A Profile of Lowell Hoover

Lowell Hoover remembers saying goodbye to his father at the bus station the day he left New Lexington, Ohio, for Vietnam. His father said, “I went away to World War II so you wouldn’t have to fight in another war. But just remember: you’re a Hoover, and you can take this.” Hoover, however, cannot recall many other memories of Vietnam.

Today, like thousands of Vietnam War veterans, Hoover is a proud father and grandfather. He has a rewarding career in publishing. But in 1966, one month after graduating from college, Hoover was drafted through a lottery into the army.

He had an accounting degree and was assigned to work as an army accountant. A few days before he graduated from basic training, however, Hoover was ordered to serve in the infantry. “The army needed bodies to fight. I came from a rural community. You were supposed to respect and love your country. I didn’t question that service.”

After advanced infantry training, Hoover was allowed to visit his family for two weeks before he went to Vietnam. During his trip home wearing his army uniform, he was heckled in airports by anti-war demonstrators. “But I did have a good experience, too,” Hoover states. “An elderly woman I sat next to on the plane invited me for dinner at her home.” Once in Vietnam, Hoover joined a company that patrolled the jungle in search of Viet Cong troops. He was responsible for carrying and firing the company’s machine gun.

Lowell Hoover in 1967 while serving as a machine gunner in Vietnam.

Lowell Hoover in 1967 while serving as a machine gunner in Vietnam.

Hoover admits that his main goal in Vietnam was to stay alive. He did not think about the fight against communism. Instead, Hoover compares the enemy to a “blob” that you had to kill before it killed you. He speculates that if a soldier stopped to think of the enemy as human, he would not survive.

Life in the jungle was difficult. Hoover remembers the jungle being lush and thick. He and his men walked miles every day through the dense undergrowth in search of the enemy. They were stung by red ants and sickened by malaria. The all-male company had to fill their helmets with water to bathe, and they had only dried foods to eat. It was a treat for the men when Chinook helicopters dropped packages that included clean clothes, fresh food, and barrels of soft drinks.

Soldiers received mail from home, but delivery was irregular. Family members wrote their letters on the front side of the paper, and soldiers replied on the back because they had no other paper to write on. Sometimes family members would send short audio recordings instead of letters, and the men would gather around a portable tape player to listen. Often the men cried when they heard their families’ voices.

Forty years later, Hoover is just beginning to let himself reflect on his military service in Vietnam. He has started to share some of his experiences with his grown children. But there are many things he can’t recall. He said some memories are just too painful, and he thinks his mind has blocked them out. “Had it not been for my faith in God, I would not have made it through the war,” Hoover said.

During his tour of duty in Vietnam, Hoover received the Bronze Star with the Valor Device. The Valor Device is a medal attached to the Bronze Star. It is awarded to people who display valor during direct combat with an enemy force. In 1967, Hoover used his machine gun to defend his company from an enemy attack. Although he was injured in the battle, he refused medical attention until the enemy retreated. In May 2009, Hoover was inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame. Hoover agreed to be recognized for one reason—his family. “I want to make sure my children and grandchildren are proud of our country and our family’s service to it.”

Related Links

To see photos and read about the history of the Vietnam War, go to http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/modules/vietnam/index.cfm.

Learn more about the United States Army at http://www.army.mil/.

Read about the qualifications that are necessary in order to receive the Bronze Star at http://www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/jfkeo/eo/11046.htm.