Veteran spotlight: Clarence Benefield

Clarence Benefield poses in front of a framed flag at VFW Post 2214 in Cullman. (Cayla Grace Murphy)

In celebration of Veterans Day, Tribune reporter Cayla Grace Murphy sat down with veterans at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2214 for rapid-fire interviews. The Tribune will be publishing an interview every week for November.

Clarence Benefield

United States Air Force Reserve 1965-1968

Deployment: Vietnam

CGM: What do you remember most about the day you enlisted?

CB: I enlisted in Atlanta. There were six of us from Georgia. When they got that long hair cut off, I don’t know where they went! Everybody got their head shaved almost, ya know. They (barbers) said, “How ya want it?” and went zip zip zip, cut them all alike.

CGM: Can you describe a funny moment from boot camp?

CB: Well, if you didn’t do things just right, you’d have to go pick up cigarette butts off of everywhere. And it snowed! Some of them said it was like Cub Scouts…you just do what the man said. So I listened, and I tried to do what the man said.

CGM: What are some things you remember most about your deployment?

CB: I was over there for six months, and I wanted to go home. We lost a shipload of buddies. I talked our commander into letting me go home, so I hitchhiked home by aircraft from Thailand for a couple of weeks. I saw the family, and my wife-to-be, and hitchhiked back.

CGM: Do you have any advice for people transitioning back to civilian life?

CB: After going through hell over there, get back and get in church and thank the Lord that you made it back because we do have the greatest nation upon the face of the Earth. There’s a lot of things a person takes for granted until they experience not having these things.

CGM: Do you have anyone you want to recognize or remember from your time in service?

CB: Well, I’ve got a brother now that he’s already dead and gone but was instrumental in me going into the Air Force. He spent three years in England, and when he came home he sounded just like a Limey! His name was John Lewis Benefield.

CGM: Anything else you’d like to add for our readers? CB: One thing that happened when I came back, in November of ‘68, we landed in San Francisco. And we did not get recognized. The only way we got recognized was people calling us baby killers, spitting at us and calling us ugly words. Of course, that didn’t bother me. All of us don’t think alike. I realized that was only a small little group of them. There are a lot of people back in Alabama who did appreciate what we did. But we should agree to disagree, respectfully.

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