Stories of Service

No one can tell the stories of war better than those who lived it.

If you served in the U.S. Military, VVMF wants to hear from YOU!

It is important to preserve the stories of those who served so that future generations can learn from them. The moments, the feelings, the perspective. It’s important to get it all. And when VVMF completes the Education Center at The Wall, veterans’ stories will help tell the timeline of the Vietnam era. Vietnam was a pivotal time in America, and without the stories of those who served, we cannot come to understand or preserve it. Stories help tell a time most cannot bring themselves to see. Below are a combination of stories from those who knew Vietnam best.

“I served as an Avionic Technician on F-4 Phantoms. First years at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. Then off to Ubon RTAFB, Thailand. In 1972 the U.S. began closing bases in Vietnam and moving the planes to bases in Thailand. I went on a couple of TDYs to closed bases in Thailand to ready them for reopening. Then, I went TDY to Phu Cat, Pleiku, and other smaller sites to retrieve Avionics equipment for reuse

Photo Credit/VVMF.

Photo Credit/VVMF.

in Thailand. I was exceptionally proud of my service, and proud to have made it through alive. I was elated to finally see the U.S. and home. All that changed by my greeting in the U.S. It took several years to regain some normalcy in my life, and many years to live down the shame of having served. Jobs and social acceptance were difficult for many years as my shame and other’s fear and hatred of my veteran status  stuck to me and made me a social pariah. Thank goodness people now welcome vets home and treat them with honor and kindness. I’m so happy for them, thankful for their service to America, and happy to see much of the discrimination against vets fading and forgotten.” – Zeke, served Apr 1968 – Oct 1972 in the Air Force

“I volunteered for the draft after high school because I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do in college. Basic training at Ft. Lewis, WA, then off to Ft. Polk, and then to Ft. Lee. To this day I’m not sure who I made mad. Everyone in our group went to Germany except me. I got sent to Vietnam! Upon arrival at Cam Rung Bay, I was sent to Pleiku with the 4th Inf 3/12. Spent the first 6 months riding shotgun on Covoys between Pleiku and Dakto. Next 7 months were spent working with Operation Duck Blind, living at Dak To and spending time on many fire bases. The good Lord must of been looking out for me because I came home alive. I always managed to be 1 day ahead or 1 day after some of the worst fire fights. I came home, got married, raised a family and I now work with East Meets West Dental Program out of Da Nang, Vietnam providing free dental care for the poor. It has been a healing process for me.” – Mel, servied 67-68 in the Army.

“I remember when we were about 5 miles from N. Vietnam Nam and when the migs and PT boats came after and we had our planes taking off. I was on the U.S.S. America CV 66. I wish people remember what we did instead of calling us baby killers. We were fighting for our country.” – Rick, served Oct 7Aug 28 in the Navy

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Photo Credit/WordPress

“On May 2, 1968 while on patrol, we were heading back to a bridge we were providing cover for on hwy one. All of a sudden two graders plowing the road ahead of us hit a 500 lb bomb that was hidden in the road and blew the graders up pretty bad. There were 4 of the personal from the graders who were wounded pretty bad. I knew a little about first aid but not a lot. Two of them had sunken chest wounds adn one had his intestines hanging to the ground. I put the intestines back into his stomachs, treated the two with sunken chest wounds so they wouldn’t pull the medals out so they didn’t bleed to death. I then heard another man screaming. He had been blown off the grader and was thrown about 80 to 100 foot into the field. I rushed to him as he was just coming awake and as I looked down at him blood was shooting into the air. His right arm was blown off except for a small amount of skin keeping the arm attached to his body. I took my shoestring out of my boot and tied it very tightly under his armpit to stop the bleeding. I sat with my butt covering his face so he wouldn’t so into shock. He kept begging me to take the rock from under his right elbow that he no longer had . The medic helicopter landed and took him to a hospital and I was later told that all of them survived. This was on my 20th birthday. If anyone knows this guy name I would love to know how his life has been. I dream of that day at least three times a week for the last 46 years. I was serving in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne. I can send a picture of myself from Vietnam if you would like one.  If possible I would love to talk to this guy.” – Norm Clark, served May 65 to Aug 1970

