Wayne Reynolds joined the Army in 1966 during the Vietnam War because he wanted to serve his country.
“I grew up in Columbus, Georgia, and had a sense of patriotic duty. My family has always served in the military,” Reynolds said.
He was the oldest 12 children – nine boys and three girls. Their father, George, was a fireman who had served as a paratrooper in World War II. Their mother, Lilly, was a homemaker.
Reynolds served in the Army from August 1966 until March 1969. The specialist five was a medic in Vietnam from March 1968 to March 1969.
On May 24 the Athens resident was reelected to another four-year term on the State Board of Education, representing District 8 which is North Alabama. He was first elected in 2018 and entered office in 2019.
After the North Vietnamese forces launched the Tet Offensive, Jan. 31, 1968, the Army ordered his hospital unit to Vietnam. They were flown from Fort Benning, Georgia, to Long Beach, California, where they left for Vietnam aboard a ship.
Reynolds became a medic with the 95th Evacuation Hospital in Da Nang. The 21-year-old was a pharmacy specialist “but in Vietnam you worked as a medic, they didn’t really need pharmacists,” he said. In August 1968, he was sent north to the 22nd Surgical Hospital in Phu Bai.
“During the time I was in Vietnam, it was an extremely heavy time. That was the time approximately 550 people were killed every week which is intense casualties,” Reynolds said. “We treated wounded patients in the hospital unit, and we were often working 18-20 hours a day because of the casualties.”
Reynolds spent most of his time taking patient litters off the helicopters and working on the ward of the hospital. They treated Soldiers and Marines who were wounded from mortars, improvised explosive devices and gunshots.
“It was an all-encompassing desire to save lives and minimize the trauma to patients –
both physical and mental,” Reynolds said. “We had mortar attacks but most of the time our role was bringing in patients, providing them care and moving them to more extensive care or back to their units.
“I remember the intensity of the care and the dedication of all of the medical staff.”
He received the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the National Defense Medal. In March 1969, he returned to the U.S. and was discharged and separated from the Army at Fort Lewis, Washington. The Soldiers received new uniforms when they were at Fort Lewis because they flew in wearing jungle fatigues.
When he arrived in uniform at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, to change planes for the trip to Atlanta, antiwar protesters screamed at him and spat on him.
“That’s the first time I encountered antiwar protesters, because I entered the Army in Columbus, Georgia, in 1966 and never experienced that kind of action,” he said. While he was in the Army, his next oldest sibling, Thomas, now of Brunswick, Georgia, was in the Navy. Thomas served off the coast of Vietnam.
Reynolds graduated from the University of Georgia in 1971 with a bachelor’s in education and a master’s in 1972. He received his doctorate in education in 1980 from Auburn University. After retiring from public education, he received an associate degree in nursing from Calhoun in 2001.
He was a marketing teacher from 1972-79 in Columbus, Georgia. He was assistant superintendent in Troy for Pike County schools from 1979-84. Reynolds was superintendent of schools in Tarrant from 1984-89. He served as superintendent of Athens schools from 1989 until he retired in 1994.
Reynolds and his wife of 52 years, Carol, have two children and two grandchildren. Their daughter, Paige Reynolds Walker, of Madison, works at Redstone as an Army project manager and engineer. Their son, Wesley, a neurologist in Denver, Colorado, served four years in the Air Force and left as a major. Their granddaughter, Savannah, is a senior majoring in chemistry at the University of Alabama. Their grandson, Stuart, is a sophomore at Bob Jones High School. Both are Paige’s children.
Now 75 Reynolds played golf until he was diagnosed with cancer and a stroke. His cancer was associated with Agent Orange, he said. He has an 80% disability rating from Veterans Affairs.
He has served as president of the Vietnam Veterans of America state council since 1999. He also belongs to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans.
Reynolds shared his thoughts on this nation’s commemoration of 50 years since the Vietnam War.
“I think it’s long overdue, but much appreciated,” he said. “When I wear a ribbon or even my hat, I’m received very warmly. I’m humbled and honored at the way I’m received now compared to what happened in 1969.
“It means a lot to all of us. We don’t expect anything else except to be acknowledged that we provided honorable service to our country.”
Editor’s note: This is the 374th in a series of articles about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.