Warriors: Their Stories
When we talk about Vietnam, who do we hear it from? In the sixties, not only was Vietnam brought to you by photojournalists who reported on the front lines, but this news was brought straight into your living rooms. This news, front line coverage of battles and operations not only informed American citizens what was happening in a foreign land, but also increased criticism of the war at home. But at that time, how were Americans supposed to get their information? Vietnam was broadcast far and wide. Those who were not born when the Vietnam War was taking place, now gain their information from television and movies. It’s about time to hear from the veterans from themselves. And today, many years after that tumultuous war, some veterans are willing to speak, even a little, about their service.
We bring you some brief notes from those who served.
“I spent 18 months in the Mekong Delta, from September, 1967 until April, 1969. I was attached to a Special Forces “B” Detachment (B-41) and assigned later to MACV Advisory Team #85. I lost several good friends during my time in Vietnam. In particular, I remember Bill Baer, George O’Toole, Chico Fernandez, and John Fitzgerald. They were all Special Forces troops who proudly wore the green beret. We were located about 1000 meters from the Cambodian border and were frequently mortared by VC forces who would withdraw into Cambodia after lobbing rounds in on us. They hit us with ground troops in the Tet Offensive of 1968. We kicked their butts and counted 150 dead VC bodies after the assault.”
-Bruce Thompson, served February, 1967 – February, 1970 in the Army.
“My brother and I enlisted on March 17th, 1971….funny thing, he put down to go to VietNam and I put down too go to Germany…..some where along the line, they got up mixed up…..I went to VietNam, and he to Germany. [I] worked in the Operating Room, 3rd Field Hospital, Saigon.”
-Randall (Dawg) Underwood, served March 1971 – December 1973 in the Army.
” I arrived at the 91st Evacuation Hospital in late March 1970 as a medical lab tech. During the period April – June 1970 the level of hostilities was increased by the enemy with the resulting increase in battle casualties suffered by the US and Vietnamese forces. During this three month period, a total of 3,164 patients were admitted, with 1,149 major surgical procedures performed, and 420 occurring during May alone. Because of this high patient density, the hospital was confronted with many mass casualty situations. The enemy also increased his harassing tactics against the Chu Lai installation. The first week of May there were three 122mm rocket attacks with over 200 rockets falling during one attack alone. We received casualties from LZ Ripcord in July followed by a Chinook shoot down in August then a firebase at Tra Bong in September, all mass casualties. On duty for 7 months straight no days off and guard duty every third night. Time flew and I finally got an R&R on my 10th month in country.”
-Patrick McMullen, served 1969 – 1972 in the Army
“I came home from Vietnam just before Christmas in 1968. The flight from Oakland to Chicago wasn’t full and there were about five of us in uniform on the plane. After we were airborne a stewardess came to each of us and told us we could move to first class. Pretty cool.” – Beverly Martin, served October 18, 1961- February 5, 1975
“I was a Helicopter Pilot in Phu Loi, Vietnam. I flew with the 128th Tomahawks and I remember flying in support of different soldiers each day. We supported the First Inf Div, the 82nd Airborne, the 9th Inf. Div, the 25th Inf Div, 199th Lt Inf Bde, 5th Special Forces, and the Koreans and the Australians. Each day brought new challenges and new experiences, but I faced them with courage and resolve to do my best while flying and support the infantry troops we put on the ground and later picked up. I was fortunate to survive my one year of duty in Vietnam and will never forget serving the Infantry that year.” – Jim/Tomahawk One Barger, served May 18, 1968 – June 1, 1993
“I enlisted in November 1961 and was sent to Germany after completing training. I reenlisted for a four year period in June 1964 because I wanted to be a helicopter crew chief. I took this training at Ft. Rucker, AL and was assigned to Lawson Army Airfield Command at Ft. Benning, GA where I worked in my new MOS until June 1965 when I was sent to Vietnam. When I got there I was assigned to Advisory Team 43 in Cu Chi as Infantry/Commo Advisor. When my tour was almost over my younger brother was drafted so I extended my tour for a year to keep him from having to go to Vietnam. I spent my second year with Team 43 in Bao Tri, the sear of Hau Ghnia Province. When I started to get short again my youngest brother was drafted so I extended for another year. I split my third year in Vietnam between the 525th Military Intelligence Group based in Saigon and the 864th Engineer Battalion in Nha Trang where I survived TET 68. My brothers were safe by then and wouldn’t have to serve in Vietnam so I returned to CONUS and took my discharge. I never had the opportunity to work on a helicopter after I left Fort Benning. I would have never been stationed in Vietnam if not for wanting to learn to work on helicopters.” – Johnny, served November 30, 1961 – June 19, 1968 in the Army.
“I was involved in operation end sweep, our goal was to remove mines that were placed in haiphong harbor. When I first saw the islands I expected to see dinosaurs or something from that era. To the guys that went on those islands I take my hat off to you. My tour there was cut short due to an on board fire.mine sweeps are wooden and burn from time to time. It was a long night.we couldn’t get help till next morning because of our location.” – Ed Gallett, served 1969-1973 in the Navy.
