If ever there was an American patriot, it’s Waco resident Donald E. Littlefield, 69. Littlefield lives to serve his country and remains an active participant in the lives of veterans today.
The seeds of his loyalty to his country started with his father, a World War II veteran. Littlefield, born in Greer, South Carolina, wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. To that end, he enrolled in a 120-delay Army program while attending Blue Ridge High School and officially joined the service in the summer of 1968 after graduating.
His active duty started at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, with basic training followed by advance training in tanks at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Before he was through they separated the men, slating half the group to go to Vietnam, including Littlefield.
Littlefield went to Fort Ord for jungle training and lots of shots. “I think I had so many shots there’s nothing in the world I’ll catch,” he said.
With about 200 on the plane, it made fuel stops in Hawaii and again in the Philippines before arriving in Bien Hoa in South Vietnam. It was a far cry from home, and until he made his debut in the Army, Littlefield had never been anywhere before.
He was there two weeks before he was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, but there’s no tanks, so they changed his MOS (Military Occupational Specialty Code) to infantry with Charlie Company 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Brigade. He ended up becoming the radio transmitter operator for the forward observer, putting him right in the middle of the action.
“I was right there in the middle of everything,” Littlefield said. “A lot of killing, lots of destruction, lots of fire and lots of explosions. …. You couldn’t see where it was coming from, but you could see it coming,” he said of the RPGs (Rocket-Propelled Grenade) fired upon the men. “Your mind is going in many different directions. But all you’re thinking about is staying alive.”
One day, there was a firefight and everyone dove in different directions. Littlefield went one way and his forward observer went the other. When Littlefield circled back around to find his forward observer, he was shot in the stomach and knocked unconscious.
When he woke up, he was on a litter in a C-141, headed to Yokohama, Japan. There, he spent several months in the hospital before he was sent back to the States to Walter Reed Hospital in the District of Columbia. He was there for a few months before he returned to South Carolina and re-enlisted. Since he was given the same MOS, he decided to go into aviation.
“It’s safer to be up there than on the ground,” he said.
He became a door gunner with the 25th Aviation Battalion in Vietnam. Most of its missions were transporting of troops, moving from one landing zone to another. His base camp was in Cu Chi.
Sometimes they flew night missions and it was his job to shine a spotlight on the ground. They would fly around without clearance lights and when they would find movement, hit the spotlight. “It lights up everybody on the ground,” he said. They would fire 6,000 rounds per minute at the ground.
Earned the Purple Heart
When Littlefield returned to the States, he switched his MOS to the 155 mm howitzer. He was sent to Germany near Frankfort and did a lot of training and practicing. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant with a Purple Heart, among other medals, and returned to the cotton mills in South Carolina. He did that for about three years before he became a correctional officer at the state penitentiary. This led him to join the police force in Georgetown, South Carolina, and then to Andrews.
He decided to move to Texas (“I took a wrong turn in Albuquerque,” he joked) and ended up in Waco. He took a job with the West Police Department for a short time before he retired.
Today, Littlefield is married to Angelina Castro, and is an active participant in the lives of veterans.
Although he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and has only half a stomach due to his injury in Vietnam, he turned his attention to other veterans with their own PTSD, something that has helped him tremendously.
“It’s done wonders for me,” he said.
Littlefield is a lifetime member of VFW Post 2148 and the state VFW-VAVS. His job is to keep track of everybody’s volunteer hours in the district.
It’s safe to say Littlefield would do it all again if given half a chance.
“I believe every man and woman should enlist because they owe it to their country,” he said, adding his favorite JFK quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”