As American flags were flying on military vehicles – from the smallest vehicles to helicopters – at the Texas Veteran’s Military & Classic Car Show in Bullard on Saturday, there was something else special on the grounds.
Mixed in with the veterans and the stories were several Medal of Honor ribbons with the medal draped around the neck of some in attendance.
One was Robert Patterson, who was making about four appearances a month before COVID-19, but made the trip to Bullard. The North Carolina native who now lives in Pensicola, Fla., had groups laughing over his stories from joining the Army to his time in Hawaii.
But when asked about what happened in Vietnam for his efforts in La Chu on May 6, 1968, he has the same answer: “I don’t know.”
“I went from the tobacco fields of North Carolina to the White House. I was totally blank on how that happened,” said Patterson. “A Viet Cong unit moved in and we were not supposed to make any contact, just find them. What we ran into was a reinforced battalion and they had us outnumbered quite a bit and we went at them.”
Patterson repeats himself when asked what happened. He said it was noon and the next thing he remembered was waking up at 5 p.m.
“I went blank. I just remember waking up and then my platoon sergeant said I had to go to corps headquarters to protocol and see a major. And I see a major and he says Sgt. Patterson you are going to Washington, D.C. and I said, ‘For what? I ain’t got no damn reason to go there,’ but the next thing I know I’m with President Richard Nixon at the White House. And he was the nicest man you would ever want to meet.”
Patterson said he has been told by other soldiers he fought with that they were attacked and he grabbed his M-16 and some grenades and single handedly attacked an enemy bunker. He destroyed the machine gun bunker, killed seven and captured eight others who were trying to kill them.
Patterson also fought in the Gulf War and spent time at many places like Ft. Bragg, Ft. Gordon, Ft. Benton, Ft. Campbell and Ft. Bliss. He was originally in the United States Army 17th Cavalry, 82nd Airborne.
“It was terrible,” he jokes, then laughing says, “After all that, they (stationed) me in Hawaii. I even had to go to university. It was terrible.”
He also jokes about the Sunday night when he was a senior in high school that changed his life.
“I had the proverbial one. My girlfriend got me so mad on a Sunday night, so I showed her (butt) Monday morning,” Patterson said. “I dropped out of high school in 12th grade and joined the Army. That girl has no idea how much good she did me for my life!”
Other veterans honored included Army Col. Don Bullard, a Medal of Honor recipient in 1968 who served in the Vietnam War, Mike Fitzmaurice, a Medal of Honor recipient in 1971 and a member of the Army in Vietnam, Clarence Sasser, a Medal of Honor recipient from 1968 as he was in the Army during Vietnam, Lt. Col. Leo Glover who fought in the Korean War and Vietnam War and received eight air medals, Whayland Greene who earned five Bronze Stars during World War II with the Army, Bill Carlisle who drove tanks in World War II with the Navy, Gene Goodwin, a gunner who fought three places in World War II with the Marines, Lt. Mac McSpadden for flew the F6 Hellcat in World War II with the Navy, and Demond Doss, who earned a Medal of Honor and two Bronze Star medals and was the subject of the 2016 movie, Hacksaw Ridge. Doss died in 2006, but his son, Desmond Doss Jr., was in Bullard with his Medal of Honor and talking to many about his father.
His father was a combat medic and the movie, which his son says is accurate, shows how many lives he saved. His father was the only conscientious objector to receive a Medal of Honor as Doss refused to use a weapon because of his religious upbringing.
“It’s incredible to see this many people coming together to honor our veterans in the spirit of fellowship and unity and I was really impressed by what they put together today,” said Doss Jr. “My father’s story is love and compassion and it’s a unique story. Especially the way things are in the world today. I’m happy to talk about him and have people understand more about my father.”
Bullard firefighter Mike Balfay is one of the organizers of the event. He said there were many community partners including CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System who helped get the Medal of Honor recipients to Bullard.
“We feed 3,000 veterans and we don’t make a dime. Our only job is to honor the veterans,” Balfay said.
The event also featured a military convoy from Tyler to Bullard in the morning, a flyover, classic cars and a firepower demonstration.