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Lester Leroy Ross


My Vietnam MEMORIES 50 Plus years ago March 7. 1970 was my last day in Vietnam (updated and reposted)
I have been advised to wright down my Memories and to Pass them on before they are lost. I wright these memories down for my children, and grandchildren, and for anyone who cares to listen.
In March 0f 1967, I beat the Draft, by entering the U S Army on the 120 Day Delayed entry Program. I was still in High School. In March of 2000, I took my uniform off for the last time, and transferred to the inactive reserves. After Sept 11, 2001, I requested, to be activated, but was never called or chosen although I did have several long phone conservations about returning to active duty.
Why was I a soldier? Why did I go to Vietnam? John F Kennedy said it best, Ask Not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. It was family Tradition dating back to the signing the Declaration of Independence and before but that chain is now broken.
(Maybe not a bad thing). I was looking for direction, an in spite of everything, I found it.
I am 74 years old (April 2022. I spent my 21st birthday in Vietnam as well as over 500 more days as part of the Da Nang Sig Co, 37th Sig Bn, 1st Sig Bde. It was my 1st War; I was also part of the Forward Area Support Command in Kuwait during Desert Storm. You might say I grew up in Vietnam. I remember many things, but these are some of the ones that stand out in my mind.
In Aug of 68 the plane banked over Cam Ron Bay, I looked out the window to see someone on water skies, not so bad I thought, then the doors opened, and I stepped out the door onto the stairs and it felt like stepping into a furnace. instant sweat in my eyes., I could hardly keep them opened.
I remember trying to teach a young black soldier from the big city how to drive a jeep and crashing into the back of a 5-ton truck. He stepped on the gas and not the break.
I remember spending one Christmas going through the children's ward at the Burns Hospital in Da Nang an seeing the open wounds and the results of fire from Na Palm/Agent Orange on adults and children.
I remember dropping off food leftovers from our Mess Hall (and against regulations) to an orphanage near China Beach, and one old woman a nun I think, who went from one baby to another just rocking them. It was her only task. (Many if not all were suffering from what we called water on the brain and would not live long.) The outside of the orphanage looked like a big salvage yard with junk piled everywhere, they through nothing away.
I remember choppers going and coming day in and day out bring wounded soldiers to China Beach evacuation hospital near the base of Marble Mountain. I remember watching tracers firing all night long into the side of Marble Mountain (a big hill) just north of the Hospital.
I remember spending many a night in Sandbag Bunkers due to nightly mortar attacks and wondering way they always left the light's on at the top of our Microwave Tower when all other lights were blacked out.
I remember when the ammo dump blew up in Danang anf I lived out of a sandbag bunker. I know I was one of the lucky ones an others had it much worse.
I remember when a Typhoon hit us on the seaside of Danang we were waist deep in water in just a few minutes. The winds took down our supply tents and our bunkers were under water. A few hours later we were dry and the water was gone.
I remember the CSGM's pet pig and how it grew from a piglet
to well over 300 lbs. It took up residence around a Urinal that was boxed by plywood, or it ran Free around our compound before it got mean and started chasing people around. It ended up being given away to the orphanage after a change in leadership when it challenged the CO when he was trying to use the Urinal.
I remember listening to Boots are made for Walking an If I were a Carpenter and You were a Lady, by Nancy Sinatra w Lee Hazelwood and Tall Dark Stranger by Buck Owens, and Green Green Grass of Home over an over on a friend's tape too tape reel player.
I also remember, I would receive the Boone News Republican by mail. It would come in bunches not one at a time, It was a touch of home. I found out about Jack Morris that way a classmate killed In Korea, how the sports teams were doing, etc.
I remember once we traded an air conditioning unit to the Combat Engineer unit for a cement slab and set of Basketball Hoops, (Basketball Court) With Poles and Lights.
I remember playing cards mostly Hearts all night in our 24-hour mess hall or going to the NCO club for bands from places like Korea or Japan that lip sinked every song because they knew very little English. I remember seeing Bob Hope an others kind of from about a 1/2 mile away. ( I also remember meeting Joey Bishop, Ed McMann, Tippy Hedren, and Troy Donahue on what they call a Hand /Shaking Tour.)
I remember one soldier who pulled a pin on a white phosphorus grenade in a bunker he said to keep worm. (He lived with burns all over his body.) He got his Ticket home after a year in Camp Zama Japan.
