Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Battle of Soui Tre (LZ Gold)-Joe B.

The Battle of Soui Tre took place March 18 and 19, 1967. At the time I was the Commanding Officer (CO) of the 118th Attack Helicopter Company (AHC). The company was a part of the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion. For this operation out battalion was augmented with the 335th AHC on March 18 and the 68th AHC on March 18th.

Saturday, March 18, 1967

On the above date the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion had the mission to insert an Infantry unit into a landing zone (LZ) in War Zone C. The operation was staged from a pickup zone (PZ) located on the edge of Ap Trai Dan. The Infantry unit’s mission, with a direct support artillery unit, was to establish a fire base om the location of the LZ. The original plan called for an Armored Cavalry unit to go out and secure the LZ. Once secured the 145th Cbt Avn Bn was to airlift the Infantry unit from the PZ to the LZ. I believe it was to require six or seven lifts. En route to secure the LZ the Armored Cav unit was ambushed and stopped. Their efforts during the day were unsuccessful and they failed to complete their mission.

There were two Assault Helicopter companies participating in this battalion operation - the 118th AHC under my command and the 335th AHC, a company on loan to the 145th from the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The 335th was assigned as the direct support aviation company.

Around mid-afternoon a standard combat assault operation was considered but rejected. After waiting all day, the 145th mission was cancelled and the AHC’s were released to return to their respective home bases. The mission would be continued on March 19th.

Sunday (Palm Sunday), March 19, 1967

On this date the 145th Cbt Avn Bn had the mission to return and complete the mission from the previous day. This time it would be a combat assault insertion of the Infantry unit. The operation was again staged from the PZ on the edge of ApTrai Dan. The 118th AHC was a participating unit. The 68th AHC replaced the 335th AHC on Sunday. Our final briefings on the operation were conducted at the PZ. The 68th AHC was designated the lead company for the operation. The final briefing provided several facts - War Zone C had a limited number of LZ’s that could handle a battalion sized combat assault; no preparatory fires were planned; and our formation would have ten aircraft in each company. There would be a two-minute separation between the two companies.

The operation began around 0900. The 68th made its approach into the LZ, disembarked their troops; took off and reported the LZ “COLD”. It was a surprise and some relief to hear that transmission. The 118th made its approach to the LZ. The troops disembarked and I was just starting my takeoff when there was a horrendous explosion behind me. Radios became alive and reported that three aircraft near the middle of our formation had been damaged and were burning. The 118th aircraft managed to fly out of the LZ. One aircraft from the 118th reported control problems and had to quickly land just a short distance away from the LZ. A Bandit Gun Team put protective cap on them until help could arrive. Five aircraft got back to the LZ, still in flyable condition. A sixth aircraft got back to the PZ a little bit late despite moderate damage. It could not be used when the mission continued. At this point the 118th had only five operational aircraft.

The operation was temporarily stopped to assess the situation. In a span of a few minutes the operation was resumed. The troops on the ground from the first lift would secure an area in the LZ to accommodate flights of five aircraft.

In the second lift, the two flights of five ahead of me in the 68th went in and out with no problems. As directed, I came to a hover and the troops jumped out. Before I could start my takeoff, there was a strong explosion in front of my helicopter. Everything went black and the XO and I were both struck by debris The explosion blew out the chin bubbles, part of the windshield and bent the front doors. We had to exit the aircraft through the cargo doors. The major explosion to the 118th’s formation in the first lift was a rigged unexploded 250-pound bomb.

It was an assault that could have had fewer difficulties for our unit, but it was successful.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Baker's Dirty Dozen

Unlike those others who contribute to this site, I never saw action during my 1968-'72 tour of duty in the U.S. Navy.

The closest I ever came to being in harm's way was during ports of call in Turkey and other Middle-Eastern countries. Because of the prevailing anti-American sentiments in that part of the world at the time, we were ordered to travel about in groups of six or more when we went ashore.

Our instructions were to "take whatever action necessary to protect ourselves and our shipmates" while off ship. Although we had to ignore profanities and had to dodge projectiles hurled at us a few times, there were no incidents.

