TOPEKA (KSNT) – Starting his military journey with the Reserve Unit in Emporia, Specialist 4th Class John Koonce stood firm after the call of duty led him overseas during the height of Vietnam.

Like many during the time, Koonce became involved with the armed forces to finish his time in higher education.

“It was my senior year in college at Pittsburg State University,” Koonce said, “thinking about my military requirement and had the opportunity to join the local Emporia reserve unit. So I joined. Really that was kind of a blessing, because that got me started on a rather interesting trail to serving my country.” 

That trail let him to quite the unique supporting role overseas.

“My group worked for the navy, we worked under the supervision of a Navy Chief,” Koonce said. “Essentially our job when we arrived in country, we set up what was called an NSA Servmart. Essentially what that was was like an ace hardware store. We handled nuts and bolts and tools, both hand tools power tools, paint, all sorts of things that people out in the field would need to keep the compounds up and running.”

Working in that role Koonce supported multiple other units that depended on those vital supplies.

“The 101st airborne lived several miles down the road from us in a place they called Camp Eagle,” he said. “We were primarily supporting them and there were a lot of other troop encampments around the area. It was a matter of taking the convoy’s into Tammy Ramp to keep our supplies and material, also just monitoring the incoming and outgoing folks.”

Operating closely with several units really showcased the importance of collaboration and trust in the face of adversity for the Army Specialist.

“Teamwork was a big issue, because everybody had a responsibility, certain situations you found yourself in if it had to rely on teamwork, because if the team fell short somebody could have died.” 

With then President Nixon removing reserve unit servicemen at the start of his presidency, Koonce’s time in Vietnam came to a close in August of 1969.

“I was there to do what I could for, if you will ,the betterment of mankind. You know, I found myself actually having pretty decent duty. I was there to, like I say, do whatever I could.”  

After his time with the military came to an end John would go on to have a 35 year career at Flint Hills Technical School in Emporia, working as an educator and Division Chair.