The year was 1967. My brother, having signed for a 3 year stretch in the Army, had left the comfort of Germany for the rice paddies and war of Vietnam.
We feared for our sibling and fortunately he was in the 725th Light Maintenance Battalion at Cu Chi. That year as a high school senior, I remember sitting next to one of the best liked girls in our class. She sat crying, having just lost her Fiancé in the war.
Life was pretty cushy for me then. I left high school and met my future bride working for Illinois Bell Telephone in downtown Chicago. We became engaged in 1968 with marriage planned for the following year.
September 13, 1969, my new wife and I set up housekeeping in Blue Island, a Chicago suburb.
It must have been not more than a month past our vows when the notice to report came in the mail. We weren’t surprised, a lot of guys I knew were going and it was my turn. And having read many books on war I was fully accepting of this responsibility.
Some weeks later, due to the start of a “draft lottery’, I was sent a second notice telling me not to report. Kind of a U.S. Government, “never mind”. The lottery started and my number came up again in the spring of 1970.
This time there was no doubt I was going.
My Vietnam brother had since gotten his honorable discharge and I still recall his last words of advice when he dropped me at the recruiting station, “Keep your nose clean”.
Basic training was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I was not as muscular then as I am now so I made no rank exiting basic. Those who got the stripes were those with the greatest athletic prowess. I was immediately shipped to Fort Knox, Kentucky for Armor training.
At Fort Knox I was called aside as my test scores were appreciable. I was offered a two week LPC or Leader-ship Preparation Course. With a guaranteed stripe and a pay raise, I took it and graduated top student.
When getting to Armor training I again was pulled aside and made an Acting E-7. Basically I marched the troops to where ever the next training was.
After AIT at Knox, my Sergeant called me aside again. Having graduated from AIT as the stop student I was asked to go to NCO school. As before, being guaranteed rank and a pay raise I signed on.
We were called “Instant NCO’s” or “Shake and Bake” Sergeants. I didn’t care, the money was sent home to the Mrs. This time I was the number two student.
Three months of training and two months OJT for sure meant Vietnam. We had trained as tank commanders and the guys at the other end of the barracks were Personnel Carrier commanders.
Surprise again. All of the “tankers” went to Korea, the “Recon” guys were all sent to Nam.
I did the best I could in Korea, being assigned as a Ration Control clerk because I could type. Not what I had envisioned for my share of the war effort. My wife was happy though, because I like to volunteer.