TRINITY, TX (KTRE) – As your family makes plans for this Memorial Day weekend, Tuesday we remember why we celebrate.
Since 1868, the day commemorates those who died defending America and those who served.
For one East Texas veteran, the memories of friends lost during service are very much alive.
As a small boy, Tom Slaughter had big dreams.
"I looked up there at them and wished I could get up there with them," said Slaughter.
It became a reality, when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941.
Captain Tom Slaughter flew at least 30 missions during World War II, and more than 250 during the Vietnam War.
"I didn't worry about not coming home or things like that. I just worried about accomplishing the mission. That kept my mind occupied."
Of course, it wasn't all adventure as he piloted B24s, and UHI fighter planes.
"The actual combat always stands out quite vividly but that's the part we try to forget."
Not possible for this brave soldier.
"Our squadron had 20 crews from when we went over there. In six months, we had 14. The rest of them, they were either shot down, killed or captured so I lost a lot of friends."
He received a Purple Heart on his first day of combat in Vietnam. A bullet came through the helicopter and into the pilot's leg, before disintegrating. Eight pieces hit Slaughter in the face. Somehow, he managed to take the controls and bring his pilot and crew to safety.
Not everyone saw this heroism. When he returned home, he was called "a baby killer" and a "village burner."
"There are people who still don't have any use for people that were in Vietnam."
Slaughter knows there are many who appreciate their service. They mean everything to this man who carries wartime memories, good and bad close to heart.
Captain Tom Slaughter served from 1941 to 1962.
He's received several honorary medals, which he displays proudly in his Trinity home.