"Freedom Fighters": James Mason

By Joan Hallmark - bio - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Among the eight of them, the Mason brothers have served in the U.S. military a total of ninety two years. James Mason says it's not so much a family tradition as it is "just doing their duty".

He can trace his family's history in the military back to the Civil War, but it was during the 1960's that all eight brothers wound up in Vietnam at the same time.

"My brothers and I won every medal all the way up to the Silver Star and Purple Heart in the wars fought," said James.

But the medals won by the Mason brothers were not without sacrifice. James's brother David was killed in Vietnam, and it wouldn't be the family's last tragedy.

"I'm more proud of that than any. It's the combat medical badge," he said.

James served both as a combat medic and as an advisor to the vietnamese army.

"It was a constant every week you were in mortar attacks and a lot of them were at night. They attacked your compound and then during the day you would go out on operations."

During the Battle of the Iron Triangle vietcong attack was constant.

"The 'VC' were trying to overrun the village that I was in but we got enough gun power, fire power from the air to push them back but it got close enough and we didn't now if we would be run over or not," he explained.

But it was during the Tet Offensive, when massive armies of viet cong were coming down the Ho Chi Ming Trail from Cambodia, that James was in the most danger.

"During the Tet Offensive in 1968 we were pinned down in a compound for two weeks. We couldn't go out and we didn't let nothing in. The whole back side of that building was saturated with bullet holes in them from machine gun fire from across the river."

Not only was there enemy fire to contend with, a powerful mortar from friendly fire hit right in the middle of the compound.

"I was on a little balcony that was on the building and it knocked me back through the doors. The concussion from it and blew all the windows out of the building," said James.

In spite of constant battle in Vietnam, James made it through with only minor wounds. But the Mason family tragedy wasn't over. James's nephew Johnny was killed in Iraq in 2006 and James' son Luke died in a helicopter crash in Iraq just last September.

"When we go into the military we go in with the total understanding that it's our own decision and that we know if we go into a war we could be wounded or killed or anything in there," he said.

And yet, in spite of great loss, the Mason devotion to duty and country has never wavered.

If you or someone you know served our country in combat, we want to hear from you. Just write us at "Freedom Fighters", P.O. Box 957, Tyler, TX 75710. Or go to our home page and look for the "Freedom Fighters" link.