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“I signed up for this,” he said to himself. “I can do this. I was bred for this.”

O’Brian smoked a lot. Most of the guys did — before breakfast, in the middle of the night, on patrol. It helped them to process events, to calm their nerves. For a few minutes, the focus is solely on the inhale and exhale.

The guys drink, smoke, and fight when something tragic happens. Testosterone runs high when you realize that you’ve been spared, that your timing was right, that you’ve been given another chance at life. Soldiers have to blow off steam, pound their chests, and many times pound on each other, shouting, “I’m alive!” The fighting helps. Listening to heavy metal soothes. Smoking calms.

O’Brian spent his first 15 months serving in Iraq. His tour was supposed to be for a year, but in dire need of more men on the ground, the Army extended his duty an extra 3 months. He wasn’t even aware that his tour was extended to 15 months until his wife Sofie called. She found out on the local news.

“They didn’t tell us yet,” he said to her, a calm tone veiling his disappointment.

Sofie had moved in with her parents in San Diego after Tom was deployed. She’d just had their second child, a boy, and being a single mom with two kids under three years of age was taking its toll. Base living was tough. There were daily scenes of domestic violence next door, and there was nothing she could do about it. With a newborn boy and a 3-year-old daughter, she needed the love and support of her family. So she stayed with them until Tom returned.

She hated having to learn the fate of her husband’s future while watching the local news.

“Many times the media would know things before we did,” she said. “We [the family] are sworn to confidentiality, but the media would sometimes broadcast their whereabouts and give out other critical information.”

After months of living without him, the news that he would have to endure an additional three months more in the field, where every minute counts, almost broke her spirit. But when she and Tom spoke, she didn’t show it.

“I couldn’t show disappointment or exhibit any fear,” she says, “because I didn’t want him to lose focus. I didn’t want his mind anywhere other than where he was.”

With everything else out of her control, this was the only way Sofie knew how to keep Tom safe. Three more months on deployment was like an eternity. But she wouldn’t dare complain. She had a mission, too.

As team leader, Sgt. O’Brian also never complained. He was on the front lines, and as part of the “needs of the Army” in the infantry, he had to go wherever the Army needed him. His orders were to stay longer in Iraq, and so he did, without objection.

Iraq was hostile. It was the height of the Bush era in 2006 and 2007, and the Iraqi people were in general agitated and angry. The missions came fast and furious. The Army rolled into towns, hoping to keep the hostility down and avoid open combat and spot IEDs resting roadside. They mounted support of air-assault missions. The raids kept Sgt. O’Brian determined and focused.

It wasn’t the probability of dying that kept him awake at night, but thoughts of losing his wife and family. With so much time and distance between couples, “Dear John” letters arrived for soldiers each day. Getting an email or a letter about a significant other cheating or breaking up with a soldier while at war was common. Guys would post them on the Wall of Shame, the most prominent wall in the mess tent. It was their way of helping each other get over it.

Meanwhile, Sofie wasn’t going anywhere. A bright, beautiful, cheery person, she found living with loneliness hard, but she kept busy in order not to miss her husband quite so desperately.

The days passed, and Sgt. O’Brian’s homecoming, November 28, 2007, approached. Every soldier in his company was going home. In 15 months of fighting on the front lines, no one on O’Brian’s direct team had died. He was part of the reason why. He’d done everything within his power to be well equipped, so that he would survive, and so that those serving with him would too. He’d helped keep them all safe. He’d made good choices and was quietly proud of it. Now, he was strapping on his boots. He and his boys were going home. His mission was accomplished.

Homecoming is one of the biggest, most celebratory days of a soldier’s life. Families don’t know exactly what time their soldier will arrive home, only an approximation. They have to wait for instructions.

Patience is demanded of you and your entire family when you join. You no longer make decisions about your

future, and you have to be okay with that. Living in the moment is the only thing you can do. Plans are not an option. You have to get used to a life in limbo.

The wives try, but when you haven’t seen your husband in 15 months — aside from a two-week leave midway through his tour — the waiting is excruciating.

It was 3:00 a.m. when the white buses full of returning soldiers pulled up to the Ft. Hood base in Texas. They lined up head to tail on the base’s floodlit field, where the soldiers perform drills. Then there they stood, flesh and blood, 100 yards away, home at last from the brutal war in Iraq. After the General said a few words of inspiration and congratulations, he shouted, “Soldiers, at ease!”

