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Veterans Day: Memories of mail call amid war’s toll

Updated Mar 31, 2011

Vietnam 1967

In November 1966, then 19-year-old Doug Fetterly deployed to Vietnam with the U.S. Army’s Fourth Infantry Division. He had trained for a year at Fort Lewis, Wash., to be what he describes as a ground pounder before he landed in Vietnam’s West Central Highlands, near the Cambodian border.

“I lived like an animal for many months and was lucky to make it home alive,” the retired owner-operator said recently of his 13-month tour in Vietnam’s mountainous region. “We lost many of our guys.”

Packages that Fetterly’s father, owner-operator Al Fetterly, sent him from home in New York helped relieve war’s toll. “When we got mail, it was a treat. I read all the Overdrives and still have them,” he said of the photo taken of him reading the magazine in summer 1967, shown above.

When he returned to his home near Thousand Islands, N.Y., he drove for two companies before he became an owner-operator in 1986. The 1972 R Model Mack he drove for Burdett Oxygen Co. was Overdrive’s February 1974 Tractor of the Month Runner-Up, which you can read more about on the Nov. 8 OverdriveRetro featured story.

Fetterly is one of many owner-operators Overdrive has featured who have also served in the armed forces, in times of both war and peace. Recent Truckers of the Month such as Howard Salmon (October 2009), Frank Hockaday (May 2010) and Dan Heister (July 2010) are only a few of those drivers.

While some drivers honed trucking skills in the military, others simply appreciate getting back to the United States, even if – as in the case of Vietnam – they were publicly ridiculed by those who opposed the unpopular war.

Fetterly is succinct: “All I can say about the Army is that it was an experience you will never forget. Trucking is a lot more fun.”

Thank you, to all soldiers past and present for military service. It is an endeavor that demands far more than most of us can fathom.

Editor’s note: Veterans Day is  November 11.


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