On Monday, the nation will celebrate and honor veterans of the Vietnam War.
March 29 kicks off a week honoring those veterans in recognition of Vietnam War Veterans Day, established by former President Donald Trump in 2017.
Emerson McAfee, who joined the Air Force at age 18 right out of high school in January of 1960, in one of the many local veterans who fought in the Vietnam War.
McAfee said at the time, war was the “farthest thing from his mind,” as he qualified for a career in electronics and had initial plans to follow in the footsteps of family and become a T.V. repairman.
However, plans changed four years into his enlistment when the Vietnam War began in 1964.
McAfee was assigned to Detachment 8 of the 1st Combat Evaluation Group at the Blue Grass Army Depot.
Four years later in 1968, McAfee said he had no choice but to be directly involved in conflict when he found himself at the top of the list of individuals on their way to Vietnam.
“But as fate would have it, I only had to spend three days in Vietnam and passed through headquarters on my way to one of the radar locations in Thailand,” he said.
McAfee spent more than 25 years in the Air Force and retired in Berea, Kentucky in 1984 but continued to serve by dedicating his life to other veterans.
In his retirement, McAfee has been deeply involved in organizing a number of memorials and reunions for Vietnam veterans.
He also served as president for nine years of the local Vietnam Veterans Chapter 1066, and — most recently — nominated several Madison County vets for the Veterans Hall of Fame.
One of those veterans was Chester Elkin, formerly of Berea.
McAfee spent time with Elkin for many months alongside his family to provide encouragement during his end-of-life needs.
Elkin was a veteran of World War II, and an avid community member in the city of Berea. Elkin was accepted into the Hall of the Fame just shortly after his passing.
In addition to Elkin, McAfee was another Madison County Veteran who was nominated and accepted into the Hall of Fame for his service in the military and thereafter.
Most recently, McAfee celebrated his 80th birthday with his family and was able to pass out a completed 300-paged autobiography from his life to the present-day which he wrote during quarantine.
He presented his work to his family of 16 including three children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
“They may not care about it right now, but I hope that someday they will,” Emerson said.
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