Friday, November 10, 2017


To The Dump!
Television is rarely on here anymore. Not out of the question that it may soon come to pass as the cassette recorder and cassette tapes. Other technology options at hand and available at my whim. Most what I see or hear turns my stomach and the wishing and wanting of good media reporting skills and the news of the day presented w/o bias or colors of larger agendas, is not going to happen. 

I feel as though I am in the quicksand of finally pulling the plug and outing the TV screen. It is only habit and the constant hope that someone will call bulls**t on media false reporting that still brings the TV to on. 

Like the wanting of the old days of watching NFL games. That too is over. Takes three weeks to make or break a habit.

Read any of the "Other Places" shown at the left of this page here. I run these daily along with other stories drilled down from them. I skim mostly. But at the end of morning coffee and reading, I spend a few minutes of pondering before breakfast and an official start to the day. 

I have come to a daily solution of clearing the tables here with one swoop of my hands and arms. Nothing on it less a little dust and a few crumbs from the cookie jar. Each day I make a choice what to put on our/my table.

A.  Protect/love myself, my wife and family. It is up to me. 
B.  Be cognizant of war and being able to survive. 
C.  Prepare to help others as that may evolve.
D.  Continue close friendships and those social interactions. Build on this. 
E.  Find some humor and make it up if I have to.
F.  Love my dog and get us both out of the house daily. 
G.  Cook good meals for nutrition and comfort. Get to chores not yet done!
H.  Help others and continue to teach.
I.   Pray daily and often. 
J.  Live the life I have been given.
Clearing the table is helpful.

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
HILL 875 November 1967
It has been 50 years now, nearly to the day. 

Early November, 1967. We were sent to Dak To where heavy fighting was being reported. We were sent to help provide air gun/rocket fire support for our boys fighting on the ground. Flight school obliged me to a four-year tour of duty instead of the 2 year duty for those who were drafted and I had maybe three weeks left of my one year obligation to fly in-country Vietnam.

C-130s flew in and out of Dak To and it was like watching a textbook video of the type of flying these pilots flew daily. They would land quickly, disembark  passengers and cargo with engines at half-idle. Close the doors and back to the runway for a high-angle takeoff. Meanwhile, the airfield was being mortared daily and nightly from the ridge lines in the background. 

Several mortar rounds dropped on this particular day and were used for bracketing. Shooting a mortar, watching where it landed; adjust and then fire another round, etc. I watched a C130 take a direct hit in the fuselage between the two wings. Everyone got out of this plane to my understanding. That part of the airfield had been mortared and bracketed earlier that day.

We were running low on fuel and were forced to land to refuel at the time all of this was happening. I took this photo from the left seat while we waited our turn at the fuel dump. Maybe the longest time in my life for holding my breath.

We were sent on a round-robin missions flying in support of our boys fighting for hill #875. We were fired at constantly by triangulated 50 caliber machine guns embedded in the surrounding hillsides as we made our gun runs.  We brought everything we had to this fight and could not make a difference. Notice all the 500 pound bomb drops near this fight and those, too, seemingly ineffective.

I can remember as clearly this day this moment. A Medivac was landing to evacuate some of the wounded and (as told to us then over the radio) the Medivac took a hit from an RPG and was shot down on top of the troops who were dug in. The radio traffic between our boys on the ground was horrific with calls for help and the accompanying background noise of gun fire. An inbound Medivac was called off due to heavy enemy fire.

At this particular moment, we had expended all of our rockets and were finishing up M-60 machine gun fire around the hill. Our relief team was a few minutes out. We finished up and returned to base to re-arm and re-load.

The feeling of helplessness in those moments of flying to help those boys haunts me still. The only time in that year of combat flying where we seemingly could not make a difference. All the air support for those boys was not enough during the height of the battle at this moment in time.

It was nearing day break the next morning as I walked to the berms where our helicopters were parked for a pre-flight check. A dirt road/path led the way. A mortar round exploded next to the fence near my location and I hit a small ditch near the path, hands covering my head. I lay there listening, heart pounding. 