“IT WAS IN 1970 IN DA NANG VIET NAM – WE WENT TO SECURE A BRIDGE AS A REACTIONARY FORCE WHILE RIDING ON 2 TON TRUCK AND LOADED DOWN WITH FIGHTING EQUIPMENT. I WAS THINKING OF WHAT LIES AHEAD. MY WHOLE LIFE FLASHED IN FRONT OF ME REALIZING THAT THE ODDS WERE NOT IN OUR FAVOR. REPORTS STATED THAT COMING TO DESTROY THE BRIDGE WERE CLOSE TO 1000 NVA SOLDIERS. WHILE PRAYING TO MY GOD. I KNEW IT WAS NO WAY MY PLATOON OF LESS THAN A 100 MARINES COULD HOLD THIS BRIDGE FROM BEING WIPED OUT. THIS 19 YEAR OLD SGT.  I KNEW THE ODDS WERE NOT IN OUR FAVOR IF  WE WERE ATTACKED. BEING THE SGT. IN CHARGE OF THESE MARINES WHO LOVED ME AND WERE WILLING TO DIE WITH ME, I REALIZED MY GOD DID NOT WANT ME HOME THIS TIME AND THE BATTLE DID NOT COME THROUGH. I WAS SO CLOSE TO DYING BUT GOD SAID, “NOT TODAY, MARINES. MAYBE LATER.” (SMILE) GOD BLESS FOR  LISTENING TO ME.” -U.S. Marine, served May 69-July 75 in the Marine Corps

“After entering the Army at Ft. Knox, KY, via the draft, I decided to enlist for an extra year.  I went from Basic Training to Ft. Sam Houston, TX, to the Medical Field Service School, Brooke Army Medical Center, Pharmacy Specialists Course.  The advanced training lasted approximately 5 months, and the class size shrunk as some were unable to “make the cut”.  Our class consisted of enlisted men (RA) and an equal number of reserves/National Guard, and we had only one lady (WAC).  All the enlisted, except for our class leader received orders for Vietnam, and we all arrived during the last week of 1967 (a few days before Christmas).  I ended up at the 61st Medical Detachment,  a general dispensary, located on the “Plantation Compound” of the II Field Forces.  We cared for approximately 4,000 soldiers, and had mobile access to two hospitals, the 93rd Evac and the 24th Evac., which were at Long Binh.  We were hit on the initial night of

Photo not associated with Jeff Sanders

Credit/ Vietnam History

TET 1968. We lost a few soldiers on our compound as the attacks were thwarted by helicopter mini-guns and by the 11 Armored Cav, fairly early.  After approximately a year, I returned back stateside, and, after a brief leave, returned to duty at Madigan General Hospital, on the Ft. Lewis Army base, Tacoma, WA.  From January 1969 to May 1970, I worked in the Pharmacy Service there. After discharge, I took advantage of the G.I. Bill and graduated from Indiana State University, and was then employed for many years in the insurance claims field.  I then took a job in law enforcement, from which I retired in 2008.  I am currently Agent Orange disabled and receive excellent care at my nearby Outpatient Clinic and the Indianapolis VA Hospital.” – Jeff Sanders, served  May 1967 to May 1970 in the Army

“Drafted in Jul 67, BCT at Ft. Lewis, then AIT at Fort Gordon for 72B, Teletype Operator. I married a WAC member while at Gordon. I was in Viet Nam from May 68 to June 69. I was also at the 39th Base Post Office in Cam Rahn.  However, I made a mistake there. My wife went to CID, I went to Leavenworth for 5 months, then got stationed at Ft Lewis. I got divorced, then married my current wife (43 years) and we spent 3 plus years in Bangkok, Thailand. I went on to Ft. Hood for 3 years, then a 7 year tour in Germany. I closed out the last duty station at Dover Air Force Base, retiring in Sep 88. GCM in RVN said I could no longer touch mail, so my last 14 years were in Nuclear Co.” – Lee Pravitz, served July 1967 – September 1988 in the Army

“My Dad convinced me to enlist in the Army so that I could choose an MOS other than infantry.  I chose Radio Relay Operator. After basic training I took an unexpected side trip in June 1968 to Ft Benning, GA and the U.S. Army Paratrooper School, Airborne All The Way – from Benning to SESS Ft Gordon. Part of the reason for choosing that school is  that it was one of the longest I could find (12 weeks.) During that school they were pushing OCS which interested me.  I signed up for Signal OCS, took all the tests and physicals and written exams. I passed and was  accepted.  On the night we were to leave Ft. Gordon to Signal OCS (I don’t recall where it was located) the NCOIC came aboard to let us know that Signal OCS was full and were now being diverted to Ft.   Benning and infantry OCS with the assurance that after graduation. We could put in for a branch transfer to signal.  No Thanks!  I took the offered option of not going at all. After a few more days at Ft. Gordon  I finally received new orders – for Vietnam which was pretty “ok” with  me.  In that same day, the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia with tanks. All orders were immediately retracted.  Those of us with nothing to do  were given 30 day leave and told our orders would be sent to our home of record.  Finally my orders arrived sending me off to Korea.  I had  never heard of Korea.  We landed at Kimpo AFB and our very first view  of Korea through the aircraft windows was a runway lined with bunkers on both sides all armed with quad 40 AA guns.  After spending a few days at the reception and replacement center at ASCOM I was sent to 4th (NIKE) 44th Artillery (ADA) where I was assigned to S-2 and an adventure that was to last some 27 months was underway.  I had a  love/hate relationship with Korea.  During those 2 plus years I had a variety of assignments: MOS changes, promotions, TDY assignments and much more.  I found out some 40 years after leaving Korea that I also brought home part of the country with me.  I am now rated as disabled with the VA.  Agent Orange, PTSD, Back Injury, Hepatitis C, Hearing Loss and Tinnitus, just to mention a few.  I would still do it all over again without question but I might have gone to Infantry OCS as well.  God Bless all my brothers and sisters and Welcome Home.” – Mark Brown, served  Mar 1968 – Dec 1970 in the Army

