Pensacola News Journal
Melissa Nelson Gabriel
August 23, 2016
"At the time, I didn't think about how dangerous it was. In retrospect, I feel fortunate to have come out alive," said McArthur, who credits his wife of 49 years for helping him deal with the trauma of war.
Decorated Vietnam veteran Gary McArthur doesn't come from a military family and never dreamed of joining the military as a child.In 1998, members of The Last Patrol are reflected in the stone panelsof The Wall South as they pay tribute to their fallen comrades from thewar in Vietnam during Memorial Day observances organized by The VietnamVeterans Motorcycle Club of America.(Photo: Pensacola Historical Society)
But the draft made military service a reality for McArthur, 71, and thousands of other young American men in the late 1960s.
"Back then, you were drafted as soon as your student deferment ended," said McArthur, a University of Florida graduate who joined the Army in 1968, and served as an officer in the 1st Air Cavalry Division.
The Pensacola native will share stories of his time as a "civilian soldier" during Thursday night's Heroes Among Us speaker series in downtown Pensacola.
The monthly outdoor speakers series in Pensacola's Veterans Memorial Park is sponsored by the Marine Corps League and draws on the war stories of the area's many veterans to raise money for projects that help veterans.
McArthur, a Pensacola native who served in the Army from 1968 to 1971, said he has a unique perspective because he was not a career military officer.
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