I was born in Tye, Texas on October 5, 1947 to Sarah Burrus Dufner and Hillrey Andrew Dufner. I was the third of five children born to them. When my mother and father married, she had already received her Bachelor of Education degree from Howard Payne College.
My father served in the Army in Italy during WWII before earning his degree in Education at Abilene Christian College. Much of my early childhood was spent in various small Texas towns where both of my parents worked as teachers.Below: Wayne with his youngest daughter, Stacey.
Most of my early memories surround the 10 years that I lived in Pleasanton, Texas. It was there that I found that I had "mechanical skills." During my high school years I trained in auto mechanics. I gained experience while working for a local Pontiac dealership and an Oldsmobile Dealership in San Antonio, Texas.
In the summer following high school graduation, I received my "letter" calling me to serve my country. A friend, James War, and I signed with the U.S. Army on the "buddy system." We reasoned that it would be better to sign up and have a choice of training rather than be drafted. James and I left the Induction Center in San Antonio on 28 October 1966 to take basic training at B-2-1, South Ft. Polk, Louisiana. Our MOS was 67n10, fixed-wing aircraft repair. After basic we were sent to Ft. Rucker, Alabama for further training. It was there that I met and befriended David Lee. David Lee and I were assigned to the 67n20 Rotary wing school. Upon completion of training we were
shipped out to Duc Phu, Vietnam to serve with the 174th AHC, 409th TC (Transportation Detachment). We arrived there around 10 June 1967.
On the night of 24 June 1967, I was awakened to the simultaneous sounds of someone yelling "INCOMING," and the sound of exploding mortar shells. I was barely able to shed the mosquito netting and make my way around the nearest tent pole before I took a hit to my head. I was a lot luckier than the two men to my right were. They were killed. (The enclosed photo was taken by Andy Karsada and shows where my cot was in relation to where the mortar hit. You can see the wooden crate that the man to my left used for a locker.)
After the shelling, my first memory is of men coming into the tent to help us. Someone flashed a light in my face and I heard him say, "this one is dead." I was able to say, "I am not dead." I was taken to a first aid tent, then straight to a helicopter.
From there I was flown to the hospital in Qui Nhon where I underwent surgery. A few days later I was stable enough to be sent to Clark AFB, Philippines, then on to Travis AFB, California, and finally to Ft. Sam Houston, Texas.
I was paralyzed from the waist down, and also had no use of my right arm. At the time the doctors were saying I might never walk again, but after a month of physical therapy, I could walk with a cane. In October 1967 I was given my Purple Heart in a ceremony at the hospital. I was at Ft. Sam until December, when I was transferred to the VA Hospital at Kerrville, Texas.
In March 1968, I was medically retired from the Army. In April I was sent to the VA Hospital at Dallas, Texas. There I had a steel plate put in my skull to replace bone that had been crushed by the mortar. I was at the Dallas VA hospital for about two months before I returned to the Kerrville VA hospital. The photo below is of me at Kerrville. The man standing is Slim Pickens, and the nurse is Catherine Davis. In June 1968, one year after the original injury, I was finally released from the hospital.
I would like everyone to know how much I appreciated the fine medical care that I received, both in the field and in the States. The doctors and nurses spent many long hours making sure they were doing all they could to ensure our survival and recovery. The nurses were our angels! They had a very hard job because there was a man in every bed in the wards. Those wards overflowed into the hallways. There were so many of us injured soldiers that the wards could be a sad place. Still, we were never overlooked and were not simply treated as patients… We were their brothers.
Between 1968 and 1999 much has happened. I attended college, was able to work for a time before health issues dictated my retirement. I married the love of my life and we had two daughters who have grown into lovely young women. The oldest finished college, married, and has a daughter who is my joy! My youngest girl is in college now.
I haven’t been able to work for the past twenty years. Still, I manage to find enough things that I can do to give my life quality. Presently I am enjoying researching my family history and "playing" with my computers.
I am grateful for the effort put into the development and maintenance of the 174th website, because finding it has given me some closure. Until I found it, I did not know what happened to my fellow men that night so long ago. Seeing the photos let me connect some memories and let me grow a new thankfulness for this life I do have. There is but one thing left that is nagging at me. I lost track of my friend, David Lee. I do not know what happened to him after I was injured. I know he left Viet Nam alive. I do not know where he is now. When we were in the service together, his father had a Mary Carter Paint Store in Stockton, California. I have tried searches on the net, but more than 5000 inquiries have turned up nothing. The enclosed black-and-white picture of David was taken when we were at tank hill at Ft Rucker, Alabama. I would appreciate any information that might lead me to the location of my friend.
I can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also have two home pages you're invited to visit:
http://www.expage.com/page/dufner: This home page is where I show members of my family and pictures of some our ancestors.
http://www.familytreemaker.com/users/d/u/f/Wayne-T-Dufner/: This home page has some of my research that I have on my family tree.