Vietnam veteran Lynn Hagen wears a different uniform these days.
Hagen, who turned 80 in early August, is active in the Boy Scouts along with his wife, Karin. He has served 55 years in Scouting and he retired from the Army after 23 years.
His military career started in 1958 as an electronic repairer. “Calibration was really in its infancy,” Hagen said.
He started out in France when the Army established two calibration teams.
Hagen spent a short time in Vietnam in 1964 before the Gulf of Tonkin incident that August led to more direct U.S. involvement in the war. He remembers sitting in a bar in Saigon and hearing the U.S. president comment that “we don’t have anybody in Vietnam.”
“I said ‘what am I doing here?’” Hagen recalled of his reaction.
He was one of two repairmen assigned to Vietnam for 45 days with a calibration team. They operated out of a white 5-ton calibration van. “You can’t miss that truck,” Hagen said of its visibility.
“We repaired equipment and turned it over to the calibration team so they could calibrate it,” he said. Hagen didn’t experience mortar attacks but he recalls that the team chief, a warrant officer, initially decided their equipment would be stationed at an ammunition dump. But “when the first salvo came in,” they had to move their equipment, he said laughing.
“Most of the time the people (in Vietnam) were wonderful. We didn’t have any problems,” Hagen said.
The Falls Church, Virginia, native became a Cub Scout in 1947. He spent three years as a Cub Scout and then one year as a Boy Scout. He graduated from McLean High School where his former Scoutmaster became a teacher.
He went to college but that didn’t work out too well. He figured he was going to be drafted so he enlisted. His specialty was electronic repairman and calibration.
After leaving Vietnam, Hagen was selected to attend calibration school at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He became an adult Scout leader in 1968 in Aberdeen and he served as a Scoutmaster in Germany in the early 1970s. Hagen arrived in Huntsville from Germany in 1979. He retired in August 1981 at Redstone as a sergeant first class whose job was new equipment training. He worked for Boeing for 13 years until retiring in 1994.
Hagen has held various leadership positions with the Boy Scouts through the years. He serves on the council committee for the Greater Alabama Council. Karin, his wife of 20 years, also serves on the Talakto District Committee of Madison County. They met through Scouting but are not as active with the organization as they used to be.
“He’s been ill for a number of years (since a stroke and with chemotherapy),” Karin explained.
“It’s a good organization that helps morale,” Hagen said. “Good clean living for boys and girls now.”
Besides serving with the Boy Scouts, Hagen likes to read and watching football. He and Karin reside in Huntsville. Hagen’s son, Eddie, resides in Huntsville; and his daughter, Susan, lives in Harvest. He has a grandson, Jamal Edwards. Karin has a son, JR Collins of Waverly.
Hagen said he appreciates this nation’s commemoration of 50 years since the Vietnam War. He received a Vietnam veteran lapel pin last year during a National Vietnam War Veterans Day observance at the Exchange and Commissary.
“A lot of people just really felt bad about us going to Vietnam and they did things that they shouldn’t have,” he said. “I felt good about what I did.”
Editor’s note: This is the 231st in a series of articles about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.