GREENVILLE – Greenville High School graduate, Steve Stebbins served his country in the United States Army from 1966 to 1969 including a tour of Vietnam.
The 1966 GHS alum was drafted and answered his country’s call beginning with basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. followed by Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Polk, La.
After graduation from AIT, Stebbins spent a 30-day-leave at home before shipping out for a year-long tour as a Combat Infantry Soldier serving with Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division based at Basecamp Bearcat located in the Delta, south of Saigon, Vietman.
“First thing I saw when I looked out the (airplane) window was a triangle base camp with RVNs (Republic of Vietnam soldiers),” Stebbins said of his first sighting of Vietnam. “Next thing I was on the ground and it was hustle around, go here, go there and I finally ended up with the 90th Replacement Battalion.”
After two weeks Stebbins was assigned to his permanent unit named the French Fort located next to the South China Sea.
“We ran patrols but we very seldom stayed out all night because we had to come back and watch the Fort,” Stebbins noted. “There were not very many people there during the day but at night we would come back for support.”
The military soon turned the base over to the RVNs and Stebbins was on his way to Firebase Rachein where the young soldier would run patrols from the basecamp.
As with most Vietnam Veterans, the year spent on the other side of the globe included missing out on birthdays at home, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and often important family events.
“The guys at the mess hall took flour and spread it around the mess hall and made it look like snow,” Stebbins recalled of Christmas day that included a 24 hour ceasefire. “It was just another day.”
“It was OK,” he said of his 21st birthday, “was just another day”
Stebbins was awarded two Purple Hearts, the first coming May 8 and the second on June 16, 1968.
“I got in the way twice,” Stebbins said with a chuckle.
The May 8 injury landed Stebbins in the hospital for several days before returning to his unit.
“First time a got a little piece in the leg in a suburb of Siagon” said Stebbins. “I wasn’t there but a few hours and got wounded. Our squad leader got wounded first then I got wounded. We got dusted off and he came home and I went to a hospital a few days. I got back to my unit and a medic took the stitches out of my leg — no big deal.”
The June 16 injury was much more severe, and landed Stebbins with a month-and-a-half hospital stay at Camp Zama in Japan.
“After I came back from the hospital in Japan I got off the line,” Stebbins said. “I was in a TAC (radio communication.) I was in S3 AIR and I finished out my time there.”
Stebbins extended his time 43 days in Vietnam allowing him to be discharged from the Army on April 16, 1969, when returning to the States, reducing his active duty by nearly six months.
Stebbins’ awards include, Bronze Star with “V” Device, Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) and two Purple Hearts.
Captain Stebbins retired from the Darke County Sheriff’s Department following a 35-year career as a Deputy Sheriff including 10 years as Captain.