By Neil Kenny L Co 3/26
I have been
going to the Khe Sanh Veterans Reunion since 2000 in San
Diego. If I am honest I would have to admit that my hope
was to reconnect with at least one of the many Marines
with whom I had served with in the many hills and rice
paddies of the land know as the ‘Nam’.
stays with the members of the association at the various
locations across the country, I have only met one or two
members of Lima Company 3/26. Neither of those folks
were people whom I had the pleasure to serve with. At
the second reunion that I attended in Dallas, I was able
to convince my absolute best friend Phineas to attend.
It was indeed grand.
Just prior to
this years reunion, I received an email from a fellow
who stated that he knew several folks who had served
with Lima. I had read the email and marked it to be
reread and responded to. I did not however do so prior
to the trip to Washington, D.C.
the hospitality room, I was approached by an unassuming
gentleman in the company of an extremely attractive
woman. He politely inquired if I was NJ Kenny and did I
know or recognize any of the people in the photographs
that he flashed in front of me.
those photos was the opening to a window in my mind and
a light upon the darkness of my heart. I knew damm near
every name on the sheet. It was a moment of raw,
unnerved emotion as my psyche raced back thirty nine
years to the playground of my youth and I was
Jesus H. Christ! He and I walked point for the Marines
of 3/7 on some shithole hill that Lima company had
previously explored and bled on. When we were first
dropped in on these guys, someone escorted us up to the
senior officer there who first demanded that I receive
brand new jungle boots, and then nearly went completely
apoplectic when I introduced PFC Bryant who immediately
and loudly in his very best Amos & Andy persona waved
his right hand across the sky while telling this man,
“You can just call me Andy.” I had everything to do to
keep myself from not fall down laughing. I know without
a shadow of a doubt that Captain Bennet would have
responded with an equally humorous retort.
on this day, on this hill, failed to see the humor, or
the humanity, or the honesty, or the love, or the
‘Spirit of the Grunt’; in that moment and in that
response. Too Bad.
I on the
other hand would go to my grave with the memory of the
moment and a deep unbinding love for my Brother Marine,
PFC Andy Bryant.
seeing PFC, later Cpl. James laughing while surrounded
by Mike Hill and Roger Broughman. Wow!
James get killed on December 8th, 1968 during Meade
River. I saw clearly Roger writhing in pain as a second
round tore through him as they sought to patch up his
first serious hit.
I recall with
vivid detail that moment when I knew I was going to lead
Marines as Mike Hill, shattered by the wounds to his
best friend and mentor stated, “Rogers hit. What are we
going to do?”
I felt the
uncontrolled rage as the new Sergeant who knew nothing
about infantry and/or Grunts stated, “Put out your
panels.” “Mark your lines I called in Air.” Turning to
this moron this lowly L/Cpl told him to call it off as
we still had Marines down and in the drop zone. Seeing
his pathetic facial expression, I moved forward with
several Marines whilst gleefully peppering the area with
a sustained rate of fire in short eight to ten round
burst. God, I so love the passion and finality of
the group shot and seeing Ronnie Morse who carried an
M-14, who collected gold teeth and cracked some Air
Force dude in the snot locker for taking flicks of ‘Real
Marines’ without prior permission are all fond and
cherished memories that flooded out of the hidden
valleys of my mind and race to the surface of my face
while standing in the hospitality room.
at home I would unfold a hidden thought and then with
precise clarification recall Ed Cowfer. Not standing in
that group photo, but rather; leisurely strolling down
the line during a barrage of incoming back at Khe Sanh
and when challenged as to what the ____ he was thinking;
his simple response was, “Nice day for a walk.” Someone
said, “He is shell shocked.” No one knew or heard of
PTSD, it was after all Tet of ‘68.
As quick as
these memories overloaded my sensory capacity, someone
rattled the doors, shouted out for all to mount the
buses and we’d be off to the Museum. This unassuming
Gent with the pretty wife grabbed his photos exited the
room the doors were shut, and I stood there thinking;
‘Was this some sort of ghost from my past who’d come to
stir my emotions and then disappear?’
For the love
of me, I could not locate this couple and was confused,
dazzled, and bewildered by my emotional controls that
now were abounding with every conceivable sensation any
human being could experience. All of this, and in nano
museum, I spotted Lima Six - Captain Dick Camp - my
first CO. Then after a few moments located Bill Correia
and his lovely bride Pam. These weren’t ghosts at all.
These were the affirmations that I was alive. That I did
indeed survive and that I would have many more
conversations to recover and recall the many parts of my
Heart and Soul left behind in the rice paddies and hills
of that place we all called the ‘Nam’.
This is why I go to reunions. I am
already packed for Reno, How about you?
Bandera Honors its
Veterans, Reunites Friends
Don Jennings A 1/9
BANDERA, TX —
On a trip from Hillsboro to reunite with Marine buddies
from the Vietnam War, Don Jennings chanced upon veterans
who may have made his reunion possible.
"Bandera Honors Veterans" event, Jennings saw an exhibit
with photographs of helicopters shown flying out of Khe
Sanh - where he saw combat with the unit known as "The
Walking Dead." "We were looking at their display and
realized they probably evacuated some of us during the
siege of Khe Sanh," said Jennings, 60, one of about 20
members of the 1st Battalion, Ninth Marines squad
belonged to Charlie Baker, 62, of Medina. As a Marine
helicopter crew chief, Baker repeatedly swept in amid
heavy enemy fire to take troops out of the military base
near the Laos border that came under siege by North
Vietnamese troops in 1968. Handshakes ensued as men
bonded by battle decades ago and exchanged names. The
belated introductions were just one of many touching
moments at the commemoration to local military personnel
that this small town began in 2005. "I'm glad to see
people remember and care," said San Antonio resident
Martin Martinez, 58, who served in an Army artillery
unit in Vietnam.
Richard Evans, one of several speakers, implored the
crowd to thank the veterans on hand "for my country ...
for my freedom ... for my way of life." A middle school
choir serenaded an audience of about 100 gathered beside
the Bandera County Courthouse. Prayers were heard for
those felled in combat long ago, and for those now in
harm's way - or headed there. Dennis Sykes, who traveled
from Denver to see Jennings and other friends, called
the event an unexpected - and pleasant - surprise. "It's
such a homey feeling and such a tight community," said
Sykes, 60. "This is a microcosm of the best of America."
Raymond Baker praised organizers of the event for
raising awareness about military conflicts that have
lapsed from public consciousness. "Most people do not
know history. This is history," said Raymond Baker, 59,
one of three brothers of Charlie Baker who also served
in the military. At a nearby table, Glen Bishop shared
photos he took of fellow Army Air Corps paratroopers
filling the sky above post-war Germany in the 1950s. "It
brings back a lot of memories," said Bishop, 72, of Pipe
Creek. "I'm glad to be part of it." Looking over the
table laden with documents and keepsakes from a
half-century ago, his wife, Laura Bishop, said, "It
means everything to him because this is his history."
of the event only Friday from a neighbor, Dawn Mayorga,
who's three vibrant children in the Army smiled from
dozens of exhibited photos. Her 19-year-old son, Austin
Medley, was deployed in September to Iraq with the 10th
Mountain Division. "He called yesterday, Morale is good.
He said 'Send candy and chips,' " said Mayorga, 52. Her
22-year-old son, John Medley, is an infantryman
stationed at Fort Hood who will be deployed in 2008 to
Iraq. Daughter Jackie Mayorga, 19, is a medic who's
deploying from Hawaii to Iraq next month. Despite the
obvious hazards facing her kids, Dawn Mayorga said she's
at peace because their fates are in God's hands. And,
she said, "Every time one of my kids is deployed I know
someone else's kid comes home. That's what keeps me
By Craig W. Tourte
Fate, destiny or angels, what do you think? I was in the
car the other day with my friend Steve Wiese. As most of
you know, Steve is one of the few survivors of the Ghost
Patrol and participated (make that volunteered) in the
revenge patrol a month later. Now Steve is around 6 foot
4 or so, and is a huge target for anyone looking for
something big to shoot at. How he survived an 18 month
combat tour is beyond me.
As we’re riding along, Steve starts telling me the story
of his small squad of 6 to 8 Marines out on patrol. They
were heading in a certain direction towards 881 (my best
recall), and as Steve and his squad approach a ridge,
with the objective of climbing the next hill, Steve
stops the patrol and gazes out at the objective. A
chill, voice or just his experience as a combat veteran
told Steve to avoid the hill and go around. The
following week a large combat unit attacked the hill
Steve avoided that afternoon. A fierce battle ensued as
the Marines attacked the well fortified enemy positions
dug into the sides of the hill. If Steve and his small
squad of Marines had ventured forward that afternoon,
neither he nor his men would have survived. Steve
participated in the attack the following week and was
lucky, once again, to have survived the brutal assault.
My little fighting position on the line located near the
southwest corner of the Khe Sanh Base was nothing more
than a few sandbags and some type of overhang cover.
Just a small turn or notch in the long trench. I still
had a rubber lady, she wasn’t much but she was better
than sleeping in the mud. I dug this little position out
with my small entrenching tool, filled every sandbag and
put what little I possessed inside. It was one of those
clear days you could see forever, unfortunately so could
the NVA. For some reason, a voice, a feeling or destiny
I got up out of this position and walked just a few feet
west when I heard the familiar sound of rockets leaving
their tubes. I jumped into the trench just a few feet
away and buried myself as deep as I could. By this time,
I had the experience to be able to determine in just
milla-seconds the anticipated trajectory of the rocket
which I knew was heading right at us. Rockets are split
second things and it was all over very quickly. With a
huge explosion of noise, smoke, dirt and whizzing of
shrapnel it was over. I got up and looked at the ground
just a few feet from me. There was a huge hole in the
ground, the sides of which were black and the hole still
smoking, and to my amazement, there was not just one
hole but three in succession. I climbed out of the
trench and glanced over at the next rocket impact only
to see that it dove sideways into my fighting position,
which I had occupied just seconds before.
As I stumbled in that direction, I observed that sadly
my rubber lady did not survive the attack and I knew
that my nights of sleeping up out of the mud were over.
