Story by CPL Michael Smith on 11/10/2016There are members of the U.S. Armed Forces around the globe who will be celebrating this Veterans Day away from their homes and families because of the commitment they made to their country. One U.S. Army Veteran, who will be spending the holiday in a foreign country with some of these service men and women, made his decision to serve more than 50 years ago.
"I just wanted to serve my country," said Michael Yambor, 68, a Vietnam Veteran.
Yambor was 18 years old when he joined the Army in 1966. Back then the draft was in effect, and if you were called upon you had to serve. For Yambor he wanted to serve.
"Fifty years ago, the military wasn't an all-volunteer force like it is today, but something inside me told me to volunteer," Yambor said. "Back then, at that time in my life, I needed to be a part of something greater than myself," he said.
Yambor said when he and his friends completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., his friends requested to be stationed places like Hawaii and Germany. His number one request was Vietnam.
Yambor was trained as a clerk. He said upon his arrival to Vietnam he was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), where they needed a helicopter door gunner.
"I volunteered and was assigned to a Bell UH-1 Huey Gunship," said Yambor. "I spent my tour hanging out the side door of that Huey."
When Yambor's initial tour was coming to a close, he volunteered to extend in Vietnam for another six months. Altogether, Yambor spent 18 months in Vietnam.
He was awarded, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with 25 Oak Leaf Clusters, one for each combat mission.
Yambor has been working at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan (BAF), for more than ten years. He still likes the feeling of doing his part for his country. When he returns to his home in Tampa, Fla., he enjoys riding his Harley Davidson and spending time with his dog, but he has no plans to retire from his job at BAF.
"If I can, I'll stay here until they close the base down," said Yambor, although he says life at BAF is still lacking in some departments.
"I wish the military had a program to put me back in a chopper, because I would go back up in a second," said Yambor, who has not ridden in a helicopter since 1969. "I miss the ride."
Although he says he is not great at speeches and may be a little nervous, Yambor was honored when he was asked to speak at the Veterans Day Observance at BAF. He is especially honored since there is expected to be a large number of 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers.
Col. Christopher H. Colavita, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade, said the observance will be a great opportunity for current Soldiers. It will give them the chance to gain a unique perspective on the meaning of Veterans Day from a soldier who served his country long before they were born.
"As the Son of a Vietnam veteran who served in combat with the 1st Cavalry Division, it's an incredible opportunity for our current generation to better appreciate the unique service and tremendous sacrifices our Vietnam veterans made," said Col. Colavita. "It also helps to deepen our understanding of the great service all our veterans and their families have made for our nation and how they have paved the way for our service."
"Being a veteran is something you should be proud of, but you also have the responsibility to look out for our future men and women in uniform," said Yambor. "Every veteran before us has paved the way, now it is our turn to continue to honor their sacrifices."