(WYTV) – Years ago, in rural West Virginia, Haskel “Wes” Westmoreland failed to shovel the snow leading to the outhouse. His dad had a harsh punishment, he was told he was signing him up to be in the Army the next day.
Wes has plenty of stories from his time in Vietnam. He sprinkles in some funny moments but it’s always followed by a story that tries to explain the horrors of war. He’ll be the first to tell you of his humble beginnings.
“I went into the Army as a high school dropout. Nine years later, I was the youngest first sergeant in the Army,” he said.
The Silver Star gives him the most pride. He got it for attempting to save injured troops in a hostile area.
“I’d give them all back just to bring one of my buddies back,” Wes said.
He was shot through the left elbow, healed and went back to the line. Then he was injured again.
“On my second tour, jumped out of a helicopter and ran across the field. Run into a punji stake, ran into my left leg and ripped out 40% of the veins,” he said.
The leg still bothers him from the booby trap, the punji stick.
His neighbor, fellow Veteran Don Johnson, nominated Wes.
“Wes was a command sergeant major in the United States Army. When a command sergeant major walks in the room, junior officers wet their pants. They know who is in command of that division,” Johnson said.
It’s ironic that the Fourth of July is a difficult day for Wes because of the flashbacks.
“I still dream, but I still go to counseling at the VA. I go once a week for an hour of counseling,” Wes said.
He has advice for those entering the military.
“Study, read the manuals, know the manuals. They moved me up to platoon leader and I came out first in battalion. That was hard for the officers to take, but it happened,” Wes said.