Vietnam veteran's life defined by 'sense of service'View 5 Photos
It was 1967, and Hisel Gobble was playing college baseball at Hiwassee College in Madisonville, Tennessee.
He could have avoided the hot, horrific jungles of Vietnam and the war that was raging there, but service to others was ingrained in him — "it's just my nature," he said — so unlike the thousands who were drafted into the war, Gobble enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Within six months, he was a machine gunner, carrying an M-60 machine gun for Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. A corporal, Gobble spent 12 months and six days overseas, eventually being promoted to Machine Gun Squad Leader.
"I didn't know if I was going to come home or not," Gobble remembers. "That was a very hard time. It was right at the height of the war."
Gobble, 73, said he was grateful for the opportunity to serve his country though. He remembered as a boy, seeing men returning from World War II or events honoring those veterans, who at the time were revered.
"I really had looked forward to serving my country, even from the time when I was real young, so to me it didn't scare me all that much. I look forward to doing it if the opportunity came by way," he said.
It was his sense of service, and his Christian faith, that would guide him through his days in Vietnam and for the rest of his life as he served most of his career in the classroom.
Name: Hisel Gobble
Branch of military: U.S. Marine Corps
Years of service: 1967-1969
After his service ended in 1969, the Virginia native, returned home to attend Emory & Henry College, where he also resumed playing baseball. After earning a bachelor's degree in accounting and a master's degree in business administration, Gobble considered joining the corporate world.
But while at a church conference, he remembers being encouraged to pursue a career that would allow him to be of service to others.
Though he had already served and scarified for his country — Gobble is the recipient of a Purple Heart and a Navy Achievement Medal — he thought he could serve as a teacher and a professor, helping others reach their academic goals.
The quiet, somber veteran has now been teaching accounting at Chattanooga State Community College for more than 40 years. He was an assistant baseball coach at the school from 1980-82 and has served in a variety of leadership roles at his church, Hickory Valley Christian Church.
"Most of my adult life has been focused on education and Christianity," he said. "It has obviously been a good fit for me. I've had the privilege of watching several of my students enjoy a huge amount of success. I'd like to continue to serve as long as I can, as long as things are still working for me as a teacher."
His service, Gobble said, prepared him for the battles that he would continue to fight throughout his life.
"I still find myself fighting battles," he said. "So the strengths that I developed through all that, I actually use sometimes. I guess that's part of it, if you survive it, it makes you tougher, it makes you stronger."
Gobble, who has had a piece of shrapnel lodged in his right forearm since the war, said he wishes more Americans understood the toll war takes. Schools should do a better job of teaching history, he said.
"I wish we had a better history system, so people had a clearer understanding of what took place and what all went into it," he said. "There's a been a very high cost paid for our way of life."
Soldiers returning from Vietnam were not welcomed home with fanfare, he said.
"When we came home, because of the anti-war movement and so much friction that existed at the time, we weren't treated very nicely," he said. "There was a lot of disrespect. So much of us kind of melted into our own little hole and kept our head down. I think a lot of [veterans] are still in that."
"I'm not a warmonger by any means," he added. "I wish we could resolve our differences in a more civil manner. As advanced as we are and to think that we are no further along when it comes to our interactions with fellow man and other countries, it's sad."
Contact Meghan Mangrum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.