B. T. Cherry

B. T. Cherry slips on the Green Beret he wore as part of Army Special Forces in the Vietnam War.

TYLER, Tx -- B. T. Cherry was looking for a way out of Shreveport's Cedar Grove area. His path took him to mountain villages in the Vietnam War, convincing indigenous people to fight on the side of freedom, as a Green Beret.

“We had to go out and find people, train them, teach them, arm them, and clothe them, and turn them into a fighting force, B. T. says of his Army Special Forces duty.

Those people? Montagnards. Primitive natives of the highlands. They traded their crossbows for military weapons in alliance with the US and our Vietnamese counterparts to fight the spread of Communism in southeast Asia.

"I'm giving goodies for their families to keep them from giving us away, because they could give us away. And never bat an eye," B. T. said.

The Montagnards knew the territory. Their help was needed to seal off hidden supply routes of the Viet Cong enemy.

"Dangerous. You're in harm's way. 24-7," B. T. said of his deployments. The first one was in 1965.

"First night I was out with my group, damn if a training camp it looked like that come in across the border. We were detected. I had already called for Spooky," B. T. recalled.

Spooky was the nickname for the AC-47 attack plane. It provided firepower from the sky.

"Had it not been for them. We would have been toast," B. T. says.

B.T. put 30 years in the Army, retiring as a sergeant major. He earned the Legion of Merit award, along with medals for Meritorious Service and a Bronze Star, among many others.

"I had some ups and downs. But I was proud to be part of change. And to see change around me," he says.

He celebrated his 75th birthday on a high note. Jumping back to his days training for airborne, B.T. made one more parachute jump.

He's had lots of other experiences after the Army. He was a court mediator and CASA volunteer in San Antonio; a realtor and a trainer of social service workers in Virginia; and he helped military retirees transition to civilian jobs, and he hosted a public affairs show on television in Alaska.

B. T. is now 86 and makes his home in Tyler, Texas.

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