COANG commemorates 50th anniversary of Vietnam

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Austin Harvill
  • 140th Wing Public Affairs
“I was sitting in the weapons shop when we got called up,” said Larry Jacobson, a retired 120th Fighter Squadron pilot who fought in Vietnam. “Chaos ensued.”

Perhaps no statement could better describe the reaction when members of the 120th Fighter Squadron and other Colorado Air National Guard personnel were called upon to serve in 1968 during the Vietnam War.

As the first Air National Guard unit in history to receive the call to serve in war, it was apparent national leaders knew Colorado’s best would have no issue forging their name through that chaos and the jungles of southeast Asia.

On Oct. 14, the 140th Wing held a commemorative ceremony in memory of the defining “call up,” and in memorial to two Colorado Air Guard members lost to the war.

“All of this was made possible through a legacy of excellence,” said Brig. Gen. Floyd Dunstan, Colorado ANG Assistant Adjutant General. “(That) excellence and readiness (started) back in 1968 when you were the first to be called into federal service in Vietnam.”

The Colorado ANG sent approximately 900 members who served for 15 months, 250 of whom went to Phan Rang Air Base, Vietnam. Those 350 conducted flew over 9,000 combat hours and dropped approximately 18,000 munitions. Even at its practical inception as a combat-ready, combat-tested unit, Colorado ANG members knew the value of one another over all else.

“When I was a (Marine), I had an M1 rifle and 184 Marines … we had a certain amount of firepower,” said Bob Beabout, COANG at ’68 Call-Up veteran. “When I became a pilot, (I) had more firepower than those 184 Marines with their M1s, but it took more than 184 just to get me in the air. You had to appreciate all those other people.”

Unfortunately, no fight is won without sacrifice.

“At the end of the deployment, on March 27, 1969, Maj. Clyde Seiler was killed after being hit by enemy ground fire during an F-100 strafing mission,” said Rick Crandall, Colorado Freedom Memorial founder and event emcee. “A few days later, on April 3, Maj. Perry Jefferson failed to return from an intelligence gathering flight in a light observation plane. In 2007, Maj. Jefferson’s remains were found.”

Seiler’s remains were found and he was interred at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver. Jefferson was interred at Arlington National Cemetery on April 8, 2008, 39 years after his disappearance. Their names have not been forgotten by their comrades. Indeed, even their very loss proved the value of teamwork to all members of the Colorado ANG, past and present.

“We left as a team, and we came back as a team,” said Jacobson. “Losing team members, having the support of each other as team members—it’s just a great environment in which to serve, it really is.”