UNIT: Civilian Life
SITUATION: Fueling the Stress
LOCATION: life in Texas
TIME: The Mid 1960s
Hot, swampy, relentless. That is how hot it was on my first day in-country. Hot, swampy, relentless. Every day, Vietnam was hot-swampy-relentless, no other way to describe it. The country was beautiful but the weather was impossible. That’s how I remember my first day in-country. I have never experienced anything like it anywhere else that I have been. Hot-swampy-relentless, 24 hours a day. That’s the Vietnam that I remember.
That first day I was at Cam Rahn Bay. I was on my way to my first duty assignment at Phu Hiep. I was told as I was processing in that Phu Hiep was only 200 yards from the ocean. I thought, “Great,” but no, Vietnam, at Phu Hiep, was the same old same old hot-swampy-relentless.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a few years. I was born on 10 October, 1947, in Jasper, Texas. Things were pretty much normal for me growing up except for one special location. When I was seven, my parents took me to a fair. The thing that caught my eye there was a helicopter. I ran to the helicopter and begged the pilot to take me for a ride. He said he couldn’t do it unless I had my parents’ permission. I ran to find my parents. I begged and pleaded for them to let me go flying in helicopter. Of course, the result of that effort was negative, so for the rest of my life after that my main goal in life was to be able to fly in a helicopter. Okay, for the next 10 years things were almost normal. I was not an exceptional student. I struggled a little, but I graduated from high school at age 17. I graduated at age 17, not because I was smart, but because I started school at an early age. After graduation, I immediately went to college full-time, and I worked full-time. After about a year and a half, I got married.
Everything was downhill after that. My wife had a dog. It was a bitch. I didn’t like the dog at all. And after a while, I didn’t like my wife either. She didn’t like anything that I did. I would come home from work, and she would start griping at me. When I did not respond the way she thought I should, she called her mother and complained about me, and she put me on the phone with her mother. Then, her mother griped at me. I soon began to think of the two women as I thought of my wife’s dog. As I said, the dog was a bitch.
Three weeks short of our first anniversary, the divorce between me and my wife was complete. I was free of the three Bs. Right after that I decided that I was also tired of going to school full-time and working full-time. I had always wanted to fly a helicopter. I could not afford to pay for the flight school training, and since I had decided to leave college after 2 ½ years, I knew I would lose my student deferment. I knew that if I could qualify to fly helicopters, the Army would teach me for free. So, in 1968, in Cleburne Texas, I joined the Army.
We had been living in Cleburne, Texas, and I was 20 years old. At that young age, I had to get away from all that. On three May, 1968, I figured a tour in the Army would be a piece of cake compared to my previous life style. I reported to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for my boot training in in the US Army. While I was there, I did not realize how much like Vietnam Fort Polk really was. After the three B’s, I felt like I could handle anything.
The training at Fort Polk meant that we recruits would be up really early in the mornings. We would eat chow, do physical training, run all day, march all day, eat chow, run and march some more, attack dummies with fixed bayonets usin...