Danny O. Welch
U. S. Army
Dates of Service: 04/29/1970 - 10/1976
Infantry rifleman, 101st Airborne Air Mobile

Danny was born in his grandparents' home in a community called Syco, between Sylacauga and Sycamore, Alabama. His father was William Welch, a superintendent for a gas company, and his mother, Missouri Anne Sinclair. The family later moved to Liddieville, Louisiana, a small community about eight miles from Winnsboro. While his father worked in his uncle's country store, Danny harvested pecans, hauled hay, and picked and chopped cotton. He was paid two cents per pound for cotton he picked. In 1966 the family moved to Eunice, Louisiana, where Danny graduated from Eunice High School in 1969. He went to work with his father at the gas company reading and maintaining meters. Knowing he would be drafted (his lottery number was sixty-six) he volunteered and was sent to Fort Polk near Leesville, Louisiana, for basic training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) in infantry. He finished in September of 1970. Fourteen days later he was en route to Vietnam aboard Capital Air Lines, a charter. He arrived at Tan Son Nhut, a staging area. "It smelled like a hog pen," he says of Vietnam. He was assigned to Charlie Company, 3187th Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division. He was sent to Camp Evans for an extra week of AIT, then took a helicopter to reach his platoon. "The first night I was there I was sent on an ambush," he recalls. Danny carried an M40 grenade launcher, and later an M203, a combination rifle and grenade launcher. When he left base camp he says he had to carry in his rucksack enough C rations for seven days--twenty-one meals. "It was all cans," he says. In addition to food and his own ammunition, he carried an extra 200 to 250 rounds of machine gun ammunition, claymore mines, water, and personal gear--all weighing more than 100 pounds. He left Vietnam in good physical shape, he says, "probably the best shape in my life. We could just walk for days with this hundred-pound rucksack. Just walk." Often their operations lasted ninety days before returning to the rear for a seven-day rest. He married while in Vietnam, coming home on a convalescence leave to wed Shirley Berry in December of 1970. Danny says no one in his platoon was killed, although several were wounded, including him. He was hit in a mortar attack while on an operation to retrieve men killed in action. Fragments of the mortar round, he says, remain in his leg. Danny recalls the immense camaraderie of the platoon. "It's probably as close as you could ever be to a human being of the same sex as far as camaraderie," he says. He returned to the states in September of 1971. After a thirty-day leave he reported to Fort Hood, near Killeen, Texas, and joined Second Battalion, Forty-first Infantry, Second Armored Division. He was released from the service on January 18, 1972. Danny returned to the service in 1973 for three years, serving in Company A, Fifth Troop Transportation Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. He worked in avionics as an equipment repairman. Danny earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam. After returning, he says he was "kind of nervous. Firecrackers drove me crazy for a good while," he says. He returned to Eunice and worked as a butcher and for the gas company until 1995. He now splits time between Shreveport and Chicago. He has one son (another was killed in a traffic accident) and two grandchildren.