Sofie sprinted across the field. Amongst the more than 1000 soldiers, she found Tom. He scooped her up in his arms and held her to his pounding heart. Finally, they were together again. She could breathe. All fingers, all toes, all parts, safe from war. He had made it. He had survived. He was home.

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askduane June 17, 2010 @ 5:41 a.m.

First the U.S. Military went to war in Iraq based on a lie, this has been proven as fact. So in reality Iraq was invaded by the U.S. Military, 9-11 had absolutely nothing to do with Iraq.

I just read the whole story. Jehovah's Kingdom triumph's in the end don't you see? He was offered a peaceful way of life here on earth now and a future to look forward to. There is discipline on following God's commands to the letter, which is the Bible. Under Jehovah's Kingdom you don't have to war or fight, Jehovah God has his warriors already in Heaven that fight for us. This man clearly choosed Babylon as his god and leader which includes fighting in their wars and swearing allegence to their god, "the u.s. military", he choosed satan's side over Jehovah's side. Satan has a babit of kicking you to the curb when he's done with you unless you are willing to kill to the end for him and he still kicks you to the curb when he's done with you. Jehovah offers eternal life, satan offers only death at the end of service. The question might be: Who's orders are better, Jehovah's Kingdom orders, or the U.S. Military orders? One leades to death for your so called country, the other leads to Eternal Life here and future heaven and earth.

Remember this guy refused Jehovah's Witnesses way and refused their guidance/orders. This guy choosed the military way and the militaries orders and ways that lead to death.

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noman June 17, 2010 @ 5:47 a.m.

You've made a number of curious statements that in my opinion show your bias particularly in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It’s clear that you’ve done no research on this group, their beliefs or for that matter, God’s proper name.

I’ve spoken to a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses over the years and your comments about them are far from accurate.

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David Dodd June 17, 2010 @ 5:57 a.m.

I personally invite commentors #1 and #2 to go pound sand. Please, get the hell off of my planet. Take your God with you. Leave the fighting to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that you might take another breath. Jerks.

And to Sargent O'Brian: Thank you.

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askduane June 17, 2010 @ 6:05 a.m.

There are two kingdoms, one fleshly and one spiritual, Jesus said "My Kingdom is not from here", the spiritual comes first then the fleshly. Kingdom = Government. Jehovah's Witnesses clearly follow Jesus Christ according to the Bible. Jesus is there King and ruler of the Heavenly Government which is above all other Governments on Earth. This man's mother clearly followed after a higher Government, God's Government the Bible. Jesus said in his word "Come Be My Follower" this man's mom is doing just that throught the Jehovah's Witnesses Organization, check out there website www.watchtower.org, it tells the truth. Referring to strick commands from Jehovah Witnesses, He clearly mentioned the swearing in to become a soldier in the U.S. Military and having to follow all there commands and orders especially to leave your family and babies to fight for u.s. military and die for u.s. military. To become a JW or follower of Jesus, two commands, one is to Love Jehovah God your Father with all your heart, soul and mind, second to love your neighbor as yourself.

See you can't be a true christian and follower of Jesus and the Bible and be in the military at the same time. Jesus says don't kill the military says kill.

See true christianity is everywhere, all over the world and its message is peace not war. Imagine a so called christian fighting in the u.s. military against iraq. You are killing untold thousands of innocent iraqi people that have nothing to do with the war and some of them are christians that love and follow Jesus Christ also, then back home in america you say God Bless Our Troops! Truly speaking how can the True God of the Bible Bless your troops whom you say are christians and not bless theres who say they are christians.

So the fact of the matter is God of the Bible won't bless this war or the people in it, He never approved of it in the first place. So Jehovah Witnesses win in the end, they tell the truth the others don't.

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askduane June 17, 2010 @ 6:14 a.m.

Your planet. How long have you lived on earth or better yet the town you live in? When you say "your planet" its as if you made the earth that you have only lived in for a short period of time, time that was established way before you were born and so was this planet. Jehovah God is not just my God, its over 7 million others God also, he's the Creator of this Universe and this Planet you call yours. My life and all Americans life was not spared by invading Iraq, that's the documented facts.

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David Dodd June 17, 2010 @ 6:22 a.m.

