I guess many of our friends and neighbors need a day such as Memorial Day to remember and honor veterans who have passed on.
I guess many of our friends and neighbors need a day such as Memorial Day to remember and honor veterans who have passed on. Then, there are those of us who remember almost daily those veterans who have passed.
I personally remember certain veterans who have passed, not for any reason other than the impact they have had on my life. I remember an 18-year-old draftee who had been with my platoon for less than a month. This young soldier stepped on a booby-trap, causing a hand grenade to explode between his legs. In spite of the efforts of two medics, it was impossible to staunch his bleeding. I shall never forget the last words of this dying 18-year-old when with his last breath he cried Mama, Mama! I think of his mother; I think of the wife he never had; and I think of the children and grandchildren who never were. This is what Memorial Day is to me.
I remember a 24-year-old fellow platoon leader whom we all called "Martin." Lt. Martin was the only son of an only son and the rumor was that such an individual should not even be in Vietnam. Nevertheless Lt. Martin was in Vietnam, served ably as a platoon leader, was kind to his men, and a friend to all of us.
Some folks seemed eager to engage us in a forceful, messy debate. The mortar platoon was firing upon these folks while several of us platoon leaders were busy reviewing our maps, discussing the best options to silence these folks. Suddenly there was a short round, a mortar round which fell short of its assumed path, landing in the middle of our group. Even though four of us were standing in this group, Lt. Martin took the brunt of the explosion and was killed instantly. The rest of us were untouched. You wonder why you were untouched yet a man who seemed destined for greater things died in a dry rice paddy in Vietnam. All I can say is what a waste.
I remember another 18-year-old who was walking "point" for his platoon as we began a movement into a suspicious village, suspicious because we had been advised by our battalion commander and his staff that a battalion of Vietcong/NVA was in this village and had been operating in the area since the mid-1950s when they were struggling with the French.
Back to the young man whose name in the company was "Montana." No, he wasnít from Montana, he was from New Mexico. He was Mexican-American and the men had trouble with his name so they identified him simply as Montana, a quiet, unassuming soldier who always had a smile on his face and would help anyone do anything, the first man to volunteer as he had this very morning.
It was ominously quiet until the moment when our opponents detonated a Chinese/communist Claymore mine. And it was a hot day so Montana and many of the men had not closed their flak jackets and were merely wearing them as you would a hunting vest, open in the front. The Claymore hit Montana in the chest and he died instantly.
With that, a three-day contest began with our capable opponents. The outcome? We won and we lost! We won three villages with hundreds of rice patties and several graveyards. We lost men such as Montana, he with a gentle smile, a man whom Iím sure would have been a quiet leader in his community had he been given the opportunity.
I will not go to the beach, or a cookout, or a parade. I will sit quietly and remember the men I knew.
It wonít be long now until I see these men again and tell them to their face how important their memories have been in my life and how much I have looked forward to seeing them again. Till then, I am so proud to have served with men such as these.
Delta company/2nd Battalion/5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, 1967-1968
Carolina Veteran Support Group