Three Rivers Pastor recounts his Vietnam-era experience in the U.S. Army
By the early 1970s, the Vietnam War had taken a tragic toll on America in both blood and treasure. President Richard Nixon working with his U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, attempted to forge a peace treaty between South Vietnam, America’s beleaguered ally, and North Vietnam, a communist country bent on taking over the struggling republic.
The fighting had been brutal and bloody—dividing America in the process—and many citizens wanted an end to the nation’s involvement in the war in which more than 58,000 U.S. military personnel would ultimately lose their lives.
In 1972, a time when joining the military was not a popular move, seventeen-year-old Sam Maddox needed his father’s signature to enlist in the U.S. Army. “I knew soldiers who had returned from Vietnam with severe injuries while I was still in school. I had conversations with them, but as a young person it never really sunk in,” he recalls. “I tried to volunteer for Vietnam but was too young. I also tried for the military police but was too short.”
Today, Sam is the pastor of Light & Life Wesleyan Church in Three Rivers, along with his wife, Becky, also a pastor of the church.
Originally from Munising, a town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Sam completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where he became part of a crew operating a M60A1 Patton main battle tank. “Basic training was difficult for the first three weeks,” Sam recalls. “It was much different than it is now. I broke my right foot from marching in the third week but was able to continue and graduate basic before advanced infantry training.”