U.S. Army and National Guard veteran Howard Mattox is a lot like the planes he fixed in the Vietnam War. He returned to the service after suffering two heart attacks during Desert Storm like the planes he repaired during Vietnam War went back into action.
Mattox fixed planes during the Vietnam War and was a weapons technician during Desert Storm.
Mattox was in Kuwait for three months when he suffered a heart attack. On the way to the hospital the helicopter he was riding crashed but he survived.
“The tail rotor broke and it went down.” Mattox said. “I was strapped (down). When the chopper hit the ground I was out. I broke the straps and me and the guy running behind me was holding the IV.”
Mattox suffered another heart attack on the helicopter ride to another hospital near Saudi Arabia. He was finally sent to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi to recover.
Mattox stayed in Ft. Gordon, Georgia, until his unit returned. He continued to tour with the National Guard before retiring as a sergeant after 25 years of service.
Mattox joined the Army when he was 18 to avoid being drafted in 1965. He went to basic training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and completed advanced individual training in Ft. Rucker.
Mattox served as a small-wing aircraft mechanic during the Vietnam War in 1966 and 1967 and repaired aircrafts with gunshots that needed to get put back together.
“They would be taped together with duct tape until they flew them down to us,” Mattox said. “That’s what they call ‘500 miles-an-hour tape.’”
A threatening war action Mattox encountered in Vietnam was when a native threw a grenade at an established bar he had just left.
Mattox served in the Army for six years.
When Mattox was leaving the Army his brother, Hulan Mattox, convinced him to join the National Guard. Howard served in the Alexander City National Guard 214th company for 19 years.
Mattox’s company was sent to Kuwait during Desert Storm as a weapons technician who was in charge of the company’s ammunitions. One time he had all the company’s weapons in his possession when the company left for another place without him.
“They didn’t have any weapons,” Mattox said. “I had all the weapons and ammunition there with me.”
Because Mattox couldn’t catch up to his crew, he drove to an airport and waited there until the company found him drinking tea with Iraqis.
Mattox also went to Saudi Arabia where missiles were shot over the company’s heads.
“Vietnam, over there you had six months of rainy weather and six months of dry,” Mattox said. “Desert Storm, you had burning hot sun in the daytime and freezing weather at night.”
After retiring, Mattox sold furniture for 15 years and was a calendar operator and mechanic at Russell Mills for 20 years. He is now retired and takes care of his wife of 40 years, Barbara Mattox.
Mattox is a member of the Alexander City Veterans Honor Guard and if he had the choice, he would serve again because he is “proud of America.”
“If I had to do it over I would go again but I’m too old now,” Mattox said.