April 2, 1969

The day had just begun at LZ Nicole. Two of our APC's were preparing to lead a convoy to another LZ. For the rest of us the conversation turned to our favorite topics.

  • How much we hated the war.
  • How much we hated the rations.
  • How much we hated the system that put us in this war.
  • How great life was back home before the war.
  • How great life will be back home after the war.

My squad looked like a group that could use a hot shower. Not a single one of my men had a regulation haircut that would have passed an inspection. However, compared to the long haired hippie card burning draft dodgers we read about in Stars and Stripes, the team still looked like an All-American crew.

One of my men explained the reason he joined the Army was a judge had offered him the option of joining the Army or going to jail. Another soldier passed around a photograph so we could see his pre military shoulder length hair. A third soldier was from Puerto Rico, and had joined the Army to gain citizenship to the United States. I explained how my theory that I could volunteer for the draft and still not go Vietnam came unraveled. My squad didn't include a single man that was living out his 'GI Joe' fantasy.

"Doc" Cressman giving aid to a Montangnard Child
The runt in our squad was "Doc" Cressman. He was a small and skinny kid and was teased unmercifully. Not knowing how to fight back with words, he would just ignore the guys that continually suggested that one of the local Boom Boom girls could turn him into a real man. What intrigued me most about Doc was his religious belief that kept him from carrying or firing a weapon. I totally understood why someone would be a conscientious objector to avoid going to Vietnam, but it made absolutely no sense to hold that position while in Vietnam.

We were often sent to Med-Cap the Montangnard villages. I enjoyed going to the villages. While I tried to teach the kids the intricate rules of "Red Rover Red Rover" or "Drop the handkerchief" using only my best sign language, Doc would use his limited medical skills to patch up the scrapes and hurts of the villagers.

As we each expressed our distaste for the war and our current situation, our conversation was interrupted by the sound of gunfire not far from our LZ. We knew instantly our APC's that had just left were being ambushed. Without a single command given, my squad was on the APC, locked and loaded. The gatekeeper hesitated for a moment to let us go, but quickly realized that if he didn't open the gate, he would be spending the rest of the day rebuilding it.

As we left the LZ, we could still hear gunfire down the road. I was sitting behind the .50 caliber machine gun and I realized I would not need my rifle. As we approached the ambush site, I picked up my rifle. I reached over and elbowed Doc in the side. He turned and looked at me. I gave him a look that I hoped he would interpret as "I respect your views, but just in case." His eyes followed my hand as I placed my rifle down beside him.

The bullets were still flying as we pulled up behind the ambushed tracks. I started putting down grazing fire with the .50 caliber, as the rest of my team joined in with their rifles. I sensed something had happened to Doc, but there wasn't time to figure it out. Within a few minutes, more tracks joined us and we quickly took control of the situation. I was never more proud of my squad, then at this moment. With no questions asked, they put themselves in harms way to come to the aid of their fellow soldier.

Realizing again, that something had happened to Doc, I looked around for him. With complete disregard to his own personal safety, he was in the open kneeling over a wounded soldier. I glanced back to the top of my track and my rifle was right where I had laid it. If living a life where your actions are consistent with your words, is a manly character, then Doc taught me a valuable lesson about being a man.

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Web Page Created 12 Jan 1998
1997 C. Warren Gallion
eMail: wgal@wgallion.com

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