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50 years later, John Malan recalls Vietnam war service

Posted at 8:52 PM, Aug 03, 2016

John Malan may be our beloved meteorologist here at TODAY'S TMJ4, but did you know John came oh-so-close to becoming a professional baseball player?

John explains "I went into the army at 18. I had no college deferment, I thought I was going to be this big shot baseball player. I had letters from the Pittsburgh Pirates, I was an all suburban all-star in Illinois."

John adds, "I thought 'I don't need college cause I'm going right to the major leagues.'"

But Malan cracked an ankle at tryouts and baseball was history. Next came Uncle Sam, and a draft letter to enter the Army. Malan quips, "I'm the next Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and wound up being the next GI Joe instead." 

John drove an armored personnel carrier in Vietnam, and served two tours of duty. War quickly taught him the importance of brotherhood. John explains, "Camaraderie! I don't care if there are five guys with you and one's Asian, one's African-American, one's Mexican-American, if you don't have that guy's back, you die."

Malan received a Purple Heart after suffering an injury in a foxhole next to a tank. John recalls, "All of a sudden a tank burns up over here, and shrapnel is everywhere and I took a piece in my knee."

John retired as a Specialist 4th Class. Sadly, when he returned to the states, like many Vietnam vets, he felt the public scorn of an unpopular war.

John remembers, "As I'm walking through crowds and I have my Army stuff on at the airport, and through the crowd you hear, 'baby killer!' They didn't like Vietnam vets. They thought we were bad people. But we were just soldiers doing our job."

But the meteorologist saw a new attitude of soldier appreciation after 9/11. He believes most people understand the sacrifices of veterans of all wars. And John is proud of his service to the country and of going to war.

He asserts the military experience made him the man he is today. Malan declares, "Following orders, authority, responsibility, respect. It's the ultimate learning lesson."