ODDS and ENDS
Our nation under attack. Those are heart-stopping headlines. We have at least three men who served with us that were directly affected by the events of 9-11-01. Rick Cronin (EM 71) was a New York City Firefighter until his retirement this passed summer. Rick lost over 300 brothers. Perhaps you noticed in the TV coverage of the Pentagon attack the Hueys landing and departing. Steven Bernard (WO 69) was the pilot of the first Huey medivac aircraft to reach the site. Finally there is the story of William "Whiz" Broome (WO 69-70). "Whiz" is now a LTC in the Chaplain Corp of the Army and he has written a compelling story for this newsletter of what he witnessed that fateful day. This is not a "Nam story, but a war story just the same.
While on the subject of stories, everyone needs to remember that Chuck Carlock is in the process of putting together a new book of Rattler/Firebird stories. This book will be published! Now is the time to put pen to paper and send us your personal story. We cannot guarantee your story will be in the book, but we can guarantee that it will not be in the book if we do not receive it. YOU could be an author with YOUR story out there for the world to see. YOUR story, if printed, will live on as long as the book exists. This could be an invaluable gift to your family and this association. We need stories as only you can tell them. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation means nothing to us. Just get the story to the association address on this newsletter or to Chuck Carlock, P.O. Box 15313, Ft. Worth, TX 76119. ASAP, as you know, means do it now!
At this printing we have 185 life members of our association. The goal is still set at 200. If you have any question concerning your dues status, refer to the mailing label of this newsletter. If there is a 2002 (or higher) or the word Life to the right of your name, you are current with your dues. The 2002-year memberships expire on 30 June 2002.
If you now have an e-mail address, or have changed e-mail addresses, please forward it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The former 2nd platoon aircraft "889" that is mounted on a pedestal at the entrance of the San Anglo, TX airport is now painted and marked as a Rattler. This aircraft is the centerpiece of a Vietnam Memorial at this site.
On a recent trip to Hanoi, a couple of businessmen noticed vendors selling old GI dog tags. The men bought all they could locate, paying 19 cents each, bringing home several hundred tags. Their plan was to return the tags to the surviving family members if they can locate them. A web site is set up listing the dog tag names at: http://www.founddogtags.com A search of the list did not result in finding any tags of our six MIAs. You may know someone you served with in another unit or grew up with that never returned. If so, I urge you to check out the list.
Michael Parker, an associate member of our association, has obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act that confirm reports received by us that on 27 March 1991, the Armed Forces Identification Review Board approved the identification of the remains of SFC Wayne C. Allen of our missing Firebird of 10 January 1970. The other three crewmen are still not confirmed as located. Evidently, the Vietnamese people believe that the Americans will pay large sums of money to recover any remains that can be ID'ed. This has led to people happening upon crash sites, taking the remains and burying them elsewhere to await the rich Americans to show up.
On 27 September, Chuck Carlock and Ron Seabolt were two of the twelve persons interviewed by a film crew from Flashback Television, a British outfit that has been commissioned by The History Channel to work different projects. This particular film is on the Huey helicopter, with the title unnamed at this point. It was filmed in Ft. Worth where the Hueys were built. They wanted pilots, crew chiefs and men who actually built the aircraft for the show. On the 30th, the film crew used our Firebird and Rattler aircraft to shoot some reenactment scenes. A group of reenactors from Killeen, TX came and tried to act like 'Nam vets. With the proper "technical advice" from Carlock and Seabolt the group shot film until dark.
This program is to be aired in January. We are to be notified via e-mail of the exact date. All of you that receive e-mails from Seabolt will be advised of the airing. As you watch this film, see if you can spot any "Red Xs" on the aircraft.
Our St. Louis reunion is five months away. The dates are: May 2-5, 2002. If you have never attended one of OUR reunions, this next one is shaping up as the best ever. The hotel is the Crowne Plaza - St. Louis Airport hotel, located minutes from the St. Louis airport. This hotel has recently been renovated and upgraded to meet Crowne Plaza standards. The room rates are: $70.00 per night plus tax. The reservation number is 800-227-6963. Be sure to tell them you are with the Rattler / Firebird Reunion. If you desire to arrive early or stay past the 5th, call the hotel directly at 314-291-6700. The 800 number will not give you the reunion rate outside the May 2-5 timeframe, but the direct number to the hotel will do this as long as the nights paid for are all consecutive.
You are welcome to bring any of your family that may be interested. A set of Rattler and Firebird "display" aircraft will be at the hotel along with the most impressive Vietnam War memorabilia collection you can imagine. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to "show and tell" your family about Vietnam. Bring your photos to share with each other.
We will still have our Memorial Service as always, but in addition we are having a Saturday night banquet. The banquet will be preceded by a cocktail hour. Many of you have requested a banquet and now is the time to back up your association. We are committed to a minimum of 150 meals. Any less than that comes straight out of the association funds. We need commitments from you.
The affair will be buffet style using the hotel's "military reunion" menu (this may mean we get SOS!). The banquet ticket price will be $25.00 each, IN ADVANCE. Please mail your check or money order, made out to: 71st AHC, to the address on this newsletter.
There will be a notable speaker for the banquet along with a group of high school girls and their drill team posting the colors and performing. These girls have won several contests and are known to be very interested in "old men's" war stories as this is real history to them. As in the past, there will be drawings for door prizes, awards and special recognitions made.
