MANDAN, N.D. (KXNET) — According to The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, one in four eligible Native people compared to about one in twelve non-Natives served in the armed forces during the war in Vietnam (1964–1975).

American Indian Vietnam veteran Sylvester Foote decided to write his life down in a book for his children, but in the process discovered the true severity of his PTSD.

Sylvester Duane Foote Sr. grew up in Winter, South Dakota just east of the Rosebud Reservation.

His family was put in a separate part of town because of segregation in the 1960s. It was known as an Indian Town, which is the name of Foote’s book.

At one point, Foote’s family had to live in tents through one winter. They were then relocated into a living space fashioned from a box car.

“I had a rough life. I grew up in poverty, you know, so it was pretty rough, you know, being teased all the time, you know, and, and people made fun of us in on and, and things like that, you know, but we managed to get through that,” explained American Indian Vietnam Veteran Sylvester Duane Foot Sr.

As a 10th grader, Duane enlisted in the army the day before Thanksgiving 1967.

“When I went into the army, I mean, that was the first time I ever got some real decent food, you know, to eat, you know, like, like a full course meal,” said Foote.

Boot camp was brutal, but the drill sergeants had to instill discipline in the soldiers so that they could survive.

“We were trained good and they were constantly ‘Charlie is waiting for you,’ or, you know, ‘Charlie’s gonna get you’ or ‘if you’re too slow as Charlie, he’s gonna shoot you,’ you know,” said Foote.

He landed in Vietnam in July of 1968 and was assigned to a transportation group as a mechanic.

His job was to keep five-ton diesel trucks on the road. They were vital for hauling supplies to all the major bases.

One day, when they were driving in an 81-truck two-mile long truck convoy they were ambushed by Viet Cong disguised in ally Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) uniforms

“They were coming over this berm, machine guns blaring, you know, and RPG rounds exploding, you know, and, and we just crawled underneath the trucks, we had no other place to go than beneath the trucks. And that’s what we fought from,” said Foote.

They had to defend the trucks because they carried food, supplies, gasoline, and ammunition.

These ambushes happened often. For every battle Foote lived through, he earned a bronze star. After he got four bronze stars — the fifth was a silver star. He was in six battles altogether.

Foote’s time in Vietnam ended in June of 1970. He did not always get a friendly welcome home.

“All we were looking for was just a handshake in a job well done, you know, and then we come back to this. So they were kind of a bad feeling, you know? I mean, I mean, I always thought — Did I do something wrong?”, said Foote.

Foote kept quiet about his time in Vietnam for decades. His wife of 44 years Faye, who has a Bachelor’s in Psychology, encouraged him to write a book so that his children would know about his life.

It was when he was writing that Foote truly tapped into his PTSD.

“And after I wrote his book, I mean, for about two weeks, I had a big lump in my throat, like, like, I wanted to cry,” he said.

“Prior to the writing of the book, we had dealt with these issues, because he wouldn’t talk about his service. And I would tell him, he has to talk about it. Because it’s just going to linger up and up and up. And it’s going to stay there forever. So when he started writing the book, he was writing it and then I started seeing all the emotions, and I started seeing like, like, flashback stuff,” explained Sylvester Duane Foote’s wife Faye Foot.

Now, Duane encourages all veterans to get professional help.

“The more you talk about it, the better you feel, it’s like getting something heavy off your chest,” said Foote.

Foote’s family gave him a welcoming home ceremony.

They presented him with a star quilt that is on the cover of his book, “Indian Town.”

Foote went on to have an impressive career working as an Automotive Instructor at United Tribes Technical College among other jobs and working on the Road Repair division of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Fort Yates.

Foote is now happily retired and living with his family in Mandan.

Indian Town can be ordered through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or Author House.