In 1968, Rodger “Jim” Lammonas had two choices: he could join the military, or he could wait and be drafted. He chose the former, not knowing the effects Agent Orange would have on his life. In March of that year, the native of Smiths Station, Alabama, signed with the Navy where he served six years as a “SeaBee,” an heterograph for C.B., or Construction Battalion.

After finishing basic and advanced training courses in California, including a four-week stint at Camp Pendleton with the Marines, Lammonas was dispatched to Vietnam out of Port Hueneme.

“That’s where we got on the big bird and flew out,” he said.

Lammons poses by a vehicle
Lammonas poses by a military vehicle.

For more than a year – 13.5 months – Lammonas was stationed in Vietnam. He served as a heavy equipment operator, gunner, and, “whatever it took to get the job done.” Lammonas said, that at times this even meant driving semis and hauling materials up from deep-water piers, or to Red Beach and dispersing them along Route 1.

“We just did what we needed to do, and that meant the job changed from day-to-day,” he shared.

After Vietnam, Jim returned to the U.S., before taking another overseas stint in Puerto Rico.

“Then my time was up and I went home,” he said. Not staying in and retiring with the Navy as one of his biggest regrets, Lammonas added.

However, his reception back home was less than welcoming. Along with his fellow veterans, Lammonas was egged, spat at. They were cussed at and called names, he said, most notably, “baby killers.”