The Association business meeting will follow the Saturday morning Memorial Service.
Tom Griffith and Don Vishy will host the Friday golf outing. The golf course is only about 3 miles away. Prizes and booby prizes will be awarded for your skill or ineptitude at this sport. The cost for the golf will be in your reunion update that will be mailed around March 1st.
NOMINATIONS for BOARD of DIRECTORS
Hal Bowen - Nomination Committee Chairman
In the last newsletter, we outlined how nominations and the election for the association's Board of Directors will be conducted for the 2002 election and in the future. If you are a dues paying member, you may nominate or run for a member-at-large position on the board. To serve as an officer (National Director, Deputy National Director or Secretary/Treasurer) you must have been a board member for at least one term.
To say the least, we have not been overwhelmed by the influx of nominations. However, we have managed to put together a slate which will provide the association with strong leadership over the next two years. The current National Director, Deputy National Director and Secretary/Treasurer (Ron Seabolt, Johnnie Hitt and Chuck Carlock, respectively) have all agreed to serve another term and are so nominated. Additionally, Directors Jim Miller and Jaak Sepp are serving on their first terms and are eligible for one more term. Accordingly, they are so nominated and have agreed to serve another term. R.J. Williams, the 3rd Director is currently serving a second term and is not eligible to succeed himself. James Jobson (OF 67-68), Rattler 26 and charter life member number 50 has accepted the challenge to fill the vacant position. Jim has been an ardent and faithful supporter of our association since its beginning and will make an excellent addition to the board.
Please note that this slate of nominations has no depth, only one nominee for each position. This is not intentional on my part or the board. It is our desire to offer a slate of at least two nominees for each position. However, volunteers or nominees have not been forthcoming. This is your association. Please get involved and participate in it's leadership. The 2004 election will REQUIRE the replacement of at least one director. Please give serious thought to the selection of the board and participate in the process, either by agreeing to be a candidate or by nominating someone that you feel will be a good leader for the association. The election will take place during the association business meeting after our Memorial Service.
Jim Jobson - Mini-Biography
I served with the Rattlers from October 1967 to May of 1968 in the Second Platoon - F Troop. I completed my Vietnam tour with the Corps Aviation Company at Phu Bai. After Vietnam I was assigned to Fort Rucker in the Training Department until October 1969, when I was released from active duty.
I spent the next thirty years with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, working as a structural engineer, mainly with the C-5 aircraft. My final years at LMAC were spent as the C-5 Structures Group Engineer, where I was responsible for the strength and durability of this aircraft.
Since retiring I have been active in my church, working in the finance and pre-school departments.
My goals as a Director of the Association would be to continue to locate our former buddies and encourage wider participation in the association. I have enjoyed attending the reunions, seeing old friends and making new ones.
If you have never been to a VA hospital, you should go to your nearest one and get "into the system". Very soon our youngest men that served with us will all be over 50 years of age. It is inevitable that our bodies (and minds) will wear out at a faster rate. Because of changes in the law, if you have a Purple Heart or you have a service-connected disability, you can go to the VA for any illness at no charge. Any prescribed medicines not related to your VA disability will cost $2 each.
You may very well have a service-connected disability that you are not aware of. How's your hearing? Your newsletter editor, Ron Seabolt, has had ringing in his ears for years and finally went for a VA hearing test. The test confirmed tinnitis (ringing) and a 30% loss of high tones. He was fitted free of charge with hearing aids, which help, plus furnished a "masker" noisemaker to turn on at night to drown out the ringing. The masker has several settings such as rain, surf, etc. A claim was filed with the VA for compensation of this hearing loss due to the constant exposure of noise related to flying in Vietnam. Seabolt obtained letters from several persons that he flew with to back up this claim. The claim is pending. It has been reported that a 10% disability is the most awarded for hearing loss. This is important: Remember to tell the VA if you have Tinnitis!
With the men available to you because of this association, NOW is the time to contact some of your comrades. There are untold thousands of older veterans that have attempted to receive VA compensation and cannot prove or back up their claims because their buddies are all dead. You have a unique opportunity if you will take advantage of it.
The VA also recognizes several types of cancer (prostate, for instance) as being Agent Orange related. If you contract one of the service-connected diseases and remain on VA disability, regardless of the rating percentage, for at least one year, then die as a result of the disease, your spouse can begin collecting Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) of almost $1,000 a month, TAX FREE until she remarries or dies. Ask your wife if that would help out!
The plain facts are that the VA is running out of WWII and Korean War veterans to treat and are in need of us for their future survival and funding. Current rates for married veterans are: 10%- $101, 20%-$194, 30%- $334, 40%-$475, 50%-$669, 60%-$841, 70%-$1,053, 80%-$1,221, 90%-$1,374, 100%-$2,228. All this is TAX FREE.
If a person has two separate VA disabilities, there is a formula used to determine payment. For instance if you are at the 30% rate for something and are awarded 40% for a different ailment, this does not compute as a 70% rating. They take the 30 from 100, leaving 70, and then they take 40% of the 70, which is 28. Now add 28 to your original 30 for a total of 58%. Any number ending with 5 or above is rounded up, so this person would now be awarded 60%. Unfortunately for military retirees any amount received is deducted from their retirement pay and only saves them the income tax. Efforts to change this unfair law have not been successful.
