I was retained at Ft. Sill, OK after AIT (advanced individual training) to serve as and AI (assistant instructor). It was a great duty about half way between my hometown and Dallas, TX. I enjoyed being there as much as any Army duty would be possible to enjoy.
That was in ’67, so, we had lots of guys rotating back from among the first artillery unite into ‘Nam. Lots of war stories floated around. I believe on thing that most of us uninitiated (no combat experience) wondered was just how would we react. We figured we had three outcomes: 1) we could work our weapon — 105mm howitzer — under fire, 2) we would run bury our heads in the sand, or 3) we would piss our pants and then load the damn guns…
Much as we laughed, lied, or dreamed, we were young men, mostly of courage. All young men of substance speculate on their courage. When there is an active war going-on, what better place to find out of what you are made?
Every month one or two would come down on levy for Vietnam. Lots of artillery replacements went out of Germany and Korea. Of course, these guys just packed, took some leave to go home & then shipped.
I watched this go on for a few months. Like I said, I was satisfied enough there at Sill. But my head went ’round & ’round about the question of, “what would I do?” When first under hostile fire, that is. Would I have the nerve required?
One other thing of consequence was that this is the only opportunity I would ever have to participate in a war. This was it…never again would I pass this way again. Combine this with the courage thing…
In the end it was just over-powering. One morning I went over to the HQ building and told the First Sargent I wanted to volunteer for ‘Nam. He was a good guy. There was a big ragged scar across his face from WW II fighting. He tried to talk me out of it, but gave-in and wrote it out. I signed the CO signed and a month later I got orders.
Actually, I got my orders from my application and also came down on the general levy. I had two sets of orders to take over with me.
When it was all over & I was home, done with active duty, I could never see what the big deal was. I did fine like almost every man who served there. It took years for me to remember what a big deal it was for me back then. But with the perspective of all these years, I think it was important, very important, to me. If I had not that question of courage would likely have haunted me the rest of my life.
It turned out the settling of that ‘important’ question didn’t amount to much. I just lived through it all. But, I believe a lot of the people out there still have that hanging over their heads. The way I am treated when somebody finds out I was in -The ‘Nam- you an almost see that unanswered question in the back of their mind. I did do it, I made it, and those folks will never know if they could’a/would’a.