It was a time when his Country called.
The Army trained him in the finest and latest combat skills of the time yet his enemy would live in the ground and fight with weapons that time forgot. He was about to enter a life of experiences he could never have begun to imagine.
His Mom through her tears told him to be careful and keep his head down, his Dad told him to do his best and come back to them when he's done .He put his old Navy Wings into his son's pocket and said, "You bring `em back, OK?" The son nodded and turned away and took the first step into the rest of his life.
When he stepped off the Starlifter at Tan Son Nhut, he became an FNG. At CAV Charm School he's told what he can to do, not do, and who not to do it with.Then he gets his orders Charlie Troop, 1st of the 9th Air Cav. The others look at him as if he has drawn the Ace of Spades from the deck of life.
The legend of the Ia Drang and "lifers" would shake their heads at the mention of 1st of the 9th. He had heard of incredibly high mortality rates of these men called crazy, but courageous. For a moment, he wondered, "Should he raise his hand and ask for a second choice?" He knew from all he heard, he was essentially a replacement for a body bag going home
In the coming days and months, he would grow in areas most men would never know. He quickly acquired a "taste for Charlie's blood" a hooch mate took a .51 in the face. Finally his 50 hours were over and he became Cavalier 16, Scout Platoon, "C" Trp, 1/9.
The days were endless and the nights were longer When sleep came it might be in a hooch, his LOH, or a clay pit at an LZ taking incoming. He ate out of a bag, peed in a can and tried to stay up-wind of the "honey buckets".
In no time, he learned that happiness is a fully automatic weapon, preferably belt fed. Since his "Snake Pilot" had the "funny papers," he never really knew where he was.
He saw men, women and children die every imaginable death and went back for more. He lost friends and non-friends alike, but it didn't matter a little piece of him died too.
When his day came, the Big Six let him and his crew "pass go and collect their $200", banged up, but the crew would fight again and the Army's inventory was less one LOH
Elephant grass and morning dew would tell him when and how many had moved through. Flying sideways into the wind would lead him to pack animals and Charlie's cookouts.He'd drop Willy Petes in three potential LZs, but the insertion would be in a fourth. His helmet carried the crease of an AK round and he kept his Ithaca .45 caliber grease gun close by.
His days were filled with adrenalin and his nights with scotch and insomnia.He saw friends hanging in their straps dead. He saw open flesh after incoming but nothing prepared him for the day he flew into a .51 cal trap and lost his crew.
Today he has memories and he has nightmares. Several times a month he sits in a VA Clinic waiting for substandard care. He watches other old men reliving their memories and getting their drugs for the pain.
Freedom's cost is high, but if called, he would grab his Cav hat and mount up once again.
To honor and remember our fallen brothers and to acknowledge with love and respect, our brothers and sisters who still wear the "Crossed Sabers" proudly.