The following info is from the Disabled American Veterans newsletter. There is currently a backlog of more than 533,000 first-time claims waiting on a decision with an average wait of six months. As of August, more than 38,000 "substantive appeals" were pending at VA regional offices. An appeal can stretch for years. Even the VA has to wait. They currently have a backlog of 56,000 requests to obtain veteran's records. If you get into the "system", please be patient.
This association has been notified of the death of three men.
Al Ruter (EM 67-69) was a 1st platoon crew chief. He died of a heart attack on 4-30-01. Al had given the Memorial Service at our Las Vegas reunion and did a wonderful job. His family can be reached at: Judy Ruter, 56 Hidden Mesa Court, Henderson, NV 89012. (Our May newsletter was already at the printer when we were notified of this death)
Terry Paxton (EM 69-70) was a 1st platoon crew chief. He died of a massive heart attack on 9-24-01. His family can be reached at: Sue Paxton, 174 Alpha Dr., Longview, WA 98632.
H. Earle Thompson (EM 65-66) died of a heart attack on 7-4-00.
Please ask your relatives to notify the association in the event of your death.
If you were there in Chu Lai during TET of 1968 you remember the total chaos that the base was in. Our flight line and the Marine flight line were hit, the bomb dump had been blown and it was a mad house. The morning after the offensive started, Deem and I (R.J.) were in a formation 1st SGT Hillhouse had called in the Company area. Hillhouse asked if anyone in the formation knew how to drive a tractor-trailer. I was in maintenance again after another one of my court martials and Deem worked in the engine shop. This was before the two of us flew together as part of the Snake Doctor crew.
Neither Deem nor I had ever been in a tractor-trailer in our lives before, but we both stepped forward and volunteered. We armed ourselves to the teeth with an M-60, a .45 cal. grease gun, hand grenades, a .41 magnum, a .45 auto, and some smoke grenades. We then reported to the motor pool. We found out that LZ Baldy was our destination. They were real short on ammo after their all night TET siege. We would be using an open cab 10 ton semi and pulling a 55 foot flatbed with 8 pallets of ammo. The load was marked 4.2 mortar, 105mm, and 90mm tank rounds. The cab and 55-foot flat bed were the pride and joy of a guy we used to call giant Murph. He spent his whole tour of duty working on that cab, painting and polishing it. The engine sounded like a hummingbird. Murph was the biggest, meanest man I have ever met on the face of this earth to this day, and his baby was his ten-ton cab. The last thing he threatened Deem and I with when we drove out was, if you get one scratch on it or even get it dirty, I'll kill you both with my bare hands.
We left Chu Lai early the next morning and when we got to the hamlet of Tam Ky they were still clearing the hamlet of VC. There were a lot of dead enemy everywhere, even on the road. We were taking sniper fire after we passed Tam Ky, so I had my 41 magnum in my right hand as I drove. All of our frag grenades had fallen on the floor after we hit some large potholes in the road, so Deem got down on the floor and was trying to collect all the frags rolling around the cab.
We hit another pothole and I lost my grip on the 41 Mag and it fell to the floor also. I bent down to retrieve it from the floor with my right hand, keeping my left hand firmly on the steering wheel. I never realized as I leaned to the right to pick up the revolver my left hand was also turning the steering wheel to the right. When I sat back up from my bending position I noticed the truck was moving away from the elevated road surface at about a 45-degree angle. We had the whole truck completely airborne and headed straight into the rice paddies. I yelled,"oh shit", which brought Deem off the floor from his grenade hunt. He saw what was happening and added another suitable comment to reflect our predicament, and we both braced for a hard landing.
I know a Firebird gunship is very heavy when fully loaded and I have often watched them struggle to get those monsters airborne. To all those pilots, who I greatly respect and admire, I really think getting a fully loaded 55-foot flatbed airborne was a bigger challenge.
We landed in the paddies on our right side and slid along, in the mud and water for about 50 yards before we finally stopped. We both scrambled out of the water where we had been thrown and watched as the rest of the convoy kept driving past us. A lot of guys smiled as they waved to us and kept going. The MP jeep at the end of the convoy yelled something about "We'll try to send somebody back for you." as they passed us. Then there was dead silence as the dust on the road settled and we realized we were all alone in the middle of a huge rice paddy, the day after TET had started.
We stood there a few minutes trying to figure out what we should do and both decided that hiding among the debris of the truck would not be a good idea in case we got shot at, with all that ammo. We had lost most of our pallets and some of the cases had broken open and live ammo was spread out all over the paddy area for about 2 acres. We decided to try to find the M60and its ammo and make our way back to the berm at the side of the road. We policed up what ammo we could find and set up the M60 on the edge of the road as it was elevated about 6 feet above the paddies. We rinsed the mud and grass out of the M60 barrel in a puddle of water and felt very secure. We pointed the gun toward a small village two hundred yards away across the road. We learned later after cleaning the gun that the M60 had a broken firing pin and was only capable of single shot firing.
Off in the distance we heard a helicopter coming and we waited until we could see it and I pulled the pin on a smoke grenade and rolled it up onto the road. It kept rolling and went off the other side of the road, down the berm, and into the water, where it gave off as much smoke as a cigarette. The helicopter flew right over us, I know it saw the truck on its side but I don't think it saw us, as we were covered in mud and pretty well camouflaged.
