Tyrone Hurt learned a strong work ethic, respect and responsibility at a very young age. He was born and raised in East Chicago, IN, where his father and grandfather were hard working home builders. These men took young Tyrone under their wing and not only taught him the trade, but so much more about life and the rewards of hard work.
By the age of eight Tyrone would be on job-sites with his dad and grandfather, learning about the trade. He was an early riser, getting up at 5:00 or 6:00 AM each day and delivering two different paper routes, after folding all the papers individually. “Back then, we didn’t have rubber bands or plastic bags. I had to fold them up just right and put them in my wagon, then pull the wagon…rain or shine.” He even made the rounds each Saturday to make collections from his customers.
Tyrone’s dad, a World War II veteran and brick layer by trade, taught him to lay brick at the age of 14. His dad demanded excellence in his work. “I remember times when I’d build a wall. My daddy would show me how to do it. He would say, ‘Now, when I come back I want this wall to be done right.’ But these girls would be passing by, you know…And so, I’m doing this wall and daddy comes back around and kicks it all down and says, ‘I told you I wanted it this way! I’m gonna show you how to do it again.’ And I’m crying, and those girls are watching… But I learned to lay bricks!”
Tyrone’s dad would tell him to take his work clothes to school because he was expected to be on the job-site after getting out at 3:30. After school he would go to work and work until sundown. He learned and did every aspect of the construction jobs. It started with the mixer. He remembers, “We had a mixer on the job. It was me with two hoes and a tub, mixing that mortar.” It is certainly no wonder that his career would be in the construction business and as Project Manager for very large commercial building projects in Texas.
After high school, Tyrone worked at Youngstown Steel Mill as a laborer. He was certain, “that was not what I wanted to do!” He thought, “I’m either going to college or volunteer for the Army.” So, April 3, 1967 he enlisted in the United States Army. “But the main reason that I went was because I wanted to fight for my country. I wanted to be a good soldier and a good man.”
He experienced his basic training at Ft Knox, KY and then it was on to Ft Sill, OK for surveying school. As an Army surveyor, his unit would be attached to other Army Divisions as needed. His unit was with the 101st Airborne and the 7th Army.
After the surveyor training was completed, Tyrone’s Captain asked him to visit with him. They walked for about an hour while the officer tried to convince Tyrone to enter Officer Candidate School. Tyrone’s grades in the school were exemplary and his was the third highest score that had ever been recorded in surveyor training.
Tyrone had a decision to make. But there were two reasons that influenced him to turn this opportunity down. First, he knew that officers could be called back to duty at any time and Non-Commissioned Officers could not. Second, the casualty rate for the rank of 2nd Lieutenant was high in Viet Nam.
So, he was assigned to a surveying team in Germany, where they would be attached to a company that was responsible for firing the Honest John Rocket, a large missile that was mounted on a truck. The surveyors would coordinate with the forward observer and be responsible for surveying the area of fire. There were no field computers in those days, so the calculations were made by slide rule and logarithm books.
While in Germany, and enjoying his time there, Tyrone was relaxing in his bunk at 6:00 AM one morning. The 1st Sergeant came in and said, “Private Hurt, the Captain wants to see you downstairs.” He went down and there were three other men reporting to the Captain also, and they were all told to pack their bags, they were headed to Viet Nam. The Army has ways of shocking you into reality!
Before deploying to Viet Nam, Tyrone was given a 45-day leave. He headed home to East Chicago, where he worked 35 of those days in the Youngstown Steel Mill! I asked him why he did that. He replied, “I didn’t have any papers to throw.”
Two significant events happened during those 45 days. His aunt cooked and served a wonderful dinner celebration for him and the family before he went back to active duty. But, most importantly, he met a young lady. He said, “When I bent down to shake her hand, this little guy in a diaper came flying down behind me and shot me with an arrow in my behind! I’ve been stuck ever since.”
His wife to be was 16 years old when they met. He, of course, invited her to the send-off dinner at his aunt’s house, and she was with his parents as they took him to the airport where he would board the plane to the war zone. Tyrone says, “It was definitely love at first sight.” Tyrone assures us that both have all the letters that they sent to each other while he was away on duty.
