Instant Sergeant

U.S. Army Sergeant stripes atop Republic of Vietnam flagDear Mom and Dad

Yesterday I sent you a copy of my five orders. I had just received them, now your little baby is a sergeant in the U.S. Army. I was sure glad to make it. Since I’ve been here I’ve received an Air Medal for making so many combat assaults, a Combat Infantry Badge, and a case of the nerves, but that’s all in the game.

Excerpt from a letter home dated: 25 April 1968

Former ‘Slick-sleeve’, He’s Now ‘Instant Sergeant’

By SP4 Herb Denton, article was featured in Cavalair (newspaper about the 1st Air Cavalry Division), Vol. 2, No. 57 and printed on December 27, 1967

When Charlie Cox Jr., arrived at the 1st Air Cavalry Division Continue reading

A Grunt’s Glossary

In amongst my dad’s things was a copy of The Air Cavalry Division, Volume 1, Number 2, July 1968, and in it there was an article entitled: A Grunt’s Glossary, a slang dictionary of the most commonly used words and phrases while in-country.

AK: An AK-47, the Russian designed automatic rifle used by enemy troops. Said phonetically (“Alpha Kilo”) the same letters indicate An Khe, the Cavalry’s base camp for two years.

Backhaul: To carry by helicopter from a company’s position to the battalions trains area. Thus water is brought to the company in five-gallon metal cans; the cans are then backhauled. Also, used as a noun, it is anything a company wants to send back to the trains (“Send all the backhaul up to the LZ”).

Bird: Helicopter. A helicopter is also a chopper, never a copter, whirlybird, eggbeater.

Blue: A body of water, because that is its color on a map. As in, “have you crossed that blue yet?” Also, the rifle platoons of the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry.

Charlie Alpha: Phonetic alphabet for combat assault, that is, an assault by helicopter. Charlie alpha is also a verb, as in, “Tomorrow we’ll charlie alpha six klicks west of here.”

CP: Command post. In a company, the cluster of radiomen and Continue reading

The Plight of the Vietnam Veteran

This letter to the editor, written in 1986 by my dad’s friend and fellow Bravo Company “Sky Trooper,” sadly still resonates today. Below are excerpts of that letter.

“Vietnam veterans and nation still recovering”

Last week this letter came to me in the mail. And, though it was addressed to me, clearly it was written to you, too – to all of us. So I wanted you to see it:

            “I have been following [this] column on the situation of the Vietnam veteran. It is encouraging to know that there are a few who still consider his plight. Continue reading

Veterans and Community Service

U.S.

There was absolutely no way Ian Smith was suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. He was sure of it.

He was O.K. He was living with his girlfriend in a suburb of Nashville working three jobs — mowing lawns, delivering pizzas, cleaning a local church. He was carrying a 4.0 average at Volunteer State Community College. Yes, he’d seen some terrible stuff during two tours in Iraq. But others had been through much worse. He’d never been wounded. He was alive.

But it was a strange sort of alive. He lived on his couch, with his pistol. He didn’t sleep much. The only way he could get to sleep was by getting drunk, so he got drunk every night and slept with his gun under the pillow. He had gained 60 lb. since leaving the Army in February 2009. He drank more and more. His girlfriend left him. He put the gun…

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