Central Texas Heroes: Raymond Mayhew

Raymond Mayhew. (Courtesy photo)

WACO, Texas (KWTX) He served in Vietnam and came home a changed man struggling with discrimination and PTSD.

But one veteran turned to fellow soldiers to cope.

Raymond Mayhew shared his experiences with us in Central Texas Heroes.

He recalls one day he didn't know if he would live or die.

Mayhew said, "it was a bunch of us on the trucks and we were talking back and forth, 'you know what's going on? How come we don't have any ammo?"

Mayhew and other members of the 54th Signal Battalion were making their way through hostile territory in Vietnam.

The were on their way to a site to install communications equipment.

They had guns to protect themselves but no bullets.

"We had our M-14s but no ammunition, why they didn't give us ammunition I have no idea," he said.

To this day he doesn't know.

Fortunately they were not attacked and that was the exception.

Mayhew says from the time they arrived in the country they nearly always got targeted with sniper fire or mortar rounds while headed out to communications sites to repair, maintain or install equipment.

"We did command and control communications for pretty near all the units in South Vietnam," he told us.

He never got hit himself, but he saw others wounded and killed and he will never forget it.

"I did see a captain one time when a rocket came in. He was standing outside the bunker when the rocket hit and of course he was gone. Just like that. It hit right where he was," he explained.

Mayhew joined the Army in 1966 and served in Korea and Germany before getting orders to head to Vietnam.

He faced danger frequently but his mission was a valuable one, keeping U.S. forces connected so they could fight the enemy together.

"Communication was very important because without it you wouldn't be able to do anything, everything would be chaos," he told us.

That's why he says it hurt so badly when he finally came home and was treated with such disrespect.

Mayhew said, "called me a baby killer, I've never killed a baby in my life."

He remembers being denied basic services because he was a soldier.

"I went to get a haircut one time and the barber wouldn't even cut my hair 'cause I was a Vietnam vet. They treated us like dirt," Mayhew told us.

He struggled with intense PTSD.

"I had nightmares, tried to avoid people, groups of people, I wouldn't go into a restaurant hardly at all where there was a lot of people around, angry, plus drink. I used to drink very heavily," Mayhew explained.

It's something many of his fellow veterans dealt with.

But that's why he's thankful for support from the Veterans Administration and for groups like the American Legion.

They helped him get through hard times, and he hopes veterans returning from combat these days take advantage of those same groups to make the transition easier.

Mayhew said, "they've been through what you've been through. You know, family hasn't been through what you have. Veterans just like to hang around each other, you know we're brothers, we're brothers."