EAST MOUNTAIN, TX (KLTV) - Mike Welch works night security at Buckner Westminister in Longview. A job he describes as a blessing, but then Welch has changed a lot from the restless teenager he was when he joined the Marine Corps in 1962.
"I thought I was the only person in the world. I had the duck tail, sleek haircut and all that in '62," recalls Welch.
Welch says the Marine Corps was the best thing that ever happened to him.
"You know one thing about the Marines you don't leave anybody in the bush, you bring everybody home," says Welch.
Welch adds that he's used his marine training of working with others all through his career.
"You apply that to your civilian life and whether it's all pats or anything, it's served me well," says Welch.
In 1965, Welch arrived in Vietnam, where early fighting usually meant ambushes and booby traps, until Operation Starlight.
"The Vietcong actually decided to stand up and fight. This was August of '65 and almost 700 VC were killed but we lost, I think 45 Marines," Welch recalls.
It was Welch's first taste of death on the battlefield.
"After Operation Starlight when we lost so many, that was the last full encounter with a Marine outfit. They went back to fighting ambushes, says Welch.
However, night ambushes could be deadly too and over the course of the war the body count grew.
"When we pulled out of there over a hundred thousand marines were wounded or killed," says Welch.
Although Welch says, as a professional, he took conditions in Vietnam with a grain of salt he still describes it this way.
"You never get enough to eat, you never get enough sleep and you're always wet, plus on sidelines, you're always getting shot at," says Welch.
When Welch returned home, he was surprised by the anti-war demonstrations he saw, but what affected him the most was the job situation.
"There was a time in the 60s you didn't want to tell anybody you were a veteran if you wanted to get a job," says Welch.
In spite of the ups and downs of his time in Vietnam and his return home, Mike Welch, says most important of all is that he feels honored to have served his country.