A native of the Black Oak section of Gary, Chancellor was a 21-year-old divorcee with three kids when he was assigned crew chief of a Huey helicopter. Chancellor said he hopped up when his name and the assignment 67N20 were called.
“I was very excited it wasn’t infantry and the sergeant said, ‘Sit down, stupid. That’s a door gunner on a helicopter,'” Chancellor said. “There’s an old saying the life expectancy of a door gunner is like 19 seconds.
“My mother and my father and my family kept me abreast of my children. I wasn’t really worried about my children. They weren’t the ones in war. I wasn’t worried I was going to die,” he said. “We came from a God-fearing country, but I think it was more just a positive attitude in life.”
A most memorable mission for Chancellor was 45 years ago on April 21, 1970. He was among a crew of four, including two pilots and two gunners who were shot down, but survived. Dak Sang had been under siege for over nine days when they were tasked with flying a Marine captain in.
As they were trying to fly back to their base they were shot into trees. Chancellor broke his wrist and the other gunman nearly bit his tongue off, while the pilot he attributes with saving their lives was also injured.
“There is no safe way to get in through the trees,” Chancellor said. “Our sister ships were following us and it was within minutes we were picked up.”
Chancellor values his connection to other veterans and is a member of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 17 in Hammond, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Chapter 802 in Hammond and the American Legion Post 369 in East Chicago, but it wasn’t always so.
“I didn’t need the VFW. I was 6 feet tall and bullet-proof,” he said of his attitude when he returned from war. “When I got back and went to the tavern where I grew up they wanted to know did I see the Cubs game, or what position was I playing in the softball game,” Chancellor said.
But he recalls he wanted to talk about the monumental life experience he had just endured, but they didn’t care, he said.
That experience taught him the value of intentionally seeking out other veterans.
“I can sit and talk to another vet or I can sit and listen to another veteran,” he said. A self-employed general contractor, Chancellor and his second wife, Regina, have five children and five grandchildren between them.
Building homes for his career was a natural segue to his current work buying and rehabbing apartments. Chancellor uses the apartments to provide transitional housing to veterans.
He has also launched a line of rings to commemorate military service onhttp://www.veteranscollection.com. Chancellor gives one-hour Power Point presentations at area colleges, hoping to educate the next generation of leaders on some of the personal aspects of veterans’ issues.
“When you come home from war the war is supposed to be over, but for some it just begins,” Chancellor said.
Shelley Jones is a freelance reporter.
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