Leroy "Possum" Younger currently serves as Commander of Fulton Myers Post #153, American Legion.
A Vietnam veteran, Younger was interviewed for the Allegany High School publication, Welcome Home: A History of the Vietnam War.
Leroy noted, "There were more whites working in the non-combatant jobs than there were in the combatant jobs. Sometimes in the rear, you would maybe see one or two black sergeants, but everybody else was white. The administration and the logistics personnel were mostly white with very few blacks. Most of the blacks were in the infantry. Most of the blacks were out in the field. Take myself for instance. My MOS was for administration, but they figured I was in the infantry. Maybe that happened to everybody else too, but that's how it was, very much unbalanced".
In recalling some of the attitudes from soldiers who came from the larger cities, Younger says, "I couldn't believe the prejudice was that bad. My upbringing in Cumberland helped me adjust that way. There weren't color divisions. We were all over there together, had the uniform on, that was it. I grew up in a white neighborhood, and we had fights about every week, but other than that, I didn't march, carry any signs, or go through anybody's neighborhood. That wasn't what I was about, not at all...
You got over there (Vietnam), and the blacks would have their little area and the whites would be in their little area in the rear. In the field, you tried to mix them up, but at the end of the day, they'd go back their different ways, especially a lot of the blacks that were from the city, big cities like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, and Philadelphia. A lot of those blacks couldn't mix. They had a problem mixing but they had to because they were there. But it was something that was hard to do for them. And then there was name calling sometimes, but I used to tell my guys, 'If you can't live with the next guy, then leave my outfit, my squad'".
Upon returning home, many Vietnam veterans, both white and black, were treated with something less than a hero's welcome. For blacks, there was also prejudice. Sergeant Younger remembers, "Then you got back home. You got treated badly. Here I go, fight for my country, and there is a place I can't even go in, can't even do things to this day. I lived in Baltimore a while. I lived in New York. I lived in Richmond, Virginia... you'd be surprised of the prejudice on both sides if you go to a city and live.
But myself, living here in Cumberland, growing up in Cumberland, the environment was a lot different. So I could adjust. It didn't bother me where I lived… but a lot of people couldn't adjust, black or white. They still can't adjust, and hatred is still there. Believe me it is still there. It is sad, but it is still there."
Leroy Younger was born in 1948 and passed away in 2017. His obituary is included in the Obituary section of this website.
Photograph: The Lyle and Leontyne Clay Peck Collection courtesy of the Carver Community Center Museum.
Text from Welcome Home: A History of the Vietnam War, Allegany High School, 2005
Note: The Fulton Myers Post #153, American Legion closed in 2008
Allegany County, Maryland
African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008