MARIANNA, Fla.— Chances are, if you’ve visited Miller & Miller Chevrolet in Marianna, you’ve likely passed by or talked to Leroy Boone.
Boone, 71, has been a dedicated salesman with Miller & Miller Chevrolet for over 36 years. If you were to visit his office, you would notice pictures of Boone donned in a green uniform and sporting a crew cut.
This is because Boone was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967.
He started his service in Fort Benning, where he attended basic training.
“It was different, busy, and hot,” he said. “You’d get up early in the morning and go train until late in the evening. You know, you stayed busy all day.”
After training at Fort Benning, he went to Fort Knox, Kentucky to begin his training in an armored unit.
A year after he was drafted, he went to Vietnam.
About three months into his tour, his vehicle hit a tank mine. Boone says there was an explosion that threw all the men from the vehicle.
“I had finger injuries and hand injuries,” he said. “Just minor stuff. Nothing real bad.”
But that wasn’t the only injury Boone sustained.
While on a personnel carrier, Boone’s vehicle was ambushed. An RPG was launched at the right side of the carrier, where Boone was operating a machine gun.
“I was sitting on top of the vehicle with my legs hanging inside,” he said. “And all that stuff blew up: weapons, claymores, ammunition. It all blew up. And it hit me, starting from my feet to my head and vice versa. A lot of shrapnel. That was the worst hit.”
Boone says following this injury, he was in rehabilitation for about a month.
During his service, Boone said one fact that left an impression on him was the reasoning behind the war.
“The most impressive thing was I never figured out why we were fighting the conflict,” he said. “It really stuck out to me a lot because so many soldiers were there and we really didn’t know why. That was a big thing.”
The conditions in Vietnam, of course, weren’t the greatest either.
“The heat and rain was another thing,” he said. “It rained for six months and it was hot six months of the year.”
Once his time in Vietnam was complete, it was time for Boone to return home. He says the transition from combat to peace-time was a difficult change to make.
“I was accustomed to watching for the enemy everywhere I traveled,” he said. “And coming back home, I had a tendency to want to watch for enemies that weren’t there. I would scout and look around in my front, back, rear, to make sure I wasn’t going to get hit from behind or the side.”
The ease with which everyday tasks are accomplished might be something the average person takes for granted. For Boone, even commuting seemed to be a challenge at first.
“When I was driving, I had a tendency to do the same thing for a period of time,” he said. “Anything I saw that was unusual, like a bucket or anything beside the road, I thought may be a trap. I was cautious about picking anything up. I always thought there may have been something under that can or under that bucket or behind that tree or something. It went on for about six to eight months, maybe a year. Then I finally realized I was back home. I was safe to be a little more comfortable.”
Despite all he had been through, Boone said a warm welcome back was not as easy to find as one might think.
“It seemed like the soldiers weren’t accepted by people when we came back home,” he said. “We were kind of like an outcast. They thought we had just gone on vacation and come back home and everything was okay.”
Boone said this caused a lot of disappointment in the returning soldiers.
“They expected more from the people back home, to be accepted more,” he said. “It’s not like that now, but it was at that time. We were lonely soldiers. It seemed like nobody cared but our families.”
Eventually, Boone did adjust back.
He fell in love with Edith Lewis in 1972 and the two were married. They now have two children and four grandchildren.
Boone has found a home in Jackson County. And despite the turmoil and destruction he witnessed in his time in the service, Boone says he did gain from it as well.
“I did learn to accept responsibility a bit more,” he said. “I learned the value of life. And I learned that life is what you make it be, regardless of where you are.”