Although he didn’t lay down his life, he did lay down his guns after serving two tours in Vietnam.
Martin Andree, 81, who lives in the heart of Destin, joined the service in 1956 and retired in 1981 from the Army. He served in four Special Forces units and was enlisted for six years and commissioned for 19 as an infantry officer.
On Monday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day will be celebrated.
"I think it’s a way of remembering the men and women and what they have done for this country in many instances, laid down their lives,“ Andree said sitting in his home on Sailfish Drive.
While his time in the Far East will not be forgotten, two tours in Vietnam, six months in Laos and six months in Thailand, the men he served with is what he remembers most.
“To this day some of them are really good friends of mine,” he said.
Andree served as a Green Beret in Vietnam.
“We did some things we can’t talk about. But what I liked most about that was most of my interaction with foreign services ... we were in a training mode,” he said of his time in Thailand and Laos.
He served two tours in Vietnam, the first with the 5th Special Forces Group and then the second with the 101st Airborne Division.
“My first tour in Vietnam (from 1966-67), I really thought we were doing everything great. What we were there for was great,” he said. “Then I went back in 1969-70 and things hadn’t changed a whole lot and I began to wonder why we were here.
“I don’ have any regrets,” he said.
If he had any regret it would be time away from family.
“My wife, God bless her for all she went through when I wasn’t here,” he said.
Andree lost his wife of 60 years, Lois, about 2 1/2 years ago.
The two met while in high school in Maryland. But being the wife of an military man can be trying.
“The first seven years that Lois and I were married I was home for a total of four years, but never more than 90 days at a time,” Andree said, noting because he was in Special Forces they were constantly on the move. “But God bless her, our kids are who they are today because of their mother.”
They had two girls, a boy, one adopted son and guardianship of two other young men.
He said their oldest daughter went to 13 different schools before she graduated high school.
“We were moving every year,” he said, noting they moved 19 times while he was in the service.
Andree said none of their children ever expressed an interest in going into the service.
He shared a story of his son, who was a swimmer, being courted by the Naval Academy to swim.
“I’ve been in the service for 18 years and that’s enough,” he said his son told the Navy recruiter. “I never interfered with what they wanted to do ... whatever they wanted to do was fine with me.”
As for what he liked best about the military, Andree said, “the discipline ... I like that. I served with people I could trust. When they said they were going to do something they did it.”
Plus he liked the camaraderie.
“Even though you might move around ... you’re all in the same boat,” he said. “And the same goes for family. Families in the military community are pretty closely knit.”
In addition to spending time in the Far East, he spent three years in Europe on two different tours.
“I was there with the 10th Special Forces and then I attended the German War College, a two-year school,” he said.
“We enjoyed our time in Germany,” he added, noting he’s been back to visit the war college where he graduated in recent years. “They gave me a tour and they treated me like royalty. My picture was still on the wall ... it was fun.”
Although he enjoyed his visit back to Europe, he has no interest in going back to the Far East.
As a matter of fact, he said when he came back from his second tour in Vietnam he sold all his guns.
“I didn’t want anything to do with guns,” he said.
In 1983 he had a buddy invite him to go deer hunting and he had to go buy a gun. As a matter fact, he continues to go to this day to the same hunting camp in Arkansas, which is where he will spend this Veterans Day.
Not long after he sold his guns in the early ’80s, he said he and his wife went to see the movie “The Deerslayer.” He explained there was a scene in the movie where a guy is on a ridge and sees this buck. He has the rifle pointed at the buck but he doesn’t pull the trigger.
“My wife turned to me and said, ’Why didn’t he shoot?’ It popped out of my mouth ... ’He’s tired of killing.’ I think that’s the reason I got rid of my guns,” Andree said.
“When you’re in a combat situation, that’s not an easy time. That’s a hard time. And I had three years of that.”
For his time served, he was awarded many medals. Among them are the Silver Star and three Bronze Stars with a V for valor.
“Some things you don’t want to share and some things you shouldn’t share, but in those circumstances there’s not an upside,” Andree said. “... In some cases you’d rather forget about, but you never will.”