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Honoring Roane County’s vets

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Melvin Page, Vietnam

By Cindy Simpson

By CINDY SIMPSON
csimpson@roanecounty.com
A slight movement of his hand was all Melvin Page could muster as his badly injured body was taken off a battlefield in Vietnam in January 1968.
“When they came in to get me, they done had me in a body bag,” Page said. “My hand just moved, and they saw my hand. They were zipping it up.”
Page was injured multiple times while serving in Vietnam, but the injuries he suffered Jan. 4, 1968, were the last.
“We were about two miles south of Saigon. I can’t remember the province. I was with the 27th Infantry, the Wolfhounds,” Page said.
“The Wolfhounds were a mean unit. They served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, and they are stationed in Afghanistan right now,” Page said.
Page said he had been shot multiple times and burned by the chemical agent napalm that he called to be dropped when they were overrun by the enemy.
“I fired myself (with napalm). We were overrun by over 1,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers. There was 43 of us, and there wasn’t but three of us who survived,” Page said.
“I was literally burned. Much of my body has been skin grafted,” Page said.
Page was drafted into the Army and was with the 25th Infantry Division.
“I was drafted in January 1967. I knew it was coming. A single man, 21 — back in 1967, if you weren’t in college you were drafted,” Page said.
He was just about geriatric compared to many of the boys that he fought alongside.
“Twenty-one was old age in Vietnam. Most were 18, 19 years old. Matter of fact I was referred to as ‘the Old Man,’” Page quipped.
Vietnam War veterans don’t often get the level of appreciation that other veterans do.
“It was an unfavorable war,” he said. “Americans didn’t want to be there.”
He said he knew veterans at the time who didn’t acknowledge their participation because of the war’s unpopularity.
“It was wrong, but that was how things were back then,” Page added.
Vietnam veterans often saw more conflict than a lot soldiers ever see.
“I probably saw more battles in my first six months over there than most men see in their whole tour with combat units,” Page said.
Besides his the napalm, Page also suffered a number of other injuries while serving in Vietnam, including a gunshot to the jaw and injuries from being hit with granade shrapnel.
“That is why I’m so good looking — all the plastic surgery I’ve had over the years,” quipped Page.
After more than 30 years working for the United States Postal Service, Page now has worked four years wearing a uniform again.
This time, its for the Roane County Sheriff Office, doing security at the courthouse.