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Vietnam veteran Chuck Elrod tells his story

Cleveland's Chuck Elrod worked in the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. He fought in Vietnam in 1968-1969. (Image: WTVC)

Chuck Elrod grew up in North Chattanooga, and dreamed of joining the military.

When he was 14 he joined the National Guard. He was 17 when he joined the Marine Corps, but that was short lived. A few years later he joined the Army, and all of that is just the very beginning of his military story.

A wall in the back of home is filled with memories of a lifetime of service.

"I got the Bronze star from Vietnam," Mr. Elrod said.

He served in the Army. Then he got out, but was called back in 1960. During the Vietnam War he was appointed to work at the Pentagon and served under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during his time in Washington D.C.

"I worked with an operation when I was in the Pentagon with the Secretary of Defense," Mr. Elrod said. "We had a covert operation in Vietnam. (it was) Classified, and we had an individual who got killed so I went over and replaced him."

He was in Vietnam March 1968 to March 1969.

"Of course the things we did over there is classified. I can't talk about (it)," Mr. Elrod said.

He came back from the war and later left Washington. He went to Alaska to be an adviser to a National Guard unit.

"That's where I got the Soldiers Medal which is the highest heroic medal you can get for saving lives," Mr. Elrod said.

It was 1971. He was driving down a road, and he saw a big group of people.

"We had a condemned dock there that had signs on it to stay off. There were four or five kids out there playing. One five year old fell through in about sixty foot of water," Mr. Elrod said. "25 degrees, the fifteen year old brother jumped in after her. (He) couldn't swim, and I happen to come around the corner and just people standing there hollering, not doing anything. So, I just ran down and dove into the water. (I) went out and got the fifteen (year old, and) brought him back."

He then went back out, and rescued the five year old girl.

"She was in the water about fifteen minutes about the same amount of time I was," Mr. Elrod. "Life expectancy was only 5 to 8 minutes."

Both of the children survived.

"You know the military trains you to respond without thinking, you know, and it works," Mr. Elrod said.

He retired from the military in 1977, but he learned lessons he carries with him today.

"I matured. I learned to take care of myself. I learned to be a team player, and learned what it was really to be an American," Mr. Elrod said.


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