Robert L. Powell
Spec 4
U. S. Army
Dates of Service: 03/11/1965 - March 1967
Interrogator, 519th Military Intelligence BN

Robert was born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1943 and raised in Longstreet by his grandmother. At his grandmother's home the family worked out in the field picking peas and planting crops. Later, his uncle Ervin Powell took him to Minden, Louisiana where he attended J. L. Jones Elementary School and graduated from Webster High School in 1962. He attended Grambling State College volunteering for the draft three years later. After joining the Army he was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana for Basic Training where he encountered racial prejudice for the first time, something that had never happened in Minden. After Basic he went to Fort Gordon, Georgia and then to Fort Bragg where he attended language school learned the Vietnamese language. With this skill he then went to Fort Gordon for military intelligence training where he developed skill in conducting intelligence interrogations. He left for Vietnam in September of 1966 on board the USS Garden taking 30 days to get to Cam Ranh Bay. From Cam Ranh he was sent to Saigon where he served as an interrogator in the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion. It was here that the Viet Cong soldiers began calling him den Kon Cho meaning "black bull". Because of the overt racism he encountered he says he found it difficult to trust his fellow soldiers. Most of the officers were white while many sergeants were black. After discharge he had a great distrust for all Vietnamese. He was later diagnosed with delayed PTSD. He met his future wife, Joan Marie Yates, in California and they were married in 1974. His lack of trust from Vietnam carried over to his life at home and he went to a psychiatrist at Loma Linda to help him deal with it. His wife lifted him up and told him to stay faithful and that it would work out and was instructing him on loving everyone. At church his pastor was telling him to love everybody no matter what they do and his pastor's wife was teaching him forgiveness. He says with their help he has been able to overcome these troubles! Robert is retired now but he and Joan are active in their church in Riverside where he is in charge of security. They have eight children and thirty-nine grandchildren.