Events that shaped us 

DeGreve Oil Change
1618 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

DeGreve Oil change
3560 N Brady St
Davenport, IA

1305 5 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Pratt's Antiques
125 E Main St
Aledo, IL 61231

Main St Antiques
114 E Main St
Aledo, IL 61231

Conner Co
PO Box 888
East Moline, IL 61244

Kimball Cleaners
308 SW 5th Ave
Aledo, IL 61231

Williams Studio
New Windsor, IL 61465

Andalusia, IL 61232

Hideaway Plastics
1801 17 St
PO Box 379
Viola, IL 61486

Deer & Co Credit Union
3950 38 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

2018 4 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Walcott Trust & Savings Bank
101 W Bryant St
PO Box 108
Walcott, IA 52773

Mississippi Laser
7700 47 St
Milan, IL 61264

Longs Carpet
4200 11 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Roth Pump
Box 4330
Rock Island, IL 61201

Hughes Telephone
1117 Blackhawk Rd
Rock Island, IL 61201

ASAP Equipment
4730 44 St

Taylor Garages
Airport Rd
Milan, IL 61264

Michael Warner, Attorney
1600 4th Ave, Suite 410
Rock Island, IL 61201

Kansas City Life
5019 34 Ave B
Moline, IL 61265

Dr. Romeo
1705 2nd Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Morton Building
Highway 6
Atkinson, IL

Infantryman remembers beauty, horror of Vietnam

By Kurt Allemeier, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

Photo courtesy of Steve Lowther
Steve Lowther shows the way close to home in a relaxed moment during his nearly year-long stint in Vietnam in 1965-66. He is just one of many Quad-Citians who fought in the Vietnam War.
Steve Lowther recalls the beauty of Vietnam, its dense jungles, sandy beaches and scenic mountains.

However, the Silvis man never truly enjoyed the landscape, slogging through it rather than admiring it as an Army infantryman in the southeast Asian country during the early years of the Vietnam War.

Pete Sierra could see the mainland of Vietnam from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. America, as part of a reconnaissance squadron.

Bob Brooks flew Army helicopters over the jungles and mountains of Vietnam and other countries in the region, and had to walk through that dense jungle after he got shot down on a classified mission.

All three have war stories that can draw laughter or tears. They tell of the animosity they encountered when they returned to the United States west coast, but remember when they returned to the Quad-Cities.

Mr. Brooks, who spent 28 months in Vietnam, helped test classified radar equipment during his first t. He remembers getting off a plane feeling a little older and wiser than his colleagues, who did just one tour.

``I knew enough about the jungle and vermin that when we came in, I wondered if I should jump in a foxhole with a snake or take my chances with the enemy rockets and gunfire,'' he said.

Mr. Lowther said the jungle was to be feared and respected. The growth was so thick, one step in the wrong direction could separate a man from his unit, he said.

``One afternoon, I went from an E-4 to highest ranking member in my platoon,'' because the other members were killed or injured, he said.

He recalls seeing ``big cats'' foraging for food at night, while he guarded his unit's perimeter. He also remembers how everyone carried Tabasco sauce to mask the taste of wild game. The jungle made one savor a fresh drink of water, he said.

Mr. Sierra wasn't in the jungles of Vietnam during his stint in the southeast Asian theater, but he was in action. There were no combat airbases on the mainland; air support originated from the carriers, each carrying 4,000 to 6,000 crew members.

``A large portion of Vietnam was air,'' Mr. Sierra said. ``The planes would be going off and on constantly.''

Although being aboard ship kept the war at arm's length -- the U.S.S. America traveled to the Phillipines for leave -- there was no escaping the it. ``It was normal to have memorial services,'' Mr. Sierra said, ``but the celebration was when a guy would come back who had scored a MIG.''

Mr. Brooks hoped there would be no MIGs during his unit's first assignment, testing a classified surveillance aircraft. Their mission was to fly the subsonic red and white aircraft into enemy airspace to see if its electronics worked.

From there, he moved to flying helicopters. Nineteen of his 28 months in Vietnam were spent piloting helicopters -- running supplies or soldiers.

Those jobs did not create sunny dispositions in the men who did them, he said. ``Helicopter people are always pessimistic. You are always looking for a place to crash.''

Helicopter crews could go places the U.S. military was not supposed to be. He was on a mission to Laos when his helicopter was shot down. ``It took three days of constant moving to get back into Vietnam,'' Mr. Brooks said. ``We were well into Laos.

``You remember a lot of things you never thought you would,'' he said. ``You run on a lot of adrenalin.''

After escaping capture, Mr. Brooks and his crew thought they were going to have to make a last stand. However, the men they nearly fought turned out to be rescuers.

All three men returned to the states. Mr. Brooks studied at a college in California before re-enlisting to be a pilot. Mr. Sierra returned to his job with Farmall in Rock Island. Mr. Lowther returned to a job at East Moline's John Deere Harvester Works.

They believe animosity they encountered when they returned to the states, was fueled by ignorance. On campus, Mr. Brooks found hatred for the war became personal attacks. Mr. Lowther experienced it an airport, waiting for a drink of water.

``The first drinking fountain I saw, I was going to get a drink of water,'' he said. ``There was a younger man ahead of me getting a drink, so I stood back. When he finished, he saw me and started calling me all sorts of things. I said, `you don't know me to say these things.'

``He kept going and I swatted him with the sweetest left hook,'' he said. ``That is when I felt a cop put his hand on my shoulder. The cop said, `Vietnam?' I said, `yes.' He said, `Korea. Get out of here before he wakes up.'|''

Mr. Sierra believes the militant attitude toward Vietnam did not creep into the Quad-Cities because of a respect for the Rock Island Arsenal.

``The support for its sons and daughters in the military was greater than in other parts of the country,'' he said. ``The Quad-Cities was very supportive.''

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.