With a strong sense of duty to his country, Bill's commitment to freedom drove him to be the best soldier he could be and support our country in any way he could.
The horrors of war led to a different kind of service for one Viet Nam veteran.
Bill Martin of Eldon served in the United States Air Force from 1962 to 1974. He was not drafted, but was already serving as a sergeant before the draft was enacted. With a strong sense of duty to his country, Bill wasn’t chomping at the bit to get over there, but at 21 years old, young and idealistic, his commitment to freedom drove him to be the best soldier he could be and support our country in any way he could.
Scarred by the guerrilla warfare of the jungle and the Tet Offensive, Bill came home with post-traumatic stress disorder before he says he found peace through God. The tough soldier would become a pastor and a missionary, serving at remote locations around the globe, this time in the name of Jesus Christ.
Born in Memphis, Texas in 1944, Bill is the youngest of four children, son of Raymond and Kate Martin. He married Joye Cooper in Mesquite, Texas in 1963. They have been stationed in various places over the years, as he served first as a soldier, then as a pastor, before settling in Eldon in 1986.
Bill reports he was a bit of a wild child growing up. Ever wishing to be a cowboy, he liked to play with pistols, which made him a bit of a difficult teen to raise. He dropped out of high school when he was 16.
After bouncing around different jobs, and brother’s homes, he basically joined the Air Force to stay out of trouble. Bill quickly finished his GED in the Air Force and hoped to be a pilot. Finding out that a college degree was necessary to enter pilot training, Bill opted to become a plane mechanic instead. At this he discovered he was handy and excelled in mechanics.
As a soldier, one of the most difficult challenges Bill faced was leaving his wife and newborn children as deployed on two tours of Viet Nam. He was stationed in Nha Trang of South Viet Nam from 1966-1968.
During the Tet offensive, when the Marines were surrounded at Khe Sanh, his squadron was able to deliver supplies by flying into the ground fire, “on the deck,” and shove the pallets off the ramp. On the ground, Bill described life in the camp as being always on guard. There were a lot of Vietnamese locals that worked in the camp, and he says they had a “mamasan” and her daughter that would come in and do their laundry and cook for them.
Sometimes the Vietcong would force these innocent people working in the camps to ambush the unsuspecting soldiers.
Untrained by the Air Force at that time in hand-to-hand combat, Bill recalled guard duty at night around their camp and leading patrol at night in trenches around the camp. The Vietcong were quiet, and could sneak up on them without ever being heard. They were very efficient, quiet killers, said Bill. If you heard them, it was usually too late.
Barely 140 pounds, Bill said his ability to fight was limited and the rest of his bunch didn't know how. So Bill befriended a Marine combat soldier who agreed to teach his troop how to defend themselves.
A night attack on his troop as they were guarding the camp was defeated by the flyover of a a converted C-47 transport plane. He recalled the airmen whooping because as “Puff The Magic Dragon” swooped overhead. The old World War II plane had rapid fire 20 mm cannons and lit up the jungle. With flares and tracers, it literally turned on daylight, said Bill.
He saw the beginning and the end of the Vietnam war in his service. Leaving without much physical damage, Bill’s war wounds were emotional and psychological. Sent to a military hospital in Okinawa, Japan for a bit after his service in Nha Trang, Bill was treated with sedation, but his nerves were never the same.
He returned to the United States entering in California, where he was instructed to remove his uniform and change before leaving the plane due to protestors hurling things and confronting returning servicemen.
Bill and his family moved to Denver, Colorado for his next station, operating satellite intelligence for the Air Force.
At home, but not yet at peace, Bill remembered these days of sleeping with a pistol under his pillow, nearly accidentally shooting Joye one night in his sleep while suffering a flashback. He would hit the ground in a protective motion upon hearing a car backfire while mowing the lawn.
At wit’s end, Bill finally found relief in church, and in 1972, said he gave his heart and life to Jesus while at the same time being offered a much higher rank and permanent commission overseas with his family.
Call to a different kind of service, Bill opted for discharge and entered college in his 30s. He received his bachelor’s degree from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas, and his master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas. He eventually moved to Eldon, Missouri and pastored Aurora Springs Baptist Church for seven years.
At this time he earned his doctorate in family counseling.
Then he and his wife Joye surrendered to foreign missions. Bill and Joye served as Southern Baptist missionaries in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for several years, before transferring to Taipei, Taiwan. He pastored Calvary International Baptist Church in Taiwan for 13 years. After Joye passed away in 2015, Bill returned to missions and is currently serving as a refugee relief worker in the Middle East.