173rd Airborne Brigade (SEP)
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* 4/503d Newsletter - 3/18/08 By Jack Tarr
4/503d REMEMBRANCES (57) 3/17/08
These stories of over 40 years ago are recollections of events in which a matter of a few meters can have a dramatic impact on perception.
ZUGBY – DON’T SHOOT! (Mike Strange, C Co)
A funny memory - I remember Leonard Zugby was half Indian (India) and half something else. He could speak English pretty OK, but couldn't write it worth a darn and I wrote several love letters for him.
We were in D Zone and he was on the .50 caliber one night. I was on an LP with, I think John Rochfort. One of the LPs fired at movement in the dark and we were called back in. Approaching the perimeter, we heard Zugby jack a round into the chamber of that big bad boy. Afraid he wouldn't remember the password or understand us because of his foreign blood, all I could think to yell was, "Zugby, for God sakes, don't shoot."
GEN HEALY’S INTRODUCTION BY BOB BAILEY, 4/503d REUNION, 6/23/06
“General Healy has just one mission tonight --- to once again be together with these fine paratroopers of the Geronimo Battalion --- the soldiers he loves, ‘His Boys’.
If I spend more than two minutes introducing him, you can be sure Iron Mike will lock my heels right here in front of you! So this will be short --- but certainly heart-felt.
You have General Healy's bio in front of you, but that only provides some of the highlights of his 35 years of dedicated service to our country.
You will note that during his first tour in Vietnam in 1963 and 1964 with US Special Forces he commanded the first Mobile Guerilla Bn, which had a very interesting name: "Mike Force." And, who among the troopers of the 1/501 at Fort Campbell could forget our mascot, "Geronimo the Goat" -- He could guzzle beer like a trooper but refused to jump!
But Mike Healy's most important accomplishment was when he met and married Jackie --- the gracious lady whose strong and constant love and support has made the Healys a great Army family. Daniel, Michael, Timothy, Sean, Kirk and Patrick --- SIX SONS! And now the Healy clan includes 5 grandsons and 4 granddaughters. When Mike was off "playing soldier" who do you think was the prime force raising those fine boys: You've got it --- Jackie!
Ladies and Gentlemen, before we let Mike have a chance to speak, please welcome the First Lady of the Geronimo Battalion --- Jackie Healy.
And now it's my honor and privilege to introduce our first -- and as far as we're all concerned -- our only Commander of the Geronimo Battalion, Major General Michael D. Healy”.
CREDIT THE MEDICS (posted on the 173d Web site by Jim Lakatos, C Co)
On this date in 1967, on operation Cedar Falls, I was one of the wounded. I want to thank medics Richard Choate and Thom Cook for actions that day which saved my arm from being amputated. I also want to thank ALL members of C Company for covering me when I was down. Special thanks to John Mack, Dave Drown (later KIA), Jim Satterfield, Dan Moreau, Arnie (Ken) Thorvik, Bill Millstein, Harold Sanford, Ken "Smokey" McCullough, Sgt Davis and the rest of my platoon brothers. I'll never forget those times or you guys. AIRBORNE, ALL THE WAY!!! AND THEN SOME!!!
RTO SAVED OUR LIVES (Ron Best, Medic, B Co)
Have we found Danny Varner? Danny was from Tennessee. He was the RTO for Lt Jeffcoat. We were in a firefight with some bad guys. The jets were coming in from our backs and dropping high explosives and napalm. Suddenly, one of them changed direction and came in focusing on us. Danny yelled, "Out, Out, Out" into the radio to get him to avoid dropping anything on us.
The pilot didn't drop anything, but he strafed with 20
mm cannon and he put a round in front of one of our buck sergeants. The round
exploded on a rock or something and put shrapnel into the sergeant. I put a
dressing on his forearm.
If Danny hadn’t called him off, we'd all have been dead.
LISTEN TO THE NCOs (Gerry Stesiak, Medic, A Co)
While at West Point in June of 1965, we put on a show of firepower for the Plebes. My role was to fire a rifle grenade which was mounted (if my memory serves me correctly) on an M-14 rifle. Of course, the NCOIC told me to put the rifle butt on the ground because it'll kick back pretty damn hard. Well, at 18 years of age, I thought to myself, how bad could it possibly kick back at me? It was after all, just a rifle with just a grenade attached to it. I decided then to fire the weapon like a man, a U.S. Paratrooper. Airborne!
When I got the signal, I fired that damned rifle grenade, and it literally kicked the shit out of me. And of course, knowing I was told how to fire the weapon correctly, I was too embarrassed to say anything about my injury. However, after many years living silently with shoulder pain, I decided it was time to correct the damage I had rendered on to myself on that fateful summer night back in 1965. I submitted to shoulder surgery in October of 2004. The verbiage from an old song comes to mind, "You will come to know when the bullet hits the bone." Damn, that hurt!
LOVE TAKES A JUMP (Charles Vickers, A Co)
I have wanted to go back to Ft Campbell for many years. Lucille and I were married in Clarksville, TN, in 1952. We celebrated our 55th year together in 2007.
We were married July 5th. We were supposed to be married June 5. However, on June 4th, I made a parachute jump and got tangled in my chute lines as it was opening. I spent June in the hospital. I was still in the hospital when we were married. I was 21 and Lucille had just turned 19.
Five of our kids were born at Fort Campbell and Don was born in Clarksville, TN.
LTs DIG IN TOO (Mike Strange, C Co)
I was LT Bruce Cobb's RTO for a while. We were getting mortared most nights. We would move all day, dig in at night and catch a few incoming rounds. One evening, I was digging my one-man prone shelter and Lt. Cobb was watching. I said, "Sir you’d better dig in. We’re gonna to get hit tonight." "Naw, they won't hit us tonight." he said.
Well, after dark, the VC lobbed in a couple of mortar rounds. LT Cobb said, "Strange, let me in that hole with you." Another round came in and I said, "I told you you’d better dig in." The next thing I hear is, "Ten Hut! Outta that hole, soldier." I laughed and said, "Come on in."
The next evening when we stopped, he helped me dig a 2-man hole.
LZ STUMP REMEMBERED (Ray Ramirez, D Co)
The operation started out at Bear Cat on Dec. 22, 1966. Joe Thigpen broke a leg jumping from a chopper onto LZ Stump. I ended up in a bomb crater with Cpt. Larry Sanchez (who I had gone to high school with). The VC were in the trees shooting up the choppers and everything down below.
I had a PRC-25 on my back and it drew some fire towards our position. I remember that we received some mortar fire that night and the VC missed, and LTC Healy was all shook up. I thought the mortars were part of a celebration for my 21st birthday!
When we were extracted out of LZ Stump, I remember going to Mass and Father Watters (later earned the CMH) was the Chaplain that day.
