Veteran Spotlight: Marine Sgt. Joe Henebury
BELMONT, Mass. — Joe Henebury served his country in the Marine Corps from 1964 to 1968 in the Vietnam War, achieving the rank of sergeant.
He grew up in Belmont and graduated from Belmont High School. He was 20 years old when he did his basic
training at Parris Island, S.C.
"The drill sergeant had a nickname for me — 'College Punk.' It was a real challenge," he remembered.
After his infantry training regiment, at Camp LeJeune, his first assignment was at Camp Pendleton.
"I showed up with about 300 other Marines in formation. The gunnery sergeant came up to me and said, 'Henebury, we're going to make you a machine gunner' because I was small in stature. We did all kinds of
training for six weeks — amphibious assaults, up and down mountains attacking each other," he said. "A colonel came up and said to us, 'we're going to Vietnam.' That was in April of 1965."
Sgt. Henebury and other Marines would be on a ship 22 days, stopping briefly in Okinawa to get supplies and ammunition, before making an amphibious assault in Vietnam.
"The opposing team welcomed us with mortars and hand grenades," he remembered. "We hit the beach — the.guys looked behind them and the landing craft was gone."
I asked him if he was ever scared and I received a one word reply: "ABSOLUTELY!"
How were the holidays? "I remember one Thanksgiving we had C-rations and it was cold and damp," Henebury said.
He shared this story relating to December in Vietnam: "It was December 9th, it was at the Battle of Harvest Moon. One of our helicopters had crashed and was on fire — fuel had spilled into the rice paddies — and a bunch of us went to rescue our guys and get ammo and equipment.
"The rice paddies caught fire and my legs were burned (second and third degree burns) from the knees on down. I fought with my men for three days, the pain was unbearable. A corpsman came by and I tore open my military trousers and the corpsman threw up. I knew something wasn't good.
"I spent Christmas at a military hospital in Guam, piece of cake," he recalled.
I asked Sgt. Henebury why he kept fighting even though he was in intense pain. His reply was, "I wanted to stay alive."
When asked about the entertainment in Vietnam, he shared this story. "When I was in Guam, Bob Hope came to
Anderson Air Force Base. They had the wheelchairs in front and I got kissed by Carol Baker on one cheek and Joey Heatherton on the other. I didn't want to wash my face for a whole week," he said with a laugh.
He shared this impression of Bob Hope: "He actually cared. That was what impressed me. He wasn't into
politics, he was there for the troops."
His thoughts on the protestors of the Vietnam War? "Very simple. Avoid them. Keep a low profile. Never went any place in uniform, unless I had to," he said.
What was it like being a Marine? "At the time, it was the best decision I ever made (he added that marrying his wife Patricia was the best decision he ever made). It demonstrated that I had more courage than I ever imagined," he said.
Sgt. Joe Henebury, a Silver Star and Purple Heart recipient, thank you for your service to our great country and welcome home.
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