Freedom Fighters: Ira Gray

Freedom Fighters: Ira Gray

(KLTV) - Ira Gray never planned on leading troops into battle in Vietnam but when the time came he led with courage.

"I had to make the best of a bad situation, and thank God I did," Gray said.

Ira Gray was caught in the draft when he dropped out of college for a semester to work full time.

Once drafted, Gray decided to make the most of it.

"That day we landed in Cameron Bay that night, that's when they bring troops in and ship them out," Gray said. "So actually that same when I got in, our barriers got hit by the enemy but the barrier that got hit was the guy that was on they way home."

The tragedy of those soldiers who never made it home has stayed with Gray.

"When that happened then reality set in. These are real bullets. These guys are really dying," Gray said

Gray was soon transferred to a camp near the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone where he mainly went out on patrols.

"In other words, we wanted to get to the enemy before he got to us, " Gray said.

It was on one of those patrols that Gray's commanding officer was killed. Gray had to take charge, rounding his group and advancing towards the enemy.

While there were some casualties, Gray felt it would've been worse if they had fled from a fight.

Gray was awarded the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Vietnamese Gallantry Cross, 173 Airborne Paratroopers Wings for his courage.

"My part was to save my fellow troops around me because I knew I had more experience than they did and it made it easy for me because they believed and trusted me," Gray said.

Gray served 19 months and seven days in the Army and was promoted to Staff Sergeant. He was honorably discharged in July 0f 1969.

"When I arrived home from Vietnam, that was the worst experience of my life because we were so put down and so talked about that we didn't even want to wear the uniform, "Gray said.

Since going into the ministry a couple years ago, Gray has begun to understand more about the Vietnam War and his role in it.

"I look back now and I say 'all that was God's plan,'" Gray said.

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