Sometime during Higdon’s first tour, his brother was hospitalized in Nha Trang with a hand injury. Higdon was in Cam Ranh Bay at the time — about 40 miles away — so he decided to visit his brother.
“I ran up there and spent some time with him, which was the last time I ever saw him alive,” Higdon said. “I was glad I got to do that. That was very memorable.”
Higdon finished his first tour of duty and returned home for 30 days’ leave. He went back to Vietnam in the spring of 1970 and was assigned to the 540th Aviation Battalion, which specialized in helicopter recovery and repair.
The 540th was stationed in Qui Nhon, about 90 miles north of Higdon’s old base camp.
Higdon’s second tour was cut short when he learned that Jimmy had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Jimmy was 18.
Higdon said Jimmy had apparently heard some bad news and was determined to go home. He was carrying a rifle, and another soldier took it away from him.
“And then my brother, he reached out and grabbed it,” Higdon said. “And when he did . . . it caused the rifle to go off. He got hit with about three rounds.”
Higdon learned about Jimmy’s death seven or eight days later, when an Army chaplain told him what had happened. Higdon couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“You could have just hit me on top of the head and not bothered me as much as that did,” Higdon said.
Within an hour, a helicopter picked Higdon up and took him to Cam Ranh Bay, where he caught a flight to the United States.
After Higdon’s emergency leave ended, he called the Pentagon to ask about returning to Vietnam. A Pentagon official told him he was not going back, and he should wait until the Army called him.