Right. Please tell me what you know about Jesus. Bring your "A" game. This shouldn't take long, preacher. Most of y'all haven't even read that book you know. You've been taught to preach, not learned the meaning. Coward.

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David Dodd June 17, 2010 @ 6:36 a.m.

Come on, Duane, bring your best stuff. You won't be the first JW I've chsed off of my doorstep. Call me a heathen, call me a sinner, call me whatever you wish, but I've read more versions of your bible than you have, and I probably have a greater understanding of scripture than you do. Bring it on. I'll defend that soldier until I'm out of breath, because you're so wrong, so disconnected, I don't even know where to start.

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David Dodd June 17, 2010 @ 6:47 a.m.

Come on Duane, please explain how God was wrong in commanding Joshua at the battle of Jericho. I'm all ears. Coward. You'll call out our servicemen and not defend your own God. According to your bible, you'll be judged accordingly.

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Grasca June 17, 2010 @ 8:07 a.m.

It would show more respect to the wounded warrior to stay with the topic and leave god and biblical confrontations for other times. A much better discussion that could flow from this story would be the why of American involvement. Thanks George. Thanks Dick.

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MsGrant June 17, 2010 @ 11:09 a.m.

Grasca, I don't usually get involved in these sorts of comment battles, but the purpose of The Reader allowing readers to comment is for them to express themselves. To curtail or "steer" the comments toward something that you may find more palatable is a form of silencing an audience, and is not the reason many come here. I understand that this line of discord makes some uncomfortable, but it makes for damn entertaining reading, and I for one will never condone censuring the conversation to fit my own agenda.

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CuddleFish June 17, 2010 @ 11:17 a.m.

Thank you, Sgt. O’Brian, for your service to this country.

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Grasca June 17, 2010 @ 11:18 a.m.

I have no agenda but only respect for the wounded warrior. If the bible experts must cross swords so be it. In my opinion the story is more connected to the reasons why we are in Iraq than questions about god. I am only expressing my views and have no power to steer any discussion so perhaps you misunderstood my post ? I also find it interesting and would love to ask if the bible discussion was held by people who had served our country ?

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MsGrant June 17, 2010 @ 11:30 a.m.

Agreed. But once a point is brought up that may seem counter to the original story, a conversation has been opened and it is up to the reader to determine whether or not it is worth discussing.

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CuddleFish June 17, 2010 @ 11:47 a.m.

The subject of Jehovah's Witnesses was brought up in the story and commenter #1 may have been reacting to that. Agree with Grasca, to get into a religious duel with him serves no purpose and is irritating as it has little or nothing to do with the main subject of the story, but if people want to waste their time, no skin off my nose. As MsG says, it's a free forum.

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Grasca June 17, 2010 @ 12:12 p.m.

I guess the ranting aspect of the bible discussion and calling someone who disagrees "a coward" seems counterproductive to me and a way to shut someone down rather than discuss. Civility is never wasted in forums.

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MsGrant June 17, 2010 @ 12:26 p.m.

Yes, civility is nice, but what one deems "civility" could be construed as "political correctness" on the part of another. The expression of opinion is just that, and the chastising of the manner in which one express oneself borders on the tsk, tsk style of controlling a forum under the guise of "good manners". Sometimes certain comments make people angry or upset. To respond in an fashion honest to how you are feeling is genuine, and not "uncivilized". This is not a library. We can all run around and sometimes we can raise our voices, and outright vulgarity just to shock people aside, it is really no one's place other than the Reader's admin to tell us to "shush".

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tb5575 June 17, 2010 @ 12:29 p.m.

Thank you Sgt.O and Sofie for your service and sacrifice. Thank you M Castronovo for bringing us a timely and heroic story on a family's life. Its my hope that Sgt O gets the surgery that he needs and the peace of knowing that he's delivered on everything that was asked of him - right up until he couldn't any longer all throughout his young life. I hope the Army steps up and helps him.

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David Dodd June 17, 2010 @ 12:40 p.m.

I have a kid who did two tours in Iraq. Anyone who thinks he went against God's will can kiss my ass, I really don't care what people think of that statement. Some actions trump religious notions. There wouldn't even be a God if not for the bravery of soldiers. Do not ever forget their sacrifices, and make it a point to remember them at every opportunity.