Today I came across an interesting obituary in our local newspaper.

John Agnew - April 8, 2010 at the age of 88.

John 'Jack' Agnew, one of the original members of a U.S. Army unit that operated behind enemy lines in World War II and is often credited with having inspired the movie "The Dirty Dozen," has died at the age of 88.

The Filthy Thirteen was the name given to a sub-unit of the regimental headquarters of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Division, of the United States Army, which fought in the European campaign in World War II. This unit was selected and trained to demolish enemy targets behind the lines.

They were assigned to destroy a bridge over the Douve River during the Normandy Invasion of Europe in June 1944, a mission that cost the lives of most of these men. The group was airdropped for the mission by aircraft of the 440th Troop Carrier Group of the U.S. Army Air Force.

This unit was best known for the famous photo (above) which appeared in Stars and Stripes, showing two members wearing Indian-style mohawks and applying war paint to one another. The inspiration for this came from Jake McNiece, who was part Native-American.

After a disciplinary incident while on leave, McNiece joined the "Pathfinders". These were paratroopers sent in ahead of the main force to guide them in. Expected casualties were 80-90%. The pathfinders were dropped into the encircled city of Bastogne at the height of the Battle of the Bulge. Their equipment enabled them to guide in subsequent airdrops of supplies crucial to the continued resistance of the trapped 101st Airborne Division.

Many believe this unit was the inspiration for E.M. Nathanson's The Dirty Dozen a view supported by interviews with the daughter of a surviving member of the unit. Barbara Maloney, the daughter of John Agnew, a private in the Filthy Thirteen, told the American Valor Quarterly that her father felt that 30% of the movie's content was historically correct, including a scene where officers are captured during a training exercise.

Unlike the Dirty Dozen, the Filthy Thirteen were not convicts; however, they were men prone to drinking and fighting and often spent time in the stockade. While there were similarities between the Filthy Thirteen and the Dirty Dozen, there were also many differences. The name "Filthy 13" referred to the fact that while training in England, they washed and shaved once a week and never cleaned their uniforms.

R.I.P. John Agnew, a true American hero.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Most Memorable Flight.

Most would assume that it occurred during one of my two combat tours in Viet Nam, but not so. It actually happened at Luke AFB, near Phoenix, AZ , two years after my last combat tour. I was an instructor pilot in the F-4 RTU (Replacement Training Unit). The mission was to take Lieutenants and check them out in the F-4. This was a 6 month very intensive flying and academic course to train these young pilots and navigators to fly the F-4 as a weapons system before reporting to an operational unit.

The particular mission was a two ship formation and aerobatic flight. I was number two in the back seat with my student pilot who was on his 4th ride. The other plane was the lead aircraft for the formation phase with a student navigator on his first flight. The two students were to be crewed together when the student pilot flew his first flight without an instructor. We were about 70nm NW of Luke when the incident happened. Now the interesting part of all of this is that I am terrified of heights. I know, it does not make a lot of sense, but it does not bother me too much in a plane. The reason that this had an impact was the instructor pilot in the other plane kept telling me to eject and I kept asking if it was on fire yet. It was a long way to the ground.

Captain Thomas M. Rourke, receieved the Tactical Air Command Aircrewman of Distinction Award for April 1974.

On 13 March 1974, Captain Rourke was flying as an instructor pilot….Shortly after initiating the maneuvers,…Captain Rourke felt a thump. He was advised that fuel was streaming heavily from the auxiliary air doors and the main gear doors. Both cockpits immediately filled with heavy fuel fumes. Suspecting a fuselage fuel cell rupture, Captain Rourke directed the student to switch to 100% oxygen and pull the cabin pressure dump valve. He then took over control of the aircraft. Rourke advised the control tower of the situation and turned the aircraft back toward the base. He flew the plane in a manner that would allow for ejection if necessary. Rourke also advised the tower that he would be making a downwind landing. He made an uneventful, no-flap, back seat landing on the downwind runway. Post flight investigation revealed that the left external wing and the center line fuel tank pressure regulators malfunctioned resulting in a massive rupture of the #3 fuselage fuel cell.

