Vietnam Tour 1966 - 1967
A Draft Invitation to Vietnam
In 1963 my future husband and I had already planned on getting married. Just at that time he got a letter from the Draft Board notifying him that he needed to go for his Military Physical. When he went for his physical they were told, whoever is not married by Monday would get drafted. Knowing that Vietnam was starting to be an issue, our wedding sped up lightning speed to that weekend in Reno...
Unfortunately 3 years later in 1966 the Vietnam conflict was not over, it only got worse, we never thought it would last that long...so he got his draft notice invitation for Vietnam.
Of course all I could hear were my mom's words, "don't ever get married to a man that has to go to war!" I suppose she said that because she married my dad during the war and did not want us to go through what she did.
So now our lives and the families lives have been turned upside down, we had to endure the pain of being separated, not hearing from him for a while, total fear of the unknown, what will happen to him, and of course not having control of the situation...it's not like nowadays were you can use a computer, Skype or phone, I'm not saying it makes it easier, but you have a bit of control.
Processed into the draft
and the unforeseen events
The morning my husband was leaving for the induction center in Oakland California., we went to breakfast with his family, this also was where the bus would pick up the guys. It was a tearful goodbye and my heart ached.
Waiting all day for a possible phone call from him was draining. I just wanted to hear his voice and know what was going on. And then the phone rang, it was him! He was telling me about that day and the fact he was in the Army, they went 1-2-3-4 you are in the Army 1-2-3-4 your are in the Navy....now that was weird! Then...he mentioned that the processing center lost his paperwork and all his new belongings that I had packed...inculding the love letter to him. Because they couldn't process him with the rest of the guys, he had to stay overnight and go back the next day.
Oh boy, can you see me driving 10 miles to Oakland at a high rate of speed in our 1955 souped up Chevy? I can't believe I did not get a ticket...but the reward was, I got to spend one more night with him!
Staying at Ft.Irwin California - lucky us!
I was blessed to have been able to stay for three months with my husband at Ft.Irwin in the California Mohave Desert. We were lucky enough that there were openings for housing. It made us so happy to be able to be together before he shipped out, even though just for a few months.
The USNS Barrett - an old cruise ship made into transport ship
My husband said he never had been on a big ship, well here was his chance! Let me tell you neither one of us were happy...a Cruise Ship it was not, but interestingly enough it had been a cruise ship at one time!
I had found out where the USNS Barrett was docking. I drove down to Port Alameda and there I found the ship...I saw the guys getting on board with all their gear and hoped to get a glimpse of my hubby, that was till the MP's came and told me I was not allowed to be there, and that I had to go back over the barricades...so much for security....desperate wives do desperate things.
Events written by my husband
In January 1966 I reported for my draft by going to the induction center. I had been married for three years and it was difficult for me to leave my wife
I was sent to Ft. Irwin CA. for basic training and after basic I was sent to advanced training to prepare for my assignment to Vietnam. Completing that training, Pvt. Ken Sanders and I were hand picked by Sgt. Upton Ashley to be part of his Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) crew. Training together for six months we developed a close relationship, like bothers. Sgt. Ashley was a career soldier who had a habit of always volunteering for assignments.
We deployed to Vietnam on a ship USNS Barrett, an old troop transport ship. At sea we ran into a Typhoon and for two days I thought the ship would break in half. This was probably my first fear. After 27 days at sea we arrived in Vung Tau at night, you could see in the distance flares going off and tracer rounds from aircraft firing on enemy positions. There were two Battalions on the ship and you could hear a pin drop, everyone realizing this wasn't another training exercise...this was the real thing.
Landing at Vung Tau ~ in country Vietnam
The next morning the two Battalions went on shore except for six of us, myself, Pfc. Ken Sanders, Sgt. Upton Ashley and three men from the 11th Cav. We were sent on a large barge down the Saigon River with all the supplies. The tugboat that was towing us would anchor us in the middle of the river at night, not returning to us till daybreak. During the night we were sitting ducks receiving sniper fire from shore. This really put fear in me, I was a nervous wreck. I didn't understand how they could put us in this position....we could have been overrun because we didn't have the fire power to fight back..