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nan shartel June 17, 2010 @ 12:43 p.m.

man i rarely ever run the military flag up the flagpole and salute it.... but all my heartfelt loving support goes out to u and all ur boys today Sgt O...i couldn't love u more if u were my own son

~~bless u~~

and Maryann Castronovo ...u r one damned fine writer lady!!!

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David Dodd June 17, 2010 @ 12:46 p.m.

"I guess the ranting aspect of the bible discussion and calling someone who disagrees "a coward" seems counterproductive to me and a way to shut someone down rather than discuss."

There isn't any discussion, you are simply wrong. You will never win this argument, don't even try. There is no defending anyone who disses our soldiers, I can't imagine you would broach this in a negative way. If not for them, you wouldn't be free to voice your opinion. You owe them your life.

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nan shartel June 17, 2010 @ 12:50 p.m.

hey Refried ...i'm a dove totally...hate the stupidity of war..but respect and support the men and women there doing what THEY think is their duty

~~love em~~

and the promises made to take care of them when they are damaged body and spirit and sent home that r unkept are a national disgrace!!!!!

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David Dodd June 17, 2010 @ 1:29 p.m.

I agree nan. No one in their right minds cheer on a war. But the soldiers, that's different. No father has ever been more proud of a son as I am of mine. And so, all soldiers are my sons. I am proud of all of them, nevermind the war. It is an honor to read about Sgt. O'Brian, may he soon be healed and as whole as possible.

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NorthCoWoman June 17, 2010 @ 2:46 p.m.

PUHLEEZE! This young man is an American Hero. How many of us would VOLUNTEER for what he has?

RELIGION has nothing to do with his service to our country. Each of us has turned away from things others want for us, we make our own way.

When my own children made choices that I would not have made for them, I stood by and supported them. As parents, sometimes we are supposed to shut up and let them find their way. One persons religious choice is not a fit for the next person. Some come to it much later in life. Ever notice when we force things on people, they rebel the most? Rejecting his Mother's choice was normal. I am happy for him that he had a loving Father to go to.

Stop preaching and remember WHY you are allowed religious freedom in this country: because the strong and giving like Sgt. Tom O'Brian fought and sacrificed their own lives so you could!

Sgt. O'Brian, you have my thanks and gratitude. War is ugly and painful. You are an exemplary solder. I am so very sorry you had to lose your Mother that way. I also commend you for going on strong after the tragic loss of your brother. I know he is proud of you. I wish you the best in your healing process and hope you get all the necessary treatment for your hand.

You are my hero.

North County Woman

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nan shartel June 17, 2010 @ 3:27 p.m.

hey...we're wid ya NorthCountyWoman!!!

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Grasca June 17, 2010 @ 4:39 p.m.

I certainly was not criticizing the soldier whose story was told but merely pointed out that the name calling by one blogger (using the term "coward") may be freedom of speech but is immature and insulting and does not advance the point. If someone who is "politically correct" includes not liking the name calling, then I am politically correct. Nice to see that the name caller has not served just as I suspected. Get out your big flame thrower now.

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nan shartel June 17, 2010 @ 7:06 p.m.

hey Grasca...go check that new poem out...it's another view from another time of war (WW1)...it's just soul wracking to read..

i wasn't offended by ur comments

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David Dodd June 17, 2010 @ 9:40 p.m.

Grasca, you lecturing me on anything is a joke. I couldn't care less what you like or dislike, and my not serving has only to do with the fact that there was no war and no conflict while I was eleigble to serve, otherwise I would have done so proudly. You are certainly political, but you are not correct.

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Grasca June 18, 2010 @ 8:31 a.m.

Men and woman can and have served our country when we were not at war.

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Grasca June 18, 2010 @ 8:56 a.m.

Great bumper sticker on a WW2 veteran's car - LAND OF THE FREE BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE. No one can take credit for another's service but KUDOS to those who have served or are serving. Why don't the Dear Readers want to explore WMD lie and why we are in Irag under false pretenses ?

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SurfPuppy619 June 18, 2010 @ 9:27 a.m.

Men and woman can and have served our country when we were not at war.

Damn right.

If I had a chance to redo my life, I would have joined the military for at least 2 years.

As I get older I see how important it is to have a strong military, and I also see how important it is for ALL to serve the country in that capacity.

