Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd talks with Larry Rhodes, a National Guard veteran and a member of the Indiana Rangers, about his time in the Guard.
Brad Byrd: Welcome to in-depth tonight. We’re talking about heading into harm’s way. Today and fifty years ago. As we reported, members of the 206th Engineer Battalion based in Owensboro will be heading overseas tomorrow. 50 years ago, Company D (Ranger), 151st infantry of the Indiana Army National Guard arrived in Vietnam. The Indiana Rangers were assigned intelligence-gathering missions. Operating deep in enemy territory. The men of Company D were decorated 538 times more than any other army infantry company during any one-year period in Vietnam. Joining me now tonight is one of those men, Larry Rhodes, a national guard veteran, a member of the Indiana rangers. Larry’s service to his country did not stop in Vietnam. He has provided support for veterans and members of the Guard who have been deployed in Indiana. And Larry, you’ve been there, you’ve done that.
Larry Rhodes: Yes sir.
Brad Byrd: And you told me earlier tonight you’re so unselfish with what you have done, you said this is not about you, but in many ways, it is as a role model. Those men and women in Owensboro who are being deployed and this is a classified mission, what would you tell them?
Larry Rhodes: I’d tell the people of the unit the men and women of their engineering company, that they need to rely on their training. They’ve all had adequate training to be in a warzone, they know their job, and they need to fall back on that. I’m gonna go there and do my job to the best of my ability and that’s the best I can do.
Brad Byrd: And the National Guard, sometimes, has unfairly been, well perception has not been kind at least in some people’s eyes. But it has played such a critical role and especially in these dangerous times.
Larry Rhodes: Sure.
Brad Byrd: Tell me about that.
Larry Rhodes: In the 60’s there were very few national guardsmen who got activated about 10,000. The draft was heavy at that point. And the military was full might. But in times since there’s been a reduction in the number of active duty people. And when two wars came about at the same time, Iraq and Afghanistan, they didn’t have enough actives so, they started calling up the Guards. And that’s been a trend ever since then – ever since the early 2000s. When they need more men, they either call up the Army Reserve or the National Guard.
Brad Byrd: And you started really getting involved helping vets in the Guard and active members in the early 2000s. What brought that on? What was the spark that prompted you to do that?
Larry Rhodes: Well, I saw the need. I finally realized that those who stay behind have it a lot more rough than those who go away. Because if you’re in the military they give you every possible thing you need to survive and eat and shelter. But those who stay home, don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know the training the men have had. The loneliness they experience. The men have each other in a very close quarters most of the time and they build a nice tight comradery among themselves. So, they got friendship right there before they even left for active duty.
Brad Byrd: And how many were in your company? Company D.
Larry Rhodes: 210 men.
Brad Byrd: 210 – this was a diverse group, there were people of color in this group – it was very, very diverse. I’m going to list some names right now, and Charlie Larkins, Robert Smith, Peter Bagatelli, Skip Aranoski and George Clyler. Did I get that right?
Larry Rhodes: Yes, all men who died.
Brad Byrd: They did not come home?
Larry Rhodes: They did not.
Brad Byrd: It struck me on Tuesday that you said those who did not come home are heroes, those who did come home, are survivors. Why’d you use that terminology?
Larry Rhodes: Well because I think – personally – I don’t think I’m a hero at all. I did my job, yes, did what the military told me and carried a lot of weapons and ammunition and survived it. And by the grace of god, I didn’t even get injured. Everyone who was around me got injured – shot. Someone maybe three feet from me would get injured and I wouldn’t. And why was I so lucky? Like I said by the grace of god. So, I don’t feel like a hero, those who gave their lives are definitely the heroes. They died in the course of action. And I would think a lot of men think they’re just survivors.
Brad Byrd: And many of the men and women who are serving now, you do so many of the things like the homecoming parades or the parades before they take off and just the emotional support you give and it has taken money to do this.
Larry Rhodes: Sure.
Brad Byrd: Tell me about the financial end of this real quick.
Larry Rhodes: Well, I have been very fortunate that the local businesses and community have been able to supply us with funds when in need that we are able to pass onto those families. Primarily because our take was, we’re going to take care of the person who stays behind, whether they need food, housing, auto repairs, whatever their problems were – we’ve been able to do that, take care of them. And we’ve been happy to do so because only though by the fortunate open wallets that some people have to support that idea. And support is important because if they don’t get it on the home front, they’re sure not gonna get it on the war front.
Brad Byrd: And I know in a day in age where the word hero is sometimes used mistakenly to describe an individual. I have to say you break the mold on that. You’re more than a survivor and I can only say thank you for your service Larry. And thank you for the help of these men and women putting themselves in harm’s way.
Larry Rhodes: Thanks, Brad.
This story was originally published on July 25, 2019