“Served with the MiG Killers of Fighter Squadron 24 (VF-24) from Miramar Naval Air Station deployed aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) in 1967 and the USS Hancock (CVA-19) in 1968-1969 and 1969-1970.” -Smitty, served September 12, 1966 to June 1, 1970 in the Navy.
“I served in Vietnam with the U S Marine Corps as a Hospital Corpsman from 1965-1966. Landed in Chu Lai South Vietnam in April 1965. Participation in Operations Starlight, Texas, Utah, Double Eagle. Many of men of my unit, 2ND, Bn, 4th Marines were lost on combat operations. My first CO, was Colonel “Bull Fisher and LT COL PX Kelly, later to Commandant of the Marine Corps. A growing and learning experience.” – Jim Lowery, served 1963-1969; 1970-1997 in the Navy.
” After having made it through USNTC Great Lakes (Boot Camp) in the winter of 1965 they told me no AvMM school for you, we need Radiomen. So off to RM “A” school in Bainbridge, MD where upon graduation in Oct. 1965, three of us volunteered for Nam. They sent the three of us to NAVCOMSTA Iceland and the rest of the class to Viet Nam. I found several of their names on the wall, since. After my year on ice I asked for Nam again and got the
USS PERRY (DD-844) out of Mayport and right back to the North Atlantic I went. After some extensive ASW and Gun Line training at GITMO and PR in late 68 they told me “here’s your chance to finally go”. The PERRY deployed for Nam the week before my discharge date. Sometimes I wish I had extended to go, but having just gotten married, I got out. It was an honor to have served my country, though!” -Tico Antico, served January 65 – January 69 in the Navy.
“I served in Vietnam (7/69-12/71) when I was 20 with the 11th Light Infantry brigade, 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division. After being in-country for 2 months, doorgunners were needed on Hueys, I volunteered with the 174th AHC Dolphins (slicks). Three months later, I moved to doorgunner position with 174th AHC Sharks (gunship). We supported the 11th infantry in Chu Lai and Quang Tri, the same unit I served and wanted to support. I regret my part of what I had to do but, I do not regret serving in Vietnam. After leaving Vietnam I was reassigned and served out my remaining time in Frankfurt, Germany. Bless those that did not make it make home. Sadly, Vietnam Vets are yet to be welcomed home by the public nor the government as a whole.” – Faustino Raquiza, served October 1968- October 1971 in the Army.
“I am trying hard to get my husband to tell his stories. It’s hard for him and he needs some healing. [I’m] trying to find other brothers to help him talk about it – someone that has been there. He has medical issues and PTSD. He was also there when they sprayed Agent Orange, and 40 years later finds out they put wrong blood type on his papers and dog tags. It has been laying heavy on his shoulders. If only he could tell his stories [to] his brothers he holds close to his heart, and the ones that were lost. It still sticks with him. I love my husband so much, [we’ve] been through a lot. He is my Soldier. When he hurts, I do. His wife, Debbie Redmond.” -Debbie Redmond, speaking on behalf of Mark, who served from 1969-1970 in the Army.
“My story is a little different from others. Although I served in Vietnam, I was at a base camp and not in the field. That, in its
self, makes me wonder if I should post here, but this is a little different view of the war and one that served. I was drafted in March of 1968 and went to basic at Fort Ord, Calif. After basic I went to Fort Lewis Washington for AIT. We were an overflow group of about 30 and most were assigned to OJT clerks while waiting for our AIT class to start. I became a company clerk of a basic training unit. After about 10 months and not getting along to well with my CO, I volunteered for Vietnam. (Glad my parents never knew that. In March of 1969 I got orders and left for Vietnam. We were to fly into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, but our plane took fire and we were diverted to Bien Hue. From there I was sent to Cu Chi and stayed for the next 10 months. I was a personnel specialist with Admin Company, 25th Inf Div. I took care of the records for the 4/23 Mech
unit. I flew up to Tay NInh a few times to check on records for the unit when they came in for a stand-down, (made sure they had all the awards documented that the men earned, and their dates to go home were correct, etc.). I flew as a door gunner when I had to travel by helicopter to Saigon or Tay Ninh. We had to pull bunker guard every 3 or 4 night and at least once a month we came under a mortar attack. Not a lot of fighting went on at the base camp while I was. I guess that is my biggest thought over the years about serving. I feel I didn’t do enough while there. Yes, I did my job, and I think, did it well, but I wonder how much greater of an effect I could have been,had I been in the field. Did I let others down while serving in a relatively safe environment? I would pull records daily of wounded or killed, and would wonder about these men. To this day, I have a certain question in my mind as to should I call myself a vet. I didn’t sacrifice like others did. Yes, I did the job I was told to do, but ………. I am proud that I served and would go again if called. I have no hard feelings for being drafted, even though it changed many things in my life. I came home and continued with my college education, but never got a degree. Worked 34 years for the postal service, most of which was in human resources helping others getting started with the post office. I am now a caregiver for my wife who has ALS. I have no war stories to really tell, so I can only talk of others and what they gave, yet I have a certain empty feeling for my part in serving.” -Daryl, served March 1968 – December 1969 in the Army.
More words from our veterans to come! Share your stories of service here.