I would make 2 years of military service mandatory, for everyone, starting right out of HS. Many countries require military seervice. I

t would help our country bond, while also protecting it.

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CuddleFish June 18, 2010 @ 9:38 a.m.

Good point, SurfPuppy. I do think we are managing well with an all-volunteer force, however, there was a lot to be said for the draft. And if there ever is a draft again, I would not exclude women. But I hope that day never comes. Much better for people to go in who want to go in, than to force people to serve.

As for people who skate out of serving and then ride other's glory, when politicians do it, it is beyond despicable. A good friend of mine's son enlisted in the Navy, but she never brings it up. We share his doings often, and I know she feels pride, as well as worry, when he is gone. It was largely because of his service that she began a citizen. God bless them both, mother and son.

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Grasca June 18, 2010 @ 11:24 a.m.

Spouses of military also serve by taking care of families when the military person is overseas or on duty. It is not an easy life. The mandatory service for 2 years is a good idea in my opinion.

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CuddleFish June 18, 2010 @ 12:04 p.m.

... that she *became a citizen, excuse the typo! :)

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David Dodd June 18, 2010 @ 12:59 p.m.

"Men and woman can and have served our country when we were not at war."

Others of us built the machinery that they continue to use. There is more than one way to serve one's country.

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Grasca June 18, 2010 @ 1:27 p.m.

In the bygone 1960's era some went to Canada, others hid in graduate school and many answered the call to serve. I suppose if a person was deferred because their job was essential to the war effort, it would count. I personally don't think building military machinery is the same as actual military service. There is something which changes a person who has gone through basic training and officers' school which cannot be replicated in any other fashion. Again citizens can serve when there is no draft if they choose to do so. "Land of the free because of the brave" doesn't seem to encompass anything about manning a drill press in a factory, does it ? Our former Vice President helped the military/industrial complex, never served a day in the military and look where his efforts have gotten our country.

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David Dodd June 18, 2010 @ 1:40 p.m.

"I personally don't think building military machinery is the same as actual military service."

I personally don't care what you think. What kind of a person are you to champion those who put down our soldiers only to try to get back at me? Very pathetic.

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CuddleFish June 18, 2010 @ 1:47 p.m.

I shopped at the Exchange, that counts!

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Grasca June 18, 2010 @ 1:58 p.m.

No where in my comments have I "put down" American soldiers. By the way the former President of the Unites States had an interesting military service in the "Champagne Unit" out of Texas where the sons of the wealthy and politically connected received special dispensations. But he did serve in some fashion.

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CuddleFish June 18, 2010 @ 2:14 p.m.

Bush got his teeth filled by a dentist, that counts!

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Visduh June 18, 2010 @ 3:04 p.m.

Well, at least this cover story is getting some comments. For a while I began to think that nobody read them, and if they did, had no reaction. First, I'm saddened that these combat vets are not getting the sort of medical care for their wounds and injuries that they deserve. We keep getting told that they are being cared for, yet the anecdotal evidence is the opposite.

Second, Maryann, a mortar shell doesn't "implode", it EXPLODES! NO editor caught that dumb use of a word? Come on Reader, "read" these stories before you print them.

A small part of our population is fighting a war, or wars, as you choose to count these conflicts, while the rest of us can, if we so choose, forget their sacrifice. I'm a member of an organization which, as one of its founding principles, says "Never again will one generation of veterans turn its back on another." That was what happened forty years ago, and it must never happen again.

Stories like this one need to be told and told and told again. We need that reminder of war, and the sacrifices of the service members, on a daily basis. Join me, every time you see a uniformed service member, in saying thanks, and if they are combat veterans, adding "Welcome Home." We all can do no less.

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Grasca June 18, 2010 @ 3:11 p.m.

I recall when the soldiers who fought in Vietnam came home to be spit upon by certain elements of society. Hopefully we have progressed as a nation and will honor those who serve now. Two tours of duty used to be the norm in the Vietnam era but soldiers are currently doing as many as five tours in Iraq. All we can do is pray for them at this juncture as the war shows no signs of ending anytime soon. Again KUDOS to our troops and their families.

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CuddleFish June 18, 2010 @ 3:54 p.m.

From Wiki:

General Colin Powell wrote in his autobiography, "I am angry that so many sons of the powerful and well placed and many professional athletes (who were probably healthier than any of us) managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to our country."

