I was eighteen years old when I entered the service. At the time I didn’t know how to feel about going into the army. I was young and didn’t know any better. I didn’t know whether to support the war or not.
I was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for my basic training. I don’t remember who my drill sergeant was, but he wasn’t nice. None of them are. At basic training, there were recruits from all over the county and I made lots of friends because we all had to stick together.
I was trained for security communication in Fort Knox. After my basic training was through there, I was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia for more training in communications. It was about eight months before I was sent to Vietnam, which was fine with me. We were transported by plane.
The trip was nice in the beginning but it got worse as we got toward the destination. We landed in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. When I first set foot on Vietnamese land, it was scary. It smelled like sewage and you could hear the choppers everywhere. I knew I was a long way from home.
I was then assigned to Comsake Logistic Support Center and located at Lang Bian. My commanding officer was Dorsey N. Caracawa. My fellow soldiers were from just about everywhere but Bland County.
I was placed in the countryside. The food we were fed was awful but there was plenty of it. The South Vietnamese soldiers stayed aloof and reserved. They acted fairly suspicious.
Lots of the American soldiers would do drugs as a way of relaxation after the hard days, weeks, and months. I didn’t go out on patrol or in combat. There were mines and booby traps everywhere. I was trained to use M-16s and M-50s. The Vietnamese fought very well and used AK-47s and Mortars.
A typical day in Vietnam was very hot and humid and the bugs were about as bad as the weather. There were cockroaches over and inch and a half long and as wide as my thumb. Mosquitoes, some kind of flying ant, termites, gnats.
Bob Hope came one day to entertain the troops.
I was sent to Saigon, about three or four times a month, which was stinky, dirty, busy, and extremely crowded. I had to take materials there to be shipped. I knew the people didn’t like Americans and I constantly felt in danger there. Most of the people at home didn’t support the war. One of the biggest problems we had with the troops was the drug and alcohol use. I do not feel like the troops were well led. I was too young and foolish to give much thought to where I stood on the war or how it would impact me. I just didn’t care.
Most of the soldiers, though, were much opposed to the war. I wasn’t glad to come back home because I felt lost, but the trip was better coming back. I felt so out of place, but I tried to get re-acquainted with the people I had left at home. It took a long time for me to adjust to life as a civilian. My time in Vietnam was a learning experience, but it wasn’t worthwhile because I feel we failed as a nation. We had poured all of our time, effort, materials, money, human lives, and resources into that war and the communists still ended up taking over the country. I don’t think the common South Vietnamese people even wanted our support in the war.
Even before I was enlisted, there was about the same amount of misinformation and propaganda circulating around about the war as there is now.
I ended up spending about two years in Vietnam and came home after I had turned twenty years old. My parents hated the fact that I had gone to the war, but they still wrote letters. I volunteered for the draft. I felt like it would be an adventure. I knew people who had been sent over there and I felt a little patriotic.
There were many different diseases over there, but I didn’t get any of them. There was malaria, mental sickness, and a disease where the skin begins to come off the body. The main thing, though, that was stressed on us was for us not to touch any of the women. We were told that there were no clean women over there, but that didn’t scare anyone.
The war taught me the government couldn’t be trusted. They don’t tell the truth. I liked the county, and some of the people, but I don’t keep in touch with anyone I met over there anymore.
The war has taken many young lives from Bland County. People have been seriously hurt and have eaten out of a garbage can at the post on a regular basis. And when I go and think of how bad it is around here, I have to remember how bad it was and is there. It’s not as bad here. It makes me appreciate the serenity of the country we live in. If I could go back and start over, I know I would do it the same way because I would have my same idealistic view and lack of knowledge that I did then. I had a sweetheart over there. Her name was Lua.
I didn’t feel like my job was more important than field combat, but I did feel like it was equally important because I was in security communications which means that we handled equipment and materials that allowed our service men and our allies to communicate with each other without being intercepted by the enemy.
But I do not resent at all going into the army.