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Gary Littlejohn lost everything but his life in Vietnam

By Kay S. Pedrotti Gary David ‘Dinky’ Littlejohn of Milner lost his life in 1969 in the jungles of Vietnam, but he did not die. His story – of a wounded veteran damaged for the rest of his days – is typical of many who emerge from wars with few of the remembrances given to those who were killed. His family has never ceased trying to get Gary’s story brought to light, to give him the recognition he deserves as one who knew he was putting himself in danger to serve his country but did it anyway. On his first leave from the U.S. Army, Gary shot the biggest whitetail deer ever shot in Lamar County and took the 1968 state record. The huge 14-point buck, measured by Boone & Crockett standards, had a spread of 22 inches. In May of 1969, Gary’s outfit left for Vietnam. Just 37 days after he arrived, he was wounded in the head by grenade fragments. Gary’s wound involved severe brain damage and motor loss on his left side. His trip home took him through several hospitals and finally to Walter Reed in Washington. ’I went to see him up there,’ said his mother Myrtice Littlejohn of Milner. ‘He didn’t know anything. All he could do was lay there and say ‘˜mama, mama.’ It broke my heart. I didn’t know what was going to happen to him.’ Gary made it back to Milner and was cared for by his mother and father (the late William ‘Red’ Littlejohn) for 30 years. Just after he got home, Gary went to the Capitol for a presentation ceremony with then Governor Lester Maddox. Gary had to be helped onto the stage, but a smiling governor gave him a Browning .30/06 deer rifle. Gov. Maddox’s remarks: ’No, Gary will never go deer hunting again. I’ve heard it said that Georgia ranks among the top two or three states in the nation for having received the heaviest number of casualties in Vietnam. Somewhere, I’m sure, Gary is just a number – one of those grim statistics on the long list of casualties sustained in that far-off war. In my book, he’ll always be a hero. I guess that crazy war in Southeast Asia touched a lot of people and reached into a lot of places – even the remote nooks and crannies of the Georgia deer woods Prestigious Medal In addition to the Purple Heart, Gary was given the honor of the Army Commendation Medal for Heroism. The military citation says in part, ‘Private First Class Littlejohn distinguished himself on 3 July 1969, while serving as a rifleman with Company D, 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry, on an ambush patrol in Long An Province. When his unit came under intense hostile fire, Private Littlejohn boldly maneuvered across 20 meters of open territory, where he took up an exposed position from which to shoot. During the conflict, he braved a hail of enemy rounds as he rushed to resupply friendly positions with ammunition. Private First Class Littlejohn’s heroic actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect good credit upon himself, the 9th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.’ Memories of a son and brother: ’Their grandmother nicknamed all of the children,’ said Myrtice. ‘She said when she saw him, ‘˜that’s my little Dinky.” The name stuck throughout Gary’s childhood; his brothers still call him that. He was the oldest of a large family but just younger than half-brother Bennett Dix. His brothers are John Robert, William Douglas (Pete), and Jessee; and sisters Linda, Patricia, Lena and Donna Sue. ’We kept him home as long as we could,’ Myrtice said. ‘Physically he was better than mentally and began to get a little out of control.’ She said the family sought help from the Veterans Administration and got their son into a facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala., his mother said, but nobody was happy with that. In 2007 he was brought to a VA home in Augusta, where he is today. Myrtice said, ‘I know he is in a good place. They take him places, like Braves games, and even fishing once in a while – Lord, he loves to fish. When he was little, if I couldn’t find him, I knew to look for him at the fish pond.’ Gary now likes to watch television – Westerns or Andy Griffith – and may tell the family when they call, ‘Tell ‘˜em I’m okay, I’m watching television, don’t bother me.’ Myrtice said the nurses love him, although he tells them to calm down when he thinks they’re too loud. All the little ones, Myrtice said, ‘followed me to Milner Baptist Church every Sunday. I still go.’ Gary’s brother John Robert, who lives in Locust Grove, said Gary took care of his little brothers and protected them growing up. Gary was a great baseball player, John Robert said; all the brothers played baseball. ’I looked up to him. I go to see him every couple of months,’ John Robert said. The family plans to see him Dec. 19 at the VA Christmas dinner. Lena said though she was very young then, she can remember when Gary went away: ‘I stood at the window and cried for my brother.’ Gary’s last communication with his family before he was hurt was a postcard from Japan: ‘Hi Mom and all, I thought I’d send you a few lines from Japan while we stopped over. It’s a long and tiresome flight from home to here. I’ll try to find you a gift but I’ll send you one later. Love, Gary.’ He did give his family the best gift of all – despite his problems, he came home alive.

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