147th Fighter Group

The most infamous champagne unit was the Texas Air National Guard 147th Fighter Interceptor Group, at Ellington Field in Houston. During the Vietnam War many well-connected sons landed in this posting, sometimes with the help of politicians such as Ben Barnes.

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Visduh June 18, 2010 @ 8:41 p.m.

In recent months, I've found very little of Colin Powell to admire. But that statement in #44 rings true. That whole idea of reserve or national guard service as an alternative to the draft, and an alternative to two years, was OK in peacetime. And that is when it started, in the generally quiet time between the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

But as soon as the shooting started in earnest in 1965, the program should have been suspended. Moreover, the notion that the Vietnam conflict would be fought with draftees, and without calling up the reserve components, was utterly misguided. Some historians claim that LBJ wanted to minimize the political fallout from a callup, due to the considerable clout the reservists carried, and just avoided that by letting them stay at home while younger men were sent overseas to fight and die.

It was those reserve units, never called to active duty, that provided a refuge to the well-connected sports stars, and those with political pull, such as Geo W Bush. There were other flagrant abuses of the draft system, academic deferments, occupational deferments, and a whole host of tools. I can only hope that if the US should ever find itself in need of a draft again that is throws out everything in that old Selective Service System, and starts with a clean slate. As in, no college deferments, no going into the reserve components to avoid active service, and tight control over hardship and occupational deferments.

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CuddleFish June 18, 2010 @ 9:44 p.m.

What made you change your mind about Powell, Visduh?

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Visduh June 19, 2010 @ 9:17 a.m.

Response to #46:

I thought I made that clear--he said something that I fully support, namely that the abuses of Reserve and National Guard enlistments by sons of the powerful and well-placed and professional athletes to avoid service was raw class discrimination. I'd go farther to mention that there were very few graduates of the Ivy League who served, very few sons of senators and congressmen, and nearly no professional sports stars. If a young man wanted to avoid serving during the Vietnam war, it was not hard to do that.

BTW, I served there.

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a2zresource June 19, 2010 @ 11:40 a.m.

I gambled and avoided combat duty by enlisting in the Regular Army as an E-4 infantryman, right out of high school at 17 and not long after Saigon fell.

Sometimes, life is a matter of timing.

Interestingly enough, D/1/3rd US Infantry (where I spent three years in the 70s) did a tour of the Horn of Africa after 9-11, which was real damn unusual as I am pretty sure none of the 1st Battalion of the Old Guard never went to Vietnam as a unit.

Back in the 70s, it was not so unusual to have some civilian spit on me in uniform on the erroneous assumption that I had been spearing babies with bayonets overseas. From the following, things have improved somewhat since then.

"See you can't be a true christian and follower of Jesus and the Bible and be in the military at the same time. Jesus says don't kill the military says kill."

Compare above comment with Luke:

"Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."

Those with discernment can figure it out...

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Visduh June 19, 2010 @ 5:39 p.m.

Actually, a2z, there was a part of the Old Guard in Vietnam. It was the 2nd Battalion, and it was part of the 199th Infantry Brigade (Separate)(Light), the "Redcatcher" Brigade. That separate brigade had four infantry battalions, so in addition to the 2/3, had the 4/12, 5/12 and 3/7. I don't remember which Arty battalion it had. The brigade was using our basecamp as its forward base for a few weeks while I was there. They painted all the rocks around the HQ building infantry (powder) blue and white. When the original outfit reclaimed the building, it changed the powder blue back to bright scarlet again. (Hey there are important things, and then there are IMPORTANT THINGS.)

I never was spat upon, nor was anyone I knew. That was one of those apocryphal stories that floated around. Overt hostility? Very rare. Utter indifference and condescending comments? Plenty.

Oh, one point of clarification. You enlisted as an E-4? I thought enlistees came in as E-1's and then worked their way up in rank. Not that it took very long to reach E-4. Some guys came out of advanced (MOS) training as E-4's and for a time, even E-5's. Do you mean you spent your time serving in that rank, after you were promoted?

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a2zresource June 20, 2010 @ 11:33 a.m.

Yeah, the rumor was that 2d of 3d bought it against a regiment of North Vietnamese regulars. The story we were given was that by the time the second air evac wave made it in, there was nobody but the dead left to lift out. From the above rumor, it makes sense that the numbered battalions of the 3d on active duty now do not include 2d Battalion. When I was in DC, the only way to get the 1st of 3d into a war was to nuke the inside of the beltway.

