Tony Boydston grew up in Port Hueneme, California, in the late 60s and early 70s. As a boy, he was aware of the war in Vietnam, and had a friend who served in the 101st Airborne Division before being medically discharged from the Army. He started working at a young age, first at a carnival, then picking lima beans for $.50 an hour to buy his second surf board. One summer, he worked at Hueneme Fish and Bait packing bait fish and squid and working on a fishing boat. In his free time, he surfed and fished in the areas around his home. After graduating from high school, he and a friend decided to take an epic road trip through the Pacific Northwest, but they returned home after a few weeks and decided to join the Army. He completed basic training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, and experienced “Tigerland,” the training area set up to replicate Vietnam. After basic, he was assigned to 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Infantry in the 82nd Airborne Division as a rifleman. While in that assignment, he participated in Special Forces Training as OPFOR (Opposition Forces), and one summer he traveled to West Point to support Cadet Summer Training. He performed so well in the company that he was selected to be the Commander’s RTO (Radio Telephone Operator). During a jump, he had a streamer malfunction and fortunately his reserve opened less than 100 feet from the ground. In February, 1977, he interviewed to be in the 82nd Pathfinder Platoon and was accepted. He did not prepare adequately for the rigors of the Pathfinder course, and failed the first time, but after better preparation, he graduated with the high score in the cycle, and was promoted to Sergeant (E-5). The next month, he completed the 5th Special Forces Group pre-scuba course. In September, 1978, he left the military and became a Union Journeyman Painter. In 1986, he rejoined the Army and served in artillery maintenance. After leaving the Army the second time, he specialized in painting for the National Park Service, focusing on historic preservation. In 2008, he took a job with the United States Army Corps of Engineers as a facility manager in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. Currently, he works with the National Park Service.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his service in the Army, and his life after leaving the military. He discusses many of his experiences in the 82nd, contextualizing his story within the culture of the time, and reflects on what his service means to him.