Last Vietnam War draftee retires after 42 years

Left, Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, commanding general of the 2nd Infantry Division, presents Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ralph E. Rigby an encased flag, as a token of appreciation for his 42 years of dedicated service in the U.S. Army, during his retirement ceremony on Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, Oct. 28. (Chin-U Pak/2nd Infantry Division)

The last continuously serving Vietnam War draftee on active-duty is retiring from the Army.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ralph Rigby has served for 42 years, according to information from the 2nd Infantry Division. He was just 19 when he was drafted into the Army.

In a news story by the 2nd Infantry Division, Rigby recounted his reaction when he was drafted.

His first response was to consider moving to Canada, but his mother, Dorothy, wouldn’t hear it.

“We do not quit in this family,” she told him, according to the 2nd Infantry Division’s story.

“I took my mother’s words and kept on going,” Rigby said in the story. “After all, being drafted was the closest I have come to winning the lottery.”

After training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Rigby was sent to the Army’s engineer school at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He did not deploy to Vietnam. Instead, his first assignment was to South Korea.

Rigby enjoyed his time in Korea so much that he extended his tour.

Ten years later, as a sergeant first class, Rigby became a warrant officer.

He has served at various levels, from power generator equipment repairman to platoon sergeant to ground support maintenance technician.

He is now the senior ordnance logistics officer for the 2nd Infantry at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea.

“I love what I do,” Rigby said in the division news story. “Knowing that I am able to work with all the brigades while still getting the opportunity to mentor officers and junior enlisted soldiers.”

During a ceremony Monday, which also was Rigby’s 62nd birthday, Maj. Gen. Thomas Vandal, the 2nd Infantry’s commanding general, thanked Rigby for his service.

“Chief, you have truly been a bargain for the American people and our Army, a giver who has sacrificed much for the sake of our nation,” Vandal said during the retirement event.

Rigby, who plans to settle in Fayetteville, North Carolina, said he’s thankful for his time in the Army, according to the 2nd Infantry news story.

“It’s mandatory to get old, but only optional to grow up,” he said. “The Army has allowed me to travel and see things that I would have never seen otherwise.”

Army Times

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