Linn Grove, Iowa
Private 1st class, U.S. Army
Served with 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam 1968-69.
Memory: “I went to Vietnam not only because my orders required it, but also because I did not want to miss the chance to experience the major significant event of my generation. I dreaded the prospects of hardship, discipline, family separation and the possibility of death or debilitating injuries, but I wondered what it would be like to go to war. I did not want to let pass the opportunity to challenge myself and to experience the adventure. I felt it would be an irreversible mistake to avoid the war, for if I did I would never know myself to the fullest.
“Upon arrival in Vietnam, I was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, working the area southwest of Saigon in the upper delta. With eyes wide open, my war experience was officially under way.
“After my first 90 days in the field, we had engaged in only a limited number of firefights, but the booby traps had taken their toll. We had lost nearly two-thirds of our company through death, wounds and completed tours. With only 30 men remaining, we were ordered to the rear, where new men would be assigned to our unit.
“After three days, we would be back out to the field. As we relaxed on day two, several of us sat atop a bunker that extended 8 feet into the air. Another of our men climbed up to join us. He had purchased a new Polaroid camera at the PX, as well as a used .38 pistol from a Vietnamese local. He asked me to use his new camera to take a picture of him with his new pistol.
“After taking the picture I handed the Polaroid back to him. Still holding the pistol, he began to peel the backing off the picture. As he did so, the pistol went off, with the bullet striking me in the abdomen. It was a critical wound, and the outcome was in doubt for several days. But after several surgeries and a year in the hospital, my two years of active duty were finally completed, and I was back in college to complete my degree. The desire to experience war was now long out of my system and, after my return to college, I was a much more attentive student.
“Although my body bears the scars of surgery, my mind remains free from the scars of war. For that I am most grateful.”
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