At only 17, young Chuck joined the Army with two friends and headed off to Vietnam. “The Army helped me grow up,” Ringey said. “I came back a man.”
US Army Sergeant E5 Charles Warren Ringey served one tour of active duty during the Vietnam War from April 1967 to April 1968. He was so young his parents had to give permission for him to enlist.
Ringey came from military roots. His father, uncles, and brother-in-laws all served our country. He completed boot camp at Fort Ord, California, and Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He also had special training through the tank core. He chose the tank core because “a tank had a bit more protection around it than a shirt.”
During the Vietnam War, Ringey drove an Armored Personnel Carrier that carried troops going into combat from Pleiku in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. His team included three soldiers - the Tank Commander, the Gunner, and the driver. In case the need arose, Ringey was cross trained to perform all three positions.
Ringey describes his tank as “solid aluminum…five inches of solid aluminum.” He could see out 360 degrees with a swivel chair and periscopes inside the tank. If he wanted some fresh air or a better view, he could open the hatch and stick his head out as long as he watched out for snipers.
Ringey earned the Purple Heart Medal when his tank ran over a land mine in the road. “It just went kablooey,” he explained. The explosion left a 100-foot crater in the ground where the tank hit. Ringey needed 15 stitches in the back of the head, x-rays, and a sling for his shoulder. His two other team members survived with injuries and earned the Purple Heart Medal as well.
After his injury, Ringey spent two days in camp then served on light guard duty for a week or two to recover. “It was the middle of the war. They needed you.”
Ringey remembers his time on guard duty as dangerous. “We never knew when the adversary was coming.” He recalls one person was killed on guard duty while he was there. “You had to watch what you were doing,” he said. He also performed road security to check for land mines, kept his tank in working order with the help of the maintenance crew, and played cards in his down time.
Ringey describes where he was stationed in Vietnam as “beautiful country, beautiful things over there, jungles, mountains - and I got to see it all!” The climate was humid with lots of moisture and monsoons. “It could rain for ten days straight, then you’d get ten days of heat.” He also remembers dust, three foot ruts in the road, and lots and lots of mud. All of this made driving his tank challenging at times.
Back in the states, Ringey served at Fort Carson, Colorado, for 18 months. In his role, he tracked troop movements in Vietnam using radar equipment.
Ringey reflects on his Army experience as “more influential than harmful, enlightening, and meaningful.”
After Ringey was honorably discharged in 1968, he returned home to California. He attended aircraft mechanic school on the GI Bill, and he spent the rest of his working life as an auto mechanic. Originally born in Paola, he returned to his Kansas roots a few years ago to care for his parents. He and his wife Donna are residents of Parker.