Captain Rourke’s decisive action during this critical emergency resulted in saving a valuable tactical aircraft and prevented possible loss of life.
(The information above is a summary of an article that appeared on page 13 in a 1974 edition of the TAC Attack.)

The bottom line, was that it turned out to be my 5 minutes of fame and I could do no wrong after that. The incident was written up in the TAC Attack magazine and I received the Air Force “Well Done Award”. I also got a letter from Brig Gen Chuck Yeager, who was Chief of Safety for the Air Force at the time. I did not know it at the time, but I was told later that I was the first person that had had this problem in the F-4 that had not burned or blown up. Don’t know if it was true or not, but I believe it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How I Began My Military Career-Roy J.

The Old and New Blue Angels - enjoy

I did ! I did ! I did !

Back in the dark ages, a sailor in the Great Lakes Electronics School held a piece of paper that stated combined battery scores were sufficient to candidate for the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. He had limited private airplane experience and thought this might be a fun chance. Arriving at the Glenview Naval Airstation, north of Chicago, the first thing that caught his eye as he stepped off the bus was a flight line of Grumman Bearcats. The decision was made, that's what I want. Of the 15 or so sailors tested, only three qualified, Wagner, Anderson, and Johnsen. In less than a month, Ken Anderson had his orders to the Cadet program. A few weeks later, Wagner received his. I'm next - and excitement was building.

Excitement faded as I graduated from Electronics Tech School and was assigned to the USS Rehoboth, AGS 30, a coast and geodesic survey ship - and ship out we did - for six months of ocean floor mapping. To Iceland, To Portugal, To the Netherlands, To Spain and then home. Once back in Philadelphia, I took leave and hastened home to my folks home on Long Island and to straddle my 1944 surplus Army Harley 45. Only two miles from the house, enroute to the post office, a green 1936 Chevy four door sedan came out of no where, hit the bike and the next thing I knew I was in St Albans Naval Hospital with a few broken items and severe road rash.

The first night back aboard the ReBob, I was happily dreaming what young sailors dream about when the radioman shook me. "Wake up !! You're going to Pensacola and you have to report to the division officer first thing in the morning. Good God, I had all but forgotten the cadet program and thought that if Anderson and Wagner got their orders so swiftly and it's taken seven months for me, they must be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

In the morning, following quarters, I went to the division officer's compartment where, on my entry, he told me to sit down because I had an important decision to make. I thought I was in deep kimshee - one usually stood at attention before the division officer and here I was being seated. He handed me two sets of orders - one to Annapolis Prep School and the other to the Aviation Cadet Program. Telling me to think a bit, he left the compartment, saying that when he returned, he wanted my answer so appropriate orders could be cut.

If I chose Annapolis and washed out, I'd have four more years to serve as an ET. If, on the other hand, I chose Pensacola and washed out, the cadet time would count with my time already served and I'd be discharged with an honorable. I think that realization played a great part in choosing the cadet program.

What's all that have to do with Bearcats? Well, after finishing Basic in Pensacola, there were several days of leave plus travel time to Corpus Christie that allowed me to visit the assignment desk every day pleading for bearcats. "No such luck, cadet - you're going to shrimp boats" PBYs. for three days in a row that was the sword that hung over me. On the final day, nine of us were there and the news was fantastic - four slots for Hellcats, two for Bearcats, and three for ADs. Draw of the hat and one of the bearcat slots was mine. Sad to say, my delight was traded for Hellcats. Two of the cadets had progressed through Basic almost side by side and, when one got the other Bearcat slot, the pleading to give mine up began. Only when the assignment officer said that the Bearcat pipeline was clogged for the next four weeks did I agree to go Hellcats. No delays there and finishing four weeks before the Bearcat program meant four weeks seniority when commissioned.

