Never Forgotten: The Vietnam Veteran Fifty Years Later

Never Forgotten: The Vietnam Veteran Fifty Years Later

by Jenny La Sala
Never Forgotten: The Vietnam Veteran Fifty Years Later

Never Forgotten: The Vietnam Veteran Fifty Years Later

by Jenny La Sala

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Overview

When the Vietnam Veteran's tours were over, they came home to find a country divided and a nation unappreciative of their service. How they were treated, how they integrated back into society, and how their wartime experiences changed them are just some of the questions answered, as their stories unfold in Never Forgotten. Told by the Veterans themselves, these are their stories. "The book Never Forgotten, captures 58 Veteran's accounts and others on what it was like to experience the Vietnam War. In their own words, they talk about their return home, struggles to maintain healthy relationships, decades of recovery, and feelings of worthlessness. Many find emotional well-being and self-worth by helping other Veterans. Those of us who are Veterans or whose loved ones have served in war, know with certainty we are different when we return home, than before we marched off to war. Because of this difference, for ourselves and for those we love and enjoy having in our lives, Never Forgotten is a must read." ~ Michael B. Christy, Lt. Col. USA (ret) and Vietnam Veteran

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781490766416
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Publication date: 10/28/2015
Pages: 452
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.13(d)

Read an Excerpt

Never Forgotten

The Vietnam Veteran Fifty Years Later


By Jenny La Sala

Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2015 Jenny La Sala
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4907-6642-3


CHAPTER 1

Robin M. Cathcart

U.S. Air Force

"When the draft ended, so did the protests."


My name is Robin M. Cathcart, and I am a Vietnam Veteran.

Several members of my family served in the military with an uncle serving in a US Army Machine Gun Battalion in France during WW I and another uncle serving as a US Army Infantryman in the Pacific Theater in WW II. My eldest half-brother served as WW II US Army Air Forces Technical Sergeant (E-6). He was rated an Aerial Gunner on a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber. My other half-brother, a Chief Petty Officer (E-7), was a rated-Naval Air crewman. He served three cruises. The first was off "Yankee Station" with VA-113, a Douglas A-4D Skyhawk bomber Squadron. The second was off the USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63), and later the third was off the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65). "Yankee Station" was with waters off North Vietnam. Aircraft from these carriers launched against the North, while aircraft from carriers off "Dixie Station" launched against targets in South Vietnam. My family never spoke of their wartime experiences.

I was a Cadet Lieutenant Colonel and Cadet Group Commander of Buffalo Group, New York Wing, Civil Air Patrol, and was enlisted in the US Air Force on 10 July 1969. I attended USAF Basic Training at Lackland AFB, near San Antonio, Texas. My first operational assignment was with the 320th Security Police Squadron, Mather AFB, near Sacramento, California. Our mission was to guard nuclear-armed Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers on alert duty with a war mission. I volunteered for service in the Republic of Vietnam immediately after arriving at Mather AFB.

I was assigned to the 35th Security Police Squadron at Phan Rang Airbase, Republic of Vietnam, and departed for RVN on 1 May 1970, the day of the "Kent State Massacre." For the first three months of my tour I spent about five days a week manning a machine gun tower on the perimeter of the airbase and one day a week riding vehicle patrol in an M151A1 jeep, mounting a 7.62mm machine gun. We also carried two M-16 rifles, one with a grenade launching attachment, and two .38 caliber revolvers.

Following a 30-day emergency leave, I returned to my squadron. We had a new First Sergeant. He learned that I had been nominated three times for appointment to the US Air Force Academy and once for West Point. The First Sergeant decided that I ought to work as a clerk in the Orderly Room. I had taken typing in high school so that gave me "added appeal" in his eyes. The worst part of my service occurred when I was rejected and constantly harassed and insulted by my fellow first-term security policemen. I wanted to make the military my career.

I developed heart disease due to exposure to herbicides in Vietnam and had a bad experience when dealing with the Veterans Administration. When a VA employee saw that I served in Vietnam, he said, "Humpf! I am a World War II Veteran. We won our war!" I later decided to avoid dealing with the VA for 30 years, and lost thousands of dollars in VA disability compensation.

Some of the men who protested directly against the war were committed to ending the war, but participating in war protests was a great way for a young man to meet young women. When the draft came to an end and college students knew they could avoid military service, the protests came to an end too. Some of these men were just cowards!

To find out what happened after the war, just talk to a Vietnamese-American who lived through it. It meant Death for all RVN General officers, and jail time for all other military officers. It also meant that professional men who supported the RVN were forbidden from practicing their professions.

~ Robin M. Cathcart, USAF, Vietnam Veteran


Thomas B. Daly

U.S. Army

"Find the bastards and then pile on."


I enlisted March 16, 1966 because I ran out of options in civilian life and believed in the American way.

Initially, I was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia for basic training and then to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for advanced individual training (AIT), where I became a heavy-wheeled vehicle operator. Although I volunteered to go to Vietnam, I was sent to Germany until I turned 18 when I could go to Vietnam.

