Leon Brown (Rap Brown)
Year(s) in Nam:
Contact Info Available?:
Tell me about the time you found out you're going to Vietnam up to the time you left for Vietnam.
Memories!! I was stationed at MCAS Kaneohe Bay when I got the word that I
was going to be ordered to VEE - ET - NAM. I was in
Headquarters-Headquarters Squadron (H&HS) 1st MAW and I was assigned as an
MP. I was on duty at the time, when a SSGT came into the guard shack and
informed everyone present that all personnel aboard MCAS Kaneohe who had an
MOS of 0311 were being evaluated for transfer to duty with the divisions
currently serving in RVN. Anyone who had returned from RVN in a year, or
less would more than likely not get orders. All others, especially those
who had not been over the pond, would definitely go. Within a week, I had
the orders in hand. This was right around Christmas, 1967. Merry Fucking
When I was got the official word, I had to pack up my wife and my three week
old son; all my stuff (my 14in. black and white Sears TV; my Temptations
record albums; 2 pairs of Converse sneakers that I bought at Gitmo; and a
Nehru Jacket) and ship it all home to Connecticut. I sent my wife home
first carrying my son aboard a commercial airliner and I had to wait for
Military transportation to San Diego. When she walked up that stairway to
the plane, I was the loneliest man on earth.
It truly was ironic. When I was with the Sixth Marines at Camp Lejeune and
in the Caribbean, 18 years old and single, I volunteered. I didn't get
orders. Instead, I was ordered to Hawaii for two years (supposedly). I got
married, had just had a child and when I got the orders. I really didn't
want to go. When I was on leave, I got a lot of flak from guys I grew up
with. You have to remember this was 1968 and they were really into the
Civil Rights Movement. There was the Nation Of Islam, the NAACP, CORE the
fledgling Black Panther Party and all that was "the world" at that time.
The message was, this was another white man's war and if I couldn't even get
a home loan, why should I fight? I had a brand spanking new family. I was
under a lot of pressure. But I was a Marine and that's what I signed on to
do. I couldn't allow myself to do anything else. Regardless of the stakes.
That's just the way it was. It was hard - very hard - to leave my family.
Everything was secondary to my family!! But I went. A little more than a
week after I got there, I celebrated my 21st birthday. Happy Fucking
Birthday. Somebody buy me a beer.
Tell me something about your time in Vietnam.
I don't remember the entire
sequence of my arrival but I do remember getting off the plane in Danang and
pallets of 55 gallon drums of Formaldehyde were stacked up along the runway.
I thought to myself, this is not a good sign.
I remember being with McC filling up canteens at a well in a ville
somewhere near Phu BAi when an AK opened fire on us. We shot up the whole
area getting the hell out of there. I remember when McC and Frenchy got
hit. Lefty and I helped put them onto the chopper. Right after that I
remember moving with the rest of the squad near what I think was an old
French House and an AK opened up on us. I could see the muzzle. It seemed
like the rounds were zipping all around us. I don't know why, but nobody got
hit. I remember I got a mouth full of sand trying to get down below ground
level. There were a zillion NVA out there behind Phu Bai. We had tanks
and Ontos and Amtracs and all kinds of stuff and we were still getting
picked off. S and me were a fire team.
I remember when Sknr was killed. I was numb for a long time after that.
I remember when Hck was killed. I remember the guys talking about how
Lt. I decided to come back out to the bush. He was going to 1st
platoon. It seems like a short time after that, he was killed. I remember
guys being killed and I didn't even know their names.
I remember the whole company moving at night and a woman coming up onto the
road calling for a Corpsman She was saying Bacsi over and over and it looked
liken she had a baby in her arms. The whole column stopped. She ran off
the road and three AK's opened fire on one side of the column. Rounds were
I remember getting stranded in some little village. It rained for days. I
mean it really rained. It was like in the story of Noah's Ark. It was
raining so hard you couldn't even see 10 yards. I was inside a hooch on a
little hill with three other guys and we were surrounded by water. Choppers
couldn't get out to us. We ate everything we could find in the ville.
Every time it rains hard now, I think of that.
I remember thinking that nobody had a plan. The whole war was just day to
day. We would hustle onto a chopper with no seats and no windows, not
knowing where the hell we were going, fly off into the wild blue and end up
in some God forsaken little village. I remember one time coming into an LZ
and rounds came up through the floor of the chopper. That got my attention!
I remember K telling me to try to learn some of the words that the
villagers use and try to figure out what the hell they were talking about.
The people were just waiting for a chance to blow us away. I remember when
he got hit in the forearm. He was so glad to be going home he was showing
everybody the bullet hole. I remember September 11th.
Tell me about your first few days back in the USA
I went to several hospitals en route home and two months after I got hit, I finally ended up back in the states in St. Albans Naval Hospital in New York. I was there for about three months. I remember when I first got settled in, I was lying in bed watching TV and it occurred to me how much we Americans really take for granted. I was happy to have little things like television, ice, hot water, food on a plate, clean clothes, telephone calls, toothpaste and all those things that I hadn't had in a while. I was back in the world. I appreciated how true that really was. I was getting better, I was up and around, and I was glad to be home. I knew I would be getting out of the Corps soon and I had to start thinking about what I was going to do with myself. There wasn't too much demand in Connecticut for guys who could throw hand grenades.
Tell me about you today, and how Vietnam has influenced what you do and how you live today..
Has my time in Vietnam influenced me? My tour had a tremendous impact on me. First of all, I learned the real meaning of the word LIFE. Then, I lived day by day. Today, I live every day! For the most part, I can get around the small stuff and I can ignore stupidity but I can and will go toe to toe with anyone, anytime, anyplace for however long it takes, to maintain my integrity. But I shouldn't have to. I paid my dues.
How do I live today? I live in a small town in an old New England house. The local coffee shop is filled with familiar, friendly faces. Everything is still secondary to my family. With corporate "downsizing -rightsizing-outsourcing-acquisitioning" and all that nonsense, after 26 years in the electric power industry, I find myself retired and in September 2000, I became a full time "college kid." I've done everything I had to do. Now, I'm going to do what I want to do.
Give me a 1 or 2 liner about anything you want to say.
Its like anything else in life. You take your lumps and you move on. I have no regrets. I only have one comment. Somebody should lock Jane Fonda up!!
Don't Let The Memory Of Them Drift Away
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