James enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1965. He completed his basic training at Fort Jackson, SC, and his advanced training for helicopter mechanics at Ft. Eustis, VA, where he graduated first in his class as an instructor. He only taught one class before he received his orders to ship out to Vietnam.
James was with the 335th Transportation Company as a direct support helicopter mechanic based in a small Vietnamese village near Cam Rahn Bay. Their main objective was to fix damaged helicopters to get them out of the jungles and back flying again.
James’ unit was in and out of dangerous territory and always on the move. With sadness, he recalls a day when he and his unit were preparing to get into a chopper to travel to Chu Lai, which is near Da Nang, when his commander asked him to get off and take another helicopter to Cam Rahn Bay to pick up parts. The rest of his team left for Chu Lai, and they were shot down before arriving. There were no survivors, and James lost his best buddy. He doesn’t know why he was spared, and still has trouble talking about it.
James found it difficult to transition back into civilian life. He considers himself fortunate that he got through his deployment. Upon his return, he was stationed at Fort Knox, KY. He was tasked with setting up a mechanics school for returning soldiers so they could keep their skills current on the flight line in the event that they wished to re-enlist. For James, teaching is what helped him get through the hard days.
James and his wife started building their dream home in 1999. However, because of the side effects he is experiencing from exposure to Agent Orange, James has suffered 5 heart attacks. Due to high hospital expenses, he has been unable to finish his home.
Purple Heart Homes will be assisting the Darby’s on some of the repairs, along with finishing items that James and his wife were unable to complete. “We appreciate Purple Heart Homes. We could never finish our home because of my disabilities. With their help, we are now able to keep our heads above water and have more money to pay our bills,” expressed James.
Purple Heart Homes is privileged to assist the Darbys, and we welcome them into the Purple Heart Homes family! Thank you for your service, Mr. Darby.