While in Advanced training, flying a Hellcat over Arransas Pass, TX, on a bright Sunday morning, about 9, the light bulb went on. This is what I want to do the rest of my life - Fly !!! Rolls, spins, loops YES ~! we consummated the marriage. Sad note - during one of the night flight training flights in the Hellcats, a bright fireball appeared in the direction of Kingsville - the Bearcat training field. It was a mid-air between the two who had been buddies for so long.

So, what does this have to do with Bearcats? While stationed at Quonset Point, R.I., two Bearcats were made available for proficiency flights to the field operations pilots to get their mandatory 4 hours per month. They were rarely flown. Beg, plead, bargain, entertain, anything that worked and some that didn't. What worked was, ahem!, a little off the routine, but I agreed to take the wife of one of the station pilots for a ride in an AD-5 (became the AF A-1E). It was done- She was dressed in a standard flight suit, wore a helmet and when I taxied the bird behind a hangar, out of the view of the tower or my home base, Ms. X was in the right seat and away we went. The flight was a great success and soon I was completing the writtens and blind fold check to fly the Bearcat. While at Quonset, I flew 11 bartered hours in that marvelous bird - and what a wonder it was compared to the Hellcats I had trained on!!

The Sheepdog said all that.

Monday, April 5, 2010

How I became a Navy Pilot

The fourteenth Hour

Three cents - a handful of ju ju bees, three sticks of liqorice gum or a postage stamp. As I licked the stamp, visions of it's promise "Learn to Fly by Mail" excited my thoughts. Someday !!
Daily trips to the post office were my task and, if my mother wondered why I seemed more eager to run that errand, her workload soon eraced that thought from her mind. Books secretly hidden in the barn before the mail was brought into the house drew me too often: their words and pictures burned into my memory - but - bills followed and demanded attention. Old world no-nonsense and real world depression packed up my treasures and committed them again to the post office. Gone !
"You'll just have to learn to do with what you have and to do without that which you do not and cannot have," were the words with which my monther tried to console me when, in the depths of the Great Depression, my hot tears fell in the dust of our poverty. Pride kept us from "going on Relief" and a single pork chop was divided; half to my father and the remaining half cut into three for the children.
But I had dreamed ! I had tasted ! I had reached for the sky and, inspite of hand-me-down clothes from our church, the sky was still above me, still calling. I could see and I could hear ! And the sounds I heard roared out of the clouds of war that filled the sky with Lightnings, Wildcats, Thunderbolts, Hellcats. Thunder rolled in their engines and lightning flashed in their tracers as they straffed and bombed targets on the restricted areas of Fire Island.
At the beckoning of a guard, I climbed over the chain link fence surrounding MacArthur Army Air Field. Up on the wing, into the cockpit of "The Jug" and I was king - no - slave; an immediate slave to the smell, the feel, the knobs, the dials, the - - - sudden, forceful, crude yank from the cockpit and tossed over the fence.
The War ended. I was too late - too late to avenge Colin Kelly, too late to scorn flak, too late to watch tracers follow rounds into Jerry's machine. But not too late to see a "Learn to Fly" sign appear in the pasture of Broadway Dairy - only a few miles from home. Stolen days, a hard pedaled bicycle trip, and a borrowed plow horse to clear stumps for runway-to-be were eagerly traded for a fifteen minute flight lesson. "Push on the Rudder." "dear God, which one? and how hard? Look ! I'm flying."
"Aww, the thrill is gone" my brothersaid, "You push the throttle forward and go, no big thing." He had 14 hours, had soloed, had flown cross country, all 32 miles to Riverhead and back. NO! Thrill, you cannot fade ! You must not fade ! I had but 2.5 hours, had yet to solo and a deep fear gripped me - this incredible love cannot end at fourteen hours ! School ended the summer and with it, no more time to earn money, none saved to spend on flying.
"I do." And before I knew what I had done, I was on my way to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Boot camp, Basic Battery tests, GCT, ARI, Mech, and Cler. "Why don't you apply for the Aviation Cadet Program?" Glenview Naval Air Station: F8F Bearcats on the line. Aptitude tests, spatial relationship tests, coordination tests, physical tests - and back to Electronics Technicians School.
Upon graduation, a new assignment - the USS Rehoboth, AGS 50, a former seaplane tender, now a geodetic survey ship. Deployment to the North Atlantic, Iceland, Europe and return to roll a motorcycle into a stay at the St Albans Naval Hospital. Finally back aboard the "ReBob," I was awakened shortly after midnight by the ship's radio man. Orders had just come in. Pensacola ! the NavCad Program ! Basic. Advanced.
In the cockpit of a Hellcat at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning over Aransas Pass, Texas, the light bulb came on ! I was in LOVE !!! My beloved had wings and in rolls, snaps, high positive and negative G's we consummated our marriage. Hellcats, Skyraiders, Corsairs, Stoofs, Panthers, Cougars, Tinker Toys, G-suits, pressure masks, torso harnesses, helmets, tail hooks, and cat shots. A 21 year marriage that began with Korea and intensified in Vietnam, became only more elusive as it too soon dodged behind paper bound desks. The desks had to go.
She's changed her tailors from Douglas, Chance Vought, Grumman, and North American to Cessna, Beech, Piper, Sweringen and Dassault: her dress from armor plate to alclad. G-suits to business suits. She's become only more beautiful. The thrill is ever new.
The fourteenth hour has never arrived.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How I Began My Military Career-Gary H.