I remember laughing wilding at the sight and I was soon
joined by others who apparently also saw the humor it
what was not humorous at all, but I think we were all a
little crazy by then. Who knows the reasons for our
survival, was it fate, destiny or does each one of us
have an angel sitting on our shoulder, whispering in our
ear, into our brain. Perhaps we were spared for a reason
or we were just lucky. I’d prefer to believe in the
A FEW CHRISTMAS STORIES THAT MISSED
Christmas At Khe
By Lt/Col James B. Wilkinson, USMC (Ret)
In the spring
of 1965, units of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade
arrived in South Vietnam. As they stormed ashore, ready
for battle, lovely young ladies welcomed them with
floral bouquets. The Marines were given the mission of
protecting the airfield at Da Nang and were soon
patrolling the surrounding villages and paddies. Their
enemy, clad primarily in black pajama-like garments,
supported the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam
and were called Viet Cong. Armed with single-shot
rifles, punji stakes and other rudimentary weapons, they
were a formidable foe, blending in with farmers and
villagers when not setting up ambushes or planning other
actions against the Marines. Identifying Viet Cong was a
major challenge. It was reminiscent of a vintage Western
with John Wayne as the grizzled, old Indian fighter.
When a cavalry officer reports, "We just saw a patrol of
Apaches!" Wayne replies, "Sir, if you saw them, they
American forces in South Vietnam numbered approximately
500,000 troops. Marines included the First and Third
Marine divisions plus supporting forces, including a
variety of Marine aviation units. The Marines were
assigned to I Corps, in the northern portion of South
Vietnam. The enemy also had grown from a poorly equipped
but effective group of Viet Cong into a far more capable
force. Large numbers of well trained and equipped units
of the North Vietnamese Army had moved into South
Vietnam. Their arsenal included the old reliable AK47
rifle, rocket-propelled grenades, rockets, field
artillery and an up-to-date communications and command
Like the Viet
Cong, the North Vietnamese units proved hard to locate.
But in the spring of 1967, friendly patrols detected
enemy forces in the extreme northwestern corner of I
Corps. The enemy was present in well placed fighting
positions and bunkers in the vicinity of Hills 881
South, 881 North and 861. Several Marine infantry
battalions were tasked with destroying the enemy units.
The ensuing conflicts became known as "hill battles"
with both sides suffering heavy casualties.
fighting ended, the Marines occupied Hills 881 South,
861, 950 and Khe Sanh Combat Base. Hill 881 North was
not occupied. The enemy withdrew, probably across the
border into Laos where they could regroup and take on
replacements that moved south along the Ho Chi Minh
leaders at very high levels decided to maintain a force
at Khe Sanh Combat Base. Their strategy was to lure the
North Vietnamese into a set-piece battle, where air and
artillery coupled with the courage of the individual
American fighting man would prevail.
viewed a future battle for Khe Sanh as another Dien Bien
Phu—the French outpost the North Vietnamese had battered
day and night with artillery and ground attacks. The
French surrendered Dien Bien Phu in 1954 after suffering
extremely heavy casualties. This decisive battle led to
the defeat of French forces in Vietnam. Like Khe Sanh,
Dien Bien Phu was located close to Laos.
1967, Colonel David E. Lownds assumed command of the
26th Marine Regiment. During most of 1967 he had only
one battalion under his command. The 26th Marines were
part of the 5thMarDiv. However, when additional forces
were needed in Vietnam, the regiment was moved from Camp
Pendleton, Calif., and became part of the 3dMarDiv.
For the last
half of 1967, up until Christmas, life at Khe Sanh
Combat Base was uneventful. The defense of the base,
Hills 861, 881 South and 950 remained with 1st Bn, 26th
Marines. That battalion also was responsible for
security of the bridge over the Rao Quan River. A rifle
company was given the mission. Every six or seven weeks,
companies would be reshuffled to and from the hills, to
the base or to the bridge.
Life on the
hills was far more Spartan than life at the base, with
C-rations delivered by two ancient UH-34 Seahorse
helicopters. The helicopters were so old their Marine
passengers joked that the old "birds" suffered from
squad-size patrols left the hills, the triple-canopied
jungle, which began a few hundred yards from each hill
position, enveloped them. Patrols oftentimes stayed out
for several days, even during heavy monsoons or "cratchins."
(The French used le crachin to describe light rain,
coupled with fog.)
By Craig W. Tourte
OK so I’m not
going to post my Christmas at Khe Sanh story this year.
You know the one where Ann Margaret shows up on the well
lighted stage placed over the ammo dump…yea, that one.
Although I still think that story is one of my better BS
pieces, I guess because I see such hilarious absurdity
in the possibility or probability. I still can’t get
over the number of people who believed it could have
actually occurred. One even said that he must have been
up in the hills because he missed it…….Oh please. Still
others demanded that I no longer write fiction, so that
was the end of my fiction novel period.
Anyway, I was
out driving around this evening in the dark (no not
aimlessly) and the rain was really coming down. Now I
realize California rain is not the same rain you folks
get in other climate locations, I mean I played golf on
Tuesday, but please try to follow the story here. Anyway
it’s cold and wet and the wind is blowing and I’m trying
to remember how miserable I was 40 years ago at about
this time. Now because of personal issues I had with my
now deceased mother and step-father, Christmas was never
much of a thrill, so I can’t look back and remember how
wonderful it was sitting around the old living room with
the folks and grandma, you know the warm and fuzzy
Christmas feeling, but I really envy those who can.
I do have
some pretty vivid memories of a number of years ago
spending Christmas with a few other lonely and bitter
drinking buddies hanging out and complaining about this
time of year, seems everyone else was so darn happy and
filled with the Christmas spirit, which of course I
never had, and to tell you the truth, I’m not so sure to
this day I know what it is. Now getting back to my
story. I guess for Christmas our mess must have put out
a pretty decent meal, because if we didn’t I am
confident that Tom Horchler, Paul Turnbull and a few
others, who had the privilege of eating in our mess,
would even to this day, tell me about it. Tom always
relates how good he thought the food was (he even kept a
few of the menus) however others were not so
look at it, Christmas at Khe Sanh was lousy, the food
was rotten, the weather cold and wet with that damp fog
rolling in and staying all night. No heaters, no lights,
no blankets, wet clothes, socks and boots, and no radios
or televisions or Christmas carols. The red clay mud
stuck to your boots making them 5 pounds heavier and you
became 3 inches taller. I didn’t think about Christmas
at home, I didn’t think about mom because I knew that
she was not thinking about me, and I’m sure Christmas
was just a little more enjoyable for her knowing that I
wouldn’t be hanging around. But worst of all, worst of
all about Christmas at Khe Sanh, was that tall, leggy
Ann Margaret with the dancing girls from the USO show,
who never showed up on the stage that was never built
over the ammo dump.
Christmas best forgotten?.....not for
me. It was my most memorable
Some time in the 80's our local
newspaper sponsored a "Memorable Christmas" contest. I
submitted the following and earned a first place award.
It has been in Red Clay before (and Leatherneck
Magazine) but not for some time, and since the event is
approaching 40 years & because Craig called it "best
forgotten" I decided to copy it here. It will always be
the Christmas that stands out in my memory...even today.
CHRISTMAS at KHE
By Dennis Mannion - K Co 3/26
travelers, who finally get to rest in the comfort of
their own homes after a week of constant motion and
movement, the members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion,
26th Marine Regiment spread out into the foxholes and
bunkers that made up the company’s perimeter at Khe
Christmas Eve 1967, and we had just returned from a
four-day operation that had taken us west of the combat
base into the rugged hills and terrain of the Khe Sanh
Plateau. Despite minimal creature comforts at the base,
it was a relief to know that we didn’t have to hike
those hills for a while. That alone was a legitimate
In terms of
the physical setting and the expected sounds and colors,
this was sure to be my bleakest holiday ever, but it
remains the Christmas that stands apart from all the
others, and the one which memory doesn’t confuse, over
Dave Krom, and I headed straight for the position that
we had constructed the previous week. Even though it was
just two foxholes covered with a tent-like affair of
scrounged parachute silk, we felt elated to be home for
the holidays. At mid-day, a rumor which had been
circulating since the previous morning turned into
reality. An arriving helicopter touched down just
outside the company area, and mailbag after mailbag
began to spill out onto the ground!
distribution of our Christmas mail, which had been held
in storage for nearly two weeks, required the work of
scores of Marines as there were thousands of letters and
hundreds of “care packages.” More than anything else, it
was the sheer volume of these packages that brought a
festive, holiday atmosphere to our corner of the war.
Denied a chance to be in the real world, it was as if
its realities had been sent to us, and each package
opened helped to reduce the tensions and the fears
accumulated during the previous week. By late afternoon,
Kilo Company was almost giddy with child-like happiness
and Christmas spirit.
and I had not drawn perimeter guard that night (another
present), we settled in under our parachute hooch to
feast on our collective packages and to recall Christmas
memories from earlier years. With our military gear
relegated to the sides of the tent, the war almost
seemed to have been replaced with plentiful food,
laughter, and friendship. Considering how the previous
four months had been spent, we had another gift to be
thankful for – we were still around for the holiday
while a number of our companions were not. Sometime
after midnight, wrapped in a poncho-liner and surrounded
with gentle memories of home and the holidays, I drifted
off to sleep thinking of my family and mostly my mother.
I was jolted
out of my sleep on Christmas morning by the sound of
“Jingle Bells!” Two Marine Corps helicopters with
Santa's painted on their sides were making repeated
passes over the combat base, and loudspeakers mounted in
the doors were playing one Christmas song after another.
It was incredible! Within seconds, people from all over
were up, out, and on their feet to cheer and to wave.
The show didn’t last more than 10 minutes, but it was
enough to get our day off to a magical start.
At noon, a
Catholic chaplain celebrated mass out in the open, and
as I sauntered over, I was suddenly struck with the
thought that 12 noon on Christmas Day in Vietnam
corresponded exactly with 12 midnight on Christmas Eve
in Connecticut. While I knelt with rifle in hand in the
red dust of Khe Sanh, my family was kneeling in the pews
of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven for midnight mass. It
was the only time in my 13 month tour when I knew
exactly what members of my family were doing at a given
moment. I used to wonder and guess at their actions and
activities from time to time, but in this short period
of mass and remembrance, I was linked to them with a
bond that stretched over 15,000 miles. In spite of the
distance, I never felt closer to any of them as I did at
that moment, and the simple act of closing my eyes
seemed to move me out of the war and into the
comfortable surroundings of family and home.
Christmas morning in Connecticut, I was strapping on the
weapons and gear of an infantryman and preparing to move
to an ambush position outside our protective barbed
wire. Our route out the gate took us directly across the
very ground where mass had been said earlier, and where,
through the miracle of Christ’s birth, I was permitted
to stand for a moment at a window to the world.
