American hero reflects on the wars
November 10, 2005
CHRISTMAS VALLEY – Sitting in his living room, Roger Peard looked at the defunct hand grenade that could have killed him in the Korean War.
If it had gone off at the gates of Seoul, South Korea’s capital, where Peard’s Marine platoon waited to enter, he guessed he would have been severely maimed or killed.
He kept the brutish object as a souvenir.
“I picked this up and lugged it around for the rest of the campaign,” he said.
Thirty years of military service coupled with tours in the Korean and Vietnam wars garnered plenty of memorabilia, memories and insight from the career serviceman who retired a colonel in 1974.
Doc League, a representative for the El Dorado County Department of Veterans Affairs, had kinds words for Peard.
Recommended Stories For You
“He flew almost all of the aircraft the Marine Corps had, including going back to school to learn how to fly helicopters so he could learn to fly search and rescue missions in Vietnam. He is truly an American military hero,” he said.
Peard was a student during World War II. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1949, four years after the Germans and Japanese surrendered in 1945.
Was he upset about not being able to join comrades fighting on the European and Asian Pacific fronts?
“Little did we know Korea was going to happen,” he said.
He left training at Quantico, Va., in 1950 and headed to the Korean War as a second lieutenant for two months in the northeastern campaign. Hepatitis got him evacuated to Japan.
He was sent back to the United States when hospital beds were needed after the Chosin Reservoir Campaign, described as one of the bloodiest battles in modern warfare.
Peard’s job was filled three times during the Chosin Reservoir Campaign, his son said.
So he decided to go to a Marine flight school. Before he was sent to lead a helicopter squadron in Vietnam in 1968 as a lieutenant colonel, he was deployed to Japan twice to fly reconnaissance planes which shot aerial pictures of the island.
“I saw some things I didn’t like over there,” Peard said about Vietnam. “(Tanks) liked to run over corpses.”
Soldiers in the Vietnam War were not up to the caliber of those in the Korean War, Peard said. Once, a possible mutiny was thwarted when word got to the top level, he said.
“These guys were just terrible people,” Peard said. “They didn’t honor the uniform. They were sullen.”
“Those were in the days of ‘go to the service or go to jail,'” his wife, Dee Rene, said.
“You couldn’t point to them with any pride,” Peard said.
Although Peard turns 80 in January, his body is as lean as a swimmer’s and his mind remains sharp. Surgeries such as open-heart to install a pacemaker and to correct appendicitis knocked his weight down some.
Every day he takes his dogs for a half-mile or mile walk. He never smoked. He drank in moderation but booted alcohol from his life awhile ago.
Dee Rene is the cook of the family. On Thursday, she was trying her hand at a new recipe of sweet potato soup.
“She takes good care of me,” Peard said.
“I’m a good cook,” Dee Rene replied.
The two traded banter and smiles, like a couple who has been together for 54 years. They still wear their wedding rings.
Their Christmas Valley home rests on a lot purchased for roughly $5,000 in the 1960s. The neighboring parcel was also bought and holds a slew of cars, including their favorite, Corvettes.
Inside their abode are pictures, degrees, certificates and even a painting of Peard’s father, a Marine of 31 years.
There is also the bell.
Somewhat crude but loud enough to startle someone, the bell was another war momento Peard collected in Korea.
It was in a school house packed with explosives, Peard said.
“I listened to that bell for many years when I was a little kid,” said his son, Woody. “That’s how they called us in.”
Then there’s the vase the Vietnamese made from spent brass military casing shells.
“I think it’s a better use for them,” Dee Rene said.
Peard was asked of what he thought of today’s military and the war in Iraq.
“The technology that they use today saves a lot of lives,” he said.
“It’s not the slaughter that it used to be,” he added.
He likened the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War to guerilla warfare. He believes the United State should pull out of the country and leave it to its citizens.
“It’s just crazy what’s going on over there,” he said. “It’s like trying to deal with a kamikaze.”
Peard believes the efforts of American forces building relationships with Iraqis are basically fruitless. It’s a holy war, he said.
“You have Muslims that are zealots,” he continued.
Dee Rene is disheartened by the erosion of knowledge regarding military history and the contributions of her generation.
“I don’t think the younger generation knows the importance of what the military has done in the past,” she said.
On Veterans Day, Peard usually heads to Virginia City to participate in a parade. He’s been asked to ride in a float but declined.
After all, if the band marches, he marches.
But he isn’t sure if he’s headed there today.
“Oh, that’s right,” his wife said. “They haven’t called, have they?”