Pfafftown, NC - The Fourth of July is a day for Americans to celebrate.
Whether it's by waving a flag, attending a parade, watching fireworks, or thanking a Veteran, people all over the Triad have celebrated.
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"[The] holiday represents [taking] time out and reflect on our ancestors, especially those who served and sacrificed," explained Mike Mabe, a Vietnam Veteran.
Mabe enlisted in Army in 1965. He served in the 101st Airborne Division.
"It benefited me for the rest of my life. Those three years," explained Mabe.
His service took him to Vietnam.
"It was hard. I was a boots on the ground soldier," said Mabe. "Out in the rice paddies and countryside and jungles and living under the hardship of no barracks and no hot food, and interacting with, or fighting with the enemy."
"I've had my finger on the trigger of a gun, or a weapon pointed at the enemy, and I know what I feels like... what near death situations feel like," said Mabe. "So you start counting the days, and you start worrying that closer you get to finishing the tour, whether your going to make it."
After 12 months of combat, he made it home, decorated with honors and a Purple Heart.
"It is a, a medal that you do not seek to earn, or get," said Mabe.
"March 12, 1966, my squad was on a long-range foot reconnaissance patrol. It was overnight, and we hunkered down in a ravine during the night and at daybreak, the sergeant sent three of us up the trail, ahead of the rest of them, and as we advanced up the trail, we were going up a hillside, we were ambushed. And then enemy soldiers lets us get close to them and then one of them jumped up and started shooting at us," explained Mabe. "He was so confident that he was going to kill all three of us that he didn't even aim. He held the sub-machine gun at his hip and just sprayed left and right but he was pointing too low and that gave just enough time to eliminate him. He did shoot in the ankle the sergeant that was leading us."
"There was a lot of gun fire, we were scrambling around there getting our sergeant in our arms, and trying to pull back and we were retreating back to rejoin the element that we just left. And we were disoriented in all that excitement and what we didn't know is that we were being chased. As we were going through a thicket, we saw hand grenades being tossed in there from behind us," said Mabe. "One exploded near me and I got a flesh wound in the hip from the explosion."
Mabe was treated in a field hospital and returned to combat with his unit after three days of light duty.
After returning home, he went to college, got married, began his career and started a family. It wasn't until after he retired that he reconnected with the men he served with in Vietnam.
"If you want to see veterans open up, then you bring them together," explained Mabe.
"We remember, we've got pictures, and we've got stories."
Mabe and his fellow soldiers keep in touch and have reunions every two years. Now, he's trying to reach out to Triad area veterans for an upcoming celebration.
A dinner recognizing Purple Heart Veterans in the Triad will be held Saturday, August 3 at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. Dave Tanis, a former Winston-Salem attorney, judge and Purple Heart recipient will be the speaker.
If you are a Purple Heart veteran, or know of one in the Piedmont-Triad, contact Mabe at 336-347-9152.
WFMY News 2