U.S. Senator John Boozman recognized the service and sacrifice of Colonel (retired) Don English, who served in the Army for 30 years, in his latest edition of ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
English was born and raised in Plainview, Arkansas in Yell County. After graduating from Plainview-Rover High School, he attended Arkansas Tech University before transferring to Oklahoma State University where he graduated in 1957 with a degree in forestry.
In college, he was required to participate in a mandatory two-year ROTC program and elected to continue it through graduation. After college, he started his military career with basic officer training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“The ROTC program that Oklahoma State University had in those days was very detailed,” English recalled. “So most of the training that Fort Benning gave me, I’d already had.”
It was easy for him to adjust to military life, but his introduction to the 11th Airborne Division stationed in Germany is one that he won’t forget.
“My company commander met me at the train. He took my suitcase, put it in his jeep, took me to the quartermaster, drew my field gear and hauled me to the woods for in-the-woods training. I didn’t get back to my suitcase and place to live as a bachelor officer for about 10 days,” English said.
English met his future wife, Jane, at a dinner hosted by his boss in Germany. The couple wed six months later and they spent a year living in Germany before returning stateside to an assignment with the Old Guard in Fort Myer, Virginia.
The Old Guard is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army whose job also includes guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
“It was probably the greatest honor I received in my 30 years in the military to be able to head up that group of young men,” English said.
Col. English served two tours in Vietnam. He first landed in Vietnam in September 1964 after a six-week orientation course at the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After getting his field equipment in Saigon, he was sent to the Delta to the An Giang Province. Within hours of arriving at his station, he participated in a combat operation.
“It was supposed to be a one-day operation. It lasted about four or five days. We lost an awful lot of people on that operation,” English said.
He left for his second tour in Vietnam on Thanksgiving 1968 with his brother-in-law who had recovered stateside from an injury he received during the Tet Offensive.
“If anyone is thinking about a career in the military. It’s a wonderful life. It’s challenging, it’s a different day everyday. You develop camaraderie that lasts forever and its important to the nation,” English said about service in uniform.
“Col. English dedicated his life to serving our country. His distinguished career in the military is commendable. I am grateful for his sacrifice and leadership to our nation. I’m honored to share his memories of his service,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit English’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.