The business of combat surveying for artillery batteries in Viet Nam would be short lived for Tyrone’s crew. It became very dangerous because their 8-10 man squad would be in the bush, by themselves, without any armed security detail to protect them. Snipers began targeting these men and the Army stopped this activity. Tyrone saw friends that he was working with go down.
The guys were reassigned to other duties and their MOS classifications were changed. Tyrone went from 82C40 (Surveyor), to 57H40 (Fork Lift Driver). He was sent to Transportation and began driving an RT (rough terrain) Forklift on the Saigon docks, unloading Merchant Marine ships which were bringing supplies to the war effort.
He says that he was not very happy about this at first, but as he began to see the bigger picture and all the ships coming and unloading, his attitude changed. He said, “I knew that I had a duty to do.” Tyrone knows that he was able to see a part of the Viet Nam War from that vantage point that not many others saw. He witnessed and was a part of the supplies that would eventually make it to the troops in the field. Vehicles, food, clothes and everything in between, Tyrone’s crew unloaded them and sent them on their way.
He remembers the extra care that had to be taken when ammunition was offloaded. “We had to handle it very carefully. There couldn’t be any ‘Oops!’ You only got one of those.”
The RT Forklift was a very large vehicle and they would have four of them to unload the ships when they arrived. One time there were three forklifts down and Tyrone’s was the only one functional. So, he was in the fast mode at 2:00 in the morning, attempting to make up time and get the job done. But the MP’s patrolling the dock had other ideas. They ticketed him for speeding on the dock.
His Captain came over and asked, “What’s the problem?” Tyrone answered, “They said I was speeding and gave me a ticket.” The Captain turned to the MP’s and said, “OK, thank you very much. Now Sergeant, get back to doing what you were doing.” Then he tore the ticket up.
During this time, Tyrone met men who were coming in from the battle field and he was able to listen as they shared their stories. One guy in particular that he describes, “looked like he had gone through hell and high water three times.” It seems that the Viet Cong had laid a trap for them by digging a series of ditches, which they zeroed in on with their mortars. When the American squad came to the location, a fire fight began, and they naturally jumped into the ditches. The VC had them in their sights then and it was a bloody fight until reinforcements arrived just before they were overrun.
The same warrior told him that a friend of his had taken a round in the chest. It knocked him down, but he had a New Testament in his pocket and that is where the bullet stopped. A very good thing indeed!
After he made E5 (Buck Sergeant), Tyrone was on duty one night in charge of CQ. His Captain reported that some dummy had gone AWOL and it was Tyrone’s mission, at 11:00 PM, to go get him in Bien Hoa, about 20-25 miles away. He along with a driver and a private on the back of the jeep with a 50-caliber machine gun went to get him. On the way, they inadvertently drove through a fire fight, with tracer rounds screeching through the air. They eventually picked the guy up, placed him in handcuffs and when they returned, the MP’s were waiting to whisk him away.
At the end of his tour in Viet Nam Tyrone wanted to be sure he went back to the States with the Surveying MOS that he had trained for and not in Transportation. So, he requested that it be changed back, and he was granted that. As he arrived back home with a leave before his next duty station, his brother, Jerome, was deploying to Viet Nam. Two brothers could not be in Viet Nam at the same time during those days. Jerome would be awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his outstanding service in Viet Nam.
Tyrone reflected on his time in the Army and said, “I just wish I could tell you that I was a John Wayne and did something significant. There were a few scary times, but I wasn’t a John Wayne. But we all had a job to do…One of the things that I think about my time in the service is the discipline. It stays with you and I think every man ought to go to the service just for the discipline.” He says that people ask him how he has gotten along so well in life. “It’s because I send a lot of ‘knee-mail’.” Tyrone is grateful that God has had His hand on his life.
America didn’t need every soldier to be a John Wayne, but America did, and still does, need more men like Tyrone Hurt, who love their country and see it as their duty to defend her and encourage others to also.