It took three days to reach Saigon harbor. When we were docking a small boat pulled in front of our barge, they proceeded to put a plank onto the barge trying to board. We drew our weapons on them and they turned around and left. We were scared having no idea what our next move would be. After several hours we finally made contact with Military personal informing them we had just arrived in country, being the advanced party with the supplies for the 2nd 34th Armor Battalion heading for Long Bihn. Our supplies finally were loaded on three separate trucks with Vietnamese drivers. It was late in the evening and we agreed to remain close to each other when going through Saigon not to lose each other. But that did not work out, we got separated because of all the people and traffic. It was pitch dark and we had no idea where we were at. All of a sudden the Vietnamese driver tells me in broken English, that he didn't know where Long Bihn was. The truck was stopped in the middle of nowhere, in panic I chambered a round in my M-14 rifle and told the driver if anyone approached our vehicle he would be dead. I put the barrel of my rifle to his head...and suddenly his memory came back!
Finally arriving in Long Bihn I turned the driver in to my superiors informing them of what had transpired. When the other trucks arrived. they also had the same experiences, we had been set up for an ambush. All this in the first week in country, made me even more of a nervous wreck.
After the first month we went on search and destroy missions, on a mission to Cu Chi I experienced my first mortar attack. I can't begin to tell you the horror of those mortar rounds hitting all around me, the sound of small arms going off everywhere. Hearing the screams of guys being wounded and losing some of the men in this attack
Nov 3, 1966
The pain endured
Nov. 3, 1966 not long after we where in country our Recon Platoon was given a mission to go to Lai Kai to escort a convoy of 100 vehicles to Saigon. We traveled Highway 13 better known as Thunder Road, so called because of all the land mines and vehicle litter on the side of the road. As we left the village of Dian towards Lai Kai about half an hour on highway 13 I hit a 500 lb. mine detonated by a Vietcong in a well nearby. The APC I was driving weighed 11,000 lbs and the mine blew it into the air and blew me out of it. I was unconscious for awhile, but then heard my platoon firing their weapons all around me. I got their attention so they wouldn't fire at me. I climbed on another APC and started firing one of the weapons on board. When the Platoon Sgt. called to cease fire they had to pull me away from the weapon, which I had burnt out the barrel...I was in such a rage.
I went over to my Track that was hit by the mine, it was burning and all the ammunition was still going off. I was so out of it I went to the APC and pulled Pfc. Sanders away from the wreck, my Sargent was trapped and half his body was gone. The med-evac helicopter came to take me to the hospital and laying at my feet in a poncho was my friend and brother Pfc.Ken Sanders. I can't describe the pain I felt having to ride with him at my feet like that.
When I was in the Hospital for my wounds I wrote to my wife letting her know what happened. In my letter I expressed to her that Nov. 3,1966 was the luckiest and saddest day of my life. God was with me and spared me for some reason. While still in the hospital I had been given a direct order to write the families of Pfc.Sanders and Sgt.Ashley letting them know what happened. How do you write to someones spouse who has lost her husband and explaining to her how he was killed...and that I'm the only survivor of that attack. These two KIA's were the very first casualties of our battalion. I think of my brother's daily and try to honor them by being part of Veterans organizations by helping other Vets.
Stationed at Fort Carson Colorado Springs, CO - 1967 - 1968
When my husband came back from Vietnam he was stationed in Ft.Carson ~ Colorado Springs CO .....we lived there till he was released from the service.
In Their Memory - a Tribute on the WallClick thumbnail to view full-size
Hubby with his very good friend CSM Curtis Patton - R & R in Saigon
R.I.P. 1/17/1932 - 6/12/2014
Command Sergeant Major Curtis C. Patton
There are no words that can express the sorrow we feel for the passing of Command Sergeant Major Curtis C. Patton ~
We had him in our lives for over 48 years. He was loving, kind and a true friend.
My husband will be forever grateful for the special irreplaceable bond...this because of the event they both had hencountered.
My husband had visited Sergeant Patton before his death. They planned together his uniform and pallbearers For the funeral. Al had the privilege and honor of being one of the pallbearers. The funeral was very hard on my husband and of course this made it even harder for me. We had been invited by his wife to stay with her and help with the funeral and burial ceremony at a Riverside Military Cemetary.
He will be deeply missed and will forever be in our hearts.
Tribute to a Brother ~ Korean Vet. ~ March 15,1931 ~ Aug. 30,2012
Ben was only 16 years old when he joined the Army, this against his mothers wishes. He went to Korea serving as a paratrooper, he earned two Bronze Stars, all this at such a young age.
We learned of his death while in Paris, and were not able to make it back for the funeral. As heartbroken as my husband was, he took it as a sign from God that this was to be, making it less painful on the loss.
Benny was a fun guy, very expressive of his opinion about everything. The later part of his life was filled with illnesses, but a happiness brought on by his second wife that fulfilled him.
He loved to go parachuting on his Birthdays, even when he got up in age he enjoyed the thrill.
RIP dear Benny, and someday we will all be together again.
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Created on 01/11/2013