And I Remember
(Viet Nam 1965 – 1967)
I remember the heat and the rain. I remember the sights and sounds of a strange people in a foreign land. I remember the smells and tastes of foods that were not common to me.
But most of all I remember one day in particular, a day that I can still see in my mind and sounds that I can’t forget.
I served with the 173rd Air Borne Brigade in Bien Hoa South Viet Nam from 1965 to 1967. I was part of “C” company Supply & Transport. The year was 1965 and I was 18 years old. To young to understand why I was there. Killing someone was not an action that I would look forward to doing yet inside I knew that the likelihood of something like that happening was very real, but not a thing that I wanted to dwell on. I was angry, disappointed and hurt when I thought about the rioting at home and the names that our own people called us. Did they really know how I felt? And more importantly did they care at all? I didn’t ask for this. I was there because I made a commitment to my home and to my country to defend them and to follow through with any mission that I was called upon to do. That was my duty and that was my determination.
And I remember one bright sunlit day in particular. I could hear a low thundering sound off in the distance as if a swarm of locusts were coming at us. I remember going outside of my tent and seeing a dark form in the sky coming at me. Choppers seemed to be coming in swarms and under each of them was a large sack. I asked one of the guys with me what was in those sacks; he said that it was the bodies of our fallen comrades.
What a sad feeling I had within me when I imagined the news that their families would soon receive. I could hear the crying sounds of a mother and father as the news was delivered to them. The sounds of some little boy or girl crying because their brother or dad was not going to be there to celebrate another birthday or the Thanksgiving and Christmas that was soon to come and it put tears in my eyes just thinking about it.
I watched as the choppers landed at our Med Group and dropped their precious cargo and then swoop off again to go back for more. What a terrible day that would always remain with me. I never seen nor heard a sound that would equal that since that day nor during the rest of the time that I spent in Viet Nam. In later years this day would come back to my memory in a song written by a country group (Big & Rich). My first encounter with the song was when my youngest son took me to Louisville Kentucky to a Truck Show where Big & Rich put on a concert for the event. How surprised I was when I saw my unit’s banner brought out on stage as they performed the song “The 8th of November”. The whole event made me even prouder to be a part of the 173rd. Every time I hear a chopper I think about that day. I was there, I heard, I saw, and I remember. Everyday of life is a gift; so many died so young in Viet Nam. How much would each of them give to protect their homeland with hopes of seeing their families and friends again?
They gave their all!
Gary L. Rodgers