Just another soldier

by David Buchanan, Curator of Decorative Objects and Furniture

Museum curator David Buchanan served in the U.S. Air Force from 1969 to 1977.

I never considered myself a “hero”; just another who volunteered. Though I lost friends and classmates to the war in Vietnam, my personal experiences just lead to wonderful memories. I was an Air Force chapel manager, handling administrative duties thus freeing the Chaplain for spiritual duties. I was also his personal bodyguard. Because he was expected to liaison with the civilian religious leaders, I was one of the few who left the base for surrounding civilian communities.

I often wonder what happened to the wonderful people I met through those trips, like those running the leprosy camp (where I heard a Vietnamese Christmas carol sung to the tune of “Old Black Joe”), the Catholic priest whose French parents had emigrated to Vietnam and he’d been born and raised there, and the missionaries who ran the orphanage with many mixed race children from American servicemen.

Viet Cong mortars came in about once a month and, during the attacks, I was supposed to use the building’s earth-filled ammo box and sandbag shelter.  Instead I would just curl into a corner.  Pit vipers had been found inside our shelter during inspections and I’d rather take a chance with shrapnel than cuddle with a viper!

Honor Indiana’s veterans and active military personnel this fall at the Indiana State Museum. Heroes from the Heartland, a photo display, runs from Nov. 1 through Veterans Day, Nov. 12, 2012. Submit photos of your Hoosier Hero to kcreagh@indianamuseum.org and include the following information:

  • Name:
  • Date of service:
  • Branch of military:
  • Hometown or Indiana connection:
  • Submitted by:
Photos will be accepted through Oct. 25, 2012. Please view our 2012 Heroes from the Heartland photo album on Flickr.