LT PROBST REPORTS TO THE 101st (PSG Ken Liles, A Co)
2/LT Frank Probst and I first met at Fort Campbell, KY. I remember the day he reported to Battalion. I was a squad leader with a different company. He was wearing low quarters and saucer hat. I politely said, “Sir, you may not have been informed, but the troops may laugh behind your back the way you’re dressed. You are West Point and all, and you should change headgear and blouse your boots.” He thanked me for informing him about proper airborne dress.
A few days later, I was promoted to E7 and reassigned to A Company as platoon sergeant. My platoon leader was none other than LT Probst.
He was a real officer. It was an honor to work with a leader like him, as fine a product as West Point could produce. He was a gentleman, but also a leader in all aspects. He demanded the best from everyone he ever spoke with. He would listen carefully. He was soft spoken, but spoke with clarity. He made my job easy. He always asked for input from his squad leaders and me, then gave orders that did not leave anything out.
When we deployed to Vietnam, he was a fine leader in combat, always looking out for his men. It was an honor serving with him.
TOUGH TEAM – 173d LRRPs (Reed Cundiff, HHC, A Co & 173d LRRPs)
Laszio Rabel was born in Budapest and escaped from
Hungary after the 1956
revolution. He eventually made it to the US. Laszio really hated Communists. The tale that we got from him was that he had lost a number of family and friends in the revolution and that he led a blinded friend across the mined border into Austria.
He deployed with 4th Bn in June 1966 and stayed with the 173d until he was KIA November 13, 1968. He earned the Medal of Honor and was named to the Ranger Hall of Fame.
Laszio and Sgt Patrick “Tad” Tadina were buddies. Tad took over my LRRP team with Laszlo as his assistant. Tad had 50 months patrolling, 116 confirmed kills and about 20 captured. They had a pact that if either was permanently maimed, they would do in the other. Now-retired CSM Tadina’s brother was also Infantry. When his brother was killed, Tad wouldn't leave ‘Nam until he was forced to by a general.
One of the guys still left from my team was a nice Catholic kid from California who told me, "Sergeant, my job in this world is to kill Communists for Christ!" So, at least three members of Team 4 at that time were Crusaders (or mujahadeen or whatever, but absolute true believers).
ONE LUCKY GUY (Thom Cook, Sr. Medic, C Co)
I am just one lucky guy that GOD got me assigned to the 1/501st Airborne. I came over from the 1/502nd and could have come down on an individual-replacement levy instead of being transferred to the 1/501. The Battalion had leadership, training and esprit de corps that are alive today.
4th BATTALION MEDICS (Ron Best and Mike Goodwin, Medics)
I remember Medic Steve Stewart really well. Stewart was a real tough black guy from Philly who was sent to the Army instead of going to jail for man slaughter. When we hit a rice paddy one day, I had been real sick with a high fever and I couldn't get out of the paddy by myself. Two of the guys hauled me out on the edge, but I still couldn't get up. Stu took the patrol as the only remaining medic and one of the guys stayed with me while all the rest did the patrol. When I left Vietnam, I left my guitar with Stu since he played a bit.
James Brooks was real tall and strong and actually pulled point occasionally for his platoon. He carried his .45 in a shoulder holster. One day I asked him why he carried it that way. He replied, "That's the way I always carried it at home." He was from Chicago.
Ray Tipton was a medic also. He had severe problems with PTSD and alcohol after Vietnam and was admitted to treatment at a VA hospital in Arizona. All his records were mixed up, so I wrote a letter to the VA for him to explain and verify his service in Vietnam with the 173rd. He had been hit in a firefight and had some shrapnel in the neck as I remember. He was released from the VA treatment program and called me to say he was coming through Iowa and he'd stop to visit. I never saw him. At the 173d reunion in 1995 in Rochester, MN, Eddie Sullivan told me that Ray's ex-wife had called to tell him that Ray had committed suicide.
Guadalupe Palos. We got in a firefight in some
heavy bamboo and jungle. A few
minutes into the fight, Lupe got hit, with some shrapnel, I think. He yelled "Medic". Then, he said, "Wait, I'm a medic." He handed a dressing to someone and said, “Put this on me." I worked with Lupe in A Co in DaNang and in B Co the rest of the next year. He was a good medic.
CORDOVA SAVES THE MARINES (Ray Ramirez, HHC & D Co)
Sp4 Arthur Cordova was the Battalion S-2 Jeep Driver/Clerk. He and PSG Ken Liles went into the Navy Supply Activity in Da Nang one day to get a US flag for PSG Liles. Cordova slept in the jeep while waiting for the Sgt Liles. Then, some VC sappers came into the base to blow up the ammo dump. Cordova grabbed his M-16, looked down in the creek bed and saw the Cong and shot them up and stopped the attack. The AP's and Shore Patrol were chasing these guys and Cordova stopped them dead in their tracks.
When they came back to the 4th Bn CP, PSG Liles said, "Sgt. Ramirez, Cordova just killed some ‘Cong". I answered, “What did he do, run them over with his jeep?” Well a few minutes later, the land line from the III MAF (USMC General. Walt's office) rang. The Marines were mad because we were in their AO. I answered that we were brought up to Da Nang because the Marines couldn't handle things!
SP4 Cordova received the Silver Star for his actions in Da Nang after we returned to Bien Hoa.
WE WON’T FORGET - SGT KENNEDY’S GRAVESTONE (Steve Becsi, D Co)
On March 7, 1967, a friend of mine in Dog Company died in an ambush while attached
to the 11 Armored Cav. The platoon (recon) was riding on top of the tanks while busting jungle. Sgt Charles F. Kennedy died immediately in the ambush. I talked to Sam Schroeder, the soldier who pulled him away from the line of fire, and he said Kennedy had already died.
During a trip to eastern Arkansas, I made a special trip to find the family and gravesite of Sgt. Kennedy. The people of Blytheville, AR, were especially helpful. The library helped with locating a 40-year-old obituary and printed it from the original newspaper which they had never permitted before. The funeral home which handled his arrangements showed me exactly where he was buried and attempted to help find next of kin so that I might tell them how he died and that he was a good soldier and a good friend to all that knew him.
I never found any relatives or friends in town. When I paid my respects at the cemetery, I noticed that vandals had shot out the picture of Sgt Kennedy that was attached to the gravestone. I asked Morrell Woods when he visited the reunion in Fayetteville to see if anyone had a picture of Kennedy. Sure enough, Woods received a picture that was probably taken at DaNang when the 4/503d went up there in 1966. I think someone named Schultz from HHC sent the photo. However, if that person would contact me, I would like to thank him personally. Anyway, a few months later, I was pleased to attach the new photo of Sgt Kennedy on his monument. To all his friends, I want you to know that it was my pleasure to be able to do this for a good friend. Airborne!
REPLAY (Mike Strange, C Co)
As far as I know, Tommy Humphrey still lives in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It's called Hot Springs, Lakeside.
Our senior year in high school, Lakeside had a state championship football team. "Humpy" was the starting center on that team. I played tight end and linebacker for Bauxite when we played Lakeside. On Friday the 13th, they beat us 54-6.