About an hour later two very small children came walking down the road toward the village we had the gun pointed at. Deem questioned the small children, he pointed to the village we had the gun pointed at and said to the kids "Boo Ku VC", the little kids laughed and said "No, Boo Ku GI." They then turned and pointed to a wooded area in the opposite direction and said "Boo Ku VC." Deem and I quickly reoriented the machine gun, so far it had not been a real good day for us.
It started to get dark as we waited. We weren't "toooo" scared. We finally heard some heavy vehicles approaching. It was a tank and two tank retrievers, a few APC's and three articulated duck billed amphibious vehicles and a company of infantry. Now let me tell you these infantry guys were mighty tight, they hadn't been to sleep since TET started about 20 some hours ago and they were sent out to retrieve all this ammo spread over hells 2 acres. As I was helping a grunt load some of the boxes into the amphibious vehicles he said something to the effect that he wished he could find the dumb sons of a bitches who made this mess, he would cut a portion of their anatomy off and insert it into an equally obnoxious portion of their anatomy. I just agreed with him. I was covered with mud and water from head to toe just like he was so he thought I was a grunt too.
The tank retrievers righted our trucks and towed it back onto the road. Buy this time it was pitch black and the tank took the lead back to LZ Baldy. Deem and I were very relieved when we finally turned into the front gate of Baldy. I was getting my macho back a little bit after having driven at night out in the woods. I think Deem was still a little pissed about my wrong turn. I waved to the guards at the gate as I went through and then I heard a lot of cracking and crunching as the back of the flat bed rolled over there movable portion of the perimeter wire the guards would pull over to block the road into the firebase. I kept going as I heard the cursing getting louder behind us. We saw the rest of the convoy parked inside the compound and a sergeant told me to pull in between two other parked flat beds. Well I didn't realize that the two pallets we had not lost off the flat bed were sticking over the side of the trailer pretty far. As we pulled in we heard the all too familiar sound of crunching wood and cursing as we demolished our last two pallets against the other parked trucks with pallets on them.
I still remember that sergeant using his foot to stop the loose rounds of 105 MM rolling away from our battered truck as Deem and I made a mad dash for the mess hall to get some chow.
We returned Giant Murph's pride and joy the next day. The Frame was bent, not all the wheels touched the ground anymore, the big cast front bumper looked like a pretzel, the air cleaner had rice grass in it, the windshield was broke, and the fenders were a little wrinkled. So we kind of waited for Murph to leave and then parked what was left of his baby back in the motor pool. It also didn't sound too much like a humming bird anymore, and it wasn't until years later that I was told that the ten-ton cab has more than 5 gears forward. You have to pull another lever and you get another whole set of gears. Well, we only used the first 5. It used a lot of fuel and blew tons of black smoke. I thought it was supposed to do that.
At the Las Vegas reunion in May 2000, Deem and I decided we were going to rent another semi and tour the country. I sure hope they still have some tank retrievers around.
The story I am about to relate concerned all of the flight crews, but there were only a few of us who knew exactly what was going on or what went on in this operation because of security reasons.
It was one of those rare nice days near the end of the dry season. Things had been quiet for several days and all of us were enjoying the break from combat assaults. We had just finished a very trying time with the advent of identified NVA units in the south. Today was an especially easy day with the whole company involved in ash and trash missions. I was flying for the Special Forces and was scheduled to make the circuit from Tay Ninh Mountain (Nui Bah Dien) around the horn to the B Team camp north of Bien Hoa (or Ben Cat?). I had just left the C Team Headquarters in Bien Hoa when I received a message to report first to Ben Cat. On the ground at Ben Cat was a good friend of the Rattlers, none other than Terry Sandell who was a Beret but also an aviator.
Terry met me at the aircraft and asked if I could put out a call for all the other Rattlers to assemble on me. In the meantime Saigon Center was putting out the same call. About 30 minutes later the entire company plus a couple of strays had assembled. Duke Schwem took lead and I was to be the C and C ship. A group of mercenaries were lining up on the runway and getting ready to board. Duke came over and asked for the destination so he could plot it and get ready for an assault. I was rather shocked when Terry told him that he would be briefed in the air. This was not standard practice for the Berets. They were very well organized and coordinated.
Finally we loaded the troops and took off. Terry instructed me to tell Duke to head south toward Saigon. Here again was a departure from the norm because this group of irregulars usually operated in War Zone C to the north! When we were south of Bien Hoa and north of Saigon, at the Plantation, which was the Special Forces main headquarters, Terry told me to tell the flight to land. Duke was insulted to say the least. "What the hell is going on 26," is what I heard from my illustrious roommate. I replied that I did not know but once the troops had been unloaded the Rattlers were free to continue on with their ash and trash missions.
Now the scene shifts to the landing zone at the Plantation. I had been to the Plantation on numerous occasions and knew several people stationed there. All were really up tight about something, but would not talk at this time. Also, completely surrounding the LZ were about 6 or 7 groups of Special Forces "engaged" in live fire training. The Rattlers had landed right in the middle of this "training session". There was small arms training, demolition training, etc, all over the place. STRANGE! "Terry, what the hell is going on?" I asked. His reply was that the C and C was free to leave if we wanted to, but he preferred that I stay so that I could take him and his party back to Ben Cat.
