JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL) — Moe Baines says he decided to join the military out of respect for his father who served in World War II.
“I was always proud of my dad,” he said.
So in 1966, Baines went to the Johnson City downtown post office to enlist in the United States Army.
(Note: That building is now home to WJHL-TV where we interviewed Baines for this report.)
After training, Baines joined the U.S. Army 5th Special Forces Group and was deployed to Okinawa, Japan.
“I got to jump out of a lot of planes while I was there,” he said.
“We were young men that, based on the time of our birth, we were just asked to do a job, and I really think that the majority of those guys did the best they could possibly do,” Baines said.
By 1968, Baines was ready to put his training to good use. He volunteered to go to Vietnam where the war was escalating daily. There, he was part of the radio communications team helping to coordinate the movement of troops in a jungle war zone.
“Back then, there were no cell phones or anything like that,” he said. “If you didn’t have communications, you were in deep, deep trouble. That was the lifeline.”
Baines said he didn’t face the point-blank range danger that some of his comrades endured on the front lines of combat. But more than once, he and his battalion took enemy fire and grew to listen closely for the sound of incoming fire.
“You lived underground,” he said. “When you hear something like that you hit the sandbags.”
After a year of service, Baines returned home to the Tri-Cities.
“God brought me back here for a reason, he said. “Sometimes I wonder what it was, but, I’m here.”
His mission these days is supporting veterans and veterans organizations in the Tri-Cities.
One of his passions is visiting local schools and telling students about Vietnam.
“‘Veteran’ is a title that you earn, and that’s something that can never be taken away from you,” he said.