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Vietnam vet sharing story through book

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By Deborah Swearingen

In less than a year of service, Vietnam veteran Richard Hogue lost his left leg and 14 friends.

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But despite this, the Littleton resident and native Iowan doesn’t regret a moment of his service. Hogue now hopes to share his story through a self-published book called “A Soldier’s Story: Forever Changed.”

After being drafted by the United States Army in 1966 as an infantryman, Hogue joined about 20 other soldiers in Vietnam in July 1969. The war was a continuous fight for life, and Hogue will never forget Dec. 28, 1969 – the day his platoon was attacked, and half were lost. The group began with 25 and ended with 13.

“Losing all those guys was worse than losing my leg. That was probably the worse day of my life in Vietnam,” Hogue said.

“When you’re fighting for your life together, you become really, really close to guys,” he said. “They’re like brothers.”

Injuries take their toll

While in Vietnam, Hogue was injured twice. The second time was more serious than the first. About a month after an attack killed half his platoon, a booby trap went off near Hogue, covering his body in shrapnel.

He went to the hospital in Vietnam, where his left leg ultimately was amputated. Hogue was then transported to Japan before returning to the United States and being admitted to Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora. Hogue stayed at Fitzsimons for seven months while being fitted for a prosthetic and relearning to walk.

Returning home was a shock and an adjustment, but mostly, Hogue felt gratitude.

Through his book, Hogue hopes to spread awareness about what life is like for a soldier on the frontline.

“I wanted to share my story because unless you were there and unless you were an infantryman, you have no idea what it was like,” Hogue said. “I just thought it was important for everyone … to know the sacrifices and how difficult, how much of a challenge it was.

“It’s like going camping for six months only somebody’s trying to kill you,” he said.

But Hogue is proud to have served the United States and feels a unique bond with other veterans — particularly those who served in Vietnam.

The war was highly contentious, and many soldiers didn’t receive a pleasant welcome when they returned home. Hogue keeps in touch with many of his former platoon members and people he met while at Fitzsimons and has heard many a story of unfriendly greetings where soldiers were called names and had garbage thrown at them.

“Quite frankly, some guys are I think bothered as much by that as the experience in Vietnam,” Hogue said.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.