In Vietnam, a casual conversation in the jungle turned into the realization that we had played against each other on those teams. I had to listen to him replay the game and the score for a solid year. I threatened to shoot him and claymore him, but he just kept talking.
We left VN together and processed out of the service in Ft. Lewis, WA. Then, we got on a commercial flight to Arkansas. We landed in Little Rock where I got off and he went on to Hot Springs. We were both so scared I almost flew on to Hot Springs and he almost got off in Little Rock. When we landed in Little Rock, I said, "Humpy, I'm scared. I'm not getting off. I don't know what to say or how to act around people." He said, "I'm scared too. I’d like to get off here and not go on to Hot Springs, but they’re waiting on us." We had become so uncivilized we were afraid to face our families. We didn't know what to say or how to act.
That was the last time I ever talked to him.
(NOTE: We located Tommy and they have talked))
A BETTER WORLD (Tom Cook, Sr Medic, C Co)
Maybe more people should share a foxhole; might be a better world.
SERGEANT BOXLEY (Mike Strange, C Co)
I wrote Sgt Boxley a letter after you sent his address knowing he wouldn’t answer.
SSG Alexander Boxley was like the Six Million Dollar Man, almost as if he were
created for the military. He was hard and seemingly cold. He liked me because I knew when to keep my mouth shut and I had a little education so he liked to debate with me and took time to give me map reading and compass instructions.
When we were in base camp he drank Old Grand Dad until he was blind.
After an operation in the Iron Triangle we had a decoration and award ceremony, General Deane, I think, was giving the awards.
Sgt. Boxley and another NCO were drunk with a capitol ‘D’, which was perfectly acceptable after an operation. While the General was talking, Sgt Boxley would say really loud, "Speak up, Can't hear you back here." The enlisted men would snicker and the officers would roll their eyes. Louder, "Speak up, can't hear you back here." The general never batted an eye, but Capt. Sanchez couldn't take it any longer. He told Sgt. Tiara (I think) to take Sgt. Boxley back to the company area.
"I can't," said Sgt T, he's getting an award."
We couldn't wait for the general to call his name to come forward. I think he got a Silver Star. (NOTE: He earned 2 Silver Stars during his tour).
PANTS DOWN (Mike Strange, C Co)
We were in the Hobo Woods, I believe. Had a new guy with us. When I say new, he was new to us, but not new in country. He had gone AWOL from another unit, so he was sent to us to deal with. Just where do you go AWOL in Viet Nam? Do you sit out in a bunker and read old Playboy magazines? But anyway, we had him. I don't remember his name, but we nicknamed him Smiley because every morning he would wake up and say, "Good Morning, Viet Nam," and then the rest of the day he griped and cussed and hated everyone and everything. A real ray of sunshine.
One night, our squad was sent out on an ambush. Sgt Boxley, our squad leader was a no-nonsense, "I'll bust your head," kind of NCO. We reached our location, trampled down the elephant grass for a position and put out our Claymore mines.
Smiley said he as going to relieve himself. We didn't know it at the time, but he had a habit of going out from our location, dropping his pants like he was going to the bathroom, and lighting up a joint. This time he dropped his pants about 10 feet behind one of our Claymores. Well back in the elephant grass, Rock (John Rochfort) and I were wrestling, as boys do. I threw him down and he landed on the detonator of a Claymore and the thing exploded. BOOM!!
The first thing Rock and I thought of was we're in deep trouble from Sgt. Boxley. But, Smiley thought it was incoming. Someone said, "Look," and we turned to see Smiley approaching the perimeter. We would see his head above the elephant grass, then it would disappear for a second, appear and disappear. He looked like a kangaroo coming toward us. When he reached the clearing, we saw that his pants were still down around his ankles and he was indeed hopping like a kangaroo. He was so scared the joint was still in his mouth. Then he realized what had happened and said, "A man can't even go take a shit without someone trying to blow his ass off."
Sgt Boxley never did jump us about it. But even though he never cracked a smile, he had to be dying inside because watching Smiley hop through that grass was hilarious.
Another Smiley story later.
BOOBY TRAPS (Ray Ramirez, D Co)
William Blakely from Los Angeles was
wounded in D Zone in Jan/Feb ’67 when he opened the door of a truck that we
found in the jungle. His injuries were not that serious. A few steps away from
the truck, I walked into another booby trap. I was lucky that the
Chicom grenade didn't go off as I lifted my foot. I cut the grenade from the vine and threw it into a B-52 bomb crater.
A few minutes later, we had contact with VC across the
road from our location. This was during a cease fire (Tet of ‘67), and we were
supposed to keep the VC from
hitting Long Binh and Bien Hoa. Well, we could see Long Binh ammo bunkers blowing up one day from our position on a high plain in D Zone.
ANOTHER INCH AND..... (Mike Strange, C Co)
I don't know where we were or what operation we were on, I just remember the jungle was thick, too thick for a dust-off. We had found a tunnel complex and it was one of those good days that I wasn't told to go into the tunnels. I was milling around doing what I did best, talking and visiting with anyone who would talk.
I stopped and talked to a guy. I don't remember his name, but if he reads this, he will know it's him. He lit a cigarette and then lit mine. At that instant, a single shot rang out. It knocked him off his feet and he went down moaning. My first instinct was to get down to avoid a second shot and to scan the foliage for the sniper. As I turned my attention to him, he was saying in pain, "They shot it off, they shot it off, they shot my dick off." Over and over, "They shot my dick off."
The medic was there quickly to treat him and a dust-off was called in. A harness was lowered down into the jungle and the last I saw of him he was dangling from the cable below the chopper.
Word got around of the nature of his wound. "Did you here about so and so? He got his dick shot off." The guy that was talking and the guy listening would both grimace and unconsciously move their hands down to their crotch, both feeling the unusual pain and life sentence of their wounded buddy. Occasionally, someone would say, "A man can't go through life without his dick." or, "Man you may as well go ahead and kill me because I couldn't make it without my little buddy bringing me joy."
That night in my foxhole, I had vivid images of a bloody stump that was once a penis.
After Viet Nam, I was stationed at Ft. Campbell, KY. Once I got settled in my barracks, I went down to the dayroom. There, shooting pool, was the guy with the shot-off penis. After exchanging heartfelt, "Glad you made it back," pleasantries, I said, "Man I have to know, did they shoot your dick completely off?"
Without hesitation or embarrassment, he quickly dropped his pants and underwear. "Naaah, they missed it, but if the little bastard had been any longer they would have." And he proudly showed me his scar just a millimeter below his penis. I was just overwhelmed with relief, because 'a man can't go through life without his dick.'
AMMO BEARER (Frank Veldey, A Co)
I started out on "B" Gun, Weapons Squad, 1st Platoon, A Company. Started out as 5th Ammo Bearer with only 2 canteens, 7 mags, 400 rds of 5.56, 800 rds belted 7.62, 4 frags, 1 claymore, 2 trips, 3 "C's". That only left enough room in the jungle ruck for a spare pair of socks and I kept 4 packs of Camels inside the helmet liner.
