Around August 1969, a Marine unit took over a base in Qui Nhon after an Army unit pulled out. Don Nayman and his fellow Marines found a large bunker so they could relax.
The bunker was constructed out of ammunition crates. That night Nayman and the others used a flashlight to scour the walls looking for handwritten names or hometowns that were familiar.
“All of a sudden, I saw Spc. 4 Douglas W. Nayman, New Market, Alabama,” Nayman recalled. “He was my brother. He helped build the bunker.”
Doug Nayman, the oldest of eight brothers, was already back home by then after his Vietnam tour from 1967-68. Don was there in late 1968-69 with the Marines. Younger brother Neal Nayman was a member of the Navy crews that evacuated the last civilians from Saigon after its fall to the communist forces.
All three are now members of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1067 in Huntsville.
“Our motto is never leave a Soldier behind,” Don Nayman said, referring to the chapter and its involvement in this nation’s commemoration of 50 years since the Vietnam War. “Because we felt like we (the troops returning from that war) were left behind.”
Don, 71, of Huntsville, retired as a maintenance supervisor for a large apartment complex. He served in Vietnam with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
The infantry unit had a rear boundary in Danang and would travel by helicopter to various hot spots as needed. On his first patrol in October 1968, Don saw a Marine lose his legs to a booby trap.
On an operation in spring 1969, the Marines joined the Army, the South Vietnamese army and Korean marines in destroying an enemy railroad trestle used to launch attacks. Don, who was 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds, entered the enemy tunnel looking for bodies and equipment afterward but the Viet Cong had evacuated.
He also remembers the fun times with his comrades during his 13 months in Vietnam. He was a 19-year-old corporal who turned 20 there. Don laughs when he recalls the time he pulled guard duty when he was the temporary prisoner. He had drawn the ire of a superior for wearing a neck chain and not handing it over when ordered. The superior ordered him arrested. Each unit was responsible for guarding their own prisoners so his friends ended up guarding him that night. When the guard grew weary, he asked Don to guard himself and went to sleep. Don took his place on guard duty. After about two hours, the sergeant of the guards happened to stop by to check on things. He asked Don how the prisoner was doing, and Don replied that everything was fine. So the sergeant went on his way.
“That was one of the funniest things that happened to me over there,” Don said of the May 1969 incident.
But Don remembers the names and faces of the friends he lost in Vietnam. He has been to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. When the traveling Wall That Heals visited Huntsville, he went alone in the early morning hours so others wouldn’t see his tears.
“I remember all the good times I had,” he said. “Sometimes I wish I could forget the bad but I can’t. They’re burned in my memory.”
He left the Marines as a corporal after three years. Don and his wife of 46 years, Kathy, have a son and two grandchildren. Their son, Eric, resides in the Moores Mill community.
Most of the eight Nayman brothers were born two years apart in Alabama. Their parents, Thomas and Dorothy Nayman, kept trying for a daughter but gave up after eight sons, Don said. Doug, 77, of Lacey’s Spring, got drafted and became the first of four to enter the military.
Doug served in the Army from 1966-69 and left as a specialist 4. He served in Vietnam 1967-68. “It was an honor to serve,” he said. “It was an honor for me to serve.”
He has two sons, four grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Like his brothers he is a life member of Chapter 1067, Vietnam Veterans of America.
Doug shared his thoughts on this nation’s commemoration of 50 years since the Vietnam War.
“I think it’s great,” he said, “because we deserve it. We deserve to be featured that way.”
Neal, 65, of Hazel Green, served in the Navy from 1972-78. The retiree enjoys woodworking as a hobby. He and his wife of 44 years, Annette, have four children and five grandchildren. He serves as treasurer of Chapter 1067.
Editor’s note: This is the 263rd in a series of articles about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.