BRAZIL, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — For those of us who have never been in actual combat, it’s really hard understand what happens. Physically, mentally and spiritually. Bill Searing of Brazil knows what it’s like because he served in combat during the Vietnam War.
He grew up in Brazil and enlisted in the U.S Army in 1969. Members of his family had been in the military so service to the nation was, in his words, “a duty.”
“I didn’t do anything that many people before me hadn’t done, so I thought it was my duty to protect my family my country,” said Searing.
Searing received military police training and jungle training. He learned how the enemy operated including their use of trip wires and the tunnels where they hid and attacked Americans.
After training he became part of the Army’s military intelligence efforts. Specially, he helped gather information about the enemy from enemy soldiers and situations on the front lines. It was dangerous, especially under enemy fire.
“I was just 18, I’ve never killed and and I’m thousands of miles from home,” said Searing.
He says It was very difficult being away from home.. and during his first Christmas in Vietnam, he cried. So he relied on his faith in God and the love of his parents. It meant so much to receive gifts from home like this transistor radio and the letters that he received.
Today, it’s not just the memories that linger, but also the physical impact of the war. He was exposed to Agent Orange. The chemical was used by U.S. forces to clear vegetation and find the enemy. Unfortunately, Searing saw it, and felt it.
“It’s kind of like a spicy smell it will clear you out, but also affects your lungs,” said Searing.
After the war, he served in Washington DC and then it was on to civilian life. He spent 35 years working for the Indiana Prison system training emergency teams. He also met his wife Kelli who worked in the prison. She was a veteran of the air national guard and was the first female member of the Security Police for the 181st.
Today, she takes care of Bill as his VA caregiver. He’s survived kidney cancer, diabetes and more. She says they really didn’t talk about his Vietnam experiences until he became sick in 2010. But sharing those experiences brought them closer.