Capt. Bruce Kendrick says he's the way he is, and what he is, because of his service in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
"I learned attention to detail," said Kendrick, adding that "if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. Be prepared."
Kendrick, 74, who lives in Chatsworth, Georgia, entered the military in 1966 as a private after having attended both Furman University and Reinhardt College with the aim of becoming a football coach.
But after enlisting in the Army, he said he went to officer training school and was commissioned to the rank of 2nd lieutenant in December 1966. He was stationed at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia, for six months and then at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii before going to Vietnam in December 1967.
That was the first of two tours of duty in Vietnam.
"It was a great honor that I was allowed to lead brave men in combat," he said. "I wasn't an old guy, but 21, and many of those weren't [even that old]."
Kendrick said it was during the first seven months of that tour that he was recommended for two Silver Star medals for gallantry in action, a Bronze Star medal with a "V" device for heroism in ground combat and three Purple Hearts for wounds received in action.
Married 54 years and with a daughter, the seventh-generation Chatsworth resident recalled he first landed in Vietnam in Cam Ranh Bay and was then headquartered at the Duc Pho base camp with the 11th Infantry Brigade. He was a reconnaissance platoon leader at an outpost near the border with Laos.
He said he later became an aide to Army Brig. Gen. Howard Cooksey, who served as assistant division commander of the 23rd Infantry Division during the war.
Name: Bruce A. Kendrick
Branch of military: U.S. Army
Kendrick remembers the unit receiving an inspection from Creighton Abrams, who was commander of U.S. forces in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1972.
The veteran quipped that "one misspoken word and it's the end of you."
"You don't want to brief them and say something that's not accurate," Kendrick said. "He was known as a fair person and a strict person in that respect."
On another occasion, Kendrick recalled being briefed by then-Maj. Colin Powell, who in the fall of 1968 was a staff officer for the 23rd Infantry Division and who went on to become a four-star general and U.S. secretary of state.
"I've been in a room with two people I knew they were the smartest person in the room. He was one of them," he said. "It was obvious just talking to him on any subject. He was well-rounded. He had a really good mind."
Kendrick was promoted to captain in 1968, and he returned to Fort Benning where he was a company commander.
He said he later went to flight school, graduating in 1970. There he learned to fly helicopters, particularly the Huey Cobra attack helicopter, and then returned to Vietnam.
Following his second tour, he returned to Fort Benning and became an instructor at the infantry school where he taught tactics.
Kendrick said he decided to end his military career in 1974, having served eight years and four months.
"I went so others wouldn't have to," he said about his service.
Kendrick went to work in the family carpet business and he and brother Tommy ran the company for many years until he retired in 2012.
These days, he said he helps military veterans to navigate through the Veterans Affairs system. Also, Kendrick said he is involved with the American Legion Post 167, where he's a member of the honor guard, and he's active in the Ernie Pyle Chapter 1945 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
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