By Michael Preston
around Xmas time I get to thinking about those
Christmas's I spent away from home, three in total, what
a drag ! C-rats ala-king for Xmas dinner, O-Boy ,
yum-yum ! I think about all the guys who did it before
me to keep this country free, wow! Just think how lucky
those guys in Korea were to be there for Xmas, it was
really cold and snowy just like it is supposed to be at
Christmas, that probably helped to cheer them up, ya
And how about
those lucky guys in '' Belleau Woods'' in the big war! I
think the guys who probably had the most fun at
Christmas were those guys who were taking boat rides
across the Potomac with that big guy who kept pointing
at the icebergs ahead, these guys had the finest
equipment that the revolutionist could afford, what fun.
Well we ended up sitting in the steaming jungle, 90
degrees or what ever, 90 % humidity or whatever it was,
doesn't matter-there wasn't much Christmas atmosphere in
the Nam. It would have been nice to have some snow,
don't ya think? Well, on second thought maybe not.
Anyway, every year at Christmas I offer a message to my
fellow veterans whether it be something I have conjured
up or something someone else has. This year someone sent
me this one and it was good enough to bring tears to my
eyes so I figger it is good enough to send to you tough
MERRY CHRISTMAS, SEMPER FI ''ANIMAL''
LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN
30th Naval Construction Regimen
The embers glowed softly, and in their
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."
"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."
PLEASE, Christmas will be coming soon and some credit
is due to our U.S.
service men and women for our being able to celebrate
these festivities. Make
people stop and think of our heroes, living and dead,
who sacrificed themselves for us.
LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN
30th Naval Construction Regiment
OIC, Logistics Cell One
Al Taqqadum, Iraq
STRESS and PTSD
By Craig Tourte
pretty new at this PTSD stuff, I didn’t know much about
it until I connected with Tom Horchler about four years
ago. Of course Tom insisted that I file for PTSD but it
was not until I attended my first reunion and talked to
Neil and others that I came to realize what all of this
really meant. I know that some see it as just a means
for others to receive VA benefits and it’s hard to
describe its effects and ramification to those not so
well informed and in particular to discuss it with those
who deny having any form of the disorder themselves.
Subsequently, I have read a great deal on the subject
and of course I have now gone through the process. As I
talk to others who are currently working through the
system trying to obtain the assistance and help they
need, I find that one of the many issues they face is
having to describe what combat action they saw.
Questions like, “How many dead did you see, did you kill
anyone, did you help anyone who was wounded, what was
your MOS, what citations did you receive.” And provide
names and letters from associates who can vouch for
their experience. I think what they (whoever they are)
are really asking, is how much gore (death and injury)
did you see and why can’t you just get over it?
Stubbe wrote a wonderful letter of support for someone a
number of years ago. The letter is quite long as he
describes the experience of being at Khe Sanh (and the
hills) during the Siege. But I think the most important
aspect of this letter reads in part:
emotional consequence of all of this involved: a
constant awareness of imminent personal danger and
death, feelings of abandonment, a deep awareness of
vulnerability, and inability to do anything, and the
frustrations of helplessness…” Now here is what I feel
is the most important issue in his letter.
“I’m sure you
are aware of Lt.//Col Dave Grossman’s book on killings
where... Swank and Marchand’s much-cited World War II
study, determined that after sixty days of continuous
combat, 98 percent of all surviving soldiers will have
become psychiatric casualties of one kind or
another…also found a common trait among 2 percent who
were able to endure sustained combat: a predisposition
toward “aggressive psychopathic personalities.” Having
been in contact with many hundreds of the survivors of
the Siege battle at Khe Sanh, I have been made aware
that almost all are 100% service-connected for PTSD, as
one might conclude from the experience…”
What I get
from the information provided in this letter is that
PTSD is not about exposure to death and injury, although
that is an important aspect, but rather how long and
intense was the sustained and continuous stress of the
experience. Of the many individuals I have spoken to
about this subject, I cannot recall one saying in
truthfulness that after their experience at Khe Sanh,
life has been a bowl of cherries and everything has been
grand. But rather we have spoken about broken marriages,
dependent abuse, dreams, anger and you know the rest.
For those who don’t have PTSD, or just deny having it,
may I suggest they read and learn as much as they can
about this disorder and then talk to those who have been
diagnosed. You might find a common thread and perhaps
then you might understand what this is all about, and
who knows, you might even find that you have just a
little PTSD yourself.
By Mike Skrekia
men and women are heroes in some eyes.
I am an
associate member of the Khe Sanh Veterans and have been
for several years. I look forward to receiving the Red
While I was
not there it is extremely interesting reading about the
war through a Marines eyes, for some of us that were not
there we can only imagine what it was like. To me, every
man and women that came home from Viet Nam was a hero.
Every one of them has a story to tell of the hell they
endured. I had many friends who served in Viet Nam and
some that never made it home. They were all heroes in my
eyes, and to many who knew them.
In your issue
69 Red Clay there was an article by Mr. Moore and his
concern on how loosely the term hero is used. In all
honesty I do not feel that many of the American people
would agree with him. There are many men and women in
Iraq, Afghanistan and many other parts of the world that
are risking all for their country and the American
people. While some of those military personnel will not
see battle, a large majority will and have. My nephew
has just recently returned from Iraq. While injured in
battle he is one of the lucky ones that came home alive.
He was injured while trying to help three wounded
soldiers that were taking heavy fire; I would call him a
hero. Listening to his stories of the war in Iraq was
the same as listening to the Khe Sanh veteran's talk of
their experiences in Viet Nam.
I truly do
not know the statistics of the war in Iraq or
Afghanistan and the brave men and women there defending
our country, but I am sure that more than- 1% of them
have shouldered a rifle to defend them selves or one of
their comrades. As Mr. Moore pointed out, the dictionary
defines hero as: A person noted for feats of courage or
notability of purpose, unless we are there we can not
know how many times one of these brave people have fired
a gun, Flew a Jet, guided a tank or any other form of
putting themselves in harms way. A military (hero) might
be one of these people.
term of hero that Mr. Moore alluded to was, one who has
risked or sacrificed his or her life. Unless you know or
knew someone who is serving or has served in Iraq or
Afghanistan, you can not possibly know how many times
one has risked his or her life. They might also be a
hero. My nephew is a Captain in the rangers and had seen
his share of battle. He said when you are with a platoon
of men and women and you are the responsible one, you do
not think of your well being or safety, you think of
theirs. He explained to me that his entire platoon felt
the same way, think of the person next to you in battle
and doing what you can to keep them safe. These types of
people may be heroes.
Moore gave many fine examples of a hero in his opinion,
which I agree with, there are many other examples that
we never will know. We will not know them unless you
know someone who has gone through it. Whether it be,
Omaha Beach, The Battle of the Bulge, The Bomber crews,
Leathernecks, Survivors of the USS Yorktown, 1st. Marine
Division, The Viet Nam War, or any other conflict that
has seen U.S. military men and women on foreign soil.
These people are truly heroes.
But please do
not cheapen the meaning of hero by saying that 99% of
the young men and women who serve our country today are
not heroes because they have not shouldered a rifle in
battle, you do not know that as a fact. While some of
them may not be or have not been in harms way during
their time at war, they are still in someone's eyes a
hero, because they did indeed go to war. By Mr. Moore
saying they are not heroes is the same slap in the face
that the brave young men and women coming home from Viet
Nam went through. They were indeed heroes, they came
home to a country for the most part that did not
appreciate what they did or had gone through. I know
that simple attitude has changed in today's society by
the support for the military men and women seen all over
the United States. While some do not agree on the war it
seems that we all agree on the support of the military
men and women; well most of us anyways. These men and
women may be heroes.
The word hero
is not misused in most cases in my opinion. I do not
call someone a hero unless they deserve it in my eyes. I
belong to an organization called the Patriot Guard
Riders. We have buried many, many Heroes; we have done
many memorial rides for WW1, WW2, Korea, Viet Nam and
Iraq veterans. We do many send off rides for heroes
going to battle, and many welcome home rides for those
coming home from battle. In every aspect of what we do,
the people we deal with think that their loved ones are
indeed heroes. Who are we, or who is Webster to say that
these people are not heroes. The interpretation of the
word is better left to those who use it and not for
anyone person to say they are not. Many of the words in
today's society have several meanings; this must be one
of them because it seems to me that an awful lot of
people I talk to see these brave men and women as
VOICE of THE TIMES
KSV In The News
Forty years ago a handful of
United States Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force warriors
spent more than 77 days defending a small set of
outposts in northwest Vietnam. The place was Khe Sanh
and the enemy was led by Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the North
Vietnamese Army (NVA) commander who defeated the French
at Dien Bien Phu. He had three divisions, with an
estimated 30,000 troops to attack us at Khe Sanh.
I CO 3/26
of India Co., Third Battalion 26th Marines, was to hold
a Hill known as 881South and act as a combat outpost for
the 26th Marines on the Khe Sanh plateau. When it
appeared that the enemy was attempting to close on the
hill, India requested and received permission to make a
company reconnaissance-in-force north on Jan. 20, 1968.
India, with more than 200 Marines and corpsmen, jumped
off before dawn and before it had gone 1,000 yards, the
1st Platoon made heavy contact with a sizable NVA
unit. There were several casualties, and the platoon
consolidated its position, but the first helicopter sent
to evacuate the casualties was shot down, crashing about
200 yards down the slope Another assault by the 3d
Platoon succeeded in seizing the objective, but at high
cost. Its lieutenant and several others were killed, and
for a time the platoon held the hill against strong
counterattacks, with a lance corporal in command.
At about this
time, an NVA lieutenant surrendered to the Marines
defending the base. He was immediately interrogated and
reported that all outlying positions around the base
would be attacked that night. India was consequently
ordered to break contact immediately and return to its
previous position. It arrived shortly after dark. That
night, all outlying positions around the Khe Sanh Combat
Base were assaulted except 881S. The force that had been
designated to attack 881S had been met and mauled that
afternoon and, having been located, was shelled
throughout the night. Additionally, 881S provided more
than 1,000 rounds of fire support to another hill that
was attacked. That evening began the siege that lasted
to standing watch, digging deeper trenches and fighting
positions became the daily routine. The title of this
column, “home is where you dig it,” became the Khe Sanh
motto. In some ways it was like trench warfare in World
War 1. Lack of supplies, digging equipment, bunker
material, constant battles with rats, rain and mud,
cold, fog, and all under constant artillery, mortar and
sniper fire and observation of the enemy seemed to be
the order of the day. But, we were never outside the
range of our own artillery support, air power and
communications. Logistical support by air also became so
hazardous that only the plight of the Marines and the
president's order to “Hold Khe Sanh” could justify the
terrible losses of aircraft encountered in resupply
attempts Several C-130s and C-123s were destroyed on Khe
Sanh's airstrip while attempting to bring in the
supplies, but the enemy siege became so tight that
C-130s were finally prevented from landing and were
forced to resort to par dropping the supplies. This
still did not solve the problem of re-supplying the
ever-more-besieged outposts around Khe Sanh, where water
and food became secondary to ammunition. Helicopters
still had to brave the heavy mortar, artillery, rocket
and automatic weapons fire to carry the critical
supplies from Khe Sanh to the surrounding hilltop
outposts. New delivery methods were designed.
routine. The helicopter zones were always "hot." The
enemy's weapon of choice to attack them was the 120mm
mortar, which was always deadly. Most dangerous were the
medical evacuation missions. It took time to carry badly
wounded men from cover to the helicopter and then return
to cover, and the mortar rounds were often already
announced as being "on the way." Yet there was no
occasion when men had to be ordered to carry stretchers.
