US ARMY, 1964-67, VIETNAM, STATESIDE
In a farmhouse just outside of Carey Ohio, Larry Monday was born in October of 1944. He joined his parents Cloyce and Della and his older siblings Glen, Dorothy and Lawrence. His parents were hard working folks. Cloyce earned a living farming and working in a factory while Della took care of the children, raised a huge garden and worked until retirement at Cooper Tire. Farming was and is a tough profession. The family would move several times during Larry’s youth from Carey to Arcadia, north to Michigan and then back to Ohio, finally settling in Findlay. Dad would take a job at Cooper Tire.
Larry attended Findlay High school until the 11th grade when he chose to drop out and enter the workforce. At the age of 19, feeling it was “the right thing to do”, Larry enlisted into the Army on June 30, 1964. He chose to be trained as a heavy equipment operator. The Army sent him to basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. While training wasn’t easy Larry was determined and he was in great physical shape. He was the top scoring soldier on PT testing in basic training earning 497 out of 500 possible points winning the battalion trophy. He came in second place in AIT and was awarded an engraved Zippo lighter.
Next stop would be to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri for AIT. Here the Army made a career change for him, assigning Larry to instead be trained as a Combat Engineer, (with the 11B secondary MOS.)A Combat Engineer had mixed responsibilities that alternated between building roads and bridges under combat situations, to learning explosive formulas on how to blow things up like detonating unexploded ordnance, like dud 250-500 lbs. bombs dropped on Vietnam.
Larry was determined to be the best, to learn any skills that would make him a better soldier, so next stop was Airborne school at Ft. Benning Georgia. He was successful in jumping from C-119 aircraft and low-level jumps from helicopters earning his “airborne jump wings.”
“We started the course with 800 soldiers, only 300 would graduate.”
Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne was his next stop. While waiting to deploy Larry earned his GED. In 1965, Larry’s unit along with hundreds of other soldiers were loaded on the USS General LeRoy Eltinge, a troop transport ship, assigned to the Military Sea Transportation Service. After a lengthy journey the ship docked in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. Now “PFC Monday”, Larry was attached to 326th Engineering Battalion near Qui Nhon, in central Vietnam, where they assisted in clearing the way for the arrival of the “Big Red One” in Vietnam. The soldiers of the 326th would individually rotate out on patrol with other units, usually packing C-4 used in clearing LZ’s, detonating unexploded bombs, and other demolition assignments. Other duties of the combat engineers included having two men from his unit spend the night in a foxhole, outside the base perimeter, monitoring the claymores setup to deter nighttime VC attacks.
Larry’s unit would be involved in fire fights, mortar attacks and dangerous patrols but they did not lose a single man. (Later in life however, the effects of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam would prove fatal for many of the original 326th unit he had deployed with.) Larry left country in June of 1966, becoming assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
On August 9th, 1966, Larry tied the knot with his longtime love, Rita, at the Church of God on Hardin Street, Findlay. Her family was from Kentucky, having moved to Findlay in 1958, into a house on Davis street, six houses down from Larry.
“I met her when she was 11. Our families became close and by the time Rita was 12, I was in love! Everyone just knew we would eventually marry.”
Rita would join Larry at Ft. Bragg for his last year in the Army.
Larry said goodbye to the Army on June 30th, 1967. He and Rita returned to Findlay where he took a job at Cooper Tire building tires for the next 5 ½ years. The highway eventually called to him, leading Larry to purchase first, a Kenworth cabover tractor, later upgrading to a Kenworth “conventional rig”. He became a long distance truck driver hauling loads of steel, produce, even gas and oil coast to coast until 1982, when the trucking industry was de-regulated. Rita was also ready to have her husband home more regularly, so Larry returned to Cooper Tire, building truck and passenger car tires until 2002, when his back finally gave out after several work-related injuries. He has endured two major back surgeries that left him with rods and screws repairing the damage. The last surgery was so extensive that Larry was laid up rehabilitating for the next five years.
In 2007, taking advantage of the air-ride suspension and seats now standard in commercial trucks, Larry returned to driving, this time with Pohl Transportation. “They were a great company!” This time he was on shorter routes and home regularly.
“I had a refrigerator, a microwave, a double wide bed! My Rita would cook for me, I would keep it in the fridge and when I got hungry it went into the microwave…home cooking!”
Rita was surprised by a phone call several years ago. The man on the phone said, “Is this Rita? You got married to Larry? He sure loved you!” After 43 years, Foxy, a member of his unit from Vietnam, the 326th, had tracked Larry down and wanted to meet. A reunion of four original members and their families met in Branson, Missouri. (See picture. Since the reunion, illnesses directly related to AO exposure have taken two of the men’s lives, leaving only Foxy and Larry.)
Larry and Rita used to travel a lot. Bladder cancer and failing kidneys have slowed Larry down. Even mowing his lawn takes several attempts to complete the task. They have traveled to upper-state New York, to visit “Foxy”, the other surviving member of the original five. They have a trip planned to Arkansas in the near future. These days Larry spends much of his time sitting in his “man cave” garage watching Fox news, Snapped, college basketball and football on his huge wide-screen TV.
Rita and Larry have three children, Chad born in 1969, Jodi in 1971 and Heather in 1972. They all live close by and have given Larry and Rita 8 grandbabies and 4 great-grandbabies. Their house, where they have lived for 35 years, is protected by two Yorkies named Cooper and Colby!