After graduating from high school, Fred Dye made a pivotal decision.
He graduated from Cohn High School in Nashville in 1959 and decided to join the army.
“I just did,” he said. “You are looking for something different, something exciting.”
Dye enlisted in 1960 and went to jump school at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
He made two and a half tours in Vietnam. The Nashville native went there in 1961 for a six-month tour to teach South Vietnamese soldiers how to handle heavy weapons. He returned in 1969 and was there in 1970-71.
Dye served with the 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, 5th Special Forces Group. The infantryman was in Kontum.
“You were never completely relaxed,” Dye said. “You remained a little tense.”
When he returned for his second tour of Vietnam, he served as the commander of Bravo Company, which was the command and control center’s operating force.
“Basically, it was small complexes,” he recalls. “You could smell (the stench)… like they were burning their shit.
“It always looked like the misery of the Vietnamese people. They were born in war and they have known nothing else all their lives. You must realize that the Japanese occupied their country during World War II. Then the French were there until they drove them out in the 1950s. And then the Americans came. They were born in war and they went to war.
“Even though you thought you were doing the right thing for the right cause, these people were caught in the middle. I just felt sorry for so many orphaned children and old people.
Dye received three Bronze Star Awards, three Meritorious Service Awards, two Army Medals of Honor, three Good Conduct Awards, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Vietnamese Cross of Bravery, and the Vietnamese Airborne Wings.
“I’d like to thank the Redlegs, the artillery guys, who put the canister where you wanted it,” he said. “And all the helicopter pilots who were there. And the Air Force guys who flew the fighters that supported you because most of the time they were the only ones who could get to you. And the Air Force guys who flew the helicopter gunships, Puff the Magic Dragon and the C-130 gunships.
Upon his return to the United States, like many of his comrades, he saw protesters at airports and he had unpleasant encounters in uniform in public.
He served in the enlisted ranks for 10 years until he received his commission. He retired from Major on August 1, 1985, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after 24½ years of service.
Dye went to work for Wolverine Tube in Decatur. He retired in 2006 as Director of Logistics and Warehousing after 23 years.
His wife of over 59 years, Brenda, died Dec. 26, 2018. His eldest daughter, Shelia Moore, a retired Decatur police detective, died Dec. 28, 2019. His youngest daughter, Suzette, is a geologist at Decatur. His son, Brandon, who served four years in the Navy, is a supervisor at Friedman Industries in Decatur. He has a granddaughter, Katlin, in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a grandson, Landon, in Decatur.
At 79, he resided in Redstone for nearly 14 years. He is a life member of the Disabled American Veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America. He also belongs to the American Legion.
Dye shared his thoughts on commemorating this nation’s 50 years since the Vietnam War.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think it took a long time to get the recognition they so deserved and a lot of guys weren’t there to see the recognition given. Unfortunately, a lot of guys weren’t there to see the recognition.
Editor’s Note: This is the 315th in a series of articles on Vietnam Veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.