A scrapbook filled with photos depicts the stories of retired Staff Sgt. John Footman’s time in Vietnam.
During his two tours in the country, Footman mailed rolls of film back to his mother, who had a box of developed photos waiting for him back home.
“They’re memories,” said Footman, who lives in Harker Heights. “I sit down sometimes and take my book out and look back at some of the guys I was with.”
Unlike so many veterans of the Vietnam War, those memories, while difficult, aren’t things the Harker Heights resident wants to block out, though that wasn’t always the case.
“You can’t push it down. I fought it for years. You need to get it up out of your system. The longer you hold it back, the further it’s going to take you down,” he said.
Footman returned to the United States in November 1968, with a year in Vietnam behind him, and several months later, he was stationed in Germany.
But the soldier felt there was unfinished business back in the jungle, and asked to return to Vietnam, though many said the decision was crazy.
“I just felt like the mission wasn’t finished. I had to go back,” said the former infantryman.
In April 1970, he returned, at first with the 4th Infantry Division, then switched to the 5th Mechanized Infantry Division.
That second year was filled with close calls, but no regrets for Footman.
The soldier’s armored vehicle ran over a 60-pound mine, landing him in the hospital for 15 days. After recovering, he narrowly escaped a rocket attack on the building he worked in.
“I really wasn’t worried about anything because I know that I have somebody upstairs looking out for me. I went back, and I did not regret it,” Footman said.
“To this day, I am proud of what I’ve done. I am proud I went back and stood in the gap for somebody else,” he added.
At 68 years old, the self-proclaimed “soldier for life” spends much of his time helping other soldiers receive the recognition they’ve earned for their efforts.
Footman serves as commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Centex Chapter 1876.
A recipient of two Purple Hearts from his tours in Vietnam, the veteran said it’s overwhelming to see others receive the award. He regularly attends Purple Heart award ceremonies, and lets soldiers know of the benefits that come with it.
“My heart just blooms because I know I have done something to help the soldier. That’s something he has been waiting on. It’s overwhelming, seeing the look on his face,” he said.
Footman said he’d spend an additional 20 years in the Army, if they’d let him, but feels accomplished knowing he’s pouring into another generation of soldiers.
“A lot of these young soldiers need us today, and as a Vietnam veteran, I think we need to get out and talk to these soldiers more and more,” he said.