Randy Thorne

The Journey Continues -- Randy Thorne

 

     My journey during spring break took me to Lubbock to visit in Army friend from 50 years ago.

     Randy Thorne, born in Rotan, TX, a twin from a family with six brothers, was the one drafted and sent to Vietnam where he was assigned to an infantry rifle company. I know, because I was also in that unit.

     On his first day in the field, even before he received his squad assignment, he was introduced to combat from enemy fire, earning the coveted CIB-Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Within a month, he received the first of his two Purple Hearts. Details of the first Purple Heart: Walking “point” he approached a danger area, an open field flanked by tree lines. Thorne recalls, “I don’t like the looks of this, I told the Lieutenant, ‘If I go, I’m going to get shot’. The Lieutenant ordered me to proceed and I got shot—a sniper round in my left leg.”

     When the Medivac Chopper arrived, Randy created quite a sensation as the chopper lifted, then took off over the tree line where Randy figured the enemy sniper to be hiding. Randy aimed his M-203 (a 40mm over-5.56 under) out the door and fired a single 40mm round at the perceived enemy location. Randy said, “The Air Craft Commander went berserk; ‘You can’t do that; this is a Medivac Chopper, considered a non-combative per the Geneva Convention on Warfare—NO, NO, NO!’ but I didn’t see anything wrong with it.”

     After 58 days in the hospital in Japan, Randy returned for duty, and fifteen days before completing his one-year tour in Vietnam, was wounded by a booby trap which earned him his second Purple Heart. “It was the same leg but with much more damage than the first wound; my foot was facing the wrong direction,” Thorne said.

     Evacuated to William Beaumont General Hospital, Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas, he met my wife, Judy, who was working as a Red Cross Volunteer on his ward. As soon as our connection was made, Judy and I invited his wife, Kay, to stay in our home during his recovery period. Her presence plus home cooked chicken fried steak helped Randy’s healing.

     The story does not end there. The trauma and pain of his leg continued. He returned to his old job in Lubbock after his discharge. He worked in a heavy dirt moving equipment manufacturing plant for a total of 39 years. The pain from standing on a concrete floor where he worked reminded him every day of his wound.

     When he was finally evaluated by the VA for a disability in October 2003, he received 100% disability. My question to him was, “How much earlier could this have been done?”

     Randy is always with Kay and his family, or fishing, or woodturning with the South Plains Wood Turners Club. His life’s journey represents a deep regard for service to the nation, a strong work ethic, and the West Texas toughness that kept him on the job long after he should have been medically retired.

     Randy, my friend and fellow Christian…his favorite verse is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”

 

Jim Lanning -- San Marcos Daily Record, August 9, 2017