From Cottage Grove to Vietnam

Roger Rue, Hayward Clark, Walt Bouche and Robert Kephart weren’t that close. The only things they had in common in 1965 were that all four were Cottage Grove residents and they were all old enough to be drafted. 

“I would see them on the street and wave ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ but the four of us were not, we knew each other but not to where we were running the streets together,” Rue said. 

More than 50 years later, the men are not that much closer but the list of things they have in common is a bit longer. 

Three of them stayed and worked at Weyerhaeuser. Two of them still pass each other on the street. Three of them served in Vietnam. And all four of them trained for the war as part of a platoon made up of men entirely from Oregon. 

Rue moved to Cottage Grove in 1963 at the age of 18 — an age that lends itself to running in the same crowds in small towns. It meant that he knew Kephart and Bouche but didn’t count them among his friends. 

Clark, however, he could. And while friendship hadn’t bound the four men together as young men, they found themselves in a group that would be bound together by a governor’s recognition. Between 1964 and 1975, more than three million men were deployed to Southeast Asia. In 1965, 44 of those men were sent to California from Oregon to train together. 

The men were part of the A-3-3 training unit, one that would earn the recognition of the state. 

“The unique thing about that was that it was 44 men, all 44 men were from Oregon,” Rue said. It was a distinction that would earn the group an Oregon State flag from then Governor Mark Hatfield. 

For eight weeks, Rue says, the group trained together before being sent to train for an additional eight weeks at various locations. 

“After 16 weeks, three of us went to Vietnam but not together,” Rue said. 

“…the military officials at that time in 1965 said to the best of anyone’s knowledge on the military command side, it was the first and only time that an entire platoon of 44 individuals were all from one state. That included all branches of the military,” Rue wrote on a Facebook page he’s hoping to use as a way to locate other members of the platoon. 

After the war, Rue settled in Cottage Grove, as did Clark. Bouche moved to Eastern Oregon and Kephart recently passed away. 

“I think it would be interesting to see who is still around in the Eugene area, who is still here,” he said. 

To join Rue's Facebook page, click here


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