This photo was taken in March, 2016 as Tom surveyed a location on the Cuaviet River in Vietnam where his boat had been flipped and sunk by a mine explosion, killing two people and destroying equipment. It is a pictorial from Mark 4:39 of Christ’s assertion, “Peace, be still.”
From his service in Vietnam until the moment this picture was taken, Tom’s emotional and mental torment had been a raging storm.
Mr. Tom Center graduated from high school in 1966 at the age of 17. Because he had to be at least 18 years old to join the military, his mother had to reluctantly approve his enlistment. After being in the Navy for a short time, Center volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam. His request for boat duty was accepted and his first combat tour was in 1967 and 1968 with the joint Navy/Army Mobile Riverine Force in the Delta of Vietnam. The second tour, in 1969 and 1970, was spent traversing the northern most river in South Vietnam looking for mines, re-positioning troops, and transporting logistic items. For his Combat Tours with the United States Navy, Petty Officer Center was awarded the following decorations: Purple Heart, Navy Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Achievement Award with Valor Device, Navy Meritorious Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation, Unit Cross of Gallantry, Vietnamese Civic Action Citation, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Navy Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.
After a 13 – year break in service, Mr. Center decided to rejoin the military. Staff Sergeant Center was medically retired. Mr. Center has had various educational and work related experiences, including graduation from the Los Angeles Police Academy, eight years as a Patrolman and School Resource Officer in Orange, California, teaching high school, being a Military Intelligence Instructor with the United States Army, obtaining degrees in Law Enforcement, Sociology, and Education, and working with the Occupational Safety & Health Agency and the Mining Safety & Health Agency as a Safety Instructor.
Tom presents a check to Dr. Jerry Davis, President of College of the Ozarks, in support of the College’s Patriotic Travel Program, responsible for Tom’s trip back to Vietnam in 2016.