Honoring area veteransPublished 7:04pm Thursday, November 8, 2012
Jerry Nelon of Nelon Knoll Farms in Pea Ridge knows the exact day he flew to Vietnam because fellow veteran and lifelong friend Jimmy Arledge reminded him.
Arledge was with him on Jan. 6, 1970. The two grew up together in Polk County, did basic training together and flew on the same plane to Vietnam that day. Once they arrived, however, they didn’t see each other again until returning home.
Polk County has many Vietnam veterans like Nelon and Arledge, several of which have connected over the years and attend support meetings.
Nelon said through technology he has connected with other soldiers he served with across the country and locally. Nelon was drafted in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam for about a year in 1970. He was 20 years old at the time.
Nelon said he volunteered to serve in Vietnam because his brother was already over there. To this day his memories remain vivid.
He said the longest he ever spent in the field was 60 days where he ate WWII rations, dealt with leeches and monsoons and wasn’t able to shower the entire time.
He carried M60 machine guns and said his load on the 60-day field time included carrying a case of rations, 11 quarts of water, an M60 machine gun, 300 rounds of ammunition belts, two frag grenades, two smoke grenades and an ammo box with writing paper in it.
On the trip he found a Vietnamese chainsaw that remains in his possession today.
“Everyone in my squad got some kind of souvenir,” Nelon said. “I sent it home and had it stored for 40-something years.”