After finishing high school, Fred Dye made a pivotal decision.
He graduated from Cohn High School in Nashville in 1959 and decided to join the Army.
“I just did it,” he said. “You look for something different, something exciting.”
Dye enlisted in 1960 and he went through jump school at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
He served two and a half tours in Vietnam. The Nashville native went there in 1961 for a six-month tour to teach the South Vietnamese soldiers how to use heavy weapons. He returned in 1969 and was there in 1970-71.
Dye served with the 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, 5th Special Forces Group. The infantry Soldier was in Kontum.
“You never were fully relaxed,” Dye said. “You stayed kind of tensed up a lot.”
When he returned for his second tour in Vietnam, he served as commander of Bravo Company which was the exploitation force for Command and Control Central.
“Basically it was small compounds,” he recalled. “You could smell (the stench) … like they burned their crap.
“It always just seemed like the misery of the Vietnamese people. They were born into war and they knew nothing else their entire life. You’ve got to realize, the Japanese occupied their country in World War II. Then the French were there until they booted them out in the 1950s. And then the Americans came. They were born into war and they went to war.
“Even though you were telling yourself you were doing the right thing for the correct cause, these people were caught in the middle. I just felt sorry for so many orphan kids and the old people.”
Dye received three Bronze Star awards, three Meritorious Service awards, two Army Commendation Medals, three Good Conduct awards, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Vietnamese airborne wings.
“I’d like to thank the Redlegs, the artillery guys, who put the round where you wanted it,” he said. “And all the helicopter pilots that were there. And the Air Force guys who flew the fighters that supported you because most of the time they were the only ones who could get to you. And the Air Force guys who flew the gunships, Puff the Magic Dragon and the C-130 gunships.”
Upon returning to the United States, like many of his comrades he saw protesters at airports and he had unpleasant encounters while in uniform in the public.
He served in the enlisted ranks for 10 years until he received his commission. He retired as a major on Aug. 1, 1985, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after 24 and a half years of service.
Dye went to work for Wolverine Tube in Decatur. He retired in 2006 as the corporate logistic and warehousing manager after 23 years.
His wife of more than 59 years, Brenda, died Dec. 26, 2018. His oldest daughter, Shelia Moore, a retired Decatur police detective, died Dec. 28, 2019. His younger daughter, Suzette, is a geologist in Decatur. His son, Brandon, who served four years in the Navy, is a supervisor at Friedman Industries in Decatur. He has a granddaughter, Katlin, in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a grandson, Landon, in Decatur.
At 79 he has resided at Redstone nearly 14 years. He is a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America. He also belongs to the American Legion.
Dye shared his thoughts on this nation’s commemoration of 50 years since the Vietnam War.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think it took a long time to get any kind of recognition that they so greatly deserved and a lot of guys weren’t around to see the recognition given. Sadly a lot of guys weren’t around to see the recognition.”
Editor’s note: This is the 315th in a series of articles about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.