Becoming More Cautious

April 12th, 2005

By this time of my tour there were several of us getting “short” (close to DROS (date of rotation to the states)). We were as anxious to avoid contact as we had ever been. We had a lot of FNG’s coming in and several of us that been replacements the previous August. There weren’t very many of us that had made it for 9 1/2 months without a Purple Heart and none of us wanted one. Promotions weren’t automatic as some thought. There were an awful lot of infantrymen that spent their tour in the bush and came home as a Spec-4 (E-4). It wasn’t that they weren’t good soldiers, they held their own and didn’t slack off at all, they just weren’t leaders that could react decisively in a hurry. They were great soldiers but they were followers. Nothing wrong with that. I saw some men come in and within three months were promoted from PFC to SGT. There was no favortism or butt kissing in the bush. Men were promoted as their actions deemed.

One thing you could bet was medals weren’t handed out just to be handing them out. They were awarded for a special kind of valor. That was the biggest problem I had with John Kerry. His medals were all simply political to boost his resume’. That was the reason the vets voted against him rather than for him as he was depending on. That was especially prevelant among grunts. We all knew Kerry was a fake.

We spent the next month humping mostly the mountains. It was the day to day grind again. We were still picking up signs of heavy troop movement by the NVA. We knew something was coming. What we didn’t know was they spent about 6-8 months getting their units into position for the TET offensive of ‘68. That was one of the reasons we noticed a decrease in fights of any size. We still ran into the booby traps and they were the type that were manufactured just like weapons were manufactured then hauled down the Ho Chi Mihn Trail by the NVA. Those things were all over the place. We placed our older guys on point. That may seem unfair to the guys almost ready to go home but, to the contrary, it was safer for them because they could spot a booby trap a lot faster than a new man. We simply wanted to make it like a hike through the mountains nice and safe. We avoided trails as much as possible. We ran across trails wide enough for carts being pulled by animals to get down. We certainly got the hell away from those kind of trail.

We would be set out on night ambushes almost every night somebody got the honor of these treats. It didn’t matter, nobody ambushed anybody because there were simply too many enemy in the area. We would set up on a trail then back off the trail about 50 meters so the enemy didn’t see us and spend the night like that. It wasn’t the Oliver Stone crap of setting up right next to a trail then ambushing the point of a column of NVA. That was simply stupid. I don’t know where he got that. Just some more hollywood crap that made us look like crazed killers. I could identify with some of the fights in Platoon but the rest of the movie was total bullshit. There wasn’t any of this coming back into the bunkers for the night for some beer drinking and pot smoking. That movie really torqued me. Reality was We Were Soldiers. It didn’t get any more real than that. Throw the hollywood left wing twist by some of those nut jobs out there and watch Mel Gibson play his role along with his entire batallion. Hal Moore was real and that was the actual way he lead his men. Those soldiers were good soldiers. There was no crap in the 1st Cav then or through at least ‘67. That was my army, not Oliver Stone’s portrayal.

We got through the end of June without any heavy fighting which was a blessing. That left me with about 45 more days to stay alive along with several others that came in as replacements with me. We were all counting days now.

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