James "Jim" Luttrell, U.S. Army (retired) does not want to go to the Vietnam Wall just yet.
"I can remember their names. I can remember without going down there," said Luttrell, a member of both the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9478 and the American Legion Post 150, both based in Loudoun County. "I still have them in my heart."
Three of Luttrell's friends were killed in battle during his second tour of Vietnam. "I had people die around where I was at, but this was more personal," Luttrell said, not wanting to say more.
Luttrell also gained from the time he spent serving his country. He dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to help support his family and, in 1948, entered the D.C. National Guard. In May 1948, his unit was activated and he stayed on active duty until May 1981, in the meantime earning a bachelor's and a master's degree.
"All of this taught me, you can really do what the Army motto says, 'Be all you can be,'" said Luttrell, a Virginia native who has lived in Sterling for about 30 years. "All kinds of opportunities come your way, and you can reach out and grab them and do anything you want to."
IN 1952, Luttrell was assigned as an unit administrator. He earned the rank of master sergeant in 1953 and of warrant officer in 1967, the year he became an electronics repair technician. He retired in 1981 as chief warrant officer at what was then the highest ranking.
Luttrell served in Korea and in Germany before he was sent to Vietnam in March 1968 on his first of two tours. He ran an electronics maintenance shop in Da Lat in the Central Highlands for four months, then another maintenance shop near Camran Bay for the rest of his tour.
On his second tour from December 1970 to December 1971, Luttrell served as an avionics officer with an assault helicopter company and was responsible for repairing helicopter radios.
When he returned to the states, Luttrell found, "I was disappointed about the American people who sent us over there and never supported us," he said.
Luttrell decided to complete his schooling through the army, where he had already earned his General Equivalency Degree (GED) and started a bachelor's program in business administration. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1973 and a master's degree in education in 1977. He started working on his doctorate, which he earned in logistics in 1986.
"I feel very fortunate being a poor uneducated kid from the hills," Luttrell said. "Only in America could you do this."
AFTER RETIRING from the Army, Luttrell worked as a consultant with the military intelligence defense industry from 1981 until he retired a second time in 1990. He was still on active duty when he joined the America Legion in 1980 after attending a Flag Day ceremony hosted by the post.
"I was so impressed with them, I became a member," Luttrell said. The same sort of thing happened with the VFW, when American Legion members were invited to the VFW's installation of officers. Luttrell was "impressed" and joined the VFW also, liking both organizations for their involvement in the community and in the nation.
"He's a well-respected man, and he's a 100 percent veteran," said Rubie Bolen, president of the Ladies Auxiliary to the VFW Post 9478 and a Sterling resident for more than 20 years. "He's a true veteran. He will help anyone he possibly can."
"He's an individual that's community-oriented all the way," said Edwin "Ed" Linek, U.S. Navy (retired), a member of both the American Legion and the VFW. "He's an interesting character. He has a lot of stories to tell, and he also writes poems. He's a good storyteller; he's a good talker; and he's a good citizen for the country."
Luttrell started writing poetry when he was 14 years old. He said he used to write poems and give them away, never keeping copies of the hundreds of poems he wrote for himself. He was named an outstanding poet for 2002 by the International Society of Poets. His winning poems are called "Moonlight" and "Hedi," a poem for his wife, whom he married in 1955 in Germany, her native country. They have one daughter, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Luttrell has been a member of Freemasons since he joined in 1966. He currently is a member of Ashburn-Sterling Lodge No. 288. He is a past commander and a past District 10 commander for the VFW. He remains a member of both the VFW and the American Legion.