SGT. Thomas Wayne Blakeslee, Vietnam War

In 1965, the United States officially entered the Vietnam War. American hubris and lack of good judgment defined the war. As a result of this, over 60,000 soldiers lost their lives. Seargent Thomas Wayne Blakeslee of Medina, OH, was one of these 60,000 who gave his life. His story mirrored thousands of young men all across the United States, who grew up in small, perfect little worlds only to be sent to their death in the jungles of an unfamiliar country. Blakeslee enlisted in 1967 and served with D Company, 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division. He was killed by small arms fire in 1968 in the Quang Tri province of Vietnam. He earned an extensive collection of medals before his death however, some including the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star for Valor, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, among others. In fact, the Bronze Star of Valor is the fourth highest individual achievement that the military awards its personnel. His story is the story of many and can not be lost to time.

Images

Life Before the War

Life Before the War

Thomas Wayne Blakeslee's life began on September 6th, 1947 in the town of Medina where he grew up on Route 6 3235 Hamilton Road. He graduated from Medina High School in 1965, where he played the tuba in the marching band and the saxaphone in Stardusters. Thomas continued his studies at Lorain Community College, where he graduated with an associate degree in engineering in June, 1967. Image Courtesy of : Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. View File Details Page

Enlistment

Enlistment

The Vietnam War was often referred to as the "young person's war," due to the fact of the average soldier's age being 21 at the time. It seems puzzling that Thomas, being a successful college graduate, decided to enlist in the army on July 3rd, 1967. One reason why Thomas and many others his age enlisted, could have most likely been the inevitable fate of being drafted. It was difficult to plan a permanent future while the draft lingered around waiting to strike, so many thought it was best to just enlist and get it over with. Image Courtesy Of: Amber Dolly; taken from 1962-1963 Medina High School Yearbook. View File Details Page

Training

Training

After Thomas had enlisted, he began basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Following that, he graduated from the Non Commissioned Officer's Training School at Fort Benning, Georgia in March, 1968. He fulfilled more extensive training at Fort Carson, Colorado. Image Courtesy Of: Amber Dolly; taken from 1963-1964 Medina High School yearbook. View File Details Page

Love of the Country

Love of the Country

Another probable reason why many young people enlisted, was the mood of the generation itself. This generation had grown up in the shadow of World War 2, and had grown up during the worst part of the Cold War. Many thought they were just fighting communism at first, and they grew up with the sense that one should love their country, and enlist when the country is at war. Image Courtesy Of : Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Deployment

Deployment

Thomas was sent to Vietnam on July 25th, 1968. He began serving as an Alternate Radio Telephone Operator, where he was in charge of relaying coordinates to Artillery support, and gave information from base command and other units. Due to the fact of carrying a large radio on his back, Thomas was an easy target for enemy snipers, and was at very high risk of being wounded or killed. Image Courtesy Of: Vietnamwarera.com View File Details Page

Killed in Action

Killed in Action

On December 2nd, 1968 at the age of 21, Thomas was shot while operating a grenade launcher while on combat operations while engaged by hostile forces in a fire fight. Thomas was killed in action during the battle of Quang Tri in DaNang, Vietnam; a major air base used by both the U.S and South Vietnamese air forces. His service to our country is much appreciated, and he is buried peacfully at Bagdad Cemetery. View File Details Page

Audio

Audio File 1

Steve Benton from Thomas' platoon explains his opinion of Tom. Quote from comment section of Veteran Memorial Fund. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amber Dolly , Anthony Graziano, “SGT. Thomas Wayne Blakeslee, Vietnam War,” Discover Medina, accessed May 26, 2017, http://discovermedina.org/items/show/154.

Subjects

Share this Story