The Nungs had been formed into their company formation and had stacked their weapons military style. Even armed guards had been appointed and were watching the weapons. The rest of the company were marched into the secure part of the compound and sent to the supply area. Only then did Terry take a big breath and relax somewhat. Also, the "training sessions" were all terminated about the same time. As we walked into the compound, Terry finally felt that he could confide in me as to what was going on. We went into the command area and the following people were in attendance; several high ranking Special Forces officers and SGM's, the people that had ridden with me from Ben Cat, a very obviously wealthy Chinese gentleman, his secretary/interpreter and his HUGE body guard. This bodyguard was 6'8" at least and weighed about 300 lbs. Also, he had no expression on his face and he constantly rocked back and forth on his feet with his hands folded over his chest. He stayed in this position for about the next two hours. The Chinese gentleman was the head mercenary in Vietnam and all the Nungs worked for him!
Now for the big reason all of this was happening. The Nung company that we had brought in was not performing adequately in the field and they were to be fired on the spot and dismissed by the American Government. They had been told that they were going to the Plantation to receive new uniforms and new weapons. If they had known that they were being fired they would have tried to fight their way out of the Plantation. Thus, the reason for all of the "training sessions" that just happened to be going on when we landed. These people were to take out the entire company if need be, and the Rattlers were right in the middle of the entire exercise and none of us had any idea as to what was going on.
The charges and counter charges went on for about two hours and the Nung Company was fired to a man. The Nung Captain was last seen alive leaving the plantation with the Chinese delegation. He was seen the next day, floating in the Saigon River with a bullet in his head.
My crew and I could not discuss this operation except with Lew Henderson - Rattler 6, Gordie Stone and Duke. Little did the rest of the Rattlers realize that most of them had been in one of the hottest LZ's they would encounter in their entire tour in Vietnam and if the shooting started, they more than likely would have been killed by friendly fire.
For those Rattlers who never knew the reason for the combat assault on the Plantation, as Paul Harvey says, "Now you know the rest of the story."
On August 18, 1969, Vic Bandini was the Fire Team Leader of a flight of two Firebird gunships, flying out of LZ (landing zone) Baldy. Bob Combs was Bandini's peter pilot (co-pilot). Several units of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade (LIB) had been in murderous (literally) contact for days out in the valley. Hostile ground fire was so intense that resupply of ammo, water, and food was not possible. Lots of dead (KIAs) and wounded (WIAs) were in the LZ. That evening they were determined to get some resupply to the grunts and haul out some wounded. The slick (Huey all-purpose lift ship) aircraft commander was 1LT Ted Shulsen, call sign Rattler 26. Shulsen's peter pilot was an FNG (fine new guy) named Hart. Hart was a WO-1 (warrant officer) on his first mission in Vietnam. The other crewmembers were Stephen Martino and Stewart Lavigne as crew chief and gunner.
The briefing was held at Baldy with the 196th TOC (tactical operations center) guys, Shulsen and Bandini. They knew this mission was going to be hotter than hot, that the grunts needed the resupply and they really had to get this mission completed. Shulsen was to fly tree top level south to north from the river into the LZ. Bandini's fire team would fly from east to west on a perpendicular axis to the LZ in an effort to draw fire away from Shulsen's approach and landing. Shulsen and Bandini were in radio contact via company UHF and Bandini remembered his radio call from over the river as he commenced his low level run to the LZ. As Bandini positioned the fire team for the east/west run with a right break he could see Shulsen's slick inbound from the river toward the LZ.
Bandini states the exact sequence of events is a bit jumbled to him at this point. He recalled thinking that Shulsen landed in the LZ without taking any fire. Once Shulsen was in the LZ the world exploded. The bad guys were in the trees at the slick's twelve o'clock (nose) position and they opened up on him as the aircraft landed. Shulsen screamed over the radio, "I'm hit, I'm hit!" The sound of the ground fire could be heard in the radio transmission background. Simultaneously as Bandini was making his run to the LZ (to draw fire away from Shulsen) the whole world erupts around the gunships. There was unbelievable ground fire, noise, radio chatter, etc. To this day Bandini believes he saw a wisp of trailing black smoke pass underneath his chin bubble and between the skids. Possibly a RPG (rocket propelled grenade)?
Ted Shulsen recalls the event as a mass of fire being received as he touched down. The next thing he remembered was looking over at his peter pilot who was slumped against his shoulder harness. Shulsen had a head wound that was spurting blood on the Plexiglas windshield with every beat of his heart. The grunts had placed three critical medivacs in the ship before they noticed the pilots' shot-up condition. Upon seeing the carnage up front, they removed the injured grunts thinking there had to be a better way than on this ship. Shulsen said he became aware of both Lavigne and Martino's M-60 machine guns working out behind him. Everything seemed to be in slow motion to him. As he looked off to his left (slick aircraft commanders flew in the left seat) he recalled seeing an NVA soldier with an AK47 automatic rifle taking aim at his ship. As he looked at the man, his crew chief hit him several times with M-60 fire and the guy was knocked back instantly. Shulsen's immediate thought was, "That was cool!"
