Born: Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1948 Served in Vietnam, U.S. Army 6th Battalion, 14th Artillery attached to 5th Special Forces Group, II Corps Dak To, Da Lat, Tay Ninh, Ban Me Thuot, Nha Trang, Pleiku, Kontum Radio Operator, 1969-70
From the Artist:
I served as a radioman for many Special Forces missions during the first part of my tour and spent the second part in an artillery unit. It was a never-ending battle to survive. When it came time to run I had no shame in putting on my track shoes, and when it came time to hold our ground we gritted our teeth and did so. After being raked through the coals from front to back, and then some, we still did our job. After killing innocent people in the name of war, and meeting the enemy head-on, and seeing our friends killed, we kept on going, and after we went home, back to the World, we had to survive that. And some did not.
Remembering back, as I often do:
After basic training, on a chill of a November day, I got on this big airplane and lifted into the sky of 1968, thinking: I will go over there and get this war over within a month or two. The big cool plane made a steep dive and we landed; the door opened and as I walked out a strange smell sucked up my nose, and it was surely hot. Welcome to Vietnam.
Out to the west of Pleiku, we were following a battalion of NVA and we came across a bunch of enemy bunkers. We had to search them. Since I was small I was elected to go in. I crawled down the entrance carefully, looking where I put my hands and knees, shining my flashlight all around. Lying on the floor were a couple of baskets and some eating utensils. One basket was turned upside down in the middle of the floor. Sometimes the NVA would leave booby traps like that. I slipped one hand under its edge, held my breath and lifted it. I saw some papers and a map; what a relief. I got the hell out of there. We must have been very close on their trail for them to leave those items behind. Ya know if ya hold your breath when something blows up, it don't hurt as much.
Another time, as we ran for a chopper under enemy fire, the lieutenant yells at me, "Rizz, the gunner got hit on the way in. Give me your pack and take his place." There was no time to argue. I put on my helmet as we were lifting off. The pilot said, "Incoming at two o'clock," so I opened up on them and did not stop shooting until we were way out of range. I recall pushing the trigger on the 60 cal with very intense emotion. In this case, ya don't hold ya breath, you let it out so you make a smaller target.
Once we stopped at midday to eat in very thick underbrush. The lieutenant sat about ten feet to the right of me, and ten feet to his left and right were two South Vietnamese ARVNs, and directly facing me was another American. The underbrush was so thick we could hardly see one another, but as we sat eating, we were talking to each other. I had just taken a bite when pop, pop, pop, enemy small-arms fire filled the air, bullets hitting everywhere, like rain coming down out of the sky, only horizontally. I dropped my food and grabbed my rifle and crawled over the lieutenant and fired a couple of clips on full auto and bam it was over. The lieutenant called in the artillery on them and that was it. That was a firefight, quick and devastating; as I recall, one man dead and two wounded, and lunch given up to the ants.
Ants, those damn ants. As we settled down for the nights and I dug my foxhole, it seemed the ants would always be there. They would crawl up my legs and bite the hell out of me, and if we did get the chance to sleep I would sleep with my eyes open and in the morning my eyes would focus on the gray light of the morning misty jungle, in a place dead still with life, and life that was dead still.