Veteran Spotlight

Gary Smith – US Air Force – Vietnam Veteran

Born in Guilford County, Gary was raised in Burlington, North Carolina and has spent most of his life here where he currently resides with his wife, Joyce and enjoys spending time with his daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Gary enlisted in the US Air Force after high school, serving from 1964 – 1968. His service included a tour of duty in Vietnam from January 1967 to January 1968 at Bien Hoa, Pleiku, Phu Cat and Danang. Gary was honorably discharged in 1968 and returned home to Burlington where he made his career at Duke Power Company for 35 years.

Gary is a member of the Patriot Guard Riders and has served as a Ride Captain for many years, standing an untold number of flag lines honoring fellow veterans. He is also the Commander of Alpha Detachment for the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 15 – 6. The CVMA’s motto is ‘Vets Helping Vets’ and Gary exemplifies that throughout his participation in their many service projects. In addition to his numerous Veteran Organization activities, Gary also faithfully serves as a Deacon at Peoples Memorial Christian Church. Gary has been a champion of Americans Assisting Veterans since its inception and we are grateful for his support.

Mike Mabe – US Army – Vietnam Veteran

Mike Mabe is a native of Forsyth County and has lived in the Pfafftown area most of his life. He graduated high school in the class of ’65 at North Forsyth. 

Mabe enlisted in the U. S. Army and served three years. He was an Infantryman and Paratrooper and served in combat with the 101st Airborne Division. Mike was wounded in action on March 12, 1966 but was able to rejoin his unit after several days and continued to serve and complete the one-year tour of duty in Viet Nam. 

After his honorable discharge, he met his current wife, Doreen Hammer Mabe, and they married on September 6, 1969. Mike entered college one week later as a freshman and finished college at UNC-G with a BS in Math in December 1972. 

He joined Hanes Corporation the next month and worked for Hanes and Sara Lee for 32 years in corporate management and quality control. He managed and directed quality control throughout plants that produced pantyhose, socks, and underwear and traveled throughout the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. 

Mike voluntarily retired from Sara Lee Branded Apparel in 2005 at age 58. 

During the past 15 years, Mabe has been a High School Substitute teacher and has subbed 1000 days, mostly at Reagan High School in Pfafftown. 

Mike serves on the Northwest Piedmont Purple Heart Foundation, attends many Veterans Coffee gatherings in the area, and otherwise serves to promote veterans to the honor they deserve.

Benny Ray Vickers – US Army – Vietnam Veteran

Born and raised in Guilford County, North Carolina Benny was drafted July 18th, 1969 at the age of 21. Serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade he arrived in Vietnam in February of 1970 (Bồng Sơn, Bình Định Province). In June of 1970 he was severely wounded; hit four times in the shoulder, liver, hip, and knee. Benny spent 1 month in Japan and 4 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. before being sent to the 82nd Airborne at Ft. Bragg where he continued to recuperate for 9 months until he was discharged and returned home. Benny was awarded the Purple Heart Medal and the Army Commendation Medal for his service to his country.

Since childhood Benny has had a passion for racing and despite his wounds he was determined to return to a racing career that had begun in 1965. In 1972 he did return with several notable victories and continued to build a successful career racing in the NHRA and IHRA with Advance Auto and Valvoline as sponsors. In 1974 his racing program began to achieve a different type of success. Because of his dedication to racing, Benny was invited to speak to an automotive mechanics class about automotive safety and performance, just touching on the dangers of drug use and the importance of education. Benny was continually asked to present his “Say NO to Drugs & YES to Education” Program. By 1986 Benny was making presentations at over 50 schools per year, all of which were by school invitation. Although Benny has set aside his racing uniform and has retired from racing, he still has the passion to help. Benny is a Co-Founder and serves on the board of Americans Assisting Veterans, Inc.