Bandini continues, "Knowing that Ted was hit and remembering that Shulsen's peter pilot was an FNG, I yelled over the radio to get the ship out of the LZ." I had no way of knowing that Hart had been hit also. Their aircraft just sat running in the LZ. No radio commo came from either Shulsen or Hart. I figured these guys were dead or badly wounded because the ship just sat there. An interesting part of the story is that all this has taken place within the space of my first run and I had unloaded every rocket I had because of all the ground fire being received.
With Shulsen's ship still in the LZ and running (a grunt RTO was talking to them on the FM radio), Bandini decided as he was swinging around for the next run to drop his rocket pods, land in the LZ and have Bob Combs jump into the slick and fly it out. Combs was a slick senior aircraft commander who was transitioning into the Firebird gunships. Bandini briefed his crew and his wingman on the plan. The wingman would cover him on the way in and his own crew was going to cover him on the ground and help Combs with whatever was found in Shulsen's ship.
At this time Shulsen became aware of his surroundings and began trying to takeoff. His hydraulics were not working (similar to driving an automobile with the power steering not working during a carjacking) but he had to get out of the kill zone he was in. As Shulsen fought the aircraft into the air while trimming the trees, he happened to notice the hydraulic switch had been knocked into the off position. He flipped the switch and instantly the flying became much easier.
Bandini adds, "Just as we lined up for the descent and approach, Shulsen's aircraft begin wallowing off the ground, gaining altitude and barely clearing the trees that the bad guys are in. Shulsen called and said he and the peter pilot are both shot but he can fly the aircraft."
As Shulsen flew the ship while holding his fingers over the blood spurting wound, he heard a voice say, "Do you need any help?" If he had not been strapped in he might have went through the greenhouse (the green Plexiglas window over the pilot's seats). The peter pilot, Hart, had been hit three or four times in the chicken board (bulletproof chest protector) and knocked out. He was also hit in the leg, but at least he was alive.
Shulsen flew to LZ Center, the closest friendly area, where he half landed/crashed onto either the C&C pad or the resupply pad. By this time it is getting late and daylight is running out. No one on the LZ can shut the damn ship down. Bandini lands his gunship on the east ridge end of LZ Center and Combs hops out, gets in the slick and takes off for Baldy while the Firebirds fly 'escort' for him. The slick had been shot up so badly that the electrical system was gone, the instrument panel was nothing but shattered glass and the hydraulics were failing. No instruments, no lights, no nothing.
Combs landed the slick at the fixed wing turn around and upon shutdown the damage was inspected. One main rotor blade had sustained a .51 caliber hit (it was big, anyway) that entered on the bottom of the leading edge, went completely through the chordwise blade span and exited on the top of the trailing edge. Other numerous holes throughout the aircraft rendered it completely non-flyable. A Chinook helicopter 'hooked' the ship out the next day from Baldy. A side story here - Combs landed the slick near the brand new 'two-holer' (it was a really nice outhouse). The next day when the Chinook hovered over the slick for the hook-up, the two holer literally exploded and blew into pieces of plywood, 2x4s, screen mesh, and corrugated metal.
Ted Shulsen and Mr. Hart were medivaced to Da Nang. When Shulsen came around after being worked on in the hospital, a doctor told him his head wound would heal just fine and not affect his flying and neither would his shoulder wound. Shulsen said, "What shoulder wound?" as he looked over to see the bandage covering him. Until that moment he did not realize he had been hit twice. The next day both pilots were transferred to the hospital at Cam Rahn Bay. That night, the hospital was mortared and Hart caught a piece of shrapnel that went through his ear lobe.
The men were then medivaced to Japan from where Hart was medivaced to the states while Shulsen was given the option to stay in Japan and recover after which he would return to Vietnam, or return to the states for recovery. Shulsen thought this over, realizing he did not yet have enough time in Vietnam to qualify as a tour. He opted to stay in Japan and returned to the 71st Assault Helicopter Company a few weeks later.
The tragic end to this story is the fact that the next day, August 19th, a Rattler aircraft was knocked out of the sky just after taking off from this same general area, exploding upon impact killing all ten people on board. The crew chief and gunner were Stewart Lavigne and Steven Martino.
Even today, 33 years later, the events of 15 June 1968 remain some of my most vivid memories of my tour in 'Nam. It started out normally enough although my gunner, SP/4 James Hood and I shared an unspoken sense of dread. It was something you could feel but could not quite put your finger on.
Early that morning we arrived at the Snakepit while it was still dark. Hood and I stowed out flight gear on board our ship, a UH-1D Huey #65-15685. 685 was an old "hanger queen" that had been a gutted hulk when I arrived in country in March '68. I helped rebuild her during my first two weeks while I was assigned to the 151st Transportation Detachment, the field maintenance arm of the 71st Assault Helicopter Company. I was subsequently reassigned to the 1st platoon of the 71st AHC as a crew chief and four days later 685 became my ship. She had a tired old engine that would bleed off power at 30 pounds of torque (a good engine would pull 50 pounds of torque). Hood went to pick up our doorguns at the conex box while I started the preflight.
About this time Mr. Rodney J. Reno, my aircraft commander that day, arrived from the operations hooch with a brand new peter pilot (co-pilot), a warrant officer. I do not remember his name but supposedly he had been an instructor pilot for sometime in the states and this was his first tour in 'Nam. He had been in the unit four days and had his check ride the day before. This was to be his first mission. The foreboding feeling got even heavier because we have a cherry peter pilot. We completed the preflight and Mr. Reno told us we were assigned to do a series of four combat assaults in the mountains west of Tam Ky. As memory serves me it was to be a full company assault, one of the rare times that we had all of our ships in the air at one time.