To the contrary, it was often necessary to restrain too
many men from lending a hand and exposing themselves
unnecessarily. Seven helicopters were shot down, yet we
never called for a medevac that didn't come, weather
never a climactic day or event. Rather, from Jan. 21
through April 17, the threat to life and limb remained
essentially unchanged. The dangers were greatest during
helicopter operations because those offered the most
lucrative targets to the enemy's gunners. The potential
for catastrophe, however, was greatest at night or
during the frequent foggy weather when we could not see
to detect the enemy's approach or to bring our massive
supporting fires to bear against him. That potential
took a psychological as well as a physical toll. To
stand in a trench for eight hours on a given night
without relief, in total darkness, in a fog so thick
that even a magnesium flare could not pierce it, all
senses focused on detecting any sound, any smell, any
hint of movement to the front. It was trying in the
extreme to the Marine required to do it. To require all
hands do so nightly for three months was to stretch the
limits of resolve.
Marines or Corpsmen died on or near the hill and nearly
200 were wounded, not including aviation casualties
whose numbers, being reported separately, were unknown
to us. Our commanding officer, Bill Dabney, noted that
none of these losses occurred in a single pitched
battle, but rather in discrete incidents scattered over
the course of the siege. Incoming was constant, and
although we learned to cope with it to a point, a lucky
round in a trench line or active medevac zone was just
as deadly in April as in January. Through it all, the
troops did their duty. We stood our watches. Others flew
their aircraft or serviced helicopter zones, manned
outposts, engaged the enemy and raised the flag daily as
zealously at the end as at the beginning. We were never
asked to stand back-to-back against the flagpole with
fixed bayonets, but rather to endure. By enduring, we
I didn’t pick
the men I fought with but I have an attachment to them
that cannot be described — and I have the same
attachment to those who carry on today. Never have I
given anyone the trust I gave these men. As William
Manchester wrote after his fighting service at Okinawa,
and after all these years, I also recognize that these
men and women, and I mean all who served in Viet Nam
from all branches of the services, in the end, didn’t
fight for their country, their government’s mission and
not even their branch of service but for each other. I
salute those warriors of the past and those of today and
I am proud to have been one of you.
Dworsky. Ph.D., was a platoon commander with
India Company on Hill 881S during the siege until he was
wounded and medevaced. He has several decorations for
bravery including a Bronze Star and Navy Commendation
Medal and 3 purple hearts as a result of his tour in
Viet Nam. He has lived and worked in Anchorage for
almost 30 years.
KSV Veteran’s In The
By Keith Edwards
Randy Worthley A Btry 1/13
Ralph Sargent Hq Btry 1/13
Worthley took shrapnel in his neck and upper leg
during heavy enemy shelling June 27, 1967, in Khe Sanh,
Vietnam, which killed two of five fellow Marines
assigned to a 105-millimeter howitzer. Today, some 40
years after the siege of Khe Sanh, Worthley, then a
lance corporal, figures he made it out of Vietnam in
pretty good shape, considering how many didn't come back
treated in an underground hospital on the Marine base at
Khe Sanh and returned to duty shortly thereafter. He
said he still has nerve damage and lacks feeling in much
of his thigh.
"I'd say I
came out OK, physically," said Worthley, who received
the Purple Heart. "It could have been a lot worse. We
lost what, 58,000 there?"
Monday is the
40th anniversary of the start of the siege of Khe Sanh,
in which about 6,000 Marines and other service members
were cut off from ground support and held off persistent
attacks on their base by North Vietnamese forces
totaling around 34,000.
left the Marine Corps in October of 1968 and is now a
master electrician, also received the
Presidential Unit Citation and Combat Action Ribbon for
his service in Vietnam. He served at Khe Sanh from June
of 1967 until January of 1968, before the "official"
77-day Siege of Khe Sanh occurred between Jan. 21 and
April 8, 1968.
doesn't mean Khe Sanh was a peaceful place when he was
there. "We were some of the first troops sent there to
beef it up," Worthley said.
thousands and thousands of rounds there -- 1,200 in one
fire came in, rather than hiding out in bunkers, his
unit's job was to go out to their howitzers and return
fire. Their targets were often enemy troops moving
ammunition on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Sargent, 72, of Augusta, managed to escape injury
during his time in Khe Sanh, but just barely. On March
9, 1968, a North Vietnamese rocket struck the
headquarters tent where he spent most of his waking
hours in Khe Sanh, injuring three Marines and killing a
lance corporal who was due to return home in just 13
days. But Sargent, an Augusta resident and Gardiner High
School graduate who fought in the 77-day siege of Khe
Sanh against an estimated 34,000 North Vietnamese,
wasn't there. Instead, he had jumped -- literally --
onto the back of a moving C-130 cargo plane nine days
earlier on emergency leave so he could help his family
back in Maine deal with the death of his brother-in-law,
Guy Robert Bean, who was killed in combat in Vietnam at
the age of 21.
40th anniversary of the start of the siege of Khe Sanh,
Sargent said he plans to do what he usually does every
year on that day. He'll flip through some of his old
photo albums and books of mementos and commendations and
think about his experiences and lost buddies in the
Vietnam War. He figures he's lucky to be around to
reflect, and not just because of the rocket that killed
his unit's machine gunner, Lance Cpl. Wilbur Stovall,
whom Sargent said was like a son to him. Sargent almost
didn't make it out for his emergency leave. Due to
persistent incoming enemy rocket and mortar fire, the
few planes that did land on the crater-marked airstrip
at Khe Sanh usually never came to a full stop. Their
loads of supplies were attached to parachutes, which
pulled the pallets of supplies out the back of the
C-130s. Then the planes, after touching down, without
stopping, would take back off. So Sargent had to run out
onto the airstrip to board a plane out.
"I ran and
jumped for the tail, but my pistol belt got held up on
the ramp," Sargent said. "It was stuck. I couldn't get
in and I couldn't get out."
service member saw what was happening, grabbed Sargent
and pushed him up into the plane. But in so doing, the
man was left hanging from the ramp as the plane began to
takeoff and left the ground. The other man fell to the
thing I saw was him landing and rolling on the ground,"
Sargent said of the other service member. "I don't know
if he made it or not. I still see that guy, rolling on
the ground, today."
call came when a 152-millimeter artillery shell flew
over his foxhole, close enough so he could feel the heat
coming off it. Other than a touch of shell shock which
caused Sargent, for a time even after he'd left a combat
area, to yell "Incoming!" and dive to the ground when he
heard loud, explosive-sounding noises, he made it out of
Khe Sanh without getting injured.
Worthley and Sargent spent most of their time on the
base, as most fighting at Khe Sanh consisted of
exchanges of artillery fire, not direct, face-to-face
combat. Both Marines said the defensive assignment of
holding the base while under siege was frustrating for
many of their fellow Marines because, they said, Marines
are used to being on the offensive.
barrage of enemy shelling led to them spending most of
their time underground in bunkers. Worthley said they
filled large wooden ammunition boxes with dirt to build
up their walls and strengthen their bunkers from attack.
Sargent said they used nearly anything they could find,
because proper supplies were hard to come by in Khe
Sanh, which was surrounded by the enemy and reachable
only by aircraft. "We didn't have proper protection for
our bunkers," Sargent said. "All of our corrugated steel
went to the north, thanks to Robert McNamara (U.S.
Secretary of Defense from 1961-1968). We had nothing to
stop anything more than an 82 millimeter mortar. They
(the North Vietnamese) were using heavier shells than
that. They had 152s. We had sandbags, 55-gallon drums
and empty ammo boxes so we'd fill them full of dirt for
protection. Anything we could find."
battery gunnery sergeant and platoon sergeant of a
36-man reactionary platoon. During his service in
Vietnam he was awarded a Navy Commendation and the
Bronze Star with a Combat V for heroic achievement, for
his role in an attack not at Khe Sanh. He said he didn't
want the award because he received it for his actions in
an attack in which 35 Marines died.
nothing but do my job and get the wounded out of there,"
he said of the Bronze Star. "I didn't want it. I wear it
in memory of the Marines who got killed that night."
up the bulk of forces at Khe Sanh but all branches were
represented. Sargent said sometimes they were short on
supplies so weren't allowed to use water to shower, and
were limited to two C-ration meals per day., The first
wave of what many consider the official siege of Khe
Sanh started with a major attack at 5:30 a.m., Jan. 21,
1968. "They hit us with rockets, mortars, everything,"
Sargent said. "The third round hit our ammo dump. We had
all kinds of stuff in there. It was quite a Fourth of
July display. It was two or three days before it settled
into and left Khe Sanh, which is on a plateau surrounded
by the Coroc Mountains located near the North Vietnam
and Laos borders, by helicopter. Bullets were coming
through the bottom of the
helicopter when he was flown out.
A native of
Mexico, Worthley attended technical school on the GI
bill after the Marines and became a master electrician.
He and his wife Carol have two adult daughters. Sargent
was in Khe Sanh from September of 1967 to April 18,
1968. He was in the Marines until he retired from the
Corps, Sept. 30, 1976.
worked for the state and Digital in Augusta, before
retiring. He's been married to his wife and high school
sweetheart, Onise, 53 years. They have two daughters and
five grandchildren. One grandson joined the Marines,
though Sargent noted he did not pressure him to do so.
