The U.S. military tradition teaches that the infantry is “the queen of battle.” Like the queen in the game of chess, the infantry is the most powerful and versatile piece on the battlefield, and it is the only force that ultimately takes and holds the ground.
In 1966, I was an 18-year-old paratrooper assigned to the 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized) in Wiesbaden, West Germany. I was a rigger, the soldier who packs personnel and cargo parachutes, rigs vehicles and artillery pieces for aerial delivery, and inspects parachutists before a jump. It’s a lot of responsibility. Lives are at stake, and the riggers’ motto is “I WILL BE SURE ALWAYS!”
It was last light, and my front scout, Gair Anderson, my assistant team leader, Bruce Cain, and I were each placing a claymore mine facing an enemy trail. It was a well-used trail, four miles west-southwest of Quang Tri City, and only the night before we had heard enemy troops casually talking as they walked along. We were confident that more enemy troops would return. Then, just as we slipped in the detonators, a dark figure suddenly appeared on another trail, a hundred feet away.
Maturity takes time:
Mine started twelve time zones away in the triple-canopied jungles of Vietnam. Southeast Asia is such a lovely, lush green wonderland, but it was 1968, the peak of the war. There were 540,000 Americans in South Vietnam and more than a million enemy soldiers, each young man determined to kill the other. As the 19th century Prussian General, Carl von Clausewitz said, "War is the continuation of politics by other means."
Letter to first graders,
Thanks so much for thinking of me on Memorial Day, you made me real happy! When I got your envelopes I sat outside under my favorite tree to read them. It was a beautiful sunny day, much like it was in Vietnam as I read each letter and looked at your drawings. You asked a lot of questions. I'm 62 years old and still feel great. I love to run and swim and I love ice cream with lots of bananas, chocolate and whipped cream. When I was in the Vietnam War way back in 1967-68 I was only 19 years old. I was a sergeant in the Army Rangers and the leader of a five-man team that searched the jungle for bad guys that we captured and turned into good guys.