I heard the thump of the next round fired and waited for the impact. Again, close to the outside of our perimeter. Again, repeat. I figured out it was friendly fire from our mortars. They would fire from one side of the perimeter to the other side of the perimeter using high angle trajectory with the round exploding just outside a safe distance from our troops.  Any enemy sneaking up on the outskirts of our base could be easily hit using high angle mortar fire.

I stood up, dusted myself off and like a fool, looked behind me to see if anyone was watching how foolish I was. Being on the end of incoming mortar rounds, day after day brings with it new survival behaviors. It was instinctual and nothing to be ashamed of. But I felt embarrassed and a fool at that moment.

Fifty-caliber tracer rounds look like large trucks lumbering up into the sky. The nastiest flight environment I was in during that year of combat flying. We sat on top of our chest protectors to protect ourselves from rounds coming up to the higher altitudes we were flying. 

Pre-flight inspection that morning and prior to another day of round robin support flights, found that we had been hit by a couple of those 50 caliber rounds through our rotor blades the day earlier. Those hits grounded our helicopter till a new set of blades could be brought in and installed. My finger fit easily through those holes.

This was a turning point moment for me. 

My days were short now and it appeared that I just might make it back home after surviving a year of flying more than 800 combat missions in the Vietnam War. 

With just a few days left, I walked into the operations tent and asked our Captain in charge if it would be possible to finish my tour of duty flying re-supply runs between Dak To and Pleiku. After a few minutes he said he would assign me to that duty, shook my hand and said that I had done a good job during my tour of duty. (Something to that affect). In all honesty, I did not expect that. 

That was one of my life lessons in that we rarely get what we do not ask for. It was for the asking that I spent my final flying days training new incoming pilots and running parts, pieces and people on flights we called "milk runs." 

I arrived home in time for Thanksgiving that year and in time to attend the annual football game between rival towns and high schools. One minute flying Army helicopters in combat seven days a week to the next day back home sitting with friends on Thanksgiving day watching a foot ball game. 

I was the only child and that homecoming with my parents still leaves a lump in my throat. I had joined the Army two years earlier having just turned 20 years old. 

I survived that year I believe with over-watch from above. I can find no other reason, especially the older I get.

A full account of that battle

(My mother told me many years later, stories of folks, friends and local townies that shunned them because their son was serving in combat in a controversial war in Vietnam) My parents paid a high price, too, in time of war. I never knew that and probably best they never told me sooner.

A side story- To be home again that first night and to crawl back into my home bed was strange yet very protective. No words. 

Early the next morning, our kitchen telephone rang. An old friend was calling me. The telephone brought me out of bed with bed room door opened and at the ready. To this day, a phone ringing out of the blue puts a momentary knot in my stomach; even 50 years later. 

I had been awakened so many times that year from a dead sleep that required my crew be airborne in less than 15 minutes and en-route to a fire fight. On my first morning home, that telephone call, inside my home, again brought me out of a dead sleep and standing in the kitchen ready for coordinates and contact information. Had to explain that to my folks.)

And if I may! Another story.

Put yourself in my fathers shoes at this moment in his life. His only son flying combat in Vietnam.

Dad was working Swing Shift in a local mill and was on his way to work nearing 4 pm one weekday afternoon. He heads to work turns on the AM radio and hears: "Warrant Officer "my name" while flying combat missions in Vietnam." The radio station moves on to the next story. 

What went through my dads head for the next few minutes must have been one of the most terrible times of his life. 

He pulls over to the side of the street and stops the car. Runs up the stairs of a strangers home and knocks on the door. He asks for help saying that he just heard his son's name regrading something that had happened to him in Vietnam. He knew not what that was. The strangers helped him and called the radio station asking what that story was about. 

I was alive and well and had just been awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross). 



Shake the hand of a veteran this week. Walk over to him or her and say thanks for your service. You will feel wonderful and make someone else also feel wonderful and appreciated. In-fact do it much more often than just around Veteran's Day.

I appreciate your visit this week.

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