Honoring Our Veterans: Sheldon "Vince" Vincent
Sheldon "Vince" Vincent served in the Army during the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the lesser-known Dominican Civil War. He joined the Army because he believed most people thought joining was the right thing to do. "There was never any question in my mind whether I was going in. Only question was when." While in Devils Lake at seventeen years old, Vince and his cousin showed their interest in joining the Army. "The old post office had a recruiting office in it. We marched up the front steps and said 'Here we are, send us away!'" After facing a battery of tests, Vince joined the service in January 1952.
Vince recalls a very cold time while on the frontlines in Korea around Christmas in 1953. "We got back in this valley with snow everywhere. Somebody had put up tents for us. They had stoves in them, all we had to do is light the fire. The tent would get warm and melt all the snow. That was great to us." One day, they learned they would be visited by troops from the USO (United Service Organizations-a non-profit group providing services and live entertainment for service members and their families). However, the servicemen would have to set up a stage for the performers, which they were not properly equipped for. They got creative and used their entrenching tools to dig and pack the dirt and snow down, creating an impromptu stage. The USO eventually arrived and braved the elements to entertain them.
Vince had planned to use the money given after his time with
the Army to take up farming in North Dakota after he returned from Korea. He
left Korea in summer of 1953, but found himself recruited into Special Forces
in 1954, then sent away for training in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. As a Green
Beret, he saw extensive action in the Vietnam War. Even after experiencing
years of work in Special Forces, Vince says he didn't have it as bad as some
others. "The people who really suffered are the people who stayed behind. The
family, wives and mothers and fathers. The people that have a real vested
interest in you, they have no control." His wife Shirley was able to join him
while he was in Japan in 1959, which became quite challenging for her. "We
would go on missions without any notice at all and we couldn't tell our wives.
So sometimes, how she found out I was gone was with an empty bed." Over time,
Vince accumulated a list of medals and letters while Shirley didn't receive
much for her own sacrifices. "My wife only got one [letter], and I don't think
that's fair." He believes we can do more to honor military families.
Vince's photo in The Green Beret, a publication of 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam. 1967.
He left the Special Forces in 1967, saying at that time he had become "a little old, a little tired" for the Green Berets. "The Army was good to me and I was good to them," says Vince. He retired from the military in May 1973 as an Army Major. The day his service ended, he was in Fort Carson, Colorado. After they pinned medals on him, he says he became emotional. "I was saluting the flag for the last time as an active military man."
Vince's decorated military career spanned over twenty-one years. "[The military] is my whole life," he says. Vince believes joining the military could bring a real positive change in how one views the world. "I think it would do a tremendous amount of difference in their concept of what the service is, and how you have to work together and depend on each other."
Thank you for your service, Vince!