During my service in Germany as a Spec 4 with a mechanized infantry battalion, in my unusually, loosely supervised position, I was able to train in different infantry tasks and learn the way of Army organization and operations, which would later serve me well in the Republic of Vietnam. After volunteering again at age 18 and receiving orders to deploy to Vietnam, I was assigned as a Sgt. to Car Airborne Company of the II Field Forces, as a driver for senior officers and civilian staff members. After becoming disillusioned in a protected position, I again volunteered to serve with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment; A well-known fighting unit commanded by Col. George Patton, Jr. This was a separate, mobile crisis-responding unit, assigned to the II Field Forces whose motto was "Find the bastards and then pile on." A prime example of this was the TET Offensive of 1968, when I was assigned to 1st squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (1/11th Cav). I soon acknowledged what war was all about and how difficult it was. My service in the 11th brought me to areas in and around Loc Ninh, An Loc, Lai Khe and Xuan Loc, among other vacation spots in the Republic of Vietnam.

Serving as the truck master for the 1/11, I established relationships with some of the greatest people I have ever met. Their dedication to each other and to duty, led me to some of the strongest bonds in my entire life. My worst memory was of a Vietnamese worker's school bus, which hit a land mine resulting in many, many casualties.

Shown in this picture taken in Vietnam is Spec 4 Zimmerman, the only man that I am aware of whose truck was heavily damaged by a land mine, and apologized for its demise afterwards.

The ambush patrols along with the fear and realization of my comrades being wounded or worse, was a constant reality, which sometimes came through with dire results. These are experiences one does not forget. The 11th Cavor ACR my unit worked with was the Big Red One, 1st Infantry Division. I continuously worked throughout the time I was with the CAV in a supporting role. The Cav added intense firepower with heavily armored fighting vehicles to the 1st Infantry Division. These supporting operations were mostly conducted just north of Saigon to the Cambodian Border, adjacent to Highway 13, otherwise known as "Thunder Road". These were not especially nice places to visit but war is what we all make it! Anyone who fired rounds or was fired upon has some sort of hearing loss. My hearing loss was due to high frequencies caused by firing 50 caliber machine guns both in and out of actual combat. There are certain speech levels and crowd background noises that impede my hearing. Subconsciously, to make up for my loss, I automatically smile and save the embarrassment of asking over and over what was said. This tactic seems to please the recipients more often than not and saves me from not so enjoyable outcomes. All types of explosions happened around me throughout my military career, from tank fire to mortar fire, and even explosives that I set up. The actual hostile mortar or rocket fire was never close enough to cause any damage, or more than likely I would be dead.

My wartime experiences were later reflected in my life as learning points and understandings of the world we live in. The good memories for me were my association with the lowest ranking soldiers, having been one, and how directives and orders affected them. I always made sure that things were fair and logical to them.

My family was happy to see me come home. But as experienced by many other Vietnam Vets, there was no open recognition of the tasks performed. The protestors at the time, I did not feel were appropriate. But in retrospect, if their true challenge were to stop the war, they would have been correct. I do believe that everyone should have a responsibility to the country with some form of national service, to which our future leaders would become well versed in our world realities.

I spent the next ten years as a civilian working as a lineman, police officer, and fire fighter, but never ever a cowboy. I was a Sergeant when I was in Vietnam. Ten years after my Vietnam experience, I went through officer's candidate school, retiring as a Major with 24 years of service in the U.S. Army, Ret. Corps of Engineers. This photo is with a Captain in the passenger seat during an observing, engineer operation. At the time I was a Company Commander. The last two photos were taken later in my military career in CONUS, (contiguous US).

Today, I am happily retired, working on a soon-to-be horse farm in Central North Carolina.

~ Major Th omas B. Daly, (U.S. Army Ret.) Corps of Engineers, Vietnam Veteran


John C. Wolf

U.S. Army

"It is now my mission in life."


My name is John C Wolf, II. My friends call me "Wolfie."

I served in the Army, with Delta Company 1st of the 20th Infantry, 11th Light Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division after being drafted and inducted on May 5, 1970.

I drew # 30 in the lottery and went to the Los Angeles induction center with X-rays and a letter from my orthopedic surgeon saying I was 4-F. I almost killed myself on a motorcycle accident the year before, breaking my left femur, which needed major surgery. I had an 18", 9mm steel shaft inserted into the middle of my femur. I was inducted because I was told that I 'fogged the mirror when I breathed on it'.

I was a grunt, received the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, Air Medal and all the other normal medals for serving in Vietnam with Good Conduct. I was promoted to Sergeant, but they told me I would have to sign up for 4 more years to officially become one. During Nam I was a rifleman, walked point, carried an M 203 (M 16 and M79 grenade launcher over and under) and then became squad, platoon and company RTO (Radio-Telephone Operator). In some ways I ran our company because all communications went through me. One of our CO's (commanding officers), was a bad officer and didn't like to talk on the radio. He was later relieved for cowardice in the face of the enemy. I had to 'call in' and manage the jets, artillery, gunships and Dustoff s (casualty evacuations from a combat zone).