The assault was supposed to make two primary lifts into a long narrow valley west of a large hill. The hill itself was supposed to have at least a battalion of "NVA regulars" on it. The assaults were intended to set up a "hammer and anvil" type of engagement with the hill in the center. The first two lifts were to be Vietnamese CIDG (civilian irregular defense group) troops out of Tam Ky, which we would insert into the valley west of the hill. They would be the holding force or "anvil". The next two lifts would be U.S. Army troops from the Americal Division inserted into the valley just east of the NVA held hill. The U.S. troops were to force their way up over the top of the hill, pushing or "hammering" the NVA down off the hill into the waiting CIDG "anvil". (That was the plan anyway). It surprised me that we were using CIDG troops rather than ARVNs (Army Republic of Vietnam).
Our ships picked up the CIDGs at a staging area in Tam Ky for the first lift. None of the Vietnamese CIDGs wore the same uniform and they were armed with an assortment of WWII weapons. Each ship was assigned to carry six CIDG troops. Mr. Reno told me to order one out because we were bleeding off RPMs. Usually a ship could carry eight Vietnamese troops, but 685 could only manage five because of her sick engine. I made one man get out. He resisted me on this but had no idea how lucky he was.
We finally lifted off and flew to the LZ in a V of three formation with the first platoon in the lead. The flight commander was Captain Bob Castle, our platoon leader, flying the lead ship to our left front. To our left (9 o'clock) was "alpha 2" and we were "alpha 3". To our left rear was "bravo lead" with "bravo 2" to his left rear and "bravo 3" directly behind us. Each "V" of the formation began with another letter of the phonetic alphabet such as charlie, delta, echo, fox, etc. The formation continued with six additional "Vs" and with two heavy fire teams (six gunships) of Firebirds escorting the flight starting about halfway back. The "Snakedoctor" maintenance ship was flying high to our rear out of the way.
We approached the LZ with our M-60s ready but were told it was to be a cold LZ (no shooting unless shot at). I do not know why because the hill to our right at 3 o'clock was supposed to be full of NVA and we were not exactly sneaking in!
We were on final approach about 300 feet above the paddies when I spot this "farmer" in black pajamas and straw hat standing in a fallow paddy with an AK-47 (assault rifle) laying in the grass at his feet. He is to my direct left at 9 o'clock low. As I trained the doorgun at him, he raises his arms over his head waving towards the hill. Instantly all hell breaks loose with tracers everywhere! Captain Castle's ship about 60 feet to our left front starts lifting out across us to our right front to get around the side or end of the hill. He is taking fire and trying to evade it. Our ship starts taking hits simultaneously, all from the right and above us through the roof and upper right side of the cabin. Tracers were passing around and through my ship and under alpha 2. My "farmer" is at 8 o'clock low by now and he is reaching for his AK. I get a burst of fire at him but he is almost straight down as I twist my doorgun ammo belt, it breaks jamming the gun. I missed him. Because it will take too long to clear the jam, I let go of the M-60 and grab my M-16, charge the bolt, flip the safety to full auto and take aim. My flight helmet is messing up my sight picture but I manage to dump 20 rounds at him. He spins and drops like a rock with his AK-47 flying away from his body (the peter pilot and door gunner on alpha 2 later confirmed my kill).
While I am shooting, I am hearing all kinds of radio noise, screaming and yelling in the aircraft, and bullet impact noises. Also Hood's doorgun is adding to the din as he burns up his barrel. Hood is trying to ricochet rounds up the side of the hill to break up their incoming fire. The NVA are too high, as Hood has his gun raised to it's full elevation in the mount and he still cannot reach them while they are pumping rounds down into us. More tracers and thumping noises like rocks hitting a tin shed. I can feel the hits we are taking through my feet on the cabin deck.
As I am taking down the "farmer", somebody is screaming at me and tugging at my arm. I shake it free while I fire, then throw the 16 on my gunners seat, clear the M-60 and reload it. I have got to put out suppressive fire but I cannot see any targets. Hood is still firing so I start killing bushes!
Finally Captain Castle's ship flies out of the way and Mr. Reno started giving the ship power as best he could, circling to the right around the hill behind Castle's ship.
"Alpha 2" is to our left but cannot shoot at the hill because we are in the way. Meanwhile we are both still taking fire! When we clear the end of the hill I quit shooting bushes while Hood keeps laying fire on the hill.
I turn to see who is screaming and yanking at me. It is one of the CIDGs and he is tugging at me with his left hand, screaming and crying, holding his right arm at my face. His arm is pumping blood with a hole blown through it right between the forearm bones. The hole is about 6-7 inches long with long strips of muscle hanging off his elbow like two big bloody pieces of string cheese. His uniform is covered in blood. I look past him and see the cabin floor is awash in blood and chunks of meat. The blood is actually blowing across the cabin floor and out of the ship along the edge of the cabin door. All five of the CIDGs have been hit. I am looking at multiple wounds, lots of holes in the ship, damaged equipment and bloody helmets on the cargo floor.