The number of casualties suffered by both sides at Khe
Sanh has long been disputed. The official count of
deaths released by the Marines counts 205 deaths and
1,668 wounded. The Khe Sanh Veterans Association,
founded by Vietnam historian Ray W. Stubbe, a Navy
Chaplain at Khe Sanh and founder of Khe Sanh Veterans
Association, estimates there were 730 Americans killed
in action in Khe Sanh. More than 2,500 were injured,
according to multiple accounts. Khe Sanh was abandoned
by U.S. troops and leveled by July of 1968.
that be decided it wasn't of important strategic use,"
Sargent said. "All this waste of blood and human lives,
and they turn around and level it."
Sgt/1st Class Chuck
A virtual salute, but the pain still very real
by Mike Fishbaugh
It was Jan.
29, 1968. Sgt. 1st Class Charles “Chuck” Nichol
Tredinnick, formerly of Dallas, was serving in the U.S.
Army as a combat engineer in the Special Forces in
Vietnam. In just one day, Tredinnick and his group were
to return to Okinawa, Japan, and then back to the United
States. Before their scheduled departure, the soldiers
volunteered for one more mission: to recover American
bodies and retrieve an MIA/POW from another special
forces team on Hill 471 outside of the Khe Sanh Combat
Base. That turned out to be a deadly decision.
Tredinnick was killed in combat when he was shot in the
chest. He was 33.
50,000-plus Americans who perished in Vietnam, Charles
Tredinnick is listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Wall in Washington, D.C. He is also listed on a Web site
called the Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial. His
widow, Joy, never remarried, and lived in the couple’s
North Carolina home until her death in 2005. In 2002,
she posted this message on the Virtual Wall:
“They say that time heals all wounds, so why won’t this
one heal? It’s been over 34 years now and you are still
in my dreams all the time. I still miss you so much. We
used to talk about growing old together ... sitting on
the front porch in our rockers and watching the rest of
the world go by. It’s not much fun sitting there alone.”
in Vietnam, Charles Tredinnick often wrote home to Joy,
telling her not to worry because “only the good die
young.” Two days before he died, he wrote: “Well darling
that’s about it for today. I don’t know when I’ll get
the time to write again…. So until then know I love you
very much and always will.”
memory alive Charles Tredinnick’s older sister, Jean
Tredinnick Donnora, 77, of Cocoa, Fla., remembers the
day she found out her brother had died. “I worked for
the telephone company in Dallas and I got a call from
his wife’s uncle and he told me he was missing, and of
course I got scared and I started to cry and they let me
go home,” Donnora said. Donnora went home and called Joy
Tredinnick, who said that Charles Tredinnick’s body was
found. “I was just crushed,” Donnora said. “I don’t know
how else to explain it. In fact, I still miss him.”
Tredinnick wanted to be a Marine, but they would not
accept him because he had flat feet. So he joined the
Army. Later, Charles Tredinnick advanced to a ranger and
then a member of the Green Beret Special Forces. He
served in Germany and did two tours in Vietnam, was
awarded the Purple Star, two Bronze Star awards, Silver
Star, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam
Campaign, Combat Infantryman Badge, MACV-SOG
Presidential Unit Citation Commemorative Coin, and the
Army Master Parachutist. He also was given the Ranger
Special Forces Airborne and MACV-SOG patches.
close to her brother and named her son Charles after
him. Sadly, little Charles passed away in 1960 at age 5
after being run over by a school bus in Shavertown.
Donnora does not own a computer and has never seen the
Virtual Wall, but says she saw the moving wall and has
pictures of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in
Tredinnick’s cousin, Dennis Tredinnick, is the contact
for Charles Tredinnick on the Virtual Wall. Dennis
Tredinnick, 62, of Glen Gardner, N.J., never met his
cousin but feels it is important to honor him because
he, as the most decorated Tredinnick, is the family
hero. Dennis Tredinnick, also a veteran, stays in touch
with about seven men who served with Charles Tridinnick,
including Jim Taylor who was with Charles while he died.
interested in what they thought of my cousin and what
experiences and things they went through in ‘Nam,”
Dennis Tredinnick said. “I guess I was learning more and
more about Charles, who I didn’t know.” Charles and Joy
Tredinnick are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Charles Tredinnick is listed on Panel 35E Line 063 on
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
At the end of
Joy Tredinnick’s posting on the Virtual Wall, she
included a poem she wrote about her husband titled “My
Green Beret.” The last stanza reads, “So, as the lonely
days and nights pass, And I re-read that letter. … his
last, I tell him, “You’re right as always, my darling. …
Only the very best die young.”
Navy Pilot Returned
In the late
summer of 2002, a team of Defense Department MIA hunters
in Ho Chi Minh City got a call from their counterparts
in the Vietnamese government. Some Vietnamese fishermen
had discovered human bones and airplane wreckage off an
Phu Quoc island in the Gulf of Thailand. They wanted to
turn over the remains and believed that it would
guarantee them an opportunity to immigrate. The
Americans took the remains and wreckage given to them
and attempted unsuccessfully to get to the underwater
site a few miles offshore. Some months later, the bones
were flown to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in
Hawaii, where they stayed in a laboratory for five
those remains come home, to a hallowed ground that
overlooks the old Naval Air Station in Dallas, where a
young Fort Worth man took the naval officer's oath in
1964. That was before Lt/ jg. Frank E. Hand III left for
the war in Vietnam, before he and 11 other young men
went down trying to find Viet Cong gun-running boats.
Frank Hand could be found most days in the mid-1950s on
the playground of Oakhurst Elementary School, leading a
touch football game of neighborhood boys. His parents'
house backed up to the school, and it was there and at
the Riverside Baptist Church where Frank and his younger
brother Bruce spent much of their youth. Frank was born
in 1942 in Charleston, S.C., when their father was an
instructor pilot for the Navy during World War II. The
family had moved to a house on Westbrook Avenue in the
summer of '51 when Frank Hand Jr. took a job with the
Federal Aviation Administration in Fort Worth.
He was an
outgoing boy at Carter-Riverside High School, an Eagle
Scout, and an accomplished swimmer. He, and later his
brother, worked summers as lifeguards at the Ridglea
Country Club. "He made enough money to buy a nice car,"
his brother said. "He was mechanically inclined, so he
could work on it. It was a black, two-door Pontiac
Bonneville, a '58, if I remember. Talk about a cool
car." After graduation in 1960, Frank started at what
was then Arlington State College to study architecture.
He did that for three years but decided to take a break
and work for an architecture firm to earn money. The
draft board noticed the change and reclassified him as
Hand, presumably unwilling to chance the Army or the
infantry, went to NAS Dallas to compete for a spot in
officer candidate school and a shot at naval aviation.
Romance in Florida Linda Merriman, a local girl in
Pensacola, Fla., thought she had met the most gorgeous
man in the world. A Texas boy, a Navy officer candidate
and pilot in training. He drove a new Corvette. He was,
without a doubt, living the high life. "It was like
Officer and a Gentleman," Bruce said of his brother's
After a year
of dating, Linda and Frank Hand wed on a warm August day
in 1966 in the First Baptist Church in Pensacola, an
arch of crossed swords over their heads when they left
the sanctuary. They moved frequently over the next
several months, going from flight school to more flight
schools. Finally in 1967, he was assigned to Patrol
Squadron 26 in Brunswick, Maine, and immediately
prepared for deployment to Southeast Asia.
Linda a letter every day he was gone, beginning in
November 1967. "He just wanted me to stay busy and pass
the time because I had so much free time on my hands,"
she said. "He would tell me all was going well and 'I
wish I could be with you.' They were great love letters.
I kept all of them. "He called me at Christmastime. I
believe that's the last time we were able to speak."
The last flight
Hand, 26, took off on April 1, 1968, with three other
officers and eight sailors in a P-3 Orion from an air
base in Thailand, the biggest news in Vietnam centered
on the military's efforts to break through the siege at
Khe Sanh. Hand's crew was on a routine mission, scanning
the waters off Vietnam for Viet Cong.
airplane he served as the co-pilot -- was hit by
anti-aircraft fire from a Cambodian gunboat, according
to news accounts. The pilots attempted to fly to land to
improve their chances for rescue, but the four-engine
aircraft didn't make it. No one survived. Search and
rescue crews recovered something from every man on
board, so none were ever listed as missing in action.
All searchers found of him, according to the Defense
Department, was a boot bearing his name.
On April 24,
1968, he was laid to rest in Barrancas National Cemetery
in Pensacola, where Linda wanted him buried. The service
was held in the First Baptist Church, 20 months after
his picture-perfect wedding. Hand's parents went on, of
course, though they grieved terribly. His mother,
Dottie, was especially close to Frank. His father, Frank
Jr., grieved more quietly, choosing to channel his
feelings into a years-long search to find out more about
his son's last flight. Years later, his son Bruce
discovered paperwork indicating that his father had been
planning a trip to Vietnam to go to the crash site. "Dad
was very quiet," Bruce said. "He was of that generation
where you kept your feelings to yourself."
Frank Hand had planned exactly six children. They would
all be boys, they decided jokingly. After a few years,
Linda remarried and started a family. She now lives in
North Carolina. But Frank has never left her. "I still
share his love and will forever," she said. A memory
revived thirty-eight years after Hand died. An official
with the Department of the Navy called Bruce and
requested a blood sample. To say it was a surprise is a
wholly inadequate description for what it did to Bruce,
who felt as if he had been struck by lightning on a
cloudless, sunny day.
excited," Bruce said, Frank's closest living relative.
"But then I had to tell myself to sit down, nothing is
going to come of this." It did. The Navy followed up a
few months later, at the beginning of the summer, to
tell Bruce the story of the Vietnamese villagers and the
successful DNA match with several bones of Frank's. No
other crewman's remains were found. Larry Greer, a
spokesman for the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing
Personnel Office in Washington, said finding additional
remains of servicemen happens more often than people
would think. "It amazes me when I hear that Vietnamese
villagers or fishermen have gone to the trouble of
finding who to give these to," Greer said. "It tells me
that they are very much aware of the U.S. commitment to
the recovery effort."
Linda, other family members, members of the Patrol
Squadron Association. He heard from officers on active
duty today in Frank's old squadron in Maine, and he
learned about the memorial there with an etching of
Frank's name from the Vietnam Memorial in Washington.
For the first time in many years, Frank and his memory
had been very much alive. "The Navy wanted to know what
I wanted to do, but I needed to take a breath and
consider all this," he said. "Well, the summer went by
pretty quick, and I decided that the fall would be a
nice time for this."