MARIO RAMIREZ’S LAST OPERATION (Ray Ramirez, D Co)
Sgt. Mario Ramirez was a draftee from Pontiac, MI, but he volunteered for Airborne. He was originally in the Anti-Tank Platoon. Mario then became a member of D Company (Provisional). Mario was killed on his last day in the jungle. The day before he was scheduled to rotate, there was no new squad leader so he went out to the field during Operation Cedar Falls.
When my squad returned to the Battalion n CP, people were in tears because they had heard that Sgt. Ramirez had been killed and they thought it was Sgt. Ray Ramirez! I stayed in touch with the family for several years.
NAMETAG GAMES (Mike Strange, C Co)
I remember one time on an operation they gave us magic markers and told us to print our names on the blank nametag on our replacement shirts and rank on the collars so they would know who we were if we got killed. Naturally, everyone printed NAMETAG on their shirt and GENERAL or ADMIRAL or PRESIDENT where our rank went. So, they gave up on that idea.
SMALL WORLD (Ray Ramirez, D Co)
Geraldo (TV show) Rivera’s 3rd wife attended high school
with me at Montebello High
School in California. The same school was attended by Cpt. Lorenzo (Larry) Sanchez), Medic Fred Ortiz, RTO Louis Costello, Pete Ramirez, and Peter Vasquez, all Airborne troopers. Another guy from Montebello High named Gossef served in ‘65 or ’66. He died in Pleasonton, CA a few years ago.
Pete Ramirez (my oldest brother) served in Okinawa with the 2/503d. I got Fred Ortiz into the 4th Bn in Vietnam when I saw him at Brigade headquarters processing into the 173d. After Cpt. Sanchez joined the 173d, we were playing football one day in base camp and he was playing QB. I asked him where he was from (I knew the answer) and then told him I knew his brother and his sister-in-law from high school days.
Fred Ortiz was shot in the leg a few months later and went home. Louis Costello came in as a replacement in March or May and he was in the Battles of Dak To as the RTO for Sgt. Larry Okendo (3 CIBs).
Pete Vasquez came later on to Viet Nam in 68-69 as a SSG. He worked for the LA County Sheriff's Dept after Vietnam and I got him to finally join up with our 173d Chapter XIV.
SAM PROCTER - KIA JUST BEFORE HIS DEROS. (Told by Ed Sullivan in June 2006 for John Daly, B Co)
The day Sam died, his
squad had just come across a structure which appeared to be a charcoal factory.
A Claymore mine exploded and Sam was hit by the flying pieces. John held
Sam in his arms and tried to encourage him, as it initially appeared that his
injuries were not serious. However, the injuries were severe and Sam passed
away fairly quickly.
Sam was a good soldier. He was so close to going home when he was killed on May 22, 1966. He was only 2 weeks from DROS. Sam was the last man killed from the battalion which had deployed June 6th, 1967 and left the field the next week.
TOP ATHLETES (Tim Stout, 173d MPs)
I knew Eddy Crook, C Co., and Olin Winfrey, A Co., (both have died since Vietnam) very well. Crook was the 1960 boxing Olympic Gold Medalist in the welterweight division. I have photos of Winfrey and Crook. I played football with them on the 101st "Screaming Eagles" post football team.
If Winfrey had not been so committed to the Army, he would have joined the New Orleans Saints with another great back from those Screaming Eagles teams: Ernie "Tracks" Wheelwright. All three were at one time "All Army" running backs. In addition, Crook was a perennial "All Army" boxer.
BOOZE AT THE PLATE (Ray Ramirez, D Co)
Al Booze was from Michigan. He was in HHC Commo
Platoon and then
volunteered to join D/4/503d. He was my machine gunner for a while. Booze
was left-handed. I think he played baseball in high school and was sought
after by some professional teams, but joined the Army. I remember him
throwing hand grenades at a VC position and he was trying to do a little bit
of pitching while he threw the grenade.
I told the guys to give me their grenades and I started throwing them at the VC just like a catcher throws a baseball.
GETTING TOGETHER – A PROMISE KEPT (Bob Canuel, B Co)
I wanted to share a meaningful experience I had recently by keeping a promise to my M79 man and good friend, PFC Harry Spier. Harry and I always said we would get together after returning back to the “world”. Regretfully, on 10 July, 67, Harry was killed by enemy hostile fire.
In early 2007, I searched out Harry's mother, Vera Spier, who still resides in Tyler, TX. On 9 May 2007, I visited with Mrs. Spier, and my friend, Harry, who was laid to rest also in Tyler. Bev and I had a great visit with Mrs. Spier and felt great keeping my promise to Harry and spending time at his gravesite.
I printed out a lot of Gold Star information for Mrs. Spier and she assured me she would be filling it out and returning it to the 173rd Abn Association.
Just thought I'd share this honor with you. Airborne all the way!!
“Z” SAYS GOODBYE (Harold Snider, B Co)
You must remember SSG Salvador Zavala (1st Platoon, Weapons Squad, B Company). "Z" was a First Sergeant in the Infantry Officer's Basic Course Battalion at Ft Benning in '68 or '69 after we returned from ‘Nam. I was in the Basic Training Brigade and we saw each other occasionally.
One day he came to the company and told me that he was there to say goodbye. He had terminal cancer of some sort and was put on terminal leave the following day. He was going home to California to die! Yep, I was shocked! Still am! Another great guy gone.
NOTE: Ray Rodriguez said his ashes were spread on Bastogne DZ, Ft Campbell, by his ex-wife in an Army chopper.
DON’T TRUST THE LITTLE KIDS (Ray Ramirez, D Co)
I have some After Action Reports from the 335th Aviation Company which have comments by Captain Davis, Cowboy 6, who was in charge of the 3 Hueys sent to Da Nang to support the 4th Battalion.
One Huey was damaged at the LZ where Charlie Company was
located in an old
French fort. I was with Battalion S3 Air and was supposed to fly to Marble Mountain for the night and visit the pilots and crew of the Cowboys and the Casper H-13 pilots based at Marble Mountain. But, the USMC in DaNang wanted an aviation report, so I had to kick it out ASAP and told the Cowboys that I would meet with them on another day.
The Huey came and picked up an RTO at the BN CP and then flew out to Charlie Company's position. We received the report that the chopper had been damaged in an explosion and there were a few injuries.
After a brief investigation, it was determined that a young boy in the local village, under threat of the VC, had put the booby trap into place. The boy was given a hand grenade by the VC and shown how to make a booby trap using string, and a paper bag and by placing the grenade under the PSP (pierced steel planking) on the LZ.
The damaged chopper was picked up the next day by a
Chinook and taken back to
THE VA WILL HELP (Ron Best, B Co Medic)
I never knew that
there was help for us in regard to PTSD. I knew something was wrong with me,
but didn't know what to do about it. I went to the VA hospital to see about
getting some meds or something and accidentally ran into a Veterans Service
Rep. He said, "Hello, I haven't seen you here before. What can I do for you?"
