Editor’s Note: Throughout the week and in observance of Veterans Day, @Ford Online will spotlight stories of those who have served their country and their connection to Ford Motor Company.
In today’s installment, three Lima Engine Employees – Greg Williams, Ed Markham, Roger Maag – share their accounts of military service.
Williams Relays His Experience, Memories of Vietnam
The year was 1969. For those who didn’t live it, history books provide a picture of a nation at war with Vietnam, and at times, with itself.
The hippie movement wanted Americans to “make love, not war” and anti-war demonstrations and protests popped up all over the nation. Nearly half-a-million people gathered in New York in August of that year for what would come to be known as “Woodstock.” While they celebrated, thousands of American servicemen were arriving in Vietnam. Tragically, many of them never made it home.
The daily news reports were grim at best. By the time America withdrew its troops out of Vietnam, nearly 60,000 Americans had been killed in action. Another 300,000 were wounded or maimed and almost 2,000 soldiers were listed as missing in action.
That year, Lima Engine Plant machine repairman Greg Williams turned 18 years old. “I was just a kid when I went in,” Williams said.
The history of service in Williams’ family runs deep, with his grandfather, father and older brother all serving their country during war. “I won’t say it was expected of me, but it was just something I always knew I was going to do,” Williams said.
Fresh out of high school, Williams completed basic training in New Jersey, and specialized medic training in Texas. None of that training, though, would fully prepare him for the massive casualties and deaths he would see as a member of the 44th Medical Brigade.
Stationed just outside of Da Nang, Williams spent most of his time in the 95th evacuation hospital, or accompanying infantry units on missions to treat Vietnamese civilians in nearby villages. “It wasn’t a combat unit, but we saw a lot of injuries,” Williams said. “We were treating injured civilians, or a lot of times we would be vaccinating the children.”
Diseases ran rampant in the jungle and Bubonic Plague and Malaria were common causes for deaths. “There was a lot of disease,” Williams said. “So we were treating people for that, and if they needed further treatment, they were flown by helicopter to Americans hospitals for treatment.”
While medications were available for treatment of disease, Williams said many deaths occurred because people waited too long to bring them in. “A lot of those people died, because they just waited too long,” he said.
Like many other veterans, Williams is modest about his years spent in service to his country. “I came home, and there were guys I was in training with who didn’t get to come home,” he said. “There were guys I went to high school with who didn’t come home.”
While the area around Da Nang had once been considered an area of extreme violence and casualties, troops were being reduced by the time Williams arrived. “Don’t get me wrong, there was still quite a bit of action going on there, but some units were being sent home by the time I got there,” he said.
Even so, there were times when Williams did find himself in dangerous zones. “I suppose there were times I thought I was in danger,” he said. “They weren’t necessarily shooting at me, but they were shooting at an area I was in. Now, did I have stress where I was at. Sure I did. I saw a lot of people dying. But a lot of people had it a lot worse.”
While many Vietnam vets have dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder, or violent flashbacks, Williams’ memories of war only come back if the setting is right.
“Sometimes on a rainy night, or if I hear a chopper in the air, it will bring back memories. Kind of the same way when you smell something in the air, and it reminds you of something,” Williams said.
Williams spent four years in the Army before coming back home to Delphos. Shortly after, he was hired at LEP, where he has spent the last 38 years.
Military Provides a Platform for Growth for LEP Supervisor
Ed Markham, a headline process coach at Lima Engine Plant (LEP), views his time spent serving his country as a learning and growing experience. Although he always thought he would make a career out of the United States Army, “I guess I didn’t really like all the moving around,” he said. “I thought it would be better to stay put with a family.”
So after spending three years in Germany, and three years in Ft. Polk, La., Markham made his way back to Ohio in 1980. Jobs were few and far between, though, so he moved to Florida and began working with a company that sold ceramic tile. “I had a friend in the roofing business down there, so I did that for a while,” he said.
Several promotions later, Markham was working as director of distribution for a corporate office in New Jersey. A short while later, Markham found himself back in Ohio where he soon took a job at LEP. It was here he would meet, and later marry his wife, Barb, a financial analyst in the Accounting department. The couple were married in 2006 and make their home in Lima.
His time spent in the United States Army, Markham said, helped form him into the man he is today. “I grew up while I was in the Army,” Markham said. “Mom and dad didn’t have to worry about me eating or having a roof over my head.”
Markham was a sergeant in the Army, which provided him the leadership skills he uses today as a process coach. “It was kind of the same thing I do now, telling people what to do,” he said with a laugh. “But really, you do grow up when you’re in the military. You learn about life and how to take care of yourself and be responsible for yourself and your family.”
Spoken like a true supervisor.
Marine Experience Builds Knowledge, Appreciation to Live Fullest Life Possible
Roger Maag was much like any other high-school guy back in the day, pushing the boundaries and intent on living life to its fullest. “My dad was on me to take life a little more seriously, and he pretty much gave me an ultimatum,” Maag said with a laugh.
During his senior year, Maag signed on the dotted line and became a United States Marine, serving from 1984-1988. Maag went through basic training at Paris Island, S.C., and then spent a year in Tennessee. From there, he traveled to North Carolina where he spent the remainder of his service years.
“I liked the Marines I served with, but there wasn’t a lot happening at that time,” Maag said. “So when there’s nothing happening, you spend a lot of time practicing for when there might be something happening.”
It was only fitting that the strapping high-school football player would quickly become involved in the Marine Corp.’s rugby team, where he played the position of flanker. Maag also played for the combined service team for two of those years.
Originally from Columbus Grove, Maag came back to the area after his service and worked at Whirlpool for 10 years before coming up to Lima and taking a job at Lima Engine Plant. Maag is currently serving as the appointed UAW Ergonomics Representative.
Maag knows war is never pretty, but he has full confidence in the training members of the Armed Forces are receiving. “My daughter’s boyfriend is in Libya now as a United States Marine,” Maag said, adding “I’m not afraid for him because I know the training that takes place. I worry about him, but I’m not afraid.”