On June 20, 1969 I reported to Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station, 701 San Jacinto Street, Houston, Texas. And, I wasn’t a happy camper. Matt was a little over 3 months old and being drafted was not what I wanted to have happen. I was inducted into the U.S. Army as a Private (E-1) for 24 months. After hours of questioning, testing, evaluating, probing, and standing or sitting, they formed us into a single line and had us march forward. Every other person was directed to turn right or left when they passed through a door – right was the Army, left was the Marine Corp. Very happy I got to make the right turn. They swore us in and put us on a bus to the airport to board a plane for a trip to El Paso for basic combat infantry training.
I’ll never forget going to the Enlisted Men’s Club to have a beer the evening I arrived in Cam Ranh Bay, Republic of South Vietnam. I bought my beer with my newly acquired military payment certificates (MPC), found a place to sit and the song “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding, one of my favorite songs, started playing on the jukebox. I’ll always remember that song when I think of Vietnam. Along with, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by the Animals.
One afternoon the company clerk came to the shop and said Tops wanted to see me. Tops was our company’s first sergeant and he was the one that actually ran the company. He was a small, wiry, middle age guy that always had a cigar butt in his mouth. I reported in and he told me that I had received the solider of the month award. The award was a 3-day in-country leave at the China Beach R&R Facility located near Da Nang. Talk about being surprised. I didn’t even know there was such an award. Reflecting back though, I did keep my s___ together and went above and beyond doing my job. And, a few weeks earlier, when I reported one evening for guard duty, I was selected as “Número Uno” which probably helped secure the award. Número Uno was selected from the troops that reported for guard as the one with his act most together – clean uniform, polished boots, clean weapon, and knew the rules of standing guard. If you were selected you got to wait at the guard shack instead of going out on some lonely distant place standing guard duty all night, usually by yourself, watching for Charlie.
All in all, I feel like I was privileged to have served in Vietnam. While I wasn’t in the field, so to speak, there were no safe places in Vietnam. Vietnam was a combat zone. Rockets and sappers didn’t really care who you were or what you were doing. And, I did my very best to support those who were out there humping in the boonies.