“Getting into Vietnam in February 1969, I celebrated my 19th birthday and my orders for promotion to SP-5 caught up with me from Germany. The second night in Long Bien was Tet and the base was overrun from the back gates all the way to the motor pool. Our unit, the 60th Land Clearing Team was in the field and I was to fly out the next day to join them. I had no randy - Editedweapon, so a few of us ran to the armory, busted off the padlock and took old .45 cal grease guns left over from WW2. And we found a bunker to get into. Luckily, it was dry season so we didn’t drown. We watched the gooks run through the area as they breached the back gates. The next morning I saw my first dead body, lots of them, hanging in the wires at the back gates. Hard to forget half naked little men all bled out and just hanging there.” – Randy Randle, served March 1967-Feb 1970 in the Army

“In October 1969, on a patrol from firebase Blaze in the A Shau valley, we were looking for an NVA base camp when we ran across several openings indicating a huge underground complex. Fearing we may destroy important documents we chose to explore rather than blow up the tunnels. Myself along with a member of 2/502ed, 101st Airborne Division, volunteered to go into one of the holes. I was attached TDY to the 502ed as a pathfinder/rigger (Home was co. B, 426 S&S )in case we discovered large caches of weapons/supplies, etc. Fairchild (not his real name) went in first through a vertical entrance that led to a horizontal tunnel. When he reached the end it led into a large opening that we later found out was an NVA hospital. The horizontal tunnel was  about 4 feet off the floor of the main chamber. When Fairchild lowered  himself down he triggered some type of gas booby trap. I was in the horizontal tunnel almost to the end when this happened and the gas  filled the tunnel. As I tried to reach him to help him back into the  tunnel a member of our squad had come down and grabbed my feet to pull me out. I screamed for him to let go so I could reach Fairchild but he  kept pulling and finally got me out. Fairchild died in the chamber. To this day I hold contempt for the person who pulled me out because in my mind I believe I could have pulled Fairchild out. More than likely   I would have died there myself. I went into a seizure and was medevac’d out. I still have severe tremors to this day because of  the exposure. They never found out what kind of gas it was. I still dream about this and see his face as I was pulled out.” – Dennis, served June 69-June 70 in the Army

TO THE VIETNAM VETERAN: “WELCOME HOME! by Wayne Mong

“On Friday, November 11, 2011 at 7:17 a.m., SmokyBear said, “I, myself, have done two(2) tours of duty in “Vietnam.” The years were ’65 to’67. It was a troublesome time: Young Americans were practicing free love and protesting the war in the ’60’s and this was a movement of disillusioned young people that couldn’t grasp the concept of why we stepped into a war half way around the world. Activists, and the Media, fueled the fires to such a frenzie that there was no rhyme or reason left to explore. The rights of a people to resist oppression and to try to hold on to the values of “Freedom” was the reason we aligned ourselves with the “Vietnamese People” and their right to exist as a “Sovereign Nation.” It was a time of turmoil and political reteric, and it became: “The Nature of the Beast!” And with this social unrest our proud nation no longer stood for Truth, Justice, and the “American Way.”….”Truth:” I, for one, was “Spit On” and called “Baby Killer” upon on my returning home to an America that had no use for returning “Vietnam Veterens!”….”Justice:” There was no justice for the American serviceman for all the good we accomplished was never put out there for all to see. All that was ever show’n was the casualties of war to which America “Shuttered!” This uneven account of what was, became a “Festering Wound” to which America never recovered. This was a war we could have won, but was not allowed too. I saw it, and so did the other sevicemen that were part of this exercise in “Fruitilty.” We lost upwards of “58,000 plus” American lives for: “What?”….”

