Exchange Awards Three Vietnam Veterans $1,600 in Prizes in ‘My Battle Buddy’ Essay Contest

DALLAS – Shoulder to shoulder they fought, steeled against the chaos and violence that threatened their lives on a daily basis.

Decades after the end of the Vietnam War, many veterans have lost contact with their “Battle Buddies.” But few have forgotten them.

That’s why last fall, as part of the Exchange’s participation in the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemorative Partner Program, the Exchange asked veterans to submit essays detailing their time fighting alongside their favorite “Battle Buddy” for a chance to win $1,600 in prizes. This month, the writers of the top three essays were awarded $1,600 in prizes.

The grand prize winner, Elbert E. Clayton of O’Fallon, Illinois, won a $500 Exchange gift card for his essay on “Pete,” with whom he served in February 1962 at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Clayton was awarded his prize during a ceremony held Jan. 20 at the Scott Air Force Base Exchange.

Second-place winner Nicholas W. Leopoldus, of Biloxi, Mississippi, was awarded a Schwinn 270 recumbent bicycle during a ceremony held Jan. 21 at the Keesler Air Force Base Exchange.  Leopoldus wrote of 2nd Lt Ronald Charles Osborne, whom Leopoldus served with during a search-and-destroy mission a few miles from Cambodia in Vietnam. Obsorne was killed in action by a claymore mine while outside the perimeter preparing for an anticipated nighttime attack by North Vietnamese forces.

Third-place winner Jerome D. Witt, of Roy, Washington, won a Schwinn 170 upright bicycle for detailing his time with Ernie Sapp, with whom he lost contact after a year of “living on the edge” together as part of a four-man recon team. Witt was awarded his prize Dec. 23 at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Exchange.

“The Exchange honors the great sacrifice all of our veterans made in defending American freedoms abroad,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Sean Applegate, Exchange senior enlisted advisor. “Their stories – especially of the support they provided one another to survive – should live on as a testament to the selfless and enduring spirit of the American warfighter.”

The 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemorative Partner Program was designed for federal, state and local agencies to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families.

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The Army & Air Force Exchange Service goes where Soldiers, Airmen and their families go to improve the quality of their lives through goods and services provided. Exchange earnings provide dividends to support military morale, welfare and recreation programs. The Exchange is part of the Department of Defense and is directed by a Board of Directors, responsible to the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force through the Chiefs of Staff.  To find out more about the Exchange history and mission or to view recent press releases please visit our Web site at or follow us on Twitter at


Media Notes:

For more information or to schedule an interview with an Exchange representative please contact Conner Hammett, 214-312-2714 or