David L. Lopez
San Antonio, Texas
After high school I enlisted in the US Army at the age of 19. Most of my neighborhood and high school friends were getting drafted. I wanted to serve my country as my father and uncles did during World War II so I volunteered.
In 1967 I finished my basic training and Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) at Fort Polk, Louisiana. In 1968 I was sent to Vietnam and landed in Cam Ranh Bay. I was assigned to the 15th Combat Engineers Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division at Dong Tam in the Mekong Delta region.
The Mekong Delta area was primarily made up of rice paddies so my feet always felt wet and cold especially during the monsoon season. Trying to keep my feet with dry socks was always a challenge. To this day, my feet remain cold most of the time.
As a combat engineer we used gigantic bulldozers and other heavy equipment to scrape the rice paddies clean of the lush vegetation and drain the water so that airstrips could be built. We also used explosives to demolish areas of land to make way for building base camps. We would replace blown up bridges with portable bridges that could be used by our troops.
I would say one very unforgettable moment was the loss of my friend Sp/ 4 Mark (don’t remember his last name) from Tennessee. He was killed in one of many attacks and mortar fires we received by the Viet Cong trying to over run our base at Dong Tam. Mark took a direct hit on the bunker he was in. I was in a different bunker about 25 meters away. We were scheduled to go on R & R together in a few days of which he did not get to go. The sounds of fireworks and smell of smoke haunt me sometimes.
I left Vietnam in 1969. Upon arriving home I was greeted by my brother and sister-in-law and 3 of their kids; no signs, no flags, nothing. It was good I did know better.
I am so proud to have served my country and in the military. Since my retirement from Civil Service, I have been a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans LAC-Kel Chapter #114 in Helotes, Tx. I have served as an officer as the Sr. Vice-Commander for the last 3 years. I honor Mark by helping men and women who served our country.