Melvin L. Powers
Sergeant First Class
U. S. Army
Dates of Service: 06/17/1959 - 10/15/1971
Forward Observer, 3rd BN 60th Infantry BG

Melvin was born at home in Winnsboro, Louisiana, as one of three children to Robert and Letha Bryan Powers. "We were farmers with mules," he says of his family and their 40-acre farm. They lived in a house with no electricity or running water, and did not own an automobile. By mule, then with tractor, the elder Powers raised 17 acres of cotton, along with corn for the cows, mules, and hogs, as well as vegetables for the kitchen. "We raised what we ate," says Melvin, who worked with his father on the farm in summer and after school. Meanwhile, his father worked at a recap tire shop for 30 dollars a week. Melvin began his education in a school that included grades one through 12. After graduating from high school in 1958, he found few job opportunities, so he enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 17, 1959. He completed basic training at Fort Carson, Colorado, then was sent to Fort Ord near Monterey, California where he trained as a truck driver. From Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia he was sent to Gelnhausen, Germany with 3rd Infantry Division. Melvin drove light vehicles and served as jeep driver for a platoon leader and a forward observer. He also attended 7th Army NCO Academy and became a sergeant. Melvin was posted to Fort Polk near Leesville, Louisiana in "May or June" of 1963. On October 12, 1963 he married Carolyn Townsend. (They would have three children, ten grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.) Melvin was involved in Operation BIG LIFT and sent back to Germany. He returned to Fort Polk the next fall, but a year later was again posted to Germany, this time at Aschaffenburg, with 3rd Infantry Division. At Fort Riley, Kansas in May of 1966 he joined 9th Infantry Division. His battalion left by ship for South Vietnam on December 1, 1966 and arrived on December 22. Melvin was placed in 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Brigade. The battalion was based first at Bearcat, a tent city, where he was in Headquarters Company and in charge of perimeter guards. The battalion then went to Dong Tam base camp near My Tho where it conducted cordon and search operations. As a member of Headquarters Company, Melvin served as S-5 NCO. He facilitated MEDCAP missions in taking doctors out to civilians. "That was part of winning the hearts and minds," he says. Melvin left Vietnam in November of 1967. At Fort Stewart near Hinesville, Georgia, he worked in the post adjutant's office in charge of the casualty branch. Melvin spent his last three years in service at the Pentagon, where he worked in intelligence. Because of the high cost of living in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, he lived on post and at night worked at Sears and Roebuck. After a one-month leave he returned to discover his job was abolished. An E-7, he was placed in the mailroom. "That was the best job I ever had. I could be through in two or three hours," he remarks. He left service on October 15, 1971 and returned to Winnsboro. He farmed and was employed at a service station until he joined the U.S. Postal Service, retiring after five years later. In summarizing the Vietnam War he remarks, "We got whipped in Vietnam. Like it or lump it. Either way you look at it we got whipped. We got run out."