Year(s) in Nam:
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Tell me about the time you found out you're going to Vietnam up to the time you left for Vietnam.
I knew I was going but that was the farthest thing from my mind in boot camp.
I remember when everybody was getting their MOS and then it started to hit
me that Vietnam was right around the corner. The senior drill instructor was
calling out your name and then your MOS, at first I thought I might have a
chance for something other than you know what, but low and behold he bellowed
out "WARREN ......0311" huh oh, then it hit me.
After that it was off to ITR & BITS. I don't know if I blocked it out or was
so involved in the training regimen that I really don't think I thought that
much about it. I can't remember now if I got leave after that or not, I
think I did, then on to staging. I don't think any of the guys that I hung
around with in staging had been to Nam yet. In fact only two of the drill
instructors I had had been over there. I remember the night my parents took
me back to Pendleton, my Dad was speeding on I-5 and was stopped by a CHiP.
He laid the big one on him, you know," I'm late taking my son back to the
base and he's shipping out for Vietnam in the morning", and off we went, no
I think it was the next day that we headed for El Toro on buses. We flew out
that night on a Continental Airlines 707 headed for Okinawa. I still don't
think the full impact of were I was going and what I was going to do had hit
me yet, all I knew was that I would end up in Vietnam.
Tell me something about your time in Vietnam.
The first thing I remember stepping of the plane in Da Nang on arrival from
Okinawa was the smell and humidity. It smelled like a sewer and the sweat
was pouring of me by the time I reached the bottom of the stairs. I still
didn't have a clue of what was really yet to come.
I just barely remember the first few days, maybe a week, at Chu Lai, checking
in at Delta's company office, eating in the mess tent, I don't even remember
sleeping. (One thing I do remember was being called boot the first month.
Union I & II changed that!) Next thing I remember was being issued an M-16
with the rest of the guys, (they had to turn in their 14's) getting on six
by's and heading for Tam Ky. The Que Son Valley was our objective, and
kicking out the NVA was our mission. Does anybody remember the 175's the
Army had at Tam Ky? Anyway, the next thing I know, we're jumping on 34's
heading for the valley.
Not sure what day it was, but maybe the second or third day out, the second
or third man in the lead column was hit and killed by a sniper. I remember
walking past his cold lifeless body and it finally hit me, this was Vietnam
and that guy is really dead, this stuff is for real. I knew then that I was
going to do whatever I had to to stay alive. I wanted to get back across the
big pond, back to the real world. I did everything I was told, no more, no
less (most of the time).
The thing that still haunts me to this day is why me? Why did I make it back
and they didn't? Seems like I think more about what happened over there more
often than I have in the past. I still see their faces and remember the good
times as well as the bad that we had. It makes me sick when I think about
the guys that didn't make it home and how they were betrayed by their
Tell me about your first few days back in the USA
I didn't go through some of the crap that a lot of guys had to put up with
when they got back to the U.S. You know the name calling and such, we had to
stop and refuel at Travis AFB which is around the Bay Area, they didn't let
us off the plane. We fueled, took off and headed for El Toro, MCAS.
I had already planned to surprise my parents. They knew I would be home any
day but didn't know what day for sure. I remember catching a cab from El
Toro and having the guy drop me off at a neighbors house down the street from
my parents house. I left my sea bag there and headed home to see what kind of
homecoming I would receive. It was funny, as I rounded the corner to my
parents, I saw these two girls about three houses down the street standing
and immediately noticed that one was my sister. At first I said to myself,
there's Marilyn, then I looked again and what a change had come over this
young girl. She was twelve when I left and now she was thirteen going on
sixteen, you know what I mean. I couldn't believe how she had changed in
just over a year.
Anyway, as I walked up to the front door I passed the large plate glass
window of our front room and could see my Dad setting in his rocking chair.
As soon as he saw me he jumped up and ran to the door and put his big arms
around me like he'd never done before. It was quite emotional as you could
imagine. My aunt and uncle just happened to be over visiting so it was great
for them also to be able to see me. My mother, who had taken a job to keep
her mind somewhat off of me while I was gone was still at work. I had come
home on Mother's Day so as you can imagine it was a special day for her. It
was a big surprise for her too, as you can imagine, when she got home.
I went around and saw all my old buddies, but things were different. It was
impossible to relate or tell them about what had happened over there, so I
just buried it. The whole F*#%@! thing, I just buried it........
Tell me about you today, and how Vietnam has influenced what you do and how you live today..
I got an early out to attend college but got so sick of the anti war rhetoric
and crap they were saying that I said forget this college nonsense and got a
job. Really wish I'd have stayed. I had numerous good jobs but couldn't seem
to keep one for long. I got pretty wasted for years but finally settled down
and found a good woman who put up with a lot of shit from me. Twenty nine
years later and she's still with me, I don't know why, but sure am glad she
is. When I look back know, I think the experience in Nam effected me and
ultimately us more than I want to admit. We were only able to have one
child, who's now 26. He's back living with us for now, he's a good kid.
I've been in the transportation business since 1972 and with the same company
for the last 21 years. I've worked myself up from a driver to the Manager of
the drivers. I have ninety of them that I'm responsible for. It's a tough
job sometimes, it was so much easier just punching a clock before. I think
the Nam experience and the time in the Corps gave me the strength to survive,
cause that's what I am, a survivor. I still get down once in a while and
seems as though I think more about what happened over there more all the
time. I sure am glad that I found the guys that know what it was like over
there and can relate like no one else ever could. There's a bond that time
Give me a 1 or 2 liner about anything you want to say.
Life is to short to worry about the small stuff. I do get tired of people
complaining about shit that doesn't matter. I mean when bullets are whizzing
by and morters are dropping on your head, now that's something to get worried
Don't Let The Memory Of Them Drift Away
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