For an East Tennessee farm boy who didn’t want to go to war, his heroics as a young man on the battlefield in Vietnam earned the 20-year-old draftee one of the military’s highest awards for valor.
“I’d have done the same thing again,” said the now 72-year-old Noel “Buddy” Marsh from his home place in Rockwood, Tenn.
During our on camera interview the former Army Staff sergeant described the January day in 1968 when he ran toward flames from a napalm strike in an effort to save fellow soldiers from enemy fire. During his self-motivated rescue mission, shrapnel from a rocket propelled grenade took three of his four limbs.
“I never did think they could kill me but I thought they had that day,” Marsh said from a wheelchair he prefers to use sparingly. He prefers his crutches, four wheeler, or a tractor he uses to raise beef cattle on more than 80 acres of farm land.
“My life after Vietnam has been good. If I hadn’t have been married I might not have wanted to live but (my wife) has been the rock,” said the veteran who has two children, one grandson, and one great-granddaughter.
In addition to our on-camera interview Mr. Marsh took time to answer the following 10 questions about how his military experience helped shape his life.
1. What one person influenced you most in life?
My dad. He just always had me on the farm working. I didn’t realize it until after I got older but he gave me incentive to work. He was a worker 24 hours a day.
2. Do you feel honored and respected for serving your country?
Yes. I never had to go through what some of my fellow veterans did. I came back on a hospital plane so my welcome was a different. I feel honored. Just regretted the way the war (Vietnam) ended. I hate it that we pulled out.
3. How can people thank you for your service?
I don’t know. Just when I wear my cap they thank me and I appreciate that. They don’t have to thank me but I feel good when they do. I see people are more appreciate of the veteran since the Gulf War.
4. How do you honor your fellow service men and women?
I just talk with them when they’re down. I just try to listen. I try to encourage them to get help if they are in trouble.
5. How do you think this generation of military men and women is different or similar to yours?
They’re volunteers and they get better training. They have no more will to fight. We’re the same there but they’re trained better.
6. What influence did your military service have on the rest of your life?
I don’t know as it did. I was the only one in high school who milked a cow every morning and every evening. Regimented the beginning.
7. Does your family have a history of military service?
No. My grandfather on my mother’s side was in the Civil War. My great grandfather was a surgeon in the Civil Wall. I had relatives of that war. My son joined the Navy.
8. Would you encourage younger generations in your family to join the service?
If they don’t know what they are going to do I think it is a good thing. I’d rather they not go in when we are in a conflict. It helped my son mature.
9. How has your opinion of war changed?
When I went in we were fighting communism. When I got out I felt it was political and we never tried to win it and end it.
10. How did your military experience shape your faith?
I was raised a Baptist. I knew the day I was wounded I wasn’t going to die. God told me that day I wasn’t going to die.