Indianapolis, IN – A lot of things happened in 1967: The very first Super Bowl, the first Boeing 737 took its maiden flight, Elvis married Priscilla, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first black justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Jeffrey Trotter decided to join the U.S. Army.
“I was out of school and I was getting in a lot of trouble doing nothing, so I thought, a friend of mine got drafted so we decided to go in together,” said Trotter.
Trotter went to basic training at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Then he spent time on a base in Arizona before being deployed to Germany where he got frostbite the first week on the ground. “I knew I wasn’t going to go back there another three years in a row, so I volunteered for Vietnam,” said Trotter.
The army took Trotter up on his offer and he landed at Cam Rahn Bay in 1969, hooking up with the 101st Airborne Division. It was a group he developed a tight knit relationship with. “In the army it’s a little different, what happens in the civilian life it won’t work in the military, because you depend on each other. And there’s no way you could hate me if I’m covering your butt,” said Trotter.
That mentality served the soldiers well when they spent months battling the North Vietnamese army for control of hill 937, better known as “Hamburger Hill.”
“You know they did a movie about Hamburger Hill, well we were there, we was in a valley, we spent 6 months in the valley trying to take a hill,” said Trotter.
Trotter only spent a year in Vietnam, but when he returned back home it wasn’t without a price. He spoke with us about some of the health issues he’s faced since his deployment, problems he attributes to Agent Orange. “I think that’s where the asthma came from, and all the rashes come from, them spraying to keep the dense jungle and weeds and all that stuff down,” said Trotter.
Today this Hoosier hero lives at the North Capitol Rehab Center, an American Seniors Community where he’s undergoing therapy after having hip surgery. Then and now, Trotter tells us there are two things you can count on to overcome any obstacle. “If you’ve got family and you’ve got God, you’ve got it all. That’s all you need to get through this life,” said Trotter.
Trotter earned a Bronze Star for his time in Vietnam. After leaving the army, he worked for General Motors as an aircraft machinist for 20 years.