I said, "I don't know, I'm just here to see about some meds, possibly for sleeping, etc." He responded, "Come into my office so I can talk with you." I wound up with a 10% rating and a beginning in regard to treatment.
Years later, I called my credit union to check on my balance and the customer rep said, "You have $15,000 balance". Now, that was unusual! Turns out that a VA reviewer was reading through my records while doing an audit and found a place that showed I had been having trouble breathing (intrinsic asthma from Vietnam). He said the VA hadn't responded, so he awarded me the $15,000. Surprises like that I can handle.
Thom Cook can explain quite a bit about the VA system and VA law, but this gives an idea how the system is there to help us.
DFC FOR KOREA BRAVERY (by Buddy Davis, C Co)
I had prior service as an Air Force Aero Medical Tech and served in Korea in Detachment 3, 3rd Rescue Group. I got out of the Air Force in 1953 and went in Army as PFC in 1955. In Korea, in an H5 helicopter, myself and the pilot (he helped little) extracted a downed pilot from enemy-held territory. Two years ago, in 2005, in a large ceremony at Pope AFB (a 4 star general), I was awarded the DFC. Finally, I thought, it got here. I am caught up.
*NOTE: Buddy is on oxygen now and is at home in Wanford, NC taking it easy.
GERONIMO’S JOURNEY TO 'NAM (by Elmer "Buddy" Davis, C Co)
Everyone knows that the 4/503d was originally the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, Ft Campbell, KY. The famous nickname of the 1/501st was "Geronimo". Of course, we had a wooden Indian that stood proudly at the door of our Battalion Headquarters. When the 1/501st deployed to Vietnam as the 4/503d to join the 173d Airborne Brigade in ‘Nam, we left our wooden buddy back at Campbell.
I was the supply sergeant of Company C, 4/503d. A couple of months after arriving in Vietnam, the Red Cross was in the process of sending me home for my wife's child birth at Fort Campbell, KY. The company commander, Captain Jack K. Tarr, stopped me on my way to the Bn S-4 at the Bien Hoa rear area. Captain Tarr said that the Battalion CO, LTC Healy, knew I was going to Fort Campbell to be with my wife. Iron Mike wanted me to locate our mascot, Geronimo, and ship him to Vietnam. Since Geronimo was a wooden Indian, he was not transferred with the rest of us to Vietnam.
When I got back to Ft Campbell, I located Geronimo on my first stop, the Brigade Headquarters. Geronimo was about 5' 4" and weighed about 90 pounds. A fine looking wooden Indian. There he was standing at the inside entrance. It really was good to see him again. Seemed as he looked at me like, "What the hell took you so long?"
I had to convince the Brigade Commander, a full colonel, that I was sent by LTC Healy. He was surprised, but gave approval to send our buddy to Vietnam. There was no problem lifting and loading Geronimo in my pickup. I put him in the front seat with me. Nothing else to do, so I talked to Geronimo on the way to Post Transportation. I asked Geronimo if he knew he was dropped from the rolls of the 4th Battalion as a deserter?
I went in the Transportation Warehouse and told a couple civilians that I had a wooden Indian that I needed to ship to Vietnam. They looked at each other and smiled, nodding their heads. Really a couple of very helpful individuals. I had to convince them by dragging Geronimo in the door. They immediately started putting a wooden box together. I guess that would be like a wooden Indian's quarters for the long trip. It was a "hand shake deal". Nothing in writing. What did I know about returning AWOL wooden Indians to their unit?
About 7 weeks later, I was back in 'Nam and Captain Tarr again stopped me in almost the same spot. In a very serious voice, he said that LTC Healy wanted to know if I had stolen Geronimo? Clearly a "Who me?" situation, and I looked over my shoulder to make sure he was talking to me. My integrity was at stake. My reputation alone should have taken care of the Colonel's thinking, and this situation was based on honesty, and merit as a supply sergeant.
Thank God Geronimo showed up a few weeks after the conversation with Captain Tarr. I went to the Battalion Headquarters building when I got the good news of his arrival. There was Geronimo standing inside the entrance in his head dress and all his color. He never looked better. I looked him straight in the eyes and let him know that he had gotten me in a great deal of trouble.
Years later, I had a few days left in the military before retirement, when the 4/503d colors were returned to Fort Campbell. . Geronimo was not in the advance party. To the best of my knowledge, he was not in the main body either.
I often wonder if he’s getting old. Could he still be serving? Would sure like to see him. Anyone know how I can locate Geronimo?
GERONIMO FOUND (Dayton Herrington, HHC and C Co)
I came across the story of Geronimo by Sgt Buddy Davis, so I called him. Buddy can't come to the 4/503d reunion in 2008 because he has COPD. But, he told me the story of Geronimo again. Of course, he asked, "I wonder where Geronimo is now?"
My response was, "I know where Geronimo is and I've seen him since we came home. He's in Alaska and I had my picture taken with him at the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment."
My trip to Alaska came about because, in the planning phase for a D Day celebration in 2003, the 501st in Alaska decided that a veteran of each of the Regiments should be present. Ft Campbell was contacted and my name came up. I was invited and I accepted.
I hit the road on 28 May for the June 6th event as I knew it was a long drive (up and back just over 8800 miles, 5 days driving each way). But, what a drive and I have seven rolls of film to show for it.
Upon arrival, I reported to the Commander, LTC John Glenn. Much to my surprise, can you believe that just outside of the Commander's office there was Geronimo "on duty" as always, looking good? You can bet pictures (more than one) were taken and I will bring then to the 2008 reunion.
Anyway, after talking to Buddy Davis, I called the 501st in Alaska that night and talked with the Duty NCO, Geronimo being the subject matter. He said, "Sure, Geronimo is here. I'm looking at him". So, you Geronimo guys of the 4th Battalion, 'Heads Up'. Geronimo is not lost. He is at home in Bldg #661, Headquarters 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, Ft Richardson, Alaska, standing proudly "on guard" for them as he did for us 40 years ago and Sergeant Davis knows it.
GLEN ENGLISH, MEDAL OF HONOR (Ray
Ramirez, D Co)
Glenn English was from Altoona, PA. He had prior service in Germany with a LRRP unit in the early 60s. He got out of the Army and then joined up again and ended up in
HQ Company, 4/503d in the S-3 Section. He was a 3/4 ton truck driver and RTO.
He was on the ship with us taking the unit to RVN. The Headquarter "rats" were way down in the bottom compartment on the USNS General John Pope and we had all kinds of living space!
Glenn extended his tour with the 173d after most of us from the original 4/503d left RVN in June '67. He was KIA with E/3/503d in 1970 and received the Medal of Honor for his actions.
