MARINE CORPS LANCE CORPORAL, SUMMER 1968-MARCH 1970

I’m a Native American, Ho Chunk Nation, from Wisconsin. Above everything I accept my own death as destiny. It’s a great honor to die as a warrior on the battlegrounds. Summer of 1968, I got in-country. I was assigned to the 3rd Marine Division, which was located by Quang Tri City up in the northern I Corps. My first assignment was with the H/S Company 3/9 in communication. I talked to my CO, told him, “I’m an American Indian. I came here to fight a war. I want to be with an infantry company.” I was then transferred to I Company, 3/9.

On or about Christmastime 1968, I experienced my very first firefight — it was terrifying. Before the Dewey Canyon operation in A Shau Valley, one of my closest friends was killed while walking point; I volunteered to take over his job. It’s nerve-racking and tiresome to walk alone far up in front of my platoon and my company. Walking point, life expectancy is very short; you are usually the first contact with the enemy and you were killed or wounded. I was good and became a deadly killer and hunted for the enemy and did my job well. I was never scared. The only fear I had was the fear of being captured.

One operation that I didn’t walk point we got hit. The enemy was shooting at us from the top of this mountain. As we all started to run up, a sergeant from another platoon was hit! He was screaming for help. I ran up towards where he was lying. He was hit in the arm; his bone was sticking out.

I cut up his flak jacket and his jungle shirt and used the shirt and his first-aid kit to stop the bleeding. Carefully I pulled his arm bone back then tied it with the cloths that I had cut up, using the flak jacket armor to keep the bone in place to prevent further injury. I stayed and protected him until a corpsman came. I left them to find my squad; probably saved his life.

There was an Army unit in Laos; they were getting hit bad. We were not supposed to be there when we flew in. Early in the morning, it was still dark. I was on guard duty when a blue flare exploded above us. Suddenly the enemy attacked us in waves. We held our positions and fought them off until the sun came up when it was over.

We captured an enemy soldier. I wanted to kill him but I chose not to because he was not on equal terms with me. We went out on patrols to look for more. With my platoon I came upon an enemy soldier, shot a whole clip of rounds in him and killed him.

In fall 1969 they started pulling some of the 3rd Marine Division out of Vietnam — my tour had ended. I left Vietnam and flew to Okinawa. I left there and landed at Travis Air Force Base in California. March of 1970 it was cold; the snow was flying when I finally made it home to Wisconsin where my journey had all started.

I was discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in September 1971. Memories still haunt me of when I was a young Ho Chunk Marine that went to war and survived through many firefights on the battlegrounds from A Shau Valley, to Laos, the DMZ, and the jungles of Vietnam.

To all my Marines who gave their ultimate sacrifice for me, thank you! To be where I am today, I have never forgotten you. Your sacrifice was not in vain but with valor and honor, Semper Fidelis.

 

Interview and photography by Jeffrey Wolin From Inconvenient Stories: Vietnam War Veterans

Originally published in the October 2009 issue of Vietnam Magazine. To subscribe, click here.