Well, looking back on it, I guess I "began" my military career as a kid -- growing up on John Wayne war movies and the like. Closer to reality, I started my career as an Army ROTC cadet in college.

Why Army? -- Largely because the Army program (of the three programs at my college back then) offered training in which I was interested: military mountaineering (rock climbing and rappelling); ski training (both downhill and cross country); marksmanship.

I joined the ROTC program as a freshman, and earned my first stripes as a cadet sergeant after a year. Over the four years, I became a cadet SFC -- and senior year, a cadet major -- which was one of the most senior ranks in the program.

OK, so from an Active Component perspective, being a cadet major isn't much -- but recall that I spent about half my active duty career as a Major -- it took me ten years to return to the grade I'd held as a cadet! (Sounds like history repeating itself.)

I graduated with a bachelor's degree and a commission at a 2LT, Infantry.
After two years of graduate school, I reported to Infantry Officers Basic at Fort Benning -- and stayed there for Airborne training.

Once completed, my first duty station -- and the "real" start of my military career -- was Fort Bragg and the JFK Special Warfare Center where I joined the 15th Psychological Operations Battalion -- but that's another story.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Place Called My Phuoc Tay

Posted for Jim M.

This piece begins with extracts of letters that I wrote home from Vietnam, and continues with my recollections over 30 years later.

7 April 1970

Here we are, right in the middle of beautiful Nowhere. When I say nowhere, I mean it. We are about 30 kilometers due north of Vinh Long in one of those places where the only access is by helicopter or boat. Our CP is in a bombed out village that once was quite a place, but that now looks like something out of a World War II movie.

This place is a testimony to the turbulence which existed in VN politics after the Diem government was toppled. This was one of a series of “Agrivilles” build by Diem. These were planned agricultural and market complexes that were placed at different places all over the country. During the series of coups beginning in ’63, GVN could no longer maintain troops here and this one was abandoned. The people moved out, VC moved in, and the place was pretty well shot up in the subsequent seesaw battles. A few months ago, GVN moved back in strength for the first time since ’65. They have some outposts around and the area is being farmed again, but the VC haven’t given up yet. We haven’t found any since we’ve been here, though.

11 April 1970

I started a letter yesterday by saying that it was starting out as a quiet day—nothing happening. I don’t think that I’ll make that mistake again. Right after the first paragraph, things got a bit busier and didn’t let up until about midnight. A couple of our battalions made contact with several companies of VC and the resulting activity kept us going for a while. Everything worked out all right, but was hectic for a while.