I spoke with his father years ago and also spoke with his daughter in PA. I found out that the MOH was with a sister in Alaska. Glenn has a sister living in Sacramento, CA,
and she came out to a reunion memorial service in Sacramento, CA, and someone mentioned to me that this person in the audience was Glenn's sister. But, by the time I looked around, she had left the area. Damn, it!
Glenn is buried at the Ft. Bragg cemetery just as you
enter the cemetery from the parking lot. The Education Center at Ft. Campbell,
KY, is named after SSG Glenn English and there is a photo of him
in the building.
DON MICHAEL’S COURAGE UNDER FIRE (Chuck
Huller, Medic, C Co)
Don Michael was one of the bravest individuals I ever met in my life. I was assigned to Charlie Company in February 1967 when we got into a heavy firefight and were pinned down. A nearby NVA opened up on SGM Torres, SGT McGee, SSG Watkins, Don Michael and myself. The bullets came dangerously close to us. We all hit the deck and for some reason we thought it was a little funny.
When McGee suggested we get on line, the NVA opened up again. I told McGee to shut the f--- up because this guy was only a few feet away from us, however we couldn't see him. I, for one, could hear my heart beat and we were waiting for this NVA to make another move.
All of the sudden, Don Michael stands up, walks over to a small hill and pulls this NVA sergeant out of the hole by the back of his neck. We all stood up and McGee asked SGM Torres if he was okay. Torres said he was and McGee told him, “Sergeant Major, your helmet is on backwards!” We all started to laugh.
I walked over to Don Michael and asked, "How did you know that guy ran out of bullets?” Don replied with his big Alabama southern drawl, "Well, I guess if he stopped shooting, I figured out he was out of bullets". I told him that that was a hell of a lot to assume and you can only be wrong about something like that just once.
With that, everybody started to laugh and I thought to myself, "I never thought that almost getting killed could be so funny".
Another vivid memory I have was going back to base camp and seeing people getting Air Medals as well as promotions. In interesting contrast, guys like Don Michael, a
hard-core PFC, who made the reputation of the 173rd what it is today, never received a medal for that action or worried about their careers. As far as they were concerned, they didn't have a career, they had a God Damn job to do and they lived down their lives, as Abraham Lincoln referred to, on the Altar of Freedom.
A few weeks later, Don Michael was KIA on April 7,
1967 along with five others from Charlie Company. For his actions that day, he
was awarded the highest medal for bravery our country has to offer, the
Congressional Medal of Honor. Tom Cook, C Company’s Senior Medic, wrote
him up for it. Don was only 19 years old, a big gentle giant, a real southern
boy from Alabama. When I heard that Don died, I was in the 93rd Evac Hospital
myself and the guys with Charlie Company that were there told me what happened.
SGT BOXLEY’S WAY OF SAYING, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” (Mike Strange, C Co)
I have written Sgt. Boxley two letters. He was an ole sour-puss, but I liked him and he took good care of us.
On my 20th birthday, we were going out on a squad patrol. I told him since it's my birthday I should get to stay behind. He handed me a machete and said, "You're on point. Happy birthday."
MY NEW EMAIL ADDRESS (Mike Strange, C Company)
I don't like my new email address, but my wife was on the phone with AOL trying to find a name that wasn't taken. I came out of the shower and she saw the tattoo, SAT CONG 66 (Kill VC 1966) on my lower back and used it. If I had been facing her it would have been Anaconda, or perhaps Worm.
MISTAKEN IDENTITY - BOB STOWELL (Reed Cundiff, A Co & Bde LRRPs)
LT Bob Stowell and I both wear glasses,
have somewhat prominent noses and
similar-shaped heads and had receding hairlines even then (things haven't
improved over the years). One day, LT Stowell and his LRRP driver were going somewhere in a jeep and they gave a bunch of 173rd Company (Administration) guys a lift and they got in the back.
The Admin types had known me when I was one of them before I joined LRRPs. They
joked with LT Stowell and slapped him on the back and asked him, "Reed, so how is
LRRP treating you?" LT Stowell had a hard time convincing them that he was not me.
LRRP/74th Inf Rangers received two DSCs in five years and Bob was one of them.
He got the DSC leading a patrol near Katum when he took Team 3 out (it had been SSG
Guill's Team, but Guill was retiring as an E-6, having been busted from E-9 to E-5 in SF).
The LRRP team got into a fight with at least a platoon of NVAs. Everyone in the team
but one got a bullet through boot, pack, clothing or M-16, but Bob was the only one to
get wounded. He took three rounds in the torso and no one
knew about it until they had
been lifted out. The rounds managed to miss anything vital. He was back in the field
two weeks later.
Later, when the Brigade was waiting at Plantation Tierra Rouge (the one with
the swimming pool and huge trees) before the jump at Katum, I was wandering about
with my team (I had led about six infiltrations by then). We ran into some 4/503rd guys.
One of asked, "What the heck is our payroll clerk doing out here?" I told them they had
me confused with my REMF identical twin brother at Admin. That got them even more
confused and apologetic.
MY TRIP TO VIETNAM (Ron Best, B
I went over to 'Nam as an individual replacement. I flew from Oakland, CA, to Saigon in May '66
When I got to the tram in Oakland that took us to the
"cattle barns" (deployment areas) there was a Sergeant First Class that made it
onto the tram, but then passed out. He'd had a lot of alcohol. He was wearing
jump wings, so when we got to the cattle barn, I put him over my left shoulder
and put his bags in my left hand and my bag in my right hand and into the “barn”
we went. I put him on an upper bunk and I sat down on the lower bunk and lit a
smoke and watched over him till he sobered up some.
Turned out he was the ranking NCO in that barn, so I got a pass to go and call Cindy. Next thing I knew we were on a 70fast (707) on the way to Vietnam. I never saw the SFC again, but our brief meeting had been beneficial to both of us.
I was assigned to B-Med, 173d, for 5 months, then joined 4/503rd in DaNang in Nov '66.
WHAT A MEDIC IS (Tom Cook, Sr Medic, C Co)
Medics are the five (5) guys in a Rifle Company that get GRUNTS out of HELL's way. Sit with them all night in a foxhole when they are hurt, check them every day to make sure they are OK to fight that day, and be their father and mother for that year.
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM (GRUNT TO CHOPPER) 3 TOURS IN RVN
(Andy Roy, C Co)
I arrived in country about April 29th, 1967. I went through the 173d Jungle School in Bien Hoa. The class the week before us had a firefight and a cadre was WIA. Our class set up a series of drop-off ambushes the next week. We ambushed a group of VC trying to flee the area after they popped a few 61mm mortar rounds into Bien Hoa airfield. It was payback for a Jungle School cadre who was WIA the previous week. So, in my first week of Vietnam, I was in on combat.
I served my first tour as a grunt with C Company, 4th Battalion, 173rd. We went through Hill 875 and more. The casualties at that time were about the highest ever for the 4th Battalion.
My second tour was with C Company, 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cav. Division, as a door gunner. It was sure different seeing the war from above. But, then you felt pretty vulnerable as a target in the sky when you couldn't see the bad guys who were shooting at you.