Some of my relatives fought as Indians in the Indian Wars in the 1870's, but not in the U.S. Army, because they were on the other side. I am certified by the Bureau of Land Management as a Choctaw Indian and get the monthly newspaper, birthday and Xmas gifts every year.

One of the worst experiences I had was after being in the field for only about 4 weeks. A new buddy of mine was walking in front of me and tripped a booby trap. He and the guy in front of him took most of the blast. His nickname was Zombie. The explosion knocked me down too. Once I got up, I ran over to him and checked his wounds. I immediately put some plastic over his chest wound and then gave him CPR for the next 20 plus minutes until the Dustoff bird arrived. I will never forget looking at his face. I carried Zombie to the chopper and later learned he and the other guy died. To this day, I feel guilty. A great guy died, and I, who was only a few feet away, lived. He was called Zombie because he liked the C-ration fruitcake. It was awful. Everyone always gave him the fruitcake and that's how he became known affectionately as Zombie. Only days after I got into the field for the first time, it was monsoon season and we couldn't get resupplied. We were starving. Zombie pulled out his fruitcake and gave it to us and saved the day.

The wartime experience has changed me. After serving in the infantry, carrying up to 85 pounds on my back at times, humping the bush for weeks, and jumping out of helicopters, I have a bad back. The VA told me having one leg shorter than the other was due to my accident and that doing the above had no direct cause to my back problems over the years.

My greatest fear was getting my legs blown off . I was fl own to my unit via a hospital helicopter that landed at the emergency area with supplies. I was told to wait in a room until another bird could take me to where my unit was. I was in the entry to the ER, sitting there for about 10 minutes when a helicopter landed. They wheeled a guy in, who had his legs blown off below the knees. That was my first introduction to combat.

I started suffering from PTSD sometime in the late 80's, but blocked it out until I retired in 2009. It has gotten progressively worse. I suffer from nightmares from the event with Zombie and the Easter Sunday ambush in 1971. Eleven men were killed in an ambush including the Chaplain, who had come out to give us Easter Services and Communion. It was the 4th, worst, single casualty battle in 1971. For what it's worth, the Veterans Administration has turned me down for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) compensation; I didn't fight it the first time. Even though the VA treats me for PTSD, and has issued 4 prescribed medications, the VA compensation board says there is no proof that my military experiences caused my PTSD. I have submitted an FOIA request for all information related to their denial decision and am providing, it to an attorney that has taken on my case.

I flew from Vietnam into Ft. Lewis Washington, and connected in San Francisco before flying to Los Angeles near my home. While I walked to the gate for the LA flight, a hippie seeing my combat fatigues came up and spit on me. He called me a baby killer. That's when saying you were a Vietnam Veteran was not well advised. When I came back from Nam, I tried to block it out. I put my movies and pictures into a closet; For what I thought was forever.

In 2005 my wife and I decided to go to the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall that had come to our town. We returned around 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday and at 4:30 a.m. the next morning, my wife came into my office and asked why I had not been to bed. I told her I had been in technology for 25 years and had never 'Googled' anything about Vietnam. During those 12 hours researching on line that night, I found my unit and was able to find buddies I served with. One of them asked if I still had the movies I took. I wasn't sure, but found out my dad had taken the 8mm film and had it converted to VHS. I had never viewed that tape, but found it and watched it for the first time. I then decided to take the footage and make a tribute to the 11 that died on Easter Sunday. After posting the first video to You Tube in 2007 my life changed.

Most of the military people involved in the Easter Sunday ambush have contacted me after they or their friends found my videos on You Tube. The pilot of the Chaplain's helicopter that was shot down sat in my living room just 6 days later, after he found my video on line. The families and friends of those killed on Easter Sunday found their loved ones names on my tribute video and have contacted me wanting to know more about their loved ones passing. The Army never told them how these men died, only that they died in combat. This led to some pretty emotional calls. I felt it was my duty to try and help bring some closure to them.

I was able to block out most of my bad Vietnam experiences until around 2007, when I got reconnected with a former CO (commanding officer) of my unit. He had gone to the National Archives and got all the Daily After Action Reports. These reports were sent every day from each company to Battalion and they gave map coordinates, the names of those hurt or killed and any other things that happened. This refreshed my memory and gave me info I was not aware of.

As I look back on it, reconnecting with old buddies brought back some terrible memories, but that is now history. I wanted to help my Vietnam buddies get out of their caves not realizing how it might later effect me later on. Because of my videos there have been countless times I have gotten buddies back together.

I have become dedicated to helping vets get back together and bring honor to them. I am part of several Vietnam related groups on Face Book and am working on a charity related website (http://www.22muststop.org). This site is dedicated to stopping or reducing the 22 plus vets and current military who commit suicide each day. This is high number is unacceptable. We must get more recognition and stop the insanity.

It is now my mission in life.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Never Forgotten by Jenny La Sala. Copyright © 2015 Jenny La Sala. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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