A Veteran who continues to serve his country
Bobby Vincent, 75, moved to Bridge City in 1947 and started school at Hatton Elementary. He is more than just a retired industrial engineer. He’s a United States Veteran. It was December 1954 and he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
He served eight years with active service, active reserve and inactive reserve. His basic training was at Fort Bliss in El Paso, from there Vincent went to Burlington, Wash. shipping out to Korea. Most of the fight was over with and the truce meetings were still going on, but there were still skirmishes and combat situations developing.
“Because of my critical MOS, which is your job duty, they pulled me off [deployment to Korea] and we set up one of the first NIKE missiles for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Port Orchard, Washington,” Vincent said.
He was sent to Germany after a short stay at Port Orchard, Wash. “I spent the duration of my tour in Germany as Operations and Intelligence Detachment Specialist,” Vincent said.
“While I was in Germany, we saw the devastation that was still there. The only thing that I was a frustrated with was that we never met any of the German Nazis,” he said. “No one belonged to the Nazi party, but somebody had to of because they were in total control of the country. We did find one that was with the Gestapo [the secret police of Nazi Germany]. He had a lightening bolt tattoo on his arm. Someone questioned him on it and finally admitted [belonging to the Gestapo].”
Vincent said they met a lot of German people because they worked in the camps with the U.S. soldiers. ” We had a lot of people that were displaced from the countries that Hitler had over-run. They were in a compound next to us and they took care of doing odd end jobs. In return, they were given clothes to wear, food to eat and a place to stay.”
He was also able to visit some of the empty concentration camps in Germany. “You can’t realize that one human being would do that to another,” he said. “It was just sad.”
“While I was in Europe, the Hungarian Revolution broke out and we thought we’d get pulled into that,” Vincent said. “We went from stand-by to full alert. Thank God we didn’t [have to go]. It got pretty sticky for a few days because we didn’t know what the Russians were going to do.”
Vincent said that the Army had a portable communications van that would travel around Europe. “I spent a lot of hours in that seat, sometimes 30/40 hours at a time,” he said. “Those are combat conditions, but it does take it’s tole.”
After one tour of duty, Vincent went home and served with the Military Police (MP) Reserve for almost four years. He then stayed in the inactive reserves for two years.
“When you get drafted, you have no choice in where you get sent.” Vincent said he doesn’t resent being drafted because “there were a lot of people before me that didn’t come back.”
He went to work at DuPont after he got out of the service and stayed there until 1975. Vincent ended up going to college. He received a degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University in 1973. In the mid-1980s, he went to work for Jacobs Engineering and retired in 2009. “I tried to retire in 2000, when I turned 65, they kept calling me back,” Vincent said.
Vincent said his first wife died in 1997 and he started dating his current wife, Pam, in 2001 and were married on Feb. 13, 2004. “Between Pam and I, we have six children,” Vincent said. “We’ve got 12 grandchildren, ages one to 28.” Pam runs Luv Lingerie in Bridge City.
“Now we’re just trying to get back on our feet from [Hurricane] Ike,” he said. His current house was three weeks away from being ready to move in. The house they were living in had seven feet of water and the current house had three. “No pitty party story,” he said. “We’ve done well.”
“I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to go to Thailand, China, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, I’ve been everywhere but the two poles and I have no desire to go there. It’s too cold,” Vincent said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to see most of the world and to see how fortunate and blessed we are in the [United States].”
“I get so upset that the patriotism in this country has gone to pot,” Vincent said. “You go to a ball game, or something, and they play the National Anthem. People are talking. Kids are running around. They could just care less. Do you realize how many people have died to protect that flag and how many sacrificed several years of their life for that flag? I gave eight years of my life and there are people who have given their life. Eight years is nothing compared to your life. They are due. I take my hat off to them.”
“I never miss Veteran’s Day, I never miss going to the memorials, I don’t do it,” he said as he teared up.
Vincent spends most time working with the American Legion Post 250 in Bridge City. He is the post and District 2 chaplain. At a recent state departmental convention in Beaumont he heard some news that pulled at the heart strings. Bill Alexander, the director of The American Legion Children’s Home in Ponca City, Okla., came to this convention to talk to us to help financially keep the Home open. “The Lord put the burden on my heart to do something,” Vincent said.
The American Legion Children’s Home was founded in 1928 as an orphanage for children ages 11 to 18, of veterans who could no longer care for their children. It has been called home to approximately 8,000 children and is the only home out of the original four left.
“I guess the reason I’ve got a special feeling for that is that I was an orphan, although I was adopted, I was left in an abandoned Phillips station in New Orleans,” he said. Vincent was six months old at the time. “It’s not a pitty party, God has blessed me and that’s just a fact.”
A few months back, Vincent made a proposal to the American Legion Post 250 in Bridge City to ask for $1 per member to be donated to The American Legion Children’s Home. Post 250 and the district passed the proposal and it is now sitting at the state level. Vincent was hoping that if the state passed it, then it would go to the national offices in Indianapolis, then all 2.3 million members would donate to help the Home.
Unfortunately, on Thursday, Oct. 28, the Department Executive Committee of the American Legion of Oklahoma and also the Board of the American Legion Children’s Home voted to shut down the home on Friday, Dec. 31. Reasons cited were liabilities, recent financial cuts by DHS and the children in the Home are not all veteran’s children, which was the original mission of the Home.
Vincent said he anticipated this, but plans on fighting until the very end. “Not until the fat lady sings,” he said. “This is the only home that’s left, it’s in troubled water,” Vincent said. The members of Post 250 have donated several hundred dollars. Vincent and his wife, Pam, donated $1,000 worth of appliances; washer, dryers, stove, etc., to the home. The Vincents drove the appliances from Bridge City to Ponca City, Okla., which is roughly 622 miles, to deliver these appliances. The Post in Port Arthur plans on hosting a Bingo night where all proceeds will go to the Home. Local churches have agreed to send clothing to the children. Even though, the home is closing down, it will still house 44 children until after the holidays.
There are individual city posts and some cities have multiple posts depending on the size. Each post is under the direction of a district (Bridge City/Orangefield post is under District 2). Then each district answers to the state department. The American Legion Department of Texas currently has 48,021 members.
To join the American Legion, one must be a veteran, retired or honorably discharged, and can be from any branch of the military: Army, Navy, Marine Corp., Air Force or Coast Guard. They meet on the second Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Circle Baptist Church in Bridge City. Vincent is currently looking for a piece of land for Post 250.
The American Legion also sponsors the American Legion Riders, the Ladies Auxiliary and the Sons of the Legion. For more information on The American Legion, visit www.legion.org.