13 April 1970

The past three days have been somewhat hectic. I think that I told you that we finally made contact with a VC/NVA unit after days of beating the paddies with no results. A couple of our battalions fought a hard battle with them on Friday, the VC broke contact late at night, and then we found them again on Saturday. We took a number of casualties, but prisoners, documents, etc, now indicate that we had met the 261A VC BN and dealt them a severe blow. The troops found a number of bodies and equipment, and captured the battalion colors. Indications are that many were killed, including the BN C.O., and X.O., and that the battalion is no longer an effective fighting force. This was an especially important victory since this battalion had recently attacked one of the VN firebases and really wreaked havoc.

May 8, 2007

These comments should serve to fill in some gaps in my earlier remarks about the events of 10 April 1970 near the garden spot of My Phuoc Tay. I was in the air over the fight, and, as I said in the letter of the 11th, it was hectic for a while. My problems were nothing like those of the people on the ground, however.

My boss, who I shall only refer to as Col O, had started off the day flying backseat in the command and control ship that inserted at least one of the battalions of the two that were in the fight. He and I normally swapped off every day unless we received an air cavalry package. Col O had decided that I should fly those since I was armor. Coincidentally, that decision came right after he flew his first mission with them and found that their C&C ships routinely flew quite low.

Sometime in the afternoon, he landed and had me go up, pleading a splitting headache. I’m sure that was true, but it was never easy to pick up a mission in the middle. Fortunately, I had been following the action on the radio, and was pretty well up to speed. As the day progressed, we started getting more and more air support. Just before dark we had a dual problem—we had almost more support than we could use and the VNAF pilot in the front seat of the C&C that I was in was insisting that he had to leave.

The latter problem with the pilot stemmed from the fact that VNAF UH1 pilots were generally cleared for only VFR, i.e., no night flying. I’m not sure how we did it, but my counterpart, LTC Chinn, the regimental commander, and I managed to badger him into continuing to fly well after dark.

The problem with the support was that it all arrived at once. At one time, we had a USAF Forward Air Controller with several sorties of fast movers, a VNAF Spooky gunship (AC-47), a USAF Shadow gunship (AC-119), and a flight of USN Black Ponies (OV-10A Bronco). In addition to that bunch, there were the normal Cobra gunships supporting the lift, and field artillery support from the ARVN.

An immediate problem with all of that stuff flying was the control of airspace, and making sure that everyone understood where the friendly troops were on the ground. As darkness fell, both problems were exacerbated. All of the air guys were on my FM radio frequency, so I made a general announcement that I was the guy in charge in the air, and the American advisor (Captain Bob Redman) was in charge on the ground. In the event of conflict, his instructions were trump.

To sort out airspace, I designated a fire that was burning on the ground and said to all that the fire represented the center of a clock. I then assigned quadrants of the clock to the primary actors, telling them to go out about 10 kilometers and loiter until I called them in. Once they got out there, I asked for a report of who had the least time remaining on station, and called them in first. Once they had expended their ordnance, the next group went in, and so on. The trickiest part of this kind of an action is to make sure that you don’t hit your own troops, and calls for close coordination between the folks on the ground and those in the air. Transmissions have to be clear and precise, with all parties concerned agreeing on where the fire is to be placed.

I had a problem in this regard with the Navy OV-10s. The quality of their support was, as was customary, super, but getting agreement on the target location was daunting. The OV-10A was an absolutely superb aircraft for close support of ground troops. They could fly slow enough and long enough that they had no need for a FAC as the fast movers did.

The target identification procedure that we used in this case was for me to give them a location, and one plane would attack the spot with 7.62 mm machine gun tracers. Once all concerned agreed on the location, they attacked with their 20 mm guns and 5 inch rockets. They could indeed do a job on a ground target, and we always loved to have them flying for us.

The problem this night was that every time the Black Pony attacked, my VNAF pilot would bank. They made at least 2 runs that I couldn’t observe. Finally, I told them that I would be off the air while they made another run. Because the cord was so short, I had to disconnect from the radio in order to hang over the edge of the Huey to watch where they fired. That was no mean feat for someone who dislikes heights as much as I do. Using this unconventional technique, I was able to observe, and then get back on the radio to clear them for attack.