When I enlisted in '76, 4 years of JROTC going into the infantry (MOS 11B) was good enough for E-4 under what I faintly remember as either AR 145-2 or something similar about cadet enlistments. In fact, a number of us cadets had to take and pass the lowest level 11B skill exams before enlistment (all five of us in the same company were wearing sergeant stripes on black armbands by the third week of basic training). It was the best deal I could get for sending money home to Ma and Pa (Happy Fathers Day) fresh out of high school, as Pres. Ford was still trying to get us all to wear our "Whip Inflation Now" buttons.

The funny story was that a 4-year cadet was such a rarity, I came in as a PFC E-3 like any old 3rd-year cadet and was later promoted with backdating on verbal orders of CG, Military District of Washington, so I was at least on paper an E-4 at 17 with time in grade to match. When I was later offered acting sergeant stripes on E-4 pay, backdated to the day I became E-4 once the hard E-5 orders came through, I kind of laughed in my platoon sergeant's face as I thought it highly unlikely that DoA would make me the youngest peacetime sergeant in the Army (and it wasn't easy getting stripes in the all-volunteer RIF Army after Vietnam); I'm pretty sure I already had the record for youngest Specialist 4 when I was only 17, as I never had guard or CQ duty again after the backdated E-4 orders, not long after I turned 18.

The only way I got E-4 credit under Army regs at 17 was to become a cadet at 13, before the minimum age of 14 pursuant to the then-current ARs for the reserve officer training corps.

Maybe that makes me an illegal American.

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CuddleFish June 20, 2010 @ 12:40 p.m.

Wow, a2z. Thanks to you and Visduh for your service to this country.

Visduh, this was the comment I was referring to, sorry for any confusion:

"In recent months, I've found very little of Colin Powell to admire."

My question meant, what was it about Powell that you didn't admire?

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Visduh June 20, 2010 @ 2:05 p.m.

For a long time I'd wondered what was "wrong" with Powell. As a general during the first Gulf War, he got a reputation as a sort of ditherer, not a quality we really want in our generals, or in our C-in-C.

But later he was touted as White House material from the GOP for quite a long time. Then during the Clinton years we heard little or nothing from him, and it appeared as if he just lacked the necessary fire in the belly to really challenge Geo W Bush for the 2000 nomination. He was willing to be Bush's lapdog as Secretary of State, and pushed very hard for UN approval for the invasion of Iraq, and repeatedly showed all the evidence for WMD's. So, we went to war, found no WMD's, and he lost whatever commitment he had shown before for the war effort. And so he was no longer Secretary of State.

But he cooked his goose with me for good during the later stages of the 2008 presidential race when he abandoned his party, the one that had been offering him repeated opportunities for national office, and backed Obama. In short, he chose skin color over his professed political convictions. And it looked as if he'd been promised some sort of reward for being a turncoat, although we've not seen that yet. (I suspect it will never come.) "Et tu Colin?"

Hope that answers your question.

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Visduh June 20, 2010 @ 2:49 p.m.

Response to #50

The reason that the 2/3 Infantry is no longer active is that the army has shrunk alarmingly. From the height of the Vietnam War to today, the number of divisions is less than half. That means that the number of historic battalions that can be on active duty has shrunk similarly. Since part of the Old Guard is still at Ft Myer, that suffices for the regiment. I can safely say that the 2/3 may have been badly mauled on some occasion, but no US infantry battalion was ever wiped out to the last man in ANY war, let alone in that one. The 199th Bde was located south, not where entire regiments of NVA were operating, and the story you repeat just doesn't sound close. My take is that the 2/3 Infantry is just one of many inactive battalions that could be reconstituted if our army grows back to sufficient size (the size it really should be.)

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CuddleFish June 20, 2010 @ 7:06 p.m.

It does, Visduh. I agree with you on every point.

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Visduh June 20, 2010 @ 8:15 p.m.

Cuddlefish, you agree??? I'll be darned! Never would'a thunk it.

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Visduh June 20, 2010 @ 9:05 p.m.

Cuddlefish, I suppose I need to go back over your various postings and I might learn some things about you that I don't know now. I just had you pegged as a bleeding-heart sort, and I can tell you that I'm not one of those. (I do like to think that I think, rather than react, and as a result I'm not totally predictable.)

