It was November 1955. I was nineteen years old, and wanting to go back home to my mom. My mom didn’t want me to go to the war, but I wanted to do something for my country. As I was training for the war, I had never been so tired in my life. I played football throughout high school and college as a lineman, but nothing I did while playing football was as hard as this military training. They wanted every single individual to be in tip-top shape for the war. As I was doing hundreds of push-ups and thousands of sit-ups, I remembered why I wasn’t going to give up. I knew at the end of the war I’d see my family and I’d be respected for the time I served in the Vietnam War. People would look at my hat and give me a handshake and call me “Sir”. It’s those moments that I look forward to when I’m done with the war.
Before I left to the war, I was eating home cooked meals every day, I was so used to eating good food that when I got to the war, the food wasn’t nearly as good. As we head to lunch every day, I would be thankful and pray before I ate. I knew I could be eating a lot worse or not eating at all but thankfully they treated us good. We were rarely hungry. Breakfast at 6:00 a.m. Lunch at 12:00 p.m. Dinner at 6:00 p.m. Everyday, I would think about my family at home. I knew my Dad was doing fine, probably working, and my mom was probably having a panic attack. I made a good amount of friends in the war. A couple I’d still love to talk to if I knew how to use my phone…
As we trained and trained for the war, we practiced everything. Some guys were good at sniping, some were good at other things. I was good at controlling tanks. I came into the army without knowing what I was good at and what I’m not. I wasn’t bad with guns, I think my captain preferred me driving tanks, that’s all. When I did something good I would hear “oooh's” and “aah's”. As we went to dinner, one of my friends came up to me and said “I think you’re the best driver here!” and I said “You think? I have never driven a tank until I came here.” he said “No way! Are you kidding? You’re easily the best!” as he patted me on the back.
As days flew by and hours upon hours of workouts and getting ready for the war, the day had finally come. Everything we had been training for was finally here. We all hopped into our vehicles and headed to Vietnam. We were wanting to arrive weeks before to be prepared. I drove most of the way to Vietnam in the tank. I felt very comfortable in the tank and as I looked around, I started to believe my friend when he told me I was the best driver. I was confident I was the best driver there.
The people there were very nice to us and they provided us with a lot of food on the road and for our time in the war zone. My favorite food was obviously the dessert. I loved the cookies and milk. Every time I had the cookies, it reminded me of home and made me miss my mom. I really missed my family but mostly my mom. My mom was there for everything I did. She always went to my football games, she always put food on the table, always made sure to tuck me into bed and tell me she loved me even if one of my buddies was over.
As we arrived in Vietnam, everyone seemed nervous or something. I was never scared of anything that came my way. As we went on to our base, I had realized that all the work I did in the past couple months was at this moment. I was ready to win this war for my country and to eventually see my family that I missed dearly. I made a promise to them that I’d come back and give every single one of them a hug. Every once in awhile I’d get butterflies but for the most part, I couldn’t wait to get in my tank and start blowing stuff up. When you’re in that tank, you feel like you’re so powerful, you feel like the king of the world.
The next morning came and we headed to where we needed to be. All of my friends went in different directions as I hopped into my tank with my captain and some other people. As I got into position, I sat there for a minute realizing what I was about to do, but I couldn’t have been more ready. I couldn’t wait to start driving this thing. As we started heading to where my captain ordered me to go, we came across two mountains and in the middle of them was a big lake that was connected to a bigger lake. My captain wanted to check out what was happening on the other side of the West mountain. He was a little worried if it could be a trap of some sort but he brushed it off thinking they wouldn’t think of something like that so early. He wanted us to stay on the shallow end of the East mountain and make our way to the West mountain that was about 50 yards into the East mountain and then we would have to turn West and make our way to the West mountain. We knew it was going to be risky but for the size of the tank, we thought it could make it’s way through. As we made our way into the water, I got nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. Every once in awhile, the tank would go completely under but we would shortly go back up. This happened about five to six times so every time we went under, we would expect to go back up shortly after we go under. As we got closer to the West mountain, the going up and down happened more frequently than before. Every time we went under on the west side, I would hope that we would go back up. On one particular time, I was expecting to go back up but we didn’t. We were going deeper and deeper and I was running out of breath. I went down to see all my partners trying to get the door unlocked. I kept going at it and going at it finally opened. I came out of it as fast as I could. Some of my partners came with me but some stayed there, motionless. As I finally came up from under the water, I gasped for air and my heart was beating very very quickly. As I tried to swim back to the mountain, I felt a hand grab my leg and down I went again. It was my captain, he didn’t know how to swim and needed to come back up. My captain was this big husky old man and me being the skinny teen, it was very hard for me to pull him up. I tried everything in the little power I had left to bring him back up but then all of a sudden, all the pain went away. I saw a white light that got bigger and bigger. As much as I wanted to stay where I was, I thought to myself, “I am only nineteen years old and I have so much more life to live”. So I came back with my captain still tugging on me and then I did one of the hardest things I have ever done. I let go of him because if I didn’t I would’ve died.
I don’t remember much more after that. I do remember waking up in a hospital for two months because of all the injuries I endured. Today I am still living, married, one son, two daughters, five grandsons, five granddaughters. Living across the street from a beach, in Daytona, Florida. My oldest grandson is the author of this story as well. Although those days still haunt me to this day, I am grateful for everything God has blessed me with.