- [S142] Newspaper Article, 30 Jan 2009.
Pearl Conard Messer obituary
- [S24] The Newport Plain Talk, (http://www.newportplaintalk.com), 27 Jun 2014.
Just Plain Talk: If you think it's hot in the Smokies ask a Vietnam vet about the jungle
Cool Carolina mountains
When I first saw this fellow in the distance, he could have been mistaken for a panhandler in the Walmart parking lot. At closer range the older man had a beautiful reddish hound with him and I could see the man wore a cap denoting his military service. The large pup was polite and liked to sniff at people. That was part of his training. Roy Messer is not a native of Cocke County but I would suppose being that his family is from Cataloochee, North Carolina, the Messers are distant kin to those living here. He is also related to the Hannahs. And some of you real old timers from upper Cosby will remember the late park ranger Mark Hannah, whose kin live in the county today. So far from being a panhandler, I had met many weeks ago a decorated Vietnam veteran, his fledgling bloodhound, and found out he has a nice house in a quiet section of the county.
The temperature was about 90 degrees the afternoon I arrived. Roy told me to look for West Carpenter Road off the new highway and then find the green “LZ Way” sign. We sat on his front patio and chatted for about an hour and so here are some of the things I learned about this interesting man. His father was the Rev. Lloyd R. Messer, a Baptist minister who married the former Pearl Conard.
- [S24] The Newport Plain Talk, (http://www.newportplaintalk.com), 4 Jul 2014.
Just Plain Talk: Summer heat brings back thoughts of jungle fighting in Vietnam
Roy Messer of Parrottsville
Roy was one of eight children. One of his grandmothers was a full-blooded Cherokee, Rachel Bright, who lived in Gatlinburg in her later years. You may know some of the nearby siblings being brother James Messer, who is retired military and lives in Newport. Ben Messer is also retired Army and lives in Greene County. As a young man, Roy worked in the tomato fields and on the family farm. All the children were born at the home, no running water, no electricity. Among the amenities were oil lamps, a creek with springhouse. Not only did their father preach and travel into adjoining counties and Tennessee, he also farmed about 100 acres. “It was an innocent world, a special place. We knew little of the outside world.”
Then came Vietnam War
At age 18, Roy got drafted as the Vietnam War ratcheted up. He was tough enough for Paris Island because of the hard upbringing in the Smoky Mountains. The thing that still stands out in his mind about his training, as a Marine was this: “It was beat in your head you have to kill people.” And by early 1968 he got to put that training into action. He was barely 18. His first assignment was Bravo 126 “The Ghost Patrol and later a part of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines known as the “Walking Dead.” His combat patrols and missions took him to many places relegated to a permanent place in US Marine history: Khe Sanh, Quang Tri, DNang, to name just a few.
It didn’t take long before he became the point man on platoon patrols. Having talked with many veterans from these mountains, you find out they are skilled hunters and usually sharp shooters. The climate was such a contrast to the cool mountains–intense jungle heat and humidity. He said that after weeks on patrols the cotton clothing would start to rot. And yes, he saw plenty of combat but what proved to be a more formidable enemy was Agent Orange. “They sprayed us down.” He remembers the large aircraft flying low spewing huge orange smoke-like clouds over the jungle. He blames some of his heath problems from contact with the powerful herbicide used to defoliate the jungle so the North Vietnamese Army soldiers could not hide so easily. “ I have a Marine brother who is getting a lung removed and another at Ft. Sanders Hospital getting four bypasses.” After the aircraft dumped the chemicals, everything turned black weeks later. “We were told you could take a bath in it.” It was touted as being safe. He does admit that it doesn’t help his health that he is a cigarette smoker. “I never smoked until in went into the military.”
You could get killed
The weapons of choice for him and fellow jungle fighting Marines were M-16s, M-79 grenade launchers, mortars, and M-60 machine guns that fired a .308 caliber round. We talked about the different wars from WWI into the modern era and his observation was, “You can’t compare one war with another.” While WW II veterans may have fought large-scale battles behind clearly defined lines, this was not so in Vietnam. It was just a series of “hot LZs” (landing zones). This reminded me of another Vietnam veteran who flew a gunship, Gary Eugene Parks. We will be talking with him soon about his experiences and how he barely managed to live through the war. Both Messer and Parks were wounded and earned Purple Hearts; Gary almost dying.