I then came back again to serve with D Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Inf. Regiment, 101st Abn. Div. I considered taking a short and coming back again, maybe as a LRRP, but by then I saw demoralization starting in the rear (not the field) and decided to ETS.
CLOSE SUPPORT - THEN AND NOW (Jack Tarr, C Co)
When the 4th Battalion arrived in country, Charles (Pappy) Patchin was assigned as Artillery FO/Recon Sgt from the 3/319 Artillery. In the year that followed, Pappy directly supported several line companies and was involved in some of the heaviest fighting the Geronimo Battalion experienced. When most of us returned to the States in June 1967, Pappy stayed until May '68.
After retiring from the Army as an LTC with Special Forces, Pappy became a County Service Officer accredited with the American Legion, VFW, VVA and United Spinal (Formerly Paralyzed Vets of America) in Syracuse, NY. He served vets until December 30, 2007, when he retired. Two years ago, when members of the original 4th Battalion were reuniting, Pappy again provided direct support to the 4th Battalion, this time as an expert in veterans' issues. In addition to his regular caseload, Pappy has helped many 4th Battalion guys with their claims.
He is still providing direct support to the 4/503d.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES (Frank Veldey, A Co)
When I first got to 'Nam, foxholes started out 3 to 6 inches deep. At six months, they were 3 to 4 feet deep. After 9 months, I had to stand on my tip toes just to see over the top (and I'm 6' 3").
When it was time to DEROS to the world, I turned in 5 canteens, 4 ea 1 qt water bags, 6 bottles of Iodine tabs, my M-16, a .45 auto, 20 fully loaded M-16 mags, 300 extra 5.56 rds, all the rest of the belted 7.62 ammo, 8 frags, 4 trips, 2 claymores, 2 smoke grenades, and 4 bottles of Kaopectate.
I ate all the pound cake and peaches and threw away 3 pairs of rotted socks.
I did want to keep the bayonet ‘cause I had a lot of kills with it but turned it in too. Those kills didn't really matter; nobody cared that I had the highest dead Leach body count in the platoon. Somehow, they always managed to find me, even in the highlands.
EDUARDO “OX” OXFORD (Harold Snider and Roger Bray, B Co)
Eduardo Oxford was a Buck Sergeant and Squad Leader, Weapons Platoon, B Company at Ft Campbell.
His first tour in ‘Nam, he deployed from Okinawa. He returned to the 101st and was assigned to B Company and promoted to E-5. The experience he shared from his first tour went a long way in preparing others and me in the platoon to cope with life in country. Another interesting tidbit, Ox, warned us many times to use condoms because they had sexual diseases in that country that would eat your brain. Yeah, he also told us the razor blade stories.
He went back with B/4/503d for his second tour. Ox stayed 6 months with B Company and then rotated out of the company with other NCOs from the original deployment. He was my squad leader at first and then I was left carrying the 81mm Mortar sight.
We heard later that Ox had gotten out of the Army and was in Venezuela. My nephew, Gary, travels around the world (big time) and some years ago, while in Venezuela, he tried to locate Ox. He was unsuccessful--Ox was somewhere else, so they didn't link up. But, Gary did make contact with one of Ox’s sisters. Gary and the sister exchanged addresses. Nothing was heard for a couple of years. Then, Gary got a phone call from Ox’s sister who was in the States.
Ox’s sister said that Ox had gotten sick and was in a VA hospital in Orlando, FL. Gary told her that he would immediately go to visit him. However, she told Gary not to bother--Ox didn't recognize his own family and wouldn't know who Gary was. He had contracted something which was causing him to mentally degenerate. The sister said the family was trying to get Ox moved back to Venezuela so he could die there.
Gary called a few months later and spoke with other family members, who wouldn't tell him anything. He tried to contact the sister again but she had moved--they wouldn't provide a number and Gary lost contact with her. Sad, sad story! Ox was a great buddy and I hate to see something like that happen to him. Ox was a very humorous and likeable guy with many friends. Certainly, there are many others that would want to know what happened to him.
REMEMBERING AT THE WALL (Reed Cundiff, A Co & Bde LRRPs)
Joe Kegley, Co Company, was one of the first from the Battalion who were killed when a chopper went down on an air assault and 6 Charlie Company men died. Kegley and I played Scrabble a lot on the troop ship going over. They were the only times I have ever played the game that we ran out of tiles numerous times. He was a great friend.
I visited the Wall when I was on a 10 or 11 month detail at the Pentagon. My wife, Elaine, was able to get the kids out of school for a month (they had to do their lessons
and keep a diary). They were both in accelerated programs so there was no problem. The last night, we walked down the Washington Monument Mall and over to the Lincoln Memorial under a late November moon.
I looked up Joe Kegley's name on the Wall. I really didn't feel anything until our
daughter, Elisa, (now at NYU, and then six years old), reached for my hand and
said, "Daddy, I know how much you must miss your friends!" I couldn't help crying
and letting loose the feelings I had kept bottled up.
IT'S NOT THE MEDALS - IT'S THE MAN (Gerry Stesiak, Medic, A Co)
(From a letter by Gerry Stesiak to the family of the SGM Robert Cruz, our first SGM, after his death in Jan 2008)
I served in the same unit as SGM Cruz and I've never forgotten how he positively affected me. Let me explain:
During a parade at Fort Campbell, we all had our Class A Dress uniforms on. When I saw the number of rows of ribbons SGM Cruz had on his uniform I was stunned. So, I asked him why he never told us how many citations and ribbons he was awarded. To this day I remember his remarks in response to my query:
"Son, it is not that important to show what you earn as a result of soldiering. Rather, it is far more important to be a soldier first and let your actions dictate who you are, not the awards you may receive."
Years later I became a Detroit Fire Chief. And, like the old sarge, I too had earned many citations for bravery and what have you. But, because of SGM Cruz' statement to me, I took it a step further. I never wore the ribbons on my uniform. He made that much of an impression on me that I felt compelled to write you. (Gerald K. Stesiak, Former Line Medic, Alpha Company, 4/503d).
GERRY BARTRAM - MEDIC (Ron Best,
Medic, B Co)
Gerry Bartram was a B Company medic when we took a base camp away from the bad guys. I think he was working for Lt. Jeffcoat's platoon. A trooper was wounded and Gerry went to assist him. The first round apparently hit Gerry in the hand, but the second round hit him in the chest and perforated his left ventricle.
I was with the 3rd platoon which had taken the center of the NVA base camp and was occupying a trench on the edge of the camp. The word came down that a medic was needed in the 1st platoon area so I went over and applied dressings to a couple of wounded troopers.
Then, word came to my platoon that the big medic who wore
glasses had been killed. They thought that was me because Gerry didn't always
wear his glasses but my eyes are so bad that I never take mine off.