Hmm. Maybe all these postings of comments we make to Don Bauder's blogs and other stories are resulting in a sort of convergence of opinion. You do have a way of drawing comments out of me, that's for sure.

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a2zresource June 21, 2010 @ 2:30 p.m.

RE #53:

2/3 wasn't in existence for 30+ years. During the RIF years immediately after Vietnam and not until Afghanistan and Iraq in this millennium, there was only most of the reinforced battalion 1/3 at Fort Myer, VA in the Regular Army, with A/1/3 at Ft. Leslie J. McNair in downtown DC (often in Revolutionary War battledress); 3/3 hung around until the mid-1990s as a Reserve round-out battalion of the round-out brigade in the 6th Infantry Division.

With only one evac wave lifting out live casualties as rumored above, I'd agree on calling 2/3 being "badly mauled" and not "wiped out to the last man" before it was inactivated in 1970 or so, well before the end of that Conflict; 2/3 appears to have resurfaced in 2001 as part of a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, reportedly earning a 7th Presidential Unit Citation in 2008. I'd probably have to travel to the Old Guard Museum at Ft. Myer to find out if 2/3's 6th was for a mauling in Vietnam, and exactly where in Vietnam that mauling took place. The unofficial rumor I was given in 1976 as part of a verbal unit history in "new man" training was that 2/3 was in the company of a South Vietnamese regiment that refused to enter the valley where 2/3 supposedly bought it.

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Visduh June 21, 2010 @ 3:12 p.m.

While I don't know for sure, and haven't looked it up, I'd guess that the 199th, of which 2/3 was a part, wasn't brought home intact from Vietnam. A much neater way to "withdraw" an organization like that was to gradually transfer the personnel out, and let them rotate home normally, or place them in other similar units. When there's nobody left except the command staff and a color guard, the heraldry can be retired in place, and certain records and memorabilia shipped home. So, at whatever time the 199th was drawn down, the designation of the 2/3 would have been deactivated, and allowed to stay in that status as the army continued to shrink. If the 2/3 has been reactivated as part of that brigade, I'd say that's good news.

Despite all the bad news that kept coming from there, the war in Vietnam was not a major bloodletting of units going into battle and coming out decimated. Certainly that seldom was the case with anything as large as a battalion. One time, maybe about 1967 or 68, one battalion of the 1st Infantry Div got chewed up pretty badly, and what made it newsworthy was the fact that its CO was named Allen, and was the son of the WWII commander of that division, Major General Terry Allen. The son was killed along with his XO and most of the staff, resulting in the unit being pulled out for a few days to reorganize, i.e. get a new command staff and let them get to know each other. In the very early stages of US involvement, at the Ia Drang battle, the 1/7 Cavalry got beaten up badly. The story of that battle can be found in the book "We Were Soldiers Once, and Young" by Hal Moore. As to other incidences of things that devastating happening, I have no recollection. That doesn't say there weren't any, but they were not common.

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SurfPuppy619 June 21, 2010 @ 4:39 p.m.

Cuddlefish, I suppose I need to go back over your various postings and I might learn some things about you that I don't know now. I just had you pegged as a bleeding-heart sort,

!!!!!!.....it is funny how people react to our political leaning and views based on comments we post here and elsewhere.

most think I am some hardcore, anti-union, right wing, bible thumping Republican. In fact I was a registered Democrat, and union spporter (private unions), the majority of my adult life. And pretty much most of my views are far more democratic than republican. Fiscal restraint is about the only platform I really see eye to eye on with Republicans........

I do find it amsuing though!

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CuddleFish June 21, 2010 @ 6:05 p.m.

What I find amusing, or not, is the way some seemingly intelligent people process the world. Bleeding hearts have been improving things for mankind since the Enlightenment; imagine the human condition without the work of bleeding hearts.

Anyway, I really can't be bothered with this sort of narrow-minded thinking. Oh well.

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SurfPuppy619 June 22, 2010 @ 8 a.m.

So CF, it is hard to know from your post if you really think bleeding hearts have helped the world, or you are being sarcastic.

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SurfPuppy619 June 22, 2010 @ 2:42 p.m.

Me, Im no bleeding heart liberal.....at least not fiscally

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