Spc. 5 Vern Spearman and his bride, Lola, were married June 30, 1973, at the old Post Chapel. They retired from Redstone together on Labor Day weekend 2012.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. 5 Vern Spearman and his bride, Lola, were married June 30, 1973, at the old Post Chapel. They retired from Redstone together on Labor Day weekend 2012. (Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
Huntsville resident Vern Spearman retired from Redstone in 2012 as a senior physicist after 47 years of service, including six years as an active-duty Soldier.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Huntsville resident Vern Spearman retired from Redstone in 2012 as a senior physicist after 47 years of service, including six years as an active-duty Soldier. (Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Wearing his Boy Scout adult leader uniform, Vern Spearman approached the podium and called the banquet to order.

Spearman, a Vietnam-era veteran, is president of the Urban Emphasis Scout Leaders Council. He welcomed the approximately 120 attendees to the 2022 Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Awards Banquet held Aug. 12 at the Jackson Center in Huntsville. Mayor Tommy Battle was among the attendees.

About 20 years ago, along with the leadership of retired 1st Sgt. Albert Farrar and retired Col. James Heyward, Spearman was able to start the awards program to encourage more support of Scouting programs in the inner-city community.

“We’re here to recognize people, organizations, volunteers who give their time and resources to support others,” Spearman told the crowd.

He retired from the Test Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Support Group, at Redstone, in 2012 as a senior physicist after 47 years of service which included six years as an active-duty Soldier.

Spearman was born in Ingold, North Carolina, and grew up in Newburgh, New York. The youngest of eight children – four boys and four girls – he graduated high school, Newburgh Free Academy, in 1967. He enrolled in North Carolina A&T, where an older sister had graduated, but that summer he and a friend decided to instead volunteer for the draft. They joined the Army under the buddy system.

He was inducted at the Whitehall Induction Center in Manhattan, New York, in March 1968. “They put us on a train – first time I ever rode a train – from Whitehall to Fort Jackson, South Carolina,” Spearman said.

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Vietnam revisited

Part 384 in series

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He had boot camp at Fort Gordon, Georgia. “I was in boot camp when Dr. King was assassinated (April 4, 1968). The place was locked down. We couldn’t go off base. There was no TV, none of that. We were completely shut off from the outside,” he said. “I was completely focused on boot camp, learning new skills. We had no issues on base. I must commend the Army. I mean they really handled it well.”

Spearman became a Pershing missile guidance control system specialist. He came to Redstone for a year of advanced individual training at the Ordnance school. From 1969-71, he was stationed in Germany with the 4th Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, 56th Ordnance Group under the 7th Army.

“With Pershing your assignment was only going to be in Germany, Redstone or Fort Sill (Oklahoma),” he said.

Asked what it was like to be in uniform during the Vietnam era, he said, “Those were turbulent times for a black man. Vietnam, the civil rights movement were going on; there was a lot going on during that era.”

He encountered racial tensions rather than antiwar protests during his time in uniform. While he was a trainee at Redstone in 1968, he and a white Soldier went to a nightclub in Huntsville and the owner told them that they could not be served because Spearman is black. So, they both left the club.

Spearman met his future wife, Lola, at Redstone where she was a government intern. They were married June 30, 1973, at the old Post Chapel. Spearman subsequently left the Army that year as a specialist five. He started a job and attended school at night while raising two children. He concentrated on raising his children at the time but later returned to college to complete and attain his degree. In 2007 he received his bachelor’s in physics with a minor in computer science at Alabama A&M University.

Spearman began working at Redstone in 1974 as an engineering technician. He and Lola, his wife of 49 years, retired from Redstone on the same day, Labor Day weekend, in 2012. Lola had 43 years of service and retired as a program analyst at the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space.

The Huntsville residents have a son, Xavier, who resides in Helena and works for Delta Airlines and does real estate work; and a daughter, Kathryn Burrows, who pastors a church in Bermuda. They have five grandchildren.

“I grew up as a Scout in Troop 10 (in the Bear Mountain Council in Newburgh, New York),” Spearman said. “My Scoutmaster was an Air Force guy, Roy Anderson. He had a tremendous impact on my life. Just a great guy. I learned a lot from him. He had a positive influence on my life as a teenager.”

Spearman became a Star Scout in his teens. His son, Xavier, became an Eagle Scout. Spearman served as Scoutmaster of Troop 102 over 35 years and is now Scoutmaster emeritus with the troop under the sponsorship of First Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville.

At 74 he enjoys playing golf, chess and working out. He and Lola serve the ministry at Calvary Assembly of God in Tanner.

He shared his thoughts on this nation’s commemoration of 50 years since the Vietnam War.

“I think we have come a very long way as a nation and we have begun to appreciate all of our Soldiers from all of our wars,” he said. “I’ve been to a lot of places, countries, and even though we are not a perfect nation and still have some shortcomings, I will always believe we are the greatest nation on Earth. I am adamant that we can get better if we continue to trust God.”

Editor’s note: This is the 384th in a series of articles about Vietnam era veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.