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Sunday, December 06, 2015

"Just a Thought" Column continues in La Prensa of SA, 12-6

Just a Thought: My tour in Vietnam
By Steve Walker

With the 74th annual celebration tomorrow honoring those who died and survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the recent celebration of Veteran’s Day honoring all veterans of all wars, I am reminded of my own military service.

In 1970, my worst nightmare occurred. I was unceremoniously deployed to South Vietnam. After graduating from Texas Wesleyan College (now University) in Fort Worth in 1969 and voted “Most Likely to Succeed,” I was inducted into the Army September 8th of that year. 

How do you define success? Certainly it was not my idea of success when I found myself in jungle fatigues in the northern area of South Vietnam in a city called Phu Bai, being shot at all the time. It was the home of the 101st Airborne Rangers affectionately referred to as the “Screaming Eagles,” in reference to their arm patch insignias on their uniforms. Those of us not a part of the “Screaming Eagles” referred to them as the “Puking Buzzards!” That is yet another story.

Well after three draft notices, in 1966, 1967 & finally 1969, I finally gave up trying to stay out of the Army to pursue a career and enlisted for active duty. What was I thinking?

My faulty logic at the time was that I was a college graduate and if I enlisted I would not be sent to Viet Nam since only non-college draftees were deployed. Or so I thought. Not bad for a college graduate who had the world at his disposal. Well obviously the faulty logic didn’t kick in and there I was trying to figure out what happened as I processed into my unit the 148th Supply & Service Company.

Turns out my new unit supplied the Northern I Corps as we called it with graves registration, Bakery, Laundry, and Class One Yard. (Supplies to build 8-man “hootches,” offices, post office, command posts and any other building that needed to be erected) 

We also supplied all the food for the northern quadrant of South Vietnam. We were 40 miles from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that crossed over into North Vietnam. Those who lived in North Vietnam were called the Viet Cong, our enemies.

We engaged them on many occasions. We were constantly barraged with mortars and incoming rounds on a weekly basis. I was once assigned to go on a “mine sweep” of the area to detect explosives and hidden land mines. Fortunately I never encountered any.

During my one year “tour” of an exotic country, I spent most of my time praying a lot, ducking and counting down the days to go home.

My job assignment of all things was unit mail clerk. In other words I was the mailman who delivered the “Dear John,” letters. Who knew? Now I understand where the term “going postal” came from.

When a soldier received a “Dear John Letter,” the comment was always that “Jody got your girl.” Those in the military know exactly what I am talking about. The sad news is that I believe I was the only unit mail clerk in country who delivered his own “Dear John” letter. That was really rude if you ask me.

Oh I forgot. Just before I deployed I got married. Obviously that turned out well. I did eventually get over it 18 years later! Some of us are slower at processing bad news.

Anyway, as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.

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