Years later, as Thom Cook, C Company Sr Medic, was returning from the Chicago 173d reunion, he stopped by my house in Des Moines. He had met Gerry's sister at the reunion. He gave me her number to call and we talked and cried. She is a really neat lady and she really appreciated all the 173rd troopers who talked with her at the reunion.
BELIEVING AGAIN. (Mike Strange, C Co, who was helped by Thom Cook)
We were in financial trouble because of my PTSD when I first started talking to Thom Cook, who had been the Senior Medic in Charlie Company. Because of Thom's help, I was awarded 100% disability by VA right out of the box within 4 or 5 months. Had to be some kind of record. And, then, Social Security, which automatically turns everyone down the first time, accepted me within 6 months.
My wife and I decided this wasn't coincidence so we're bringing God back into our home.
(Mike Talerico, B Co)
My name is spelled correctly in the list. My rank was PFC (E-3). I made PFC 3 times.
AN NCO LIKE A PARENT (Mike Strange, C Co)
Going to see my 87-year-old dad. Which reminds me, when I got to VN I didn't smoke or drink. I started bumming cigarettes from Dave (Richard Davis) at night in the foxhole. I was like a kid with a new toy. I could drop down in the hole and take a puff and it made it easier to stay awake and alert. Well, I started smoking during the day too. Even though he smoked, Sgt. Boxley wouldn't allow me to smoke. So, I actually had to sneak around and smoke behind his back. One day we were out on an operation going down a trail. The column stopped for a break. You remember how we stayed wet with sweat and those old rucksacks were so heavy? I laid back and unconsciously lit a cigarette. When Sgt Boxley was scolding, instead of saying your name he would say "Young man." He stood over me and said, "Young man, what have you got in your mouth?" I was caught. From seeing names on letters we got from home, we all knew the names of relatives. In all seriousness, he said, "When we get back, I'm going to write Roy (my Dad) a letter and tell him you're smoking."
Over the years, I smoked 2 packs a day and became an alcoholic. I can proudly say I have done neither one in 23 years. I think I married someone who scared me as much as Sgt. Boxley. She wouldn't tolerate my drinking.
HOW WE DEAL WITH IT... (Tom Cook, Sr Medic, C Co)
Thanks for giving my phone number to Frank. He always called me TC which not too many people have. He said he had spoken with you for about an hour. Frank got somewhat emotional as did Mike and a bunch more. They never realized there was help and what PTSD was.
We all left something in Viet Nam; mostly our youth. Being Paratroopers, I believe, helped us all in later life. But, with the 4th Battalion it was not just being a Paratrooper, but being a part of a great organization with leadership from the top to the bottom and back up.
I have met veterans that are envious that I served with a complete Battalion which arrived together from the States instead of being a FNG.
Speaking with combat vets, most go to bed with a glass of pure water next to them on a night stand. They might not drink from it but it is there if they want it. No taste of iodine or Kool-Aid. I did it for years. I have known other vets who filled that glass with whiskey. Hopefully, they have found that the water and a good sleeping pill works better, especially at our age.
My big fetish was and is clean socks. If I make a three-day trip I have at least six pairs of socks. Putting on a dry pair of (not always clean) socks in the morning in Viet Nam was almost as good as sex.
TAKING CARE OF HIS BUDDY - RAY LOFTON (Hugh Kelley, B Co)
I have another name to add to the 4/503d casualty list - Ray Lofton, 3rd Platoon, B Company. He drowned August 23, 1966, during a hasty river crossing. The river was swift and deep. We used a single rope bridge. Ray volunteered to carry another trooper's gear because his buddy was a weak swimmer. Ray was halfway across the river when he lost his grip and was swept downstream. A couple guys jumped in and tried to save him, but were unable to. We recovered his body the next day submerged under a fallen tree. Ray was from Chattanooga, TN, and was 21 when he died.
THREE MEDAL OF HONOR WINNERS ON TROOP SHIP (Ray Ramirez, D Co)
On the USNS General John Pope, we had 3 members who
would one day receive the Medal of Honor while serving with the 173d. The
original orders for the 4th Battalion that were "cut" in April of 1966, did not
include Glenn English and Lazslo Rabel. I have a copy of an
additional set of orders with about 12 names of people that were added to the
4th Bn. and Glenn English and Lazslo Rabel are listed.
Lazslo was in A Co. and Glenn was in HHC, S-3 Section, drove the 3/4 ton truck and was an RTO. Glenn died on a later tour serving with the 3d Bn in about 1970. Lazslo died while serving with the 74th Inf. Det. LRP. Glenn is buried at Ft. Bragg, NC, and Lazslo is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Don Leslie Michael, C Company, died during Operation Junction City and is buried in Lexington, AL. His sister is Sharon Goens and we have been in touch with her and another sister who lives in Alabama.
JERRY HAGUE’S WALLET (Jesse Rizzo, B Co)
Jerry Hague and I served together on the
machinegun team of weapons squad of B Company’s 1st platoon. I
think Jerry arrived in country around August, 1966. We were on many operations
together assigned to the same gun. Jerry and I had a lot in common and became
good buddies. On Junction City 11, April 7th to be exact, I was wounded in an
ambush and evacuated to a hospital near Saigon. After my recovery, I was given
the option of going home or staying and rotating with my unit. I chose to stay
and rotate with the 4th Battalion.
On or about May 20, 1967, Jerry was wounded and evacuated to the same hospital I had been in. I went to see him a few days later and was at his hospital bed for about an hour. He had been shot in the chest and was stitched from his belly button to his neck. He had breathing and feeding tubes in his month and nose. Although groggy and barely conscious, he looked at me and gave a big smile. We spoke very little, however, because he could hardly talk His wallet was on the side table and his signaled to me to take his wallet for safe keeping.
As it turned out, Jerry died a few days later and his body was sent home. I rotated with the 4th Battalion on June 5, 1967 and brought the wallet with me. I tried to find Jerry’s family to return the without success.
I put the wallet away, but every so often over the years, I would take it out and tell my children about Jerry and our time together on the machine gun.
During the 173d reunion in Reno in 2005, I asked Ray Ramirez to help find the Hague family. Ray did. Thanks to Ray, I finally made contact with Jerry’s first and oldest son, Thad Hague. After several phone conversations with Thad, we agreed that I would go to River Falls, WI, and to return the wallet to Jerry’s family. In 2006, after almost 40 years, I finally returned the wallet at a ceremony organized by the Chapter of 173rd in River Falls, WI. The wallet was give to Jerry’s grandson who has the same name as Jerry.
The whole experience was very emotional and it took me several months to get back to normal.
JOHN ROCHFORT WHO BECAME A BAPTIST MINISTER (Mike Strange, C Co) I'm not surprised to find John (Rock) is a minister. In an environment where profanity was the number one language, English second, and Vietnamese third, I never heard him utter a single bad word.
TIME FLIES (Mike Strange, C Co)
When I served in Vietnam, I was 19. In 15 minutes, my grandson will be here at my office. Where did time go?
Author: Roger Bray
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