POW a strong advocate for veterans, DAV
Ray Hill was only 17 years old when he volunteered to serve his country.
In 1966, after a tour in Germany, Hill was called to deploy to Vietnam, just outside of Saigon.
“You don’t really know what to expect,” says Hill. “We set base camp up, got everything going, and then started our patrols. You don’t realize what’s going on until you start getting shot at.”
Navigating the jungles of Vietnam was “terrible,” according to Hill. The nighttime was particularly challenging, with a dark so dense that it was difficult to follow one another. It was an arduous terrain through which Ray would find himself led through and, ultimately, charting his course for safety.
Captured by the Viet Cong, Hill was held as a prisoner of war for 44 days. During that time, the Viet Cong tied his arms to a branch and placed it across his shoulders. They proceeded to lead him through the jungle.
But one night, while tied to a tree, the guard on duty untied him and told him, “The river is down there.”
“I expected to get shot in the back but I didn’t, and I took off,” says Hill.
He spent two days routing his way through the tangled and treacherous jungle, moving silently so as not to risk discovery by the enemy.
At last, he saw a unit on patrol. They took him in, secured a helicopter and flew him to care.
“They offered to send me back to the states, but I wanted to stay there,” says Hill.
Sometime later, Hill would go to the aid of a fellow soldier who slipped and fell in combat. While attempting to pull the man to safety, Hill was shot in the back. Following surgery in Siagon, he was told he would probably never walk again.
But an enemy’s bullet couldn’t keep Hill down, and once he returned home, he discovered DAV. He knew then he’d found his people.
“There’s always somebody that’s been through what you’ve been through,” says Hill. “And that matters.”
Hill’s wife Shirley is also committed to DAV.
“I’m a strong advocate,” says Shirley, who got involved with the DAV Auxiliary through her husband and has served in numerous leadership positions. “It’s been a family to me.”
Through her involvement with the Auxiliary, Shirley makes sure that veterans are cared for. She helps provide blankets to homeless veterans in her community, ensures veterans have a good Thanksgiving and Christmas with donations and works to make sure that children of veterans have school supplies.
“We’re always doing something and trying to help,” says Shirley. “To me, out of all the organizations, DAV has been the strongest advocate for the veteran and does more for the disabled veterans than the others.”