Department of Veterans Affairs gave Bruce permission to
place Frank's remains in a columbarium at the
Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, ordinarily not
allowed because he already has a spot at a national
cemetery. "While this has presented a unique situation,
for reasons of compassion, we decided to honor the Hand
family's request," said Ron Pemberton, director of D-FW
agreed to provide four F/A-18 Hornets to perform the
"missing man" formation over the cemetery on Monday, a
particularly special gesture for Bruce. The executive
officer of Patrol Squadron 26 is coming to Texas for the
"This has all
been good," Bruce said. "Everything has just come
Shoemaker will be there, too, with the friend that
introduced her to Frank 42 years ago
ever dreamed of something like this," she said. "I've
shed many tears since we got the information. I am
thrilled to bring him home. But it opens up a lot of
hurt, and a lot of happiness, too."
Captain Brought Home
Captain Stephen Rusch was in his aircraft over Laos in
1972 when he was shot down. Rusch was 28 years old and
never heard from again. Bob Heath knew the Captain's
late father well and remembers the anguish he endured.
"His father was obviously distraught for the loss of his
son," Heath said. "And not knowing where he was." They
have now found where he was. After years of excavating
the wreckage and testing remains that were recovered,
two teeth have been positively identified as those of
Captain Stephen Rusch.
Sharon was just 6 years old when his plane was shot
down. She is now an Air Force Colonel and is escorting
her father's remains home from the pacific. "I've missed
my dad," she said. "I miss my dad every day of my life.
I think about him all the time. The Colonel can't help
but pay tribute to the military teams who made it
possible for her dad to buried, properly.
have mattered if it was his whole body or two teeth. The
fact of the matter is these people worked very hard to
bring him home to us." There is a plaque hanging at
Lambertville City hall with Captain Rusch's picture.
City Clerk Marie Rossiter sees it all the time.
God gave my
Dad the gift of true freedom. Because he is a gracious,
loving God he wanted my Dad, and indeed each of us is to
know we are accepted, secure and significant. Let me
repeat that in case you missed it: Because he is a
gracious, loving God he wanted my Dad, and indeed each
of us is to know we are accepted, secure and
significant. In this we are free to live life fully and
can finally put everything to rest. His daughter will
know where he is now," Rossiter said. Jim Conover is a
former Marine and Vietnam War veteran. He knew Stephen
Rusch when they were kids attending First Presbyterian
Church together. "He was just a wonderful kid and just a
great guy," Conover said. He too says this is a case of
the U.S. military, never forgetting those left behind. I
would have had a hard time delivering this message if I
didn’t believe it.
idea that they kept looking and looking and looking and
digging and digging," Conover said, this country goes to
great expense as they should, because these people are
the true heroes of this country, they should not be
forgotten." After so many years missing in action,
Captain Stephen Rusch will have a final resting place at
Arlington National Cemetery.
By Kevin Lynch
and white, Robert Jackson Ellison heard the majestic,
dreamlike voice of the Rev. Martin
Luther King speaking about a better world to young
students and thousands of others on the vast National
Mall in Washington on that day in August 1963.
better world is what Ellison, the child of a military
family, started searching for. He would say that King's
dream became his, and he promptly dropped out of the
University of Florida. And in the best of his
photographs, you see the complexities, the situations
and the spirit of humanity. Racial injustice was the
backdrop, just as the inhumanity of war may have led him
to Vietnam and the Dominican Republic.
childhood Ellison had been fascinated with small
reptiles, and he majored in herpetology. Now he would
try to capture something larger. The move was, perhaps,
rash and demonstrably dangerous. Ellison gave up tuition
payments for the daring life of a freelance photographer
and paid for it with his life. In March 1968 he died, at
23, in a military incident fraught with
We are left
with extraordinarily compelling and beautiful
photography that has been collected as "An Instinct for
Light: The Photography of Robert J. Ellison," currently
showing at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum through June
15.It is an exhibit worth seeing and pondering during
this Black History Month and in this dark era of America
as a nation at war.
enough to see that this young man was committed to
American ideals. He was inspired, all right, as the
photos also show. But that was cold comfort to his
mother, Miriam Eaton, and all those who loved him and
his potential. Today his mother has built an edifice of
pride on her loss. "Many times I wished he could have
been my friend instead of my son," she tells a nearly
packed lecture hall on a yet another snowbound Madison
evening. "We were in sync in so many ways. He didn't
want to come back a basket case. If he would have been
drafted it would have been a whole different story."
86, expresses poignant irony while recounting her son's
"He wasn't an
easy child to have, but what an experience he was," she
that her son was an instinctive daredevil who had tried
to catch poisonous sidewinders in the Mojave Desert.
Eaton is a trim, petite, still-practicing artist who has
lived in Milwaukee for many of the years since her son's
death. She clearly encouraged her son and helped him not
to judge others by their skin color. "I know how it was
back in my day, the separate bathrooms and water
fountains and everything," she says. "I never saw
Negroes as different. Bob was the same way. He just
cared about people, so much."
recently donated a large amount of her son's prints,
contact sheets, diaries and other personal documents to
the Veterans Museum. She had contacted museum officials
to donate the letters of her first husband, Jack
Ellison, a World War II veteran. Then the museum staff
learned what her son had accomplished and found out she
includes 16 excellent photographs by Ellison, including
some stunning color prints from Khe Sanh in Vietnam,
superb black and whites from the civil rights movement
and political and military upheaval in the Dominican
Republic, a touching family scrapbook, and several
well-wrought narrative panels with photos of Ellison
exhibition curator Jeffrey Kollath says there's enough
for another exhibit, and, indeed, one longs for more of
Ellison's civil rights-era photos, shot for Ebony
magazine and others. But the ones here are masterful.
One views King from right under his podium, in a
stylized fish-eye lens shot from below, through a
battery of microphones. As King reaches out, his arm
becomes a perfectly circular limb, signifying the
virtually global reach of this man. King's speech came
on the 200-mile "March Against Fear" in Mississippi in
June 1966. Ellison is also there later in the dramatic
march, close up to clearly angry activist Stokley
Carmichael as he exhorts the crowd with his famous
"black power" speech, shortly after a sniper shot civil
rights activist James Meredith.
photograph peeks in on a young African-American boy on
the famous Selma, Ala., march in 1965, eyeing the
photographer with a wary defiance as his mother's gloved
hand tunes in a radio he is holding. Several years
later, Ellison found himself in Vietnam, shooting for
Newsweek. The Web site Digital Journalist features
several of Ellison's war photos from this show in
"Requiem," a documentary tribute to fallen
Peter Arnett, renowned for his Gulf War television
reporting, recounts in "Requiem" seeing Ellison lying on
top of a bunker "with rockets bursting 30 or 40 feet
away. I ran out and yelled, 'What the hell are you doing
up there?!' Ellison only shrugged and said, 'How else am
I going to get shots of the night fighting?' "
story helps explain how Ellison got the amazing
photograph at Khe Sanh that ended up on the cover of
Newsweek magazine. A bomb hits an ammo dump, and
scrambling soldiers freeze reflexively. The scene blazes
white hot and hellish red, with fire and debris spewing
skyward. The explosion is framed in the foreground with
a slashing ridge and back dropped by a hunkering
mountain and a cherry sky. Ellison's instinct for
finding a perfect cinematic setting is amazing.
can see the whole story of Khe Sanh in the exhausted,
ravaged face of an American GI. Here, in red tones of
muddy facial contours and empty eyes, the young
photographer sees his fellow man with extraordinary
insight, compassion and courage. "He was there longer
than any other journalist, about 14 days," says
Ellison's photographer compatriot Jim Caccavo, in an
interview at the exhibit opening. Ellison had just
delivered the eight color photos that ran in one edition
of Newsweek, an unprecedented accomplishment at the
time, says Caccavo, who had met Ellison when both men,
aged 23, had covered the "spy ship" USS Pueblo in Korea
earlier in 1968.
decided to deliver beer, cokes and cigars as gifts to
men he had met in Khe Sanh. So he hopped onto a
two-engine C-123 troop transport plane loaded with 48
reinforcement troops, flying into the heavily embattled
region. A small Vietnamese plane mistakenly landed just
when the C-123 should have. So the pilot of the American
plane circled to re-land. In the brief duration, intense
enemy gunfire hit one engine, and the plane spun out of
control and crashed. There were no survivors.
GETTING OUT THE NEWS
Submitted by Charlie Taliaferro
By Bobbye C. Jerone.
assisted a Vietnam veteran in filing a claim for an
increase in his percent of service connected disability
for a medical issue he has had since he was on active
duty; and which has become much worse. As we talked he
mentioned that he had had prostate cancer several years
ago and still had some residual problems. He was shocked
to find out that prostate cancer is one of the 11
diseases which are "presumed to be service connected" if
a person served in Vietnam — or has been exposed to
certain herbicides, most notably one called "Agent
We filed a
claim for the residuals of the cancer and medical
problems, which are secondary to the cancer. The sad
thing is that this Veteran, who has already suffered so
much for our country, had no idea
that he could be compensated for these medical problems.
Last week I met a lady who lost her husband to cancer as
a result of his exposure to herbicides in Vietnam. He
was ill for over a year, and died in November of 2007.
He never knew that he was eligible to file a claim for
compensation for this 'presumed service connected'
medical problem. The VA compensation would have been a
godsend to this family when the man became too ill to
currently helping several young veterans who have been
injured, or are ill, from their service in Iraq or
Afghanistan. Most of the time they have no idea what the
'presumed to be service connected' disorders are that
pertain to them. And no one seems to be standing in line
to get the word out to them.
four lists of 'presumed to be service connected' medical
conditions which are published by the VA. They are also
listed in a VA Benefits Handbook, which is published
every year by the government. The VA medical Centers,
Regional Office, and Outpatient Centers have made these
books available for no fee in the past. Unfortunately
these Handbooks are scarce in printed form since the VA
made the information available on the internet.
lists are, Former POW's, Vietnam Veterans (and those
exposed to Herbicides, i.e., Agent Orange); Atomic
Veterans (Exposed to ionizing radiation) and Gulf War
veterans. Because of the space constraints of this
column, we are unable to print them all here. If you, or
someone you know, is
a former POW, or has been exposed to Ionizing Radiation
please consult the appropriate list for disorders which
may affect you.
