Born: 1946 Served in Vietnam, Bosnia U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve Special Forces
From the artist:
Unlike most Vietnam Veterans who were drafted, I took the opportunity to go to Infantry Officer Candidate School in Ft. Benning, Ga. I remember making this difficult decision by weighing the better pay and greater responsibility against the tremendous amount of extra time–ten whole months– it would cost me out of my life. Neither of these figured into my final decision, rather my decision to go to OCS was based on advice from my grandfather, who served in the Army in WWI, who told me, "take any and all schools the Army offers you."
I attended, did well, and then I tell friends that I got to go through OCS a second time, only this time I did so as a Tactical Oficer for an OCS Company, training candidates on what I had just learned a few months before. After seven months of stateside duty, getting married to my high school sweetheart, assuming as much debt as a Second Lieutenant could in that amount of time, learning how to drink beer and hard liquor at the Officers' Club and not get into trouble, and develop an awareness that many of the Infantry Officers who wet to Vietnam did not come back, or came back way different, or came back missing body parts, I was sent to Vietnam.
When you are 22 years old, leading men in combat in the jungles of the South Vietnam Highlands, you mature very rapidly– like overnight almost. I was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division because a 2nd Lt. friend of mine I went into the country with decided that since we had not heard about the 4th ID we would write R&R Officer, VuntTow, and R&R Officer Saigon on our "dream sheets" when asked where we would like to be assigned. The R&R Officer positions must have been filled at both places because my friend and I were assigned to the 4th ID along with another 2nd Lt. friend of ours.
I first learned the value of an education when the three of us first arrived at the 4th ID. One of my 2nd Lt. friends had an engineering degree and when the assignments were handed out, he was given the job as base engineer, while the other guy and I were sent to the jungle to be platoon leaders. Looking back on this, I know that this was the absolute best assignment for me. I learned how to do the best you can with what you have, and that is all that anyone can expect of you. The best that I can say about being in combat for the time I was in Vietnam was that no soldier was killed on my watch and one entry on my Officer's Efficiency Report stated, "This officer did not make the same mistake twice." Which I have now come to understand as about the best thing you can say about any 2nd Lt., especially one who had been leading men in combat.
That tour in Vietnam was from November 1968 (I missed Thanksgiving because we flew across the International Dateline going there) until I was sent back with an injury in May of 1970. I volunteered for an indefinite period of time, was promoted to Captain, had some great jobs, didn't make much money, but met some great soldiers, most of them grunts, and was released from the Army because of a Reduction in Force in September 1975.
I was completely out for the next year and had such jobs as a lumberjack topping trees in the Tahoe National Fores, crewig on a Salmon Trawler out of Newport, Or., and artist/sculptor building redwood objects while traveling from Ft. Ord, Ca., where I left Army Service, to Seattle to Key West, and back to St. Louis where I had entered the Army.
Something was missing in my life and I was not sure what it was. I started college all over again as a freshman a the age of 32 (thanks to the GI Bill), joined the Army Reserve found employment and spent the next six years acquiring both a Bachelors and Masters in Fine Arts and rising to the rank of major in the Army Reserve. The Army Reserve experience provided me with something the Army needed, and understadig of Psychologica Operation, which they had allowed to atrophy along with much of their Special Operations capabilities after Vietnam because of major funding cuts and force draw downs.
I got set to look for an art job, teaching or producing, when I completed my Master of Fine Arts Degree in 1984. This did not happen because I was given yet another opportunity by the Army to serve my country along with the enticement for new "fun, travel, and adventure." I re-entered on a 29-day tour of duty that was extended to eight months, then three years (during this time I completed airborne school at 38, and Special Forces at 40), and the next thing I realized was that I was back in, and all of a sudden, there I was, looking at retiring as a Special Forces Colonel after almost 30 years of active and reserve service.