COLUMBIA, S.C.- Chief Warrant Officer Eric Seymore, a Vietnam War veteran and helicopter pilot in the South Carolina Army National Guard, bid farewell to more than 150 friends and family during his retirement ceremony held Jan. 5. This event not only culminated over 43 years of military service for Seymore, but closed a chapter in history for the S.C. National Guard, as he is the last serving Vietnam War veteran in their ranks.
"We bid farewell to a dedicated professional who has given so much in service to our state and nation," said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., the Adjutant General for South Carolina. "Chief Seymore's retirement is a milestone in our organization's history, as the last Vietnam War veteran in our ranks. He represents a generation who has lived through turbulence and triumph, and taught each new generation of soldiers to overcome challenges and persevere."
Seymore began his military career in 1970, after Basic Combat Training at Fort Polk, La., followed by flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala. In 1971, he flew the UH-1H (Huey) helicopter for the 114th Assault Helicopter Company in Vinh Long, Vietnam. There he flew more than 900 combat hours. After completing his combat tour, he joined the S.C. Army National Guard in 1972 in St. Mathews, S.C. Seymore has accumulated an estimated 5,300 flight hours and flown 16 models of seven different airframes during his aviation career, including the UH-1H (Huey), OH-58 (Kiowa), AH-1G (Cobra), AH-64A (Apache) and UH-72A (Lakota).
While in Vietnam, Seymore said he had three forced landings after being hit by enemy fire. He added such landings were no big deal back then, as others endured far more.
Seymore's last job assignment was as the state's Command Chief Warrant Officer, and is the highest ranking warrant officer in the S.C. National Guard. During his military service, he earned many awards and decorations which include the Bronze Star, Air Medal with 21 device, Army Commendation Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medals with 2 Bronze stars, Vietnam Service Medal and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with /60 DEV. He was presented with the Legion of Merit and Retirement Medal during the ceremony.
"I appreciate the awards, but I believe the good people who supported me over the years earned them," said Seymore. "One thing these men and women had in common - they had character and they had honor. If you have to ask what those words mean, you don't have it."
Also present for his retirement were his two sons, Capt. Eric Seymore and 1st Lt. Andrew Seymore, who also serve in the S.C. Army National Guard.
The festivities included several presentations of statuettes and plaques, as well as a "gag" gift called a "Ground Retiree Utility Mobile Platform," or GRUMP. Decorated in Clemson colors, a wheelchair was fastened with helicopter-like attachments, which included a "hot air" detector when he talks too much, a contingency sippy-cup and a "do I have my shoes on" indicator lights.
Seymore maintained his well known and highly respected cool demeanor throughout the tributes, until he looked to his wife of 39 years Peggy. After pausing briefly to choke back a tear, he expressed his appreciation of family and the role of the military spouse.
"She represents what the American Soldier's wife and spouses are," said Seymore. "Missing numerous anniversaries, birthdays and so many of life's events, I appreciate her a lot more than I can tell you."
Seymore's concluding remarks included a quote from Shakespeare, which reads, ‘we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, for he who sheds his blood with me, shall be my brother.'
"That's what we all are - brothers and sisters," said Seymore. He then received a standing ovation, to which he added, "This is not really goodbye, it is see you later."