Steven Roberts

US ARMY, VIETNAM, 1970-71

Steven Roberts was the middle son of five boys born to Sanford and Kathleen. He was born in Iowa in 1950 but would move to Fostoria, Ohio in 1954. He graduated from the Arcadia High School in 1969. He received his draft notice and not aware of other options enlisted in the Army. Steve married his sweetheart Mary (picture 4) on January 3rd, 1970 and shipped off to basic training on January 19th.

Roberts completed basic training at Ft. Bragg and then was trained as a 105/155 Artillery gun crew member at Ft. Sill. After a fifteen-day furlough home, he would arrive in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, in August of 1970, joining up with 6/32 Artillery HQ. His assignment as gun crew member was short lived when battalion found out he had been a mechanic in civilian life. 

Roberts was assigned to the motor pool and placed in charge of the unit’s 5-ton wrecker crane truck. Aside from maintaining the battalion’s numerous vehicles he spent much of his time driving in supply convoys and unloading munitions at forward fire bases with his wrecker. 

The average trip was approximately 100 miles in length and led through varied terrains, mountains and jungles to hilltop firebases. While onsite at the firebases Roberts was also tasked with repair and maintenance of equipment such as generators to keep them running. He was also responsible for recovering broken-down or damaged military vehicles in the region.

Roberts feels blessed that most of his 14-month tour was uneventful. It was rare for his convoys to come under fire nor were there many instances of fire fights while at the forward bases. In 1971, as the US involvement in Vietnam was winding down, the 6/32 moved to Phan Rang air force base south of Cam Ranh. A small contingent of soldiers, including Roberts were left behind to guard the base. He recalls being up in the observation tower when they came under sniper fire. Calling in for support, he has never forgotten seeing a Cobra gunship suddenly appear and lay down devastating suppression fire at the enemy’s position. Every fourth round was a tracer and was amazing to watch.

At Phan Rang Roberts was promoted to E-5 and placed in charge of the motor pool. He was over about twelve other soldier mechanics tasked to maintaining jeeps, five-tons and the Deuce and a half. Due to the uncertain supply chain with ongoing events in Vietnam it was often necessary to obtain replacement parts from the black market.

In August of 1971 Roberts left Vietnam arriving back in the States at Ft. Lewis, Washington. He flew into Dayton, Ohio, snagged a cab home to Findlay, and was reunited with his wife Mary and their son Brad. They would soon add Kevin and Kristina to the family.

Returning to civilian life was uneventful for Steven as he returned to his job as a mechanic and wrecker operator for the same company. Using the GI Bill, he would earn a certificate as a “official” diesel mechanic. 

In 1974 he would join the Roppe Corporation, which made cove base and flooring products. He would remain there for the next 41 years working first as a diesel mechanic on their fleet trucks, then move into the warehouse, serve on the grounds crew for ten years and finished up maintaining machines for the developmentally disabled workshop. He retired in 2017.

His wife of 41 years, Mary, passed away in 2011 of a heart condition. In 2013 he would remarry to Deb (picture 5), a neighbor he had know for thirty years. She would bring four more grown children, Shane, Heather, Brandi and Isaac, into his life. His number of grandchildren now numbers seventeen.

In retirement, he is mostly a homebody but enjoys an occasional round of golf, morning coffee with a few “good old boys” at McDonalds and puttering around the house doing upgrades and repairs.