TOPEKA (KSNT) – Emporia veteran Gary Eichorn served in the National Guard, when he was activated for Vietnam in 1986.

As a wheel vehicle mechanic, Gary was one of the few working around the clock, making sure that trucks were mission ready.

“It was a real awakening,” Eichorn said. “You felt some anticipation about going, and some dread about going. It wasn’t something you were really looking forward to because you had a lot of knowledge because of all the daily newscasts.”

An E5 specialist with the 1st division, Gary was in charge of one of the two motor garages. Conducting repairs and making sure the vehicles were good to go for the next day of travel.

“Originally when I got there, it was typically a 12 or 14 hour day,” Eichorn said. “It wasn’t an eight to five job, because our convoy’s came in off the road at four or five o’clock, and every vehicle had to be inspected.”

From flat tire to clutch repair, and everything in between – getting those vehicles cleared for takeoff was pivotal to mission success.

“To get them back on the road that next day, we were faced with repairing them,” Eichorn said. “After supper, you went out and worked again for another three to four hours, because it was just the routine to keep everything moving.”

He recalls what working on Highway 13, otherwise known as Thunder Road, was like. 

“I remember one time being on a convoy, the first track got blown off the road on a landmine,” Eichorn said. “To this day I don’t run over a tin can or a coffee can or a pop can on the road, because in those days they trained you there’s probably a grenade in that can.” 

He’s got some short but sweet advice for those currently serving.

“Be proud of what you’re doing, and do the best that you can,” Eichorn said.