PRAIRIE GROVE – From the time he was commissioned through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in the thick of the Vietnam War in 1964, retired Lt. Gen. Everett H. Pratt Jr. never looked back.
“I have no regrets at all,” said Pratt, seated in the living room of his Prairie Grove home with Joyce, his wife of 40 years, nearby. “If someone asked me what was the best assignment I ever had, I’d say all of them. I never had a bad assignment.”
Pratt served three tours of duty as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in Vietnam, earning the Silver Star for gallantry in action.
“I was flying an F4 Phantom II. There was an Army team on the ground in Laos. They were being shot at. I provided close air support,” he said, describing flying low over the battleground and strafing the enemy. “When I ran out of bullets, I flew over the battle site in an attempt to [draw fire] until the Army team was successfully extracted.”
That was in late fall of 1969 or early 1970, he said, adding that his tours spanned from 1966 to 1967, 1969 to 1970 and later, in 1972, he flew missions into Vietnam from Thailand. Altogether, Pratt tallied more than 4,000 flight hours in F-4s, F-16s and T-38s.
Like many of his peers, Pratt is unassuming and modest about his time in the military – during which, along with the Silver Star, he earned the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 29 oak leaf clusters and an Air Force Commendation Medal, according to his biography on the U.S. Air Force’s website.
Still, “flying over North Vietnam in general was exciting” and was about the closest he crept toward acknowledging his bravery during a recent interview.
Also like many of his peers, Pratt, now 73, is pleased that today’s veterans generally are honored upon their return from tours of duty, regardless of politics.
“Coming back through the airports, you’d see people protesting those of us who served as we were coming off our airplanes,” he recalled. “I’d just kind of ignore them. Everyone thanks all of our service men and women now, which is the right thing to do.”
Also the right thing to do, in Pratt’s mind, is to continue to support his fellow veterans in any way he can. From the late 1990s until the early 2000s, Pratt was chairman of the U.S. Air Force Retiree Council.
Pratt retired from active duty in 1997, moved to Prairie Grove from Texas in 2002 and worked for Northrop Grumman until 2009. He is actively involved in a number of veterans-related agencies, including Chicago-based Leave No Veteran Behind, Disabled American Veterans and Hebron-based TLS Veterans, for which he completed in February a term as president of the board.
“Veterans and the needs of veterans, I always felt like it was a passion of mine,” he said, noting that TLS’ work with homeless veterans is especially praiseworthy.
“They’ve pretty much hit bottom when they’re homeless,” he said. “Helping them to be able to get back on their feet is really gratifying.”
Pratt also is a trustee for the village of Prairie Grove and spent the last several years as a court-appointed special advocate for children who have endured abuse or neglect. He also is a member of a panel that encourages those with first-time, nonviolent felonies to complete a program allowing them to shed the conviction.
The retired lieutenant general credited his family and primarily his wife, Joyce, with providing him the support he’s needed.
“She’s my touchstone,” he said.
“He has a very strong character, a strong belief system, and he follows through on his beliefs,” Joyce Pratt replied. “He’s a man of his word.”
Pratt’s wife is hardly his only fan. He received multiple nominations for inclusion in Everyday Heroes. Among his nominators were Chuck Stevens, Bob Gray, Bill and Carol Buchta, Cameron Hubbard and Charles Ebann.
“Ev believes in helping others,” Ebann wrote. “He gives freely of his time and often gives talks to local groups about assistance for our veterans … he deserves to be recognized as a local hero.”