LATIMER — Randy DeBour of Latimer still has a small notebook he used during the Vietnam War.
The notebook has words such as “hammer,” “nail” and “cement” written in English, with the Vietnamese translation written beside them.
The 67-year-old Latimer resident, who was a U.S. Navy Seabee, used this notebook while serving as part of a mobile advisory team that traveled between six coastal bases in South Vietnam.
They worked with the Vietnamese on construction projects. They would show the Vietnamese how to do things and advised them while they did the work.
“Our job was to teach the Vietnamese to take care of themselves,” DeBour said.
DeBour served as the electrician for the four-person team, which also included a builder, a plumber and a chief petty officer who was in charge of the group.
“Some of our biggest difficulties were from Mother Nature,” he said, recalling the time they sat through a typhoon.
Then there were the mines, some of which would float.
Language barriers were another difficulty, he said.
He spent some time learning Vietnamese before starting work with the team, but he mostly picked up words as he went along.
DeBour, who grew up in Latimer and graduated from CAL High School in 1966, enlisted in the Navy in 1968.
He served in Vietnam from 1971 to 1972.
Compared to others who went to Vietnam, “I was kind of a latecomer,” he said.
After he returned to Iowa in 1972, DeBour moved to Des Moines to learn more about the electrical business. He returned to Latimer in 1979 and now has his own business, DeBour Electric Inc.
He and his wife, Sue, have been married almost 46 years. They have three children and five grandchildren.
DeBour said he is glad to have served in Vietnam.
“It enlightens all those who went about a lot of different conditions,” he said.
DeBour said he did have a problem with those who protested the war.
“Things weren’t exactly like they think they were,” he said.