Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Memory

The picture of me below was taken the first week in January 1966. I was age 18, 5' 11" tall, and 165 pounds. I had recently arrived at the 101st Airborne Division's base camp in Phan Rang, South Vietnam. My journey to this place began in Pfafftown where I was on leave (vacation), to San Francisco two days before Christmas 1965.

I worked that Saturday, December 25, 1965 in the Army's Oakland Processing Center on "kitchen police" duty. "KP" was a 16-hour day of hard labor in a mess hall to feed fellow soldiers, clean the kitchen, and restore the dining room after each meal. KP was an exhausting and dreaded detail that soldiers of low rank were assigned to help the mess sergeant with food preparation.

Between Christmas and New Year's Day, 1965, I flew from San Franscisco to Hawaii to Saigon.
After a couple days of processing near Saigon, I was flown north a couple hundred miles to a base camp where I joined my assigned combat unit Troop A, 17th Cavalry of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.

During the months leading up to this point, I completed Basic Training and Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Gordon near Augusta, Georgia and Paratrooper Training at Ft. Benning, also in Georgia.

After I arrived in San Francisco by commercial airliner from Atlanta, I called home and was told by my parents that the Department of Defense in Washington, DC had sent a telegram instructing me to stay there for the Christmas holidays and report later to Oakland for processing to Vietnam.

It was too late. I had already said my goodbyes and traveled across the country to Oakland, California as directed by my original orders.

I volunteered for military service and was proud to be a soldier. I completed training that many soldiers attempted, but dropped out due to stress, fear or physical exhaustion.

I remember the view from the airplane window on the tarmac of Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem, NC around 12/21/65. My family stood behind the short chain-link fence waving as the airplane pulled away. Only a few passengers were on the plane with me as my father, mother, sister, and brother were the lone people standing there waving that cold, winter day.

It was a sad day for them and me as the propeller driven plane pulled away from the parked position on the tarmac.

I was now in Vietnam, a world away from life, as I had known it.

I will report here periodically in the weeks ahead about how I felt, some of my experiences, some places our missions took us, some people I worked and fought along side, and the environment of guerrilla warfare from a low- rank infantryman's view.

Return here Tuesday, July 25 for an update.

Have a good day!



At 6/19/2009 12:06 PM, Blogger dee ernst said...

In the nam 70-72,Ban Me Tuit&
Dillard [Pu Hip Bien Dien province
102nd cs Eng. US army.Read your
time line,just about the same
except,extended 6mo to get early
out.[dros Ockland Ca.] No state
side duty!
Later Brother
Dee Ernst


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