Following are the two lists which affect
the largest number of veterans in our area:
Vietnam Veterans (or any veteran who
can prove exposure to herbicides-most notably Agent
sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma,
Kaposi's sarcoma or mesothelioma); Hodgkin's disease;
multiple myeloma; respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus,
larynx, trachea); non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; prostate
cancer, Type II Diabetes; Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia,
Chloracne or Porphyria Cutanea Tarda and Peripheral
neuropathy (other than as secondary to diabetes).(with
the last two disorders to be diagnosed within one year
Gulf War veterans: (Anyone who served
in the first Gulf War and or the current War on
unexplained or undiagnosed*, chronic multi-system
illnesses defined by a cluster of signs or symptoms that
have existed for six months or more, such as; Chronic
Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel
Syndrome; any diagnosed or undiagnosed illness that the
secretary of VA determines warrants a presumption of
service connection; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS),
otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
* Symptoms of
an 'undiagnosed illness' include: Fatigue, skin
symptoms, headaches, muscle pain, joint pain,
neurological and respiratory symptoms; sleep
disturbances, GI symptoms, cardiovascular symptoms,
unexplained weight loss and menstrual disorders.
If you or
anyone you know, has been diagnosed with any of the
above disorders you should get your medical records
together and file a claim for compensation immediately!
A Vietnam War
Purple hearts on Valentine's Ridge
By Steve Luhm
The Salt Lake Tribune
Lindell nearly died on the holiday in 1968 in During his
half-completed tour of duty in Vietnam, U.S. Navy
corpsman George Lindell had seen enough combat to
recognize the "pop" of a mortar being fired and to
calculate where the shell would hit. This one was headed
directly at him. In the late afternoon of Feb. 14, 1968
- Valentine's Day - Lindell glanced at his squad leader,
Corporal Dennis Fleming. They shouted a warning to each
other and dug their fingers into the ground, hoping for
the impossible, trying to somehow burrow themselves out
of harm's way. The explosion sucked the air from
Lindell's lungs, and the intense wave of searing heat
that accompanied the bursting mortar round made those
oppressively humid Midwestern summers that always
enveloped his hometown of Wautoma, Wis., seem like an
ocean breeze. "It felt like I got smashed in the chest
with a sledge hammer," Lindell recalled, 40 years later.
"I couldn't catch my breath. I was numb all over. I
couldn't move. I just flopped around, like a fish out of
water. My ears were ringing." Only a few feet away,
Fleming had been killed instantly. As Lindell struggled
to regain a sense of his surroundings, a lightening bolt
of pain from his shredded left leg raced through his
body. "I heard someone screaming - above the ringing in
my ears," Lindell said. "Then I realized it was me."
to draw unwelcome attention to himself or his location,
Lindell forced himself to stop. He didn't want to look
at his leg, fearing it might not be there. Another
corpsman arrived to help and asked where he had been
hit. Lindell welcomed the question: "I figured my leg
was still there. Otherwise, he wouldn't have asked."
Nearby, Marine Steve Miera tried in vain to conceal his
position. Like Lindell, he found himself in the
crosshairs of this fierce North Vietnamese army attack -
a far cry from his carefree elementary-school days in
Ogden. Without warning, a "potato-masher" hand grenade
known as a chi com" hit the ground next to him and
rolled once, stopping about 18 inches away. "There
wasn't anything I could do," Miera said. "I just pulled
my helmet down and pulled my shoulders up and waited for
the explosion." It never happened. "I waited and waited
and waited," Miera said, "but all it did was smoke a
lot. It was a dud." For Miera, Valentine's Day was just
the whatever is out there
people, Valentine's Day is flowers and chocolates, cards
and special meals with loved ones. For Miera,
Valentine's Day is a bloody jungle ridge in a long-ago
war. During the Vietnam War, the Ca Lu combat base was
spread over low rolling hills, where a narrow dirt road
known as Route 9 comes up from the south and bends
toward Khe Sanh, a besieged U.S. outpost about eight
miles to the west. this was dangerous country, just a
few miles from North Vietnam. Thousands of the enemy's
best troops thrived in the surrounding mountains and
jungles. "Morale is high," Staff Sgt. John Edwards wrote
at the time, "partly because we live at the edge of
civilization but mostly because of our XO, Major John
Oliver. . . . He has our confidence. We feel safe with
him. He knows the ropes."
Vietnamese attacks had made Route 9 a treacherous supply
route, the U.S. troops at Ca Lu
did not have much to eat. Breakfast often consisted of a
peach slice or dry cereal bar. In early February,
American patrols along Route 9 and in the mountains west
of Ca Lu started coming under increasing mortar and
small arms fire. A company-sized patrol, about 170 men,
was ordered into the area to "deal with the whatever is
out there," Edwards wrote. Another Marine, Gene Miller,
heard the same thing. "We had been getting incoming from
those ridge lines and I guess they wanted to find who
was sniping at us," he said. Asked what he remembered
about the orders for Kilo Company, Lindell shrugged and
said, "Most of us didn't know what we were doing - never
communications chief, Edwards could have stayed in the
relative safety of the combat base. Instead, he asked
Major Oliver if he could go on the patrol. "He gives me
his blessings," Edwards recalled, who also secured
needed permission from Capt. Alexander Ward. "He gives
me a warm welcome and said, 'We're just going out to get
that mortar.' I think it's optimistic to believe the NVA
only have one mortar out there, but I keep that counsel
to myself." After dark, Edwards became restless. He rose
from a fitful sleep before dawn, stuffed a can of fruit
cocktail into his pack, put on a flak jacket and helmet,
holstered his .45-caliber pistol and decided to pick up
an M-14 rifle. As a non-commissioned officer, Edwards
had the option of carrying a rifle into the field. On
Valentine's Day, he took one along.
on the mountain
left the sanctuary of the combat base through the north
wire, turned west and inched its way through thick brush
alongside Route 9. The pace was maddeningly slow, but
one designed to prevent a careless rush into an ambush.
Lindell remembers stopping only to fill canteens with
rain water that had collected at the bottom of bomb
craters. Edwards transferred his .45 from holster to
pocket, fearing the thick brush would rip it from his
side. By mid afternoon, the patrol reached an
unremarkable 200-meter mountain about one mile west of
Ca Lu. Kilo Company was standing - uninvited - in the
NVA's living room.
along with their Navy corpsmen, circled the mountain
before starting toward the top. Miera had the unenviable
job of "walking point," meaning he led his comrades into
the unknown. "He was very good at it, being the
outdoors-type," Miller said.
Miera was the
first to realize the Marines were not alone on the
mountain: "We were coming out of dense jungle - toward a
big ravine, and heard a metal clicking sound. Like
hitting pipes with a hammer. So I stopped the column and
called for a fire team." Instead of receiving support to
deal with a possible attack, Miera was pulled off the
point and sent "about three guys back" in the column.
"The C.O. made up his mind, I guess, that nothing was
going to stop us," Miera said. Word of the clicking
noise and Miera's request for a fire team trickled back
to the other Marines on the patrol. "They told us not to
worry about it - to keep going," Miller said. "We didn't
like that very much." The young American who replaced
Miera as the column's point man inched forward. He
didn't get far, Miera said, before "all hell broke
loose." This anonymous place in Vietnam had just gotten
a name: Valentine's Ridge.
wounded just above the ankle - the back of his leg torn
open. Fleming, his squad leader, was not as fortunate.
The direction of the mortar fire and the slope of the
ground at its impact point hurled most of the shrapnel
"Only a short time before, we'd been joking as we hugged
the ground, joking to keep the fear from overcoming us,"
corpsman came to Lindell, tore off his boot and hastily
dressed his wound. Lindell heard the screams of others
all around him. Suddenly, a wide-eyed lieutenant slid
down next to him "like Pete Rose."
He shouted an
order to retreat because of the advancing North
Vietnamese and ran down the mountain. The corpsman
helped Lindell stand and, together, they followed the
lieutenant - enemy bullets crackling around them every
step of the way. Lindell felt "tremendous guilt" about
leaving Fleming's body behind, but there was no choice.
In the gathering darkness, getting away from an enemy
who did not take prisoners alive was a matter of
survival. Crashing through the brush, Lindell lost his
.45, which because of its worn condition had always made
him think it was World War II vintage. "My hope," he
said, "was that some NVA would find it, try to fire it
and it would blow up in his face."
been wounded by a faceless enemy. Others were not. As
soon as the firefight began, Miera "saw a bunch of NVA"
and opened fire. "I killed two of them," he said, though
he quickly turned and started down the mountain because
"there were too many of them. It was total chaos. We
were getting hammered from both sides. ... I made it
down on my belly." Trading his now-jammed rifle for one
off "a guy who'd been killed," Miera moved forward again
to search for the Marines who had replaced him at the
front of the column after he reported the clicking
noise. There no sign of them - just the enemy.
the ridge on his stomach, Miera ran into a guy from my
squad," who started shouting when the NVA began throwing
rocks from the top of the ridge. "In hand grenade
school, you are taught to holler if you saw one coming
in," Miera said. "Maybe the NVA knew this because they
started throwing rocks and this guy starts yelling, "May
Day, May Day" - like they were real grenades. I told
him, 'Shut up, man. If you holler again, they're going
to kill us.' In the confusion and under heavy fire,
Miera lost track of the panicked Marine. He made it down
the mountainside but decided to make a final search of
the initial firefight area and moved forward again.
"There was nobody there, not even the NVA," Miera said.
"I wondered what the hell was going on."
spotted Miera during his final retreat and opened fire.
Miera dropped behind a tree. A burst of bullets passed
through the pulpy trunk, just over his head, spraying
him with "an acid-like juice. I could feel in burning."
On the move again, Miera ran into two more NVA soldiers.
The first "saw me and fired but nothing happened. I
guess his gun jammed." The second "fired and missed. I
returned fire and killed him. But I put another burst
into him, just to make sure." Darkness now claimed
Valentine's Ridge, and Miera was alone. He felt for one
bullet he had put in his pocket. It was still there. He
sighed with relief. "They told us - because of how the
NVA treated captured Americans - to save the last round
for yourself," Miera explained. "So that's what I did."
When the firefight began, Miller saw his squad leader,
Cpl. David Schneider "got killed right off the bat. I
was close to him and went over the checked on him. But"
The enemy fire increased. Along with several others,
Miller withdrew but stopped to help a Marine who had
been wounded. They talked about home. "I didn't know the
guy," Miller said. "But he was telling me about his
car." Miller wasn't finished giving first aid when word
came to continue the retreat.
in the group started to do so, but Miller screamed for
them to wait until he was done with his corpsman-like
task. He threatened anyone who thought about leaving.
The others waited. Headed down the mountain again,
Miller saw "several NVA popping up out of the brush and
firing at us. So I fired back. I don't know if I hit any
of them, but they were not far away - not at all."
Miller's group reached the base of the mountain. "We set
up in kind of a defensive perimeter, but we were so far
from the rest of the platoon, there was no way to get
back," Miller said. "And it was pitch black by then."
