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Julia Nielsen

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A War-Torn Hero
By Julia Nielsen   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Posted: Wednesday, August 08, 2007

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A short memoir of my uncle and his sacrifice, albeit one that was after the war, but a sacrifice nonetheless, in the war-torn fields of Vietnam

Vaughn Newbold

Born just after the baby boomers of the forties, Vaughn Newbold was a red-haired, pudgy boy, with fair skin and a mischievous smile. Being the baby of the family was his excuse to create havoc and mayhem for his sisters, particularly his oldest sister, Georgia, even though they were very close.

Vaughn loved to fish, hunt, but the love of his life was baseball. Georgia went to all of his games, where he was a short stop, no doubt dazzling all of the girls with his freckles and red hair.

Vaughn was very patriotic, reveling in the Fourth of July each year. The family always went to the parade down Main Street in Magna, Utah and the carnival all day, followed by a baseball game, before settling down with blankets at night, to watch the dazzle of fireworks that colored the sky.

He hunted deer with his father and uncle all over the mountains of Utah, with one of his catches hanging gracefully above the mantel in his home. Vaughn took care of his older sisters, making sure they were well protected, even though he was the “little brother.”

In 1968, just after Vaughn turned nineteen, he became passionate about the military and enlisted in the U.S. Marines; it was in the middle of Vietnam. Immediately, he was sent to six weeks of boot camp in Camp Pendleton, in San Diego California. There, he learned the meaning of discipline, determination and hard work, and was ready to fulfill his duty to his country.

When the family learned he would be driving a truck as a mine sweeper, they were relieved, thinking he wouldn’t be fighting in the front lines; they only found out after, that his job was of a mine sweeper, who drove around a truck that looked for mines and any causality that resulted from explosions. Many of the dead he buried were his buddies. For two years, he put his life on the line, keeping to the oath of protecting America and her freedom, all the while, the family back home, prayed that he would come home, alive.

In 1970, Vaughn was suddenly taken out of the rice patties because his mother tried to kill herself. The Red Cross brought him home; he had had only six weeks left.

Afterwards, the war-torn soldier tried to fit back into a normal lifestyle, trying to ignore the countries distaste and unsupportive behavior, but the war traumatized him, as much as anyone else who had to fight. He began drinking to numb the pain, to forget the horrid he experienced. He always told people he should have died with his fellow soldiers, often showing pictures of the reality that was Vietnam.

When Vaughn was older, he worked for Kennecott Mining Company with his father and many uncles, often going down to the lake after work to do some fishing. It was his passion, to hunt for his food, fish and deer; he said it made him feel like a man.

In 1971, he married Kay Wagstaff in Las Vegas and had two children, red-haired Dawn and blond-haired Amber, the spitting image of her mother. He doted on his children, often taking them camping and fishing. Many times, cousins stayed over, playing in the basement. Not once, did he mind; they were always welcome.

Vaughn and his wife divorced, when the children were young, but he continued to have quality visits with them, until they were older. The family always remembered Vaughn with a drink in his hand, either laying out by the pool in the backyard, watching a baseball or football game or at holiday events. It became his trademark, something that he couldn’t live without. In fact, he was the happiest while drinking; again, something he thought could never be otherwise.

The older he became, the more he seemed to drift away, using the bottle as his friend and escape route. Doctors had said he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and that he wasn’t alone, but Vaughn, by this time, couldn’t stop his deadly habit. He continued to drink, which gave him Cirrhosis of the liver.

The one bright spot in his life was marrying his nurse, who took care of him after he had a liver transplant at the age of 47. She was good and kind, never complaining, always positive. The doctor had told him he could never drink again, but to Vaughn, it was a death sentence.

Vaughn did begin to drink again, four years after the transplant, and unfortunately, his words rang true ; less than 3 years later, he died of a massive heart attack, at the age of 50. His liver, though, was in perfect condition and donated to a worthy recipient.

He left behind a wife, four children and three grandchildren. He was buried at Camp Williams, with a full military salute.

Vaughn will always be remembered for doing anything for anybody, no matter what it was. He was truly a good Samaritan, one who knew that a kind word or deed went a long way in making someone’s day.

His niece, Julia L. Nielsen, wrote a poem that her mother asked to write as a tribute to her “little brother,” She read it at his funeral.

Dear Little Brother

Dear little brother
As we say goodbye
On this cold, winter day
I thank God for having you
in my life.

Dear little brother
My tears are wet, my heart sad
But I know you’re happy
At peace, at last.

Dear little brother
You came to earth
From Heaven above
To loving Parents
And became a man.

Dear little brother
You sacrificed your heart and soul
You went to war
Brother, you took a stand.

Dear little brother
You fought
in the name of the country you loved
The bitterness
between two lands,

You saw heartache and pain
Time and time again
But you trudged on
You were not to blame

Dear little brother
Your service
will not be forgotten
Your life we'll celebrate.

Dear little brother
We'll remember
the good times
The times
you were so brave.

Dear little brother
We honor you
We'll miss you
Until we meet again.

Dear little brother
We bid farewell
We salute you
Our love
Will never end.

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