Local Veterans Share Their Stories

Veterans Ronald Decoste and Kenneth Eaves discuss their incredible journeys.


Kenneth Eaves, with permission

Eaves during his time serving overseas in the Vietnam War.

Amaya Turner, Editor-in-Chief

The Colony Center for Health & Rehabilitation, in Abington, is a treasure trove of interesting stories and people. Two of which are Ronald Decoste and Kenneth Eaves, who both served in the Vietnam War and were kind enough to sit down for an interview.

Ronald Decoste was born on October 21, 1946 and grew up in Weymouth, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the Marines around nineteen years old and served for five years, even going overseas to serve in the Vietnam War for a year and a half. When asked what inspired him to enlist, Decoste stated how “back in the day, it was our obligation when we graduated from high school to join the military. I wanted to do my part, so I joined the Marine Corps.”

Eaves was shot out of the sky twice in one day while he was twenty and serving in Vietnam, and says he remembers it was January 2, 1963 because was his girlfriend’s (now wife’s) birthday.

Decoste always knew he would enlist, which perhaps was unsurprising given he comes from a long line of proud veterans. His cousins, uncles, and father all had served in different branches of the military.

Decoste worked on cranes overseas, and enjoyed it very much, describing crane operation as “like a boy’s dream- instead of a toy, you get the real thing!”

Decoste vividly recalls a moment during his service of being allowed a weeklong vacation in Hong Kong. He went and saw a John Wayne movie dubbed over, and how strange and funny he found it to watch.

However, Decoste describes the transition back to civilian life as incredibly difficult, partially influenced by civilian frustration towards the American government that was misdirected towards returning veterans. He also notes the treatment of veterans has improved over the years.

After leaving the service in 1971, Decoste married and worked in a woodworking architectural business in Milton for twenty-two years. He made stairways, windows, and other household staples, and retired five years ago. 

Kenneth Eaves was born on September 3, 1942, and served in the Army from 1961-1964 in the Vietnam War. While his parents were adamant about him going to college, Eaves was not sure what he wanted to do and opted to become a mechanic in the Army. When he found out he was being sent to Vietnam, Eaves says he had to look it up on a map because he did not know where it was.

Eaves was shot out of the sky twice in one day while he was twenty and serving in Vietnam, and says he remembers it was January 2, 1963 because was his girlfriend’s (now wife’s) birthday. There were four people in the plane, and while two aside from Eaves survived, Eaves was shot in the leg.

After returning to base from missions, Eaves remembers how weapons were cleaned with gasoline and no gloves- and how some soldiers smoked while doing it!

Eaves vividly recalls how the base camp had a pet tiger, Toughie, who they raised from a few months. According to Eaves, Toughie’s favorite food was spaghetti and meatballs, and how “when the cooks started cooking that stuff and he’d get the scent of it, he’d start roaring- he wanted his spaghetti and meatballs NOW!”

After returning home, Eaves attended Newbury College, remarking that all of his classmates were also returning veterans covered under the GI Bill. While there, Eaves was able to identify a gas leak by smell alone and informed the school they needed to call the police, saying how “I just did what anybody else would do.”

Many of his classmates dropped out of the college program, but Eaves stayed in the program and went on to own an auto repair shop for nearly forty years.

Both Decoste and Eaves are shining examples of the courage and sacrifice veterans offer in exchange for the protection of human rights. Through their strength and honor, veterans serve our country and protect us all. As Decoste describes it, “freedom isn’t free, you know?”