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Veterans Day Salute: Bob Young

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Airplanes are what drew Bob Young to join the Air Force over other branches of the military.

“I’ve always loved to fly. It’s in my DNA,” said the former Augusta mayor who soon learned it was what the military wanted not what he wanted when it came to assignments.

That was in 1967 during the Vietnam War. Young had received a draft notice. He’d first talked to an Army recruiter who tried to convince him he could fly helicopters, but he decided against it, opting for the Air Force instead.

But in the Air Force, Young didn’t get to follow his dream of becoming a pilot. Instead, the military branch tapped into another area that would become a huge part of his life and work. He had worked at a radio station in his hometown of Thomson prior to joining the Air Force.

He found himself in the Air Force’s broadcasting track and ended up at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado, where he worked on training films.

Bob Young during the Vietnam War. Photo courtesy Bob Young

“I had experience with every piece of equipment the Air Force had,” he said.

In 1969, he became part of the Armed Forces Vietnam Network, which was comprised of members of different branches of the military.

“It was a unique experience being part of a joint service,” he said.

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AFVN was responsible for radio and television programming for service members in Vietnam.

He worked in several different locations during his time in Vietnam.

Bob Young was assigned to the Armed Forces Vietnam Network. Photo courtesy Bob Young

The broadcasts provided a slice of American life for service members who were a long way from home.

 “We wanted to keep it as it was in the states,” he said. “They were isolated from their family and friends and what was happening at home.”

The impact of what they did was hard to measure, he said, but they did get a lot of positive feedback.

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“They would tell you how much they enjoyed it. We were the only source of that type of entertainment,” he said.

Young said he’d never forget one special broadcast involving the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

Working with the technology of the day, they took previously recorded NASA video and teamed it with the audio from the moon landing to provide a glimpse into space for those in Vietnam.

Bob Young was part of a special broadcast about the Apollo 11 moon landing when he served in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Bob Young

He remembers delivering the broadcast film and playing it in a remote location.

“I was very proud of the way the crew put it together,” he said.

When the USO tours would come through, he’d often meet with the performers and do broadcasts about those as well.

Since he joined the Air Force to be near planes, he used his days off to fly with others.

Bob Young during the Vietnam War. Photo courtesy Bob Young

Young returned stateside in 1971 and left the military after his four-year commitment.

He worked for WBBQ radio before becoming a television journalist and anchoring for WJBF-TV, the ABC affiliate. From 1988 to 1991, ABC aired a drama called “China Beach” about a medical team in Vietnam.

“They used me as a consultant. I flew to L.A.,” he said.

He was interviewed about his time in the AFVN for an episode called “Souvenirs” that aired in 1990. That episode won a Peabody Award.

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He served as mayor of Augusta from 1999-2005 and resigned when President George W. Bush tapped him to serve as the regional director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Regional Development in Atlanta.

He worked at Phinizy Swamp for two years.

Young said he’s retired, but he stays busy.

He’s authored several historical fiction novels including the “Treasure Train” and “The Hand of the Wicked” and has appeared in several movies including “Poms,” “The Blind Side” and “Agent Game,” recently filmed in Augusta.

He also works to help other veterans. One goal of Young’s is the development of a veterans’ cemetery in south Augusta. He’s hopeful that project will overcome its hurdles to be a reality in the next few years.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the Features Editor for The Augusta Press. Reach her at [email protected] 

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