As I recall, the rest of the attacks from the air went well. One of the real potent weapons types in that area with little air defense was the Spooky/Shadow gunships. These were transport planes with 6,000 round-per-minute miniguns mounted, and with a capability to drop flares for illumination. They could stay on station for hours.

I have already said in my quote from my letters that we carried the day, but, of course, it was not without cost. Captain Bob Redman, whom I mentioned above, was wounded during the course of the fight, along with quite a few ARVN infantrymen. Because of the heavy fire and the terrain, we were unable to get a medevac helicopter in to pull out the wounded. The division senior advisor radioed Bob to tell him that he would come in with his C&C ship and pull him out. Bob refused, unless they could also evacuate the VN wounded. For this and other reasons, I submitted Bob for a Silver Star, the only time I did that in a year. (Awards for valor were hard to come by in MACV, at least in IV Corps.) Thirty plus years later I made contact with him and found out that he got the award. It was well earned, and I am glad to finally close that loop.

Friday, April 2, 2010

How I Began My Military Career--Sam S.

Four things in life I said I was never going to do -- join the military, get married, be a preacher, or work for the VA! Guess what? Watch out what you tell the Almighty about what you are not going to do! I served five years in the Army Reserves, 30 years active duty as a chaplain, 42 years of marriage, and 10 years as a chaplain at the VA Eisenhower Medical Center. And I can’t forget the almost nine years as the senior pastor of the Rock of Ages Evangelical Free Church, Leavenworth, Kansas.

How did this all come about? A sweet young gal named Linda came swimming by my lifeguard raft in Northern Minnesota. Four years later we were married. What a gal! My dad, a WWII combat engineer, and my uncle Bill Meadows, a former Marine, kept telling their war stories. Barry Sadler kept singing about the Green Berets on the radio. I heard the call. I signed up for the US Marines, OCS, and was supposed to report for duty in October, 1965. They lost my paper work. Does that sound familiar? Meanwhile I went to Ft. Snelling, Minnesota and signed up as a lab tech, combat medic. I didn’t tell them about being sworn into the Marines. I called the Marines and told them I changed my mind. I should have heard from them about the lost paperwork. They said they would get back to me. I’m still waiting for that call.

I was wild medic to say the least. The major threatened to send me and my wise guy buddies to active duty driving ambulances in Viet Nam. That got our attention. The unit chaplain and my youth pastor heard that I was interested in youth ministry. They recognized that the military was the largest “youth group” in the world. Acting wild in a serious business could cost folks their lives. They told me that the Army needed “fired-up” chaplains to bring faith in someone bigger than themselves. Meanwhile, Linda felt the call to be a missionary. I was out-numbered and out-gunned. I became a 2nd LT chaplain candidate in 1967 and went on active duty as a chaplain at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. After that I was assigned to the Lane Army Heliport of the 7-17th Cav, An Son, Viet Nam, and the rest is history.

I have served as chaplain for thousands of great soldiers, their family members and more than a few great general officers. They are indeed a huge youth group. Many gave their lives for the cause of freedom. Along the way I had the complete support of a number one military wife. Thank you, Linda.

I’m still serving as a chaplain for the VA, the bone yard of wounded warriors, and am a member of the Old Bastards, another group of old warriors. I make an effort to bring faith, hope and love to the broken down troopers at the VA and the OB’s.

Never say never. Walk by faith, not by sight.

If Moses could handle his most difficult assignment at age 80, Caleb at 85, and those stepping out in faith in Hebrews Chapter 11, I never say never.

Serving as a pastor and chaplain for 40 years, I never say never.

Serving 35 years in the Army, and 10 years with the VA, I never say never.

Being blessed with a wonderful marriage for 42 years, with five children, I never say never.

It is no secret what God can do when you step out in faith!

By the way, still waiting for a call from the Marines. Apparently the paper work hasn’t surfaced yet.

I wouldn’t trade it all for anything.

May our Heavenly Commander continue to bless and keep us all.