Edwards was also caught in the chaos, despite his
position near the rear of the column. A tear-gas grenade
forced him to gasp for breath. Shrapnel from a mortar
shell grazed his left temple. Another nearby mortar
blast killed Lt. William Reese and wounded Capt. Ward,
who later died.
always brought maps and critical communication
frequencies into the field with him, found a radio. He
contacted Maj. Oliver, who told him to gather everyone
he could find and withdraw to Route 9. Edwards happened
upon Miera, Miller, Lindell, a communications wireman
from his platoon named Wilson and another Marine. (In
the confusion, in such complete darkness, Miera, Miller
and Lindell didn't know about the other two members of
their group until years later.) According to Edwards,
"Everyone was wounded to some extend. We took stock of
our situation in a gully at the bottom of the ridge."
Edwards radioed for an evacuation helicopter. None were
available. He told the others and called for a vote on a
course of action. Do they spend the night at the base of
Valentine's Ridge, or do they try to hack their way
through the pitch-dark jungle and reach Route 9?
off this hill'
a shrapnel wound near his eye, Miera wasn't sure what he
wanted to do, so he asked Edwards if they should try to
search out and rejoin the rest of the company still
fighting on Valentine's Ridge. Miera didn't like the
answer: "John said, 'If we try walking to their
perimeter, 100 grenades are going to come our way.'
Since he had the highest rank, I said, 'Well, you're in
charge.' And he said, 'Let's get off this hill.' "
George Lindell recalls "a couple of guys were thinking
about trying to reach the road beside the hill." His
training took over. "They asked if I wanted to go,"
Lindell said. "Since one of them was wounded, I figured
they may need a corpsman, and I still had my corpsman
bag, so I went." It was a terrifying journey.
started up the mountain, slipped over the top and
dropped down the backside, mostly on their knees and
stomachs. Their pace was glacial because of the
darkness, the terrain and fear of stumbling upon an
enemy that was all around them. We were just trying to
find a way out," Miller said. "And in that situation,
you are scared sh-less." Miera started as the point man.
He used a sheath knife his father had sent him from home
in Taos, N.M., to cut a tunnel through the jungle
vegetation. Even at such a slow pace, Lindell had a
difficult time keeping up. His pants were soaked in
blood from ankle to groin and, he was missing one boot,
leaving his foot prickled with thorns. "I was falling
behind when I heard, very close to me, a large animal
breathing," Lindell said. "I assumed it was a tiger or a
rock ape. But I wasn't armed and I didn't want to yell
out because there was fighting go on all around us. So I
kind of whispered to the guys, 'Hey, hey, hey.' They
held up until I stumbled up to them."
replaced Miera as the group's point-man, and Miera
dropped behind Lindell, who feared he was becoming a
burden. "My leg was cramping and I was exhausted,"
Lindell said. "I remember telling them, in my best John
Wayne voice, to leave me there because I knew I was
slowing everybody up. I said they could come back for
me. They laughed, quietly of course, and said they'd
move as fast as I could. Thank God." Because he still
had the radio, Edwards was able to talk to Maj. Oliver
and others along Route 9. They kept shooting flares, so
any stragglers on Valentine's Ridge would know where to
head. "Later," Edwards wrote, "the mortar guys told me
they $4,000 on flares." Hours into their journey, Miera
"heard someone behind us. So I told John, 'Why don't you
guys go about 30 paces and I'll sit here and see what
the hell is following us.' Then I thought I'd just rig a
grenade with some fishing line my dad had sent. But I
thought about that and said, "Sh-, it might be a Marine
and I don't want to kill one of our own guys.' "
not interested in a confrontation. "We do not fire," he
remembered. "They might be Marines and, if they are the
enemy, we are in no condition for a fight." Said Miera:
"We stopped. They stopped. We stopped. They topped. Then
I heard a crack in the brush and a little rock rolled
down into the big ravine next to us. That was it."
for Valentine's Day
As the pitch
darkness at Valentine's Ridge grudgingly surrendered to
dawn, the exhausted group inched its way down a stream
bed when Edwards heard the voices of Marines patrolling
Route 9. Miera's first thought: "I was afraid somebody
was going to open up and cut us to pieces." Safely on
the road, Miera asked Edwards for his sheath knife - the
one they had used to slash their way through the jungle.
But it was missing. "Losing that damn buck knife,"
Edwards wrote, "was the lowest I felt all night."
Thirty-five years later, Edwards met up with Miera
One of the
first things he did was give him a new knife. Edwards,
Miera, Miller, Lindell, Wilson and the unidentified
sixth Marine were escorted back to Ca Lu for treatment
for their wounds and - in Lindell's case - medical
evacuation. "Without those guys," said Lindell, who
still lives in his Wisconsin hometown, "I would not be
here today." A short-timer with only three months left
in Vietnam, Miera was "sent to the rear" and served as a
military policemen on a bridge in Quang Tri where, he
said, "I got shot at more times than I did during that
ambush." Miera returned home to New Mexico in July.
Miller replaced Cpl. Schneider as a squad leader for a
short time before being pulled from his in-country
duties to work in "company supply, for some reason."
Asked if his experience on Valentine's Ridge still
impacts his life, Miller fell silent. After a brief
pause, he said, "I never get too happy on any holiday."
Tribune reporter Steve Luhm is the first-cousin of
Mapping Khe Sanh
By Mike Archer
a senior geography major at the University of Wisconsin
- Eau Claire, is working on a Historical Geographic
Information Systems (GIS) project with Professor Joe
Hupy. Joe is a well known geographer who, along with his
wife, specializes in soil and terrain disturbances
caused by high-explosive artillery and bombs. A few
years ago they studied the WWI battleground at Verdun,
France and last year, with the assistance of Glenn
Prentice, surveyed the Khe Sanh battlefield.
inspired to translate the fighting at Khe Sanh into an
atlas of maps depicting the precise location and
description of fighting. His hope is to allow people to
understand the battle at Khe Sanh not only
chronologically, but also spatially. He envisions a time
when students can, as an example, move a computer cursor
to the map location of Hill 861A and learn (from
information provided by those who were there) a
first-hand description of what took place.
Hupy has chosen the Khe Sanh battlefield, over the many
great battlefields of past wars with which he and his
wife are familiar, because, as Joe once told me,
"students of today’s generation should be educated on
the Vietnam War and it should be remembered to the
utmost degree. " He envisions maps with various themes
to help students better comprehend the battle
conditions. As an example, one map might indicate where
the artillery firing from Co Roc was located and show
the range of those guns as opposed to the range of our
Howitzers (as they say a "picture is worth a thousand
I hope you
KSV members will all consider assisting in this
worthwhile project. To do so, or to get further
information, please contact Mr. Wermager at WERMAGTA@uwec.edu.
Should you have concerns that there might be a hidden
agenda here, please check with Ray Stubbe or Glenn, both
of whom are familiar with Hupy's work.
Joe recently advised me that he is trying to obtain
funding from the university to attend the reunion in
Reno this year in order to personally provide Khe Sanh
vets with more information about
I do not know where this article originated or who wrote
it. It was sent to me by several members of our
organization, who requested it be included in Red Clay.
Nam Vet6 writes:
In a message dated 2/16/2008 5:48:06 P.M. Eastern
As I came out
of the supermarket that sunny day, pushing my cart of
groceries towards my car, I saw an old man with the hood
of his car up and a lady sitting inside the car, with
the door open. The old man was looking at the engine. I
put my groceries away in my car and continued to watch
the old gentleman from about twenty-five feet away, when
I saw a young man in his early twenties with a grocery
bag in his arm, walking towards the old man. The old
gentleman saw him coming too and took a few steps
towards him. I saw the old gentleman point to his open
hood and say something. The young man put his grocery
bag into what looked like a brand new Cadillac Escalade
and then turn back to the old man and I heard him yell
at the old gentleman saying, "You shouldn't even be
allowed to drive a car at your age." And then with a
wave of his hand, he got in his car and peeled rubber
out of the parking lot.
I saw the old
gentleman pull out his handkerchief and mop his brow as
he went back to his car and again looked at the engine.
He then went to his wife and spoke with her and appeared
to tell her it would be okay. I had seen enough and I
approached the old man. He saw me coming and stood
straight and as I got near him I said, "Looks like
you're having a problem." He smiled sheepishly and
quietly nodded his head. I looked under the hood myself
and knew that whatever the problem was, it was beyond
around I saw a gas station up the road and told the old
gentleman that I would be right back. I drove to the
station and went inside and saw three attendants working
on cars. I approached one of them and related the
problem the old man had with his car and offered to pay
them if they could follow me back down and help him.
The old man
had pushed the heavy car under the shade of a tree and
appeared to be comforting his wife. When he saw us he
straightened up and thanked me for my help. As the
mechanics diagnosed the problem (overheated engine) I
spoke with the old gentleman. When I shook hands with
him earlier he had noticed my Marine Corps ring and had
commented about it, telling me that he had been a Marine
too. I nodded and asked the usual question, "What outfit
did you serve with?" He had mentioned that he served
with the first Marine Division at Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo
Jima and Guadalcanal. He had hit all the big ones and
retired from the Corps after the war was over.
As we talked
we heard the car engine come on and saw the mechanics
lower the hood. They came over to us as the old man
reached for his wallet, but was stopped by me and I told
him I would just put the bill on my AAA card. He still
reached for the wallet and handed me a card that I
assumed had his name and address on it and I stuck it in
We all shook
hands all around again and I said my goodbye's to his
wife. I then told the two mechanics that I would follow
them back up to the station. Once at the station I told
them it was appreciated that they had interrupted their
own jobs to come along with me and help the old man. I
said I wanted to pay for the help, but they refused to
charge me. One of them pulled out a card from his pocket
looking exactly like the card the old man had given to
me. Both of the men told me then, that they were Marine
Corps Reservist. Once again we shook hands all around
and as I was leaving, one of them told me I should look
at the card the old man had given to me and I said I
would and drove off. For some reason I had gone about
two blocks when I pulled over and took the card out of
my pocket and looked at it for a long, long, time. The
name of the old gentleman was on the card in golden leaf
and under his name......... "Congressional Medal of
I sat there
motionless looking at the card and reading it over and
over. I looked up from the card and smiled to no one but
myself and marveled that on this day, four Marines had
all come together, because one of us needed help. He was
an old man alright, but it felt good to have stood next
to greatness and courage and an honor to have been in
America is not at war. The U.S. Military
is at war. America is at the Mall.