I remember one Female Security Gril who was stabbed by a
Officer's Club bar maid or Houch Maid after one called the other a VC. I was on Guard duty at the time at the front gate where it happened. The Security Gril must have been right she went to the China Beach Hospital and the was given over to the local ARVIN unit. I never saw either again.
I remember following another soldier through the bush and not being able to see his back due to it being covered by skeeters.
Most of all I remember people, and faces of people, some of which I knew an many more I don't. One old man walking down the road with his eyes shut into traffic hoping to get hit, an another who was gut shot going into China Beach Hospital being led by a child. People (both men and women) releaving themselves in Rice Patties or along the side of the well-traveled road. (To this day I will do not eat rice). Old women chewing beetle nut. Their teeth and gums were black and many of their teeth were missing. These are just some of my flashbacks and from time to time I still have them.
I remember this and much more.
I remember falling in love with Jane Fonda in the movie Tall Story as a child before Viet Nam and how she broke my heart when SHE BETRAYED OUR SOLDIERS AN OUR COUNTRY. I will never understand why she did not go to jail for treason for all that she did after her trip to Hanoi.
Hanoi Jane, committed in her heart, to stop a war an do her part. For what I did, I am proud an right to do my part an go an fight. Wars are never right but To kill or not to fight? I do not know, but I know this. Neither did the cowards who ran an hide. written by me around 1973/74.
I remember flying home and not being allowed off the plane in Japan when we stopped to refuel because of the war protesters at the Airport. I remember not being allowed to wear my uniform in public back in the USA because it might start an incident.
I remember being told after coming back after 19 months that I was not tough enough to be a member of the VFW and I was not in a real war. I remember when my mother told the editor of the local paper that I was home from Vietnam and he responded, "who cares" He glanced in my direction and just shook his head.
I remember that the only good paying job offer I received was to slaughter cattle and pigs in the Perry Iowa packing house.
I remember just not wanting to think about so many things an doing my best to put them out of my mind. (Every soldier has his demons). I know these feelings are not limited to the Viet Nan war. My dad was a WW2 veteran and veteran of the Battle of the Bulge and he never once talked to me about what he faced or experienced. I wish he had lived long enough to have gone on a Freedom Flight. Many times, another vet can understand if he is willing to make the effort. This is why I support all our veterans past ans present regardless of where they served.
I recently watched both the Ken Burns documentary on WW2 and the documentary on Vietnam. There were atrocities that happened in both wars an no war is good. (Maybe necessary but not good). The biggest thing's that struck me however, 1- none of the good actions in Vietnam were shown (medical treatments, shots given, food distributed, wells dug, etc., ) 2-The lies told to the American soldier an American people, 3- the difference in how our soldiers were treated, by the soldiers an those who fought in earlier wars, by young men and women who seemed to fear us, and by many others who all had an opinion about who we were/I was an what we/I did, all were wrong, Above all, no understanding.
It has made me who I am, sometimes angry and bitter, sometimes competitive, sometimes overprotective, and a lot of the time alone.
Now, There are a lot of good people working hard and a lot more good people who supported our Freedom Flight/Friendship Flight efforts as well as our other efforts for our past and current veterans. Thank You. Does this make up for the ones who called many of my fellow Vietnam veterans baby burners or spit on our uniforms. NO, but it did help heal wounds and it did provide positive memories.
I lost my Uncle Pat born Paul Fischer in the South Pacific in WW2, (The American Legion in Altamont Ill is named after him) my dad and all my uncles on both sides of my family fought in WW2. One of my brothers went to war in the forgotten war Korea an retired from The Army after 23 years as a CSGM. I had 33 plus years including Guard Time, Vietnam, And Desert Storm. an retired as a MSG. I am now the Service Officer for the same VFW I was not tough enough to be a member off. In 2017, The VFW National Commander and Chief was a Door Gunner in Vietnam. Our Service Organizations are changing and working hard to Improve VA Hospitals and Veterans Benefits. They are needed more now than they ever have been.
Why did I Join the National Guard in 1973, or go full time Military National Guard in 1974. Simple, they gave me Job opportunities and respect. or Why did I go to Desert Storm with a 2-year-old and 7-year-old at home. Simple, to do the job I was trained to do. Freedom is worth fighting for.

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