Photo/Dan Arant

Photo Credit/Dan Arant

The American way:” When World War II ended, our sevicemen returned home with dignity and pride for a job well done, and the pride of our nation… With Korea, not so much. But our sevicemen still had the respect and dignity for a job that they tried to accomplish….Vietnam servicemen were never treated with respect and dignity for the job that we tried to accomplish, and it has change  little in the passage of time….With respect to wars since “Vietnam”  the “American Way” now shines “Brightly” again, with respect and dignity for the servicemen that have giving their all for “Freedom.” For by forsaking the “Vietnam Veteren” in his time of need is “Unexcusable!” We also gave our all, and the “American Way” wasn’t for us back then, and we have been “All But Forgotten!”…..For to all my “Vietnam Brothers”…”WELCOME HOME!….”For We Will Never Forget!”….”We Are, And Always Will Be, True Americans in the quest for “Freedom!”….For again I say to my “Vietnam Brothers”….. “WELCOME HOME!” And to our “Fall’n Brothers,” you are in our “Prayers And Are Not Forgotten!” For you have paid the “Ultimate Sacrifice” in the name of “Freedom!”” – Wayne Mong, served  ’65 to 68 in the Army

” IT HAS BEEN HARD FOR ME AND MY PTSD. EVERY SINCE I CAME HOME IN 1970. I WAS GUNG HO TO THE USMC AND I WAS LET DOWN BY VETERANS AFFAIRS AND U.S. CITIZENS OF THIS GREAT COUNTRY. FOR CLOSE TO 40 YEARS I AM STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE IN A COUNTRY THAT DID NOT KNOW ME ANYMORE. FROM MY WAR EXPERIENCES AND RETURNING TO A HOSTILE HOMECOMING, I JUST PLAYED THROUGH LIFE HOLDING BACK MY FEELINGS. THERE ARE SO MANY WOUNDED WARRIORS OUT  THERE THAT CAN RELATE TO ME. I AM NOT ASKING FOR A PITY PARTY ONLY TO   BE REMEMBERED AS ONE WHO GAVE ALL FOR MY COUNTRY. MY LIFE WILL NEVER BE  SAME: NIGHTMARES, SWEATS AND NOT ONE DAY WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT VIET NAM SERVICE. I STRUGGLE EVERYDAY WITH AGENT ORANGE AND OTHER DEADLY DISEASES. GOD BLESS AMERICA.” – Phil Watford, served ’69-75 in the Marine Corps

“I entered the Army in December 1967. I did basic training at FORT ORD, CA. At that time I was so patriotic it was fanatical. After basic I  was asked what I wanted to do to serve my country, my answer was go to Vietnam. After AIT I attended jump school at Fort Benning Georgia. At the end of jump school our orders came down and my stated that I should report to the Republic of Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne, at that time I was so  excited to go.   I landed at Ben Hoa Vietnam 7/3/1968 my 18th birthday. As the plane  was touching down 177 rockets began to hit the airstrip, this is when  reality sank in and I said to myself what the hell have I got myself into. After a couple of days I was put on a chopper and sent AHN KHE in  the central highlands where I did 2 weeks of jungle training. It was here that I first experienced what tour was going to be like as the  second night we were sent on a recon to the mountains of ahn khe. That night we encountered a company size unit of NVA regulars that was my 1st experience of death as we were able to escape leaving 15 dead NVA  behind . After I was sent to my unit we continued to make contact with  the enemy off and on and I began to wonder what was this so called war about as we would overtake an enemy position one day and give it right  back a few days later. It went on like this and I felt like I was  where I was not wanted, as the people of Nam were not very friendly at  times. It wasn’t until November 13, 1969 that  was the night I thought my number was up. A battalion of NVA regulars tried to overrun our position. This was the first time I actually saw the bullets I fired enter and kill another human being. We succeeded to defend our  position but the fight was an all-nighter. In the morning we surveyed the perimeter and discovered 1 of our guys had been killed by small arms fire, it just happened to be my good friend, at that point in time something happened to me I can”t explain but it changed me completely. As we continued to walk the perimeter and gather the dead  we accounted for a total of 38 NVA KIA’s. After that day all I wanted   to was get out of tha country as fast as possible as fear began to overtake me and that is never a good thing for a combat soldier. Finally on December 15 I was told to pack up I was going home. As the  plane lifted off I looked back and thanked God I was going home. Little did I know that when I would arrive home people reacted to me like I was an evil person . All I know is that war was most defining point in my life as I am still not the person I was before I left.” – Mushie, servied 1967-1970 in the Army

Thank you to our Vietnam veterans for their service and for sharing their experiences. We say, Welcome Home!

Share your stories here.

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