Freedom Fighters: Kenneth Pepper - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: Kenneth Pepper

(Source: KLTV) (Source: KLTV)
(Source: KLTV News Staff) (Source: KLTV News Staff)
(Source: KLTV News Staff) (Source: KLTV News Staff)
(Source: KLTV News Staff) (Source: KLTV News Staff)
(Source: KLTV News Staff) (Source: KLTV News Staff)

Kenneth Pepper of Winnsboro had many close calls in Vietnam during his time there serving the U.S. Army in 1968, including stepping on a booby trap that didn't go off and having his helmet shot off his head.

"We was outside a village and the Vietcong started firing at us," says Pepper.

Kenneth Pepper had little more than four months training when he arrived in Vietnam in October of 1968. But the 20-year-old infantryman was to get plenty of 'on the job' training right away.

"I was in the country about nineteen days and we went out on an ambush and we got ambushed," says Pepper.

One of Pepper's closest friends was killed in the ambush, seven or eight soldiers in the group were wounded and Pepper had one of his many narrow escapes.

"I had my steel pot shot off my head," recalls Pepper.

The next morning when Pepper and other soldiers returned to the ambush site to pick up their gear, he learned just how close he came to being killed.

"The guys were standing around and said, 'that guy, he's dead'. There was the steel pot with the whole side shot off. I said whose name's on it and they said Pepper and I said that's my mine," recalls Pepper.

"What went through your mind when you were shot? asked Joan. "That I wasn't as close to God as what I wanted to be. I told God then that if I got our of this I'd get saved and live for him," says Pepper.

Like many Battlefield promises, Pepper, took awhile to fulfill his promise, but four years later he was he was baptised and has spent much of his time working in his church since that time. However, the shattered helmet was only the first of Pepper's near misses.

In on search and destroy missions, Pepper's squad was caught in a mine field.

"When I got up I walked between two bushes and I heard wire break and it was a booby trap and the wire broke on it and didn't go off, didn't pull the pin," says Pepper.

Another time a 'bouncing betty' filled with nails, glass and rocks exploded near Pepper.

"It had cut through two of the magazines from one side to another and just made a heat blister on my side without hurting me," says Pepper.

When Pepper returned home after a year in Vietnam, he found there was a different kind of battle going on.

"When I came back to Dallas there was a bunch of the Hari Christmans. They was calling us baby killers," says Pepper.

Peper also found it hard to get a job as a Vietnam War veteran.

"It probably took me a year to get a job because whenever they found out I'd been to Vietnam, they wouldn't hire you,"says Pepper.

Kenneth Pepper says it took him a long time to get over the hurt of how Vietnam War veterans were treated, and while he's proud to have served his country, he grieves for the many young lives lost there.

"Probably a whole generation of 18 to 20-year-olds wiped out,"says Pepper.

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