‘You look like a refugee,'” Gregory said.

After Vietnam, Gregory went to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where he worked on F-100s and A-7D planes. There, he met his future wife, Barbara “Bobby,” at a dance — Bobby was an “Air Force brat” because her father was a chief master sergeant. They got married in 1971 while Gregory was on vacation.

After about six months at Luke, Gregory was transferred with the A-7Ds to Davis Monthan-Tucson Air Force Base in Arizona, where he finished his service in 1972.

Gregory went back to the job he left at Johnson Rubber Co. in Middlefield then worked at General Motors for four years until the company laid off 3,000 men for 18 months.

He started at Warren City Schools as a janitor, then a custodian. He spent the last 10 years of his 42-year tenure there as a maintenance technician.

Gregory is a life member of Warren Veterans of Foreign Wars 1090, a life member of the Disabled American Veterans and has been a member in the American Legion for 17 years. He was the American Legion of Trumbull County Council Commander for two years.

Gregory and a fellow veteran started Socks for Vets, which collects socks for veterans in Trumbull County, Cleveland and Sandusky. The first year, they collected 2,000 socks. The second, with the help of Warren City Schools, they got more than 4,000, Gregory said.

Gregory said he is involved in so many veterans organizations to give back to the community and to veterans.

Gregory regularly attends the Bein Hoa Air Base Reunion, which now happens every two years. He always is excited to see a friend from Massachusetts, with whom he has stayed close. He collects pins and memorabilia from the reunions.

For the 50th anniversary of his service, Gregory got a letter from President Barack Obama and a brigadier general pinned his anniversary pin on him.