Navy Vietnam Veteran

Since most of the stories about Vietnam, then and now refer to Army and Marines, most folks have no idea that the Navy was there, in-country and in force. Those of the public who do know we were there think of our presence in PBR's and the Swiftboats that John Kerry made infamous in his 2004 bid for the Presidency. I'm not going to get into that political quagmire except to say that the Swift boats were little more than high-speed water taxis for VIP's. They were made of flimsy aluminum and a mosquito could blast its way through the superstructure.

I received orders to a ship in Vietnam in July 1969, after failing out of Electronics Technician School at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. They gave me three days to get all my shots, pack up my stuff and get on a charter DC-8 at Travis.

When I arrived at the Annapolis Billet in Saigon, I noticed a big hole in the front wall where a satchel bomb had detonated and killed five sailors two days before. That night they gave me an M-14, flak jacket, steel helmet and a couple of clips of bullets. They told me if anyone approached the dumpster I was guarding I was to shoot them. Lucky for me and any would be garbage burglar, they didn't come that night. I had no idea how to use, and could barely lift the rifle.

For the next year I worked on a machine shop converted from an old LST hulk called an ARL. The work was hot, tedious and hard! In the distance we could hear and sometimes see firefights. At night lumbering planes would drop agent orange on the jungles and helicopter gunships would rain tracered lead into the jungles. Part of our job was to help clean up body parts from the Alpha, Tango and Monitor boats.

We witnessed the attempted "Vietnamization," where the RVN soldiers and sailors were to a more aggressive role in their war. Because we were in a non-combat mission we never got R&R, but I did manage three four-hour liberties in Nha Be. Just enough time for a couple of beers, a burger at the club and a short trip to the Gonnerhea infested ***** houses just off base.

Two of my brothers had been in the Army, and thankfully they didn't have to go. They turned out to be fairly normal and had successful careers. My life has mostly been a series of one failure after another. I did manage to stay in the Navy long enough to earn my pension.

When I returned to Conus in 1970, the plane landed at the far end of a runway at Travis. We had to walk to the terminal in 107 degree heat in dress blues, carrying our bags. Thankfully I had shipped my stuff home beforehand and only had one bag. I called my mother from the terminal and asked her to pick me up at an Air Force base near home. She was WAY less than happy about that inconvenience. I was made to feel rejected in every respect, except by my school sweetheart who married me and remains by my side after forty years of flash-backs (I didn't include all my experiences here), depression, alcoholism and failed enterprises.

Thanks to TV heroes like Dan Rather I will never be able to hold up my head, and like my father before me, say I proudly served my country, and my country was proud of my service.
texasbfe texasbfe
61-65, M
7 Responses Nov 20, 2010

Hey brother, I`m a squid too and I put 14 months off the coast and alot of people did`nt know about the carriers over there. Alot of army and marines have told me thanks for helping them out of tight spots. I was Aviation Ordnance and worked on the flight deck and I personally made thousands of pounds of napalm. I brought back alot of memories that I did not plan on and now I`m kind of like you. Now you hold your head up and be proud you served and where you served you have nothing to be ashamed of.

it dont mater what you wer garding you stood fast and did what you had to do you wer braver than a lot to even go glad you made it back

Thanks for all the positive feedback, especially from brother sailors who were there, in country with me. I was there in 69-70 up in the brown water of the Delta in the Vam Co Te and Vam Co Dong rivers. We were supported out of Dong Tam and Nha be. My ship was USS Sphinx. My first clue that I had gotten into the wrong war came when I saw that the ship was painted Formula 23 Marine Green. Life has not been normal for me since. I was there during the attempt at "Vietnamization," a fancy word for trying to get them to fight their own war. I think I did murder two kids when their boat came under the bow of my LCVP while doing picket patrols around the ship. I had been ordered to run them off from the ship's sterm where they were picking through our garbage for something to eat. No courtmartial, no trial. I was guilty and got a ton of extra duty in the shaft alley. I never saw any bodies or debris. This is how my country treated me and how my family still treats me. I think I should have gone to Canada or Mexico with Jimmy Buffet.

I was stationed at Tan Son Nhut Air ba<x>se just outside of Saigon. I had a short TDY to Camp McDermott up by Nha Trang.

hi bean thear was also at AN KHE IN 71 then after the raid we moved to the base at QUI NHON it got prety hot every whear glad you made it back

I'd love to go back to Saigon again and, but I don't travel very well any more. A lot of health concerns and I don't have any NRG (energy). If you go, take a lot of pictures and share them with us when you get back. Have a good trip.

You did your duty and served your country honorably. Thanks for you service. We were the unappreciated veterans of a war in which we were badly led and misguided. We could have won and should have. We never lost a battle in Viet Nam, but because of the political atmosphere, **** poor leadership and micro-management of LBJ, Nixon, Robert McNamera and the so called "measured response" we were forced to fight with one hand tied behind our back. This led to the greatest un-needed sacrifice of so many young men and the butchering and crippling of many more. Even those of us that came home "unscathed' by physical wounds have suffered with PTSD, depression, alcoholism and an inability to cope with life because of psychological scars from just doing what we were required to do. I can remember being called a "BABY KILLER" by a girl I had known before entering service. I told her- I didn't kill any babies over there and she said "you didn't?" Everyone that served in Viet Nam was labeled as if they had been at Me Lai with Lt William Calley and murdered civilians. Instead of being welcomed home with honor, we were insulted, cursed, spit at and excluded from normal society. Forced to serve in the military, but not even allowed to legally buy a beer or vote. This was a criminal injustice perpetrated by the left wing hippie pacifists and our government. Shameful behavior compared to the reception back home of the vets of World War II that had fought the Germans, Italians and Japanese. a generation before. Even so, hold your head high.

Hold your head high sailor you 've earned the Respect and Admiration that was not forthcoming when we returned home.Even though people tell us Thank you for your service, it just doesn't seem to be enough.I still have bad feelings and try to forget .From one vet to another "Job well done,Welcome Home !!