CHARLES CITY | A Charles City Marine seriously injured in Vietnam says fear helped keep him alive.
“Some guys got so lax with what they were doing and ran into problems,” said Jim Marlow, 66. “Staying on my guard helped me survive.”
Marlow, a Tama native, was 17 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in Mason City in 1967.
“This may sound corny, but I wanted to be the best,” he said of choosing the branch.
Marlow was sent to Vietnam’s demilitarized zone in 1968 to provide motor transportation services. He ended up being in the country for 24 months.
“As a young kid over there, I hated it,” he said. “When they told me I would have to do two tours, I hated it even more.”
Marlow had a variety of responsibilities, He worked on a gun line; hauled ammunition, beer and food; and backed up door gunners on helicopters.
“I enjoyed every one of them,” he said.
Marlow sustained two life-threatening injuries while in southeast Asia. He lost a leg to an anti-tank mine and took a shell fragment to the chest.
After 18 months in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, Marlow was honorably discharged in November 1970.
He then tried to put his life back together. Marlow married a woman he had been dating before the war, but they soon divorced.
“When I came home, I wasn’t the person she had fallen in love with,” he said.
He moved to Charles City, marrying his current wife, Connie, in 1970. Marlow held a number of jobs — truck driving, roofing, working in a management office and managing the Charles Theatre.
He says he still has trouble coping with loud noises, especially thunder.
“It just bothers the heck out of me because I saw a significant amount of combat while I was there,” he said.
Operation LZ in Forest City last summer was a healing experience, he said.
Marlow has also been part of the Marine Corps League for about 20 years, currently serving a co-coordinator for Floyd County for the League’s North Iowa Detachment No. 859.
“Being around former Marines, it helps with processing,” he said.
The League, which is for Marine Corps veterans, supports injured Marines, youth programs and Toys for Tots and assists with veterans benefits.