Updated: Nov 10, 2021
MATAMORAS, PA – As a teen, Melvin “Bruce” Lane wanted a change. A big change.
Boot camp, ordinance school, and Vietnam brought that to him in 1969, a mission he completely embraced. Despite protests raging across America and peak deadliest years for America in Vietnam, Lane chose to immediately enlist in the United States Army upon graduating from Northern High School, MD in 1968.
Now a resident of Matamoras, PA, Lane was born, raised, and graduated from high school in Baltimore, MD. His father had served stateside with the Army Air Corps, and Lane saw the military as a logical choice for himself as well.
“It was a given. There was really nothing to think about at that time. It was what everybody was doing. You either joined or were drafted,” Lane said. “I wanted to get away from my stepdad, step siblings, and home. I enlisted and served from 1969 until my retirement in 1989.”
Lane’s military path took him to multiple locations in the United States and overseas. The first was boot camp in Fort Bragg, NC. Then, on to Aberdeen Proving Ground Ordnance School, MD. His specialty? Small arms repairman. His duty assignment? Vietnam.
“I spent 1 ½ years in sunny Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam. I have to say “sunny” was a first thought, but also “I hope one of those rockets don’t hit my airplane” was another,” Lane recalled of his first-time view of the deep-water bay base along the South China Sea.
Lane was good at reading and writing, and part of his duties were as a clerk at the base. He also ran convoys, delivering artillery and weapon spare parts. He repaired small arms, instructed basic electronics, served as a tank maintenance team chief, and did whatever else was assigned over his 20-year military career. Part of his time in Vietnam was also spent at Long Binh Quang Tri Combat Base and other assigned locations.
“I did what I had to do each day,” Lane said.
After his first Tour of Duty, Lane re-enlisted. Over the years he was stationed at Fort Carson, CO for two years, then Germany for 39 months, then Fort Polk, LA, back to Germany, to Fort Knox, KY, back to Germany, and – in 1989 – retired as an E7 Tank Maintenance Team Chief from Fort Bliss, Texas.
Would he choose a similar path again?
“I wanted to go, and it made me grow up a lot,” Lane reflected. “But a lot of people were killed. In hindsight, maybe we shouldn’t have been there. But should we have been in Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq? The people don’t want our help, so why waste time and lose our men and women?”
Yet, when the Gulf War began just two years after his retirement, Lane tried to re-enlist again.
“I thought I could contribute something more, but they wouldn’t take me since I had retired from the military,” Lane said.
Now, Lane is fighting a battle of his own – Cancer. His outlook remains on helping others.
On Veterans Day he pays respect to the men and women who have protected their nation. He encourages each American to do the same, every day.
“We should also be helping the homeless veterans. We should be taking care of our own.”