salute

GRANBY, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A Granby man at 18-years-old found himself on the front line of the Vietnam war.

Lenny Desrochers can vividly remember the day he arrived in Vietnam in 1966.

He tells Western Mass News it was very hot, very buggy and it was a jungle.

Lenny joined the Marine Crops with plans to be a pilot-- But after failing his aviation test, he was given a much more demanding job.

Lenny was assigned to the First Marine's Fifth Regiment-- First Battalion, Delta Company.

Lenny described his duties to us, "I was an upfront machine gunner where every time everybody got down when they had heavy fire they yelled machine guns up and I had to get up there with the machine gun and run up there. And I used to hear the noise through the woods and I would say, oh those bees are at it again. You have to think something else".

At 5'7, 130 pounds the young 18-year-old found himself geared up from head to toe.

"The machine gun weighs 24 pounds and then you get 100 rounds of ammunition on it, then I had to carry an additional 200 round of ammunition. I carried a K-bar which was my weapon and then a 45 caliber. I had 3 or 4 or 5 grenades on me at all times. Then you had your medical kit, a jacket, your helmet and your food, poncho and shovel", explained Lenny.

Lenny adds that he was wounded 3 times in Vietnam.

Once during an ambush at night, another a motor round went off behind him and he got a piece of shrapnel in his shoulder.

The third time-- he was shot in the knee and sent to Okinawa to recover.

After all of these physical challenges, came the mental ones. 

"I didn't want to hear people died for nothing either. It wasn't that I was some kind of war mongrel. I wasn't at all. When you're there, you're staying alive and trying to keep the guys next to you alive", says Lenny.

Lenny also added he handled things by drinking and not talking to anybody.

But since 1978-- Lenny hasn't had a drink. 

He now finds peace of mind through activities like hiking and kayaking.

He's even kayaked the entire Connecticut River with other veterans-- he also hiked Mount Washington and the Appalachian Trail.

Today-- Lenny uses his own experience to help other veterans.

Hanging in his home he has a shadowbox displayed with his 3 Purple Hearts, Combat Action Ribbon, President Unit Citation, The Cross of Gallantry with a silver star and a number of other well-deserved honors.

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