TEXARKANA, Texas -- Doug Jones' extended family had a revered history of military service. He would add to that heroism in the Vietnam War.
Doug never knew them. But he had two half brothers who were crew members aboard bombers in World War II. Both were killed in action over Germany in 1944.
"They had sacrificed everything," Doug said as he choked back tears. "Having that kind of a family background, it inspired me to join the military. There's a special kinship with the military involved."
Doug has their Purple Heart medals awarded posthumously. He earned his own high medals, including a Bronze Star, and the Distinguished Flying Cross, during two tours in the Vietnam War.
"I don't know how heroic it was," Doug modestly recalled, then added with a laugh, "When you're young and you think you're invincible -- probably now I would not even consider it."
Doug was a helicopter pilot. His first tour was in 1966. He flew troops in and out of battle -- often under fire.
"I volunteered to go back in and pick up some troops that were under pretty heavy fire and we had to make a couple of extractions to get the men out," Doug further recalled about the mission when he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross.
"You can see the fire, you can see the tracers coming at you and you had to go in and sit on the ground a while while they get loaded and then you have to take off and the helicopters aren't the fastest moving thing and so you're kind of exposed out there. You're so busy at the time trying to get everything done and coordinated and in and out that only when you get away from it, maybe you think about how, how it could have been," he said.
Coming under fire was expected on all those daily missions.
"I never got any wounded or shrapnel or anything but their aircraft was hit at times. Usually you didn't know until you got back and was not doing a post flight to see how things were and you'd find a hole here and there and they'd have to patch it up," Doug said.
Amazingly, Doug says his unit didn't lose anyone during his two tours.
"I have no bitterness. And I think that was because I had that didn't suffer the losses of friends and things that other people had in that war, especially the people on the ground. The soldiers on the ground who really suffered.
"The human mind kind of forgets the bad things and remembers the good things, just to keep your sanity, I think. So I remember the good things that we did and the enjoyment of flying," Doug said.
After 20 years in the Army and retiring as a Major, Doug kept flying another 20 years plus -- as a medical helicopter pilot, based in Texarkana beginning in 1991.
"I used what I learned in one situation to help people in another situation," Doug said.
Doug is originally from West Carroll Parish. His military service began at what was then Northeast Louisiana State College in Monroe, where men were required to serve two years in ROTC. Doug says he liked it so much, he stayed on and entered the Army's flight program.