A Houma Indian’s Heroic Act that Saved Multiple Soldiers During the Vietnam War

Houma, LA – Roy A. Duthu is a Veteran, a big brother, a role model, and a hero. During the Vietnam War from 1955-75, at 21 years old, Roy Duthu was drafted. Although this was unexpected, Roy loved this country and risked his life to save his fellow soldiers with a selfless act. To this day, Charlie tells the story of his brother’s bravery and sacrifice for this country. 

“My brother was older than me and I would have to say that he was my mentor,” Charlie explains. “Me being his little brother, I always wanted to hang out with him.”

Charlie remembers when he found out that his brother was drafted, it was a tragic time. He was unsure if his brother really wanted to go, but his brother still went openly. Roy served from December 1965 to January 1966. 

“I learned a lot from him and I’m glad in his short life-time that he was able to instill a lot of him in me,” Charlie said. “When my brother went to school, he was in good shape.”

Charlie remembers his brother being the athletic director for the Daigleville All-Indian School and even helped design the Hawk that ended up being the school’s mascot. Although the Terrebonne Parish school system was segregated at the time, Roy kept pushing to receive credits to earn a diploma. Education to him was a priority. Charlie remembers the day that the family heard that Roy was being drafted and that everyone was sad, especially his mother. 

During this time, little was known about what was happening in the Vietnam war. The only source of information came from their neighbors television, newspapers, radio, magazines, or through the mail. 

“We got a letter from him and he would tell us his locations,” Charlie explained. “We would find it on the map to figure out where he was.”

Majority of the updates they were receiving about the war would show the many soldiers that were dying while overseas. Charlie stated that he didn’t agree with the many things that were happening during the Vietnam war. 

“I saw all these young men dying for nothing,” Charlie explained. “When they decided to end the Vietnam War, you could see videos of them taking only the important people out by helicopter.” 

One video showcased soldiers at the gate that were just left there. He remembers looking at a LIFE magazine that showcased the many boots from soldiers that were killed for each hill they took over. 

“A life didn’t mean nothing during that time,” Charlie stated. 

Charlie never heard of the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder until after the Vietnam War. He noticed that some soldiers came home that were exposed to Agent Orange, which was a chemical they would drop in bombs on the jungle to kill any vegetation. This would allow them to easily navigate through the jungle. Many of the soldiers, along with his brother, would be dropped in these harsh chemicals and have to continue trekking through it until arriving at the pickup point. Charlie noticed that once the soldiers would come back, they would develop things such as cancer or become crippled. It was until after the war that they figured out the cause behind these illnesses was actually from Agent Orange. 

On January 29, 1966, Charlie and his family found out the devastating news that his brother Roy Duthu had passed away while on duty. 

“They sent a soldier to tell us, and that’s how we found out,” Charlie said. “We were all there, they told us that he died and that he was returning with an honor guard.” 

It was years later whenever Charlie came across an article in the Houma Courier that mentioned his brother and what had actually happened. 

“We would have never known if it had not been for Timothy Parham,” Charlie explained. “The army just told us he was killed by small armed fire, in other words a rifle or a gun.” 

In the article, Timothy explains firsthand what he had witnessed while stationed with Roy. In his own version of what happened, Timothy explains that they were dropped off in the jungle and you had to be ready to go at the pickup point. Once they were at the pickup location, the helicopter arrived. The soldiers started getting shot at by snipers preventing them from boarding the helicopter. It was at that moment that Roy Duthu began firing back at the sniper, allowing his fellow soldiers to board the helicopter. Once it was Roy’s turn, he was shot by the sniper. 

“That’s the way that soldiers are taught, they teach you not to leave your fellow soldiers behind,” Charlie explained.

Charlie’s perceptions were that his brother’s fellow soldiers were the ones that brought his body back whether he was shot or not. Charlie and his family are grateful for being able to bury Roy because some families never got that opportunity during the war. 

To this day, the parish and state continue to recognize Roy Duthu for Memorial Day. 

Roy Duthu was a hero and will forever be remembered by his bravery and selfless act. Charlie continues to keep his brother’s story alive and hopes that many people recognize the true sacrifices that are made while being in the service. 

“So many soldiers and some people only have memories. We had a body that they sent back home and we buried him,” Charlie said. “I try to pay a tribute to him in any way that I can.”