Over the intercom all I can hear is wind screeching and somebody yelling over and over "I'm hit, I'm hit", more wind and again "I'm hit, I'm hit" and again more wind. It is not Hood, Mr. Reno or me, it's the new peter pilot. Mr. Reno is trying to talk him into shutting up because the guy is transmitting his yelling over the radio.
Mr. Reno suddenly yells to me over the din to check to see if we have an engine fire. The master caution and fire indicator lights are lit up like a Christmas tree. I look out toward the tail but cannot see any flames. There is only one way to check for sure. I climb out on the skid with my left foot on the rear skid cap, my left hand holding the edge of the doorframe while my right foot is hanging in the air. I use my right hand to poke the engine cowling hand-foot hole flap up so I can look inside the engine compartment. Luckily the old ship did not have any cargo doors so I was able to check inside the cowling. I have no safety belt on (monkey belts were impossible to get). The only thing holding me to the ship is my left hand and foot and flight helmet radio cord. I look down and see that Mr. Reno has climbed the aircraft to about 1500 feet. I can see no fire but I do see another problem. A round has cut across the engine deck ripping a gash in the top of the main fuel cell right to left. The aircraft slipstream is washing the JP/4 fuel across the deck and out the "dog house" cowling around the engine exhaust cone where the exhaust gas temperature is about 380 degrees. The whole top of the tailboom and vertical fin is wet with fuel and it is leaving a trail blowing out behind us. I can imagine the fireball any second now.
I climb back in and tell Mr. Reno about the fuel. Sp/4 Hood is checking his side of the ship for damage. Mr. Reno tells me to take care of the peter pilot. I was already on the way but he is too busy trying to fly the ship to see what I am doing. The peter pilot is still yelling that he is hit and the wind is still screeching through the flight helmet radio headsets.
As I get past the CIDG wounded, I am seeing many bad wounds, some of which have ricocheted off their heavy equipment causing ugly damage. They had an old 30-caliber machine gun and a 60 MM mortar with them. The cargo floor is real slippery and the CIDGs are rocking back and forth and crawling around in pain. I ripped a couple of first aid kits off the bulkheads and tossed the kits to them. Hopefully they can treat each other. None of them are dead yet. I have to get up to the peter pilot's seat, release the safety catches on the back and pull the seat back from the top. It will pivot from the bottom and lay back into the cargo bay, thereby enabling me to pull the injured pilot out or treat him in that position. If this pilot starts thrashing around in the pilot's seat because of his pain he could cause us to crash. His seat is jammed and will not tilt back. I lay over the side of his seat, seeing a jagged bullet hole in his door window. The wind is screeching through it. There is blood around his boots and all over the floor and another ragged hole in the side of the center console right through the master caution box area. It is still lit up like a Christmas tree. The round went through the window, both of the pilot's legs and into the console.
The peter pilot is fumbling with a morphine surrette trying to get it open (the morphine is kept in the pilot's map case and not in the first aid kits). I take the surrette from him to help him. He jabs at his leg with his hand, showing me that he wants the injection. I inject him and then lean over the seat to check his wounds while opening some pressure bandages. At this point I notice the morphine box and the rest of the surrettes loose on the bloody floor, all empty! He has used all our morphine. I then moved his left leg off the floor mike button to free the radio for Mr. Reno. It was impossible for Mr. Reno to transmit as long as the floor mike button was depressed. The pilot hits me for moving his leg. I then try to locate the surrettes on the floor so I can pin them to his collar so the medics will know how much he has had (I thought he had enough in him to kill him, four in a row). Suddenly he starts hitting me again, slapping the surrettes out of my hand. I need to tell Mr. Reno about the morphine so he can radio the 2nd Surgical Hospital at Chu Lai. My helmet has come unplugged because the mike cord would not reach this far. I now disconnect the peter pilot's helmet cord and plug mine in while he hits me again. I tell Mr. Reno about the morphine then remove the guy's helmet to mark his forehead with an "M" and several dots to show how much morphine he has taken. He hits me again. By this time I have had enough, officer or not, possible shock or not, I punched him and yelled in his face to "Knock it off"! He finally settled down and I marked his forehead.
Returning to his legs I then tore open the pants leg using the bullet holes. A lot of blood and tissue fell out onto the deck. It looked like large chunks of raw liver all torn up. The wounds were pretty bad and they got bigger right to left with quarter, fifty cents, silver dollar and fist size holes. I put direct pressure bandages on both legs all the way to Chu Lai.
I really got nauseous with my head down between his knees so I could reach the wounds. All I can see and smell is blood and his calf muscles blown apart.
It wasn't two and a half or three minutes from the first rounds coming in until I got the bandages on him but it seemed like forever. The flight back to Chu Lai seemed to take an eternity. The CIDGs kept tugging at my legs but I could not do anything for them. I had to keep the wounded pilot stabilized and under control to help Mr. Reno. My boots kept sliding in the gore while I heard the aircraft radio squawking about the damage to the other ships and one of the Firebird gunships being down in the LZ. SP/4 Hood kept checking the aircraft for damage and advising Mr. Reno while he fought the controls to get us back to Chu Lai.
After I got my flight helmet hooked back up, I found out we had two ships escorting us back to Chu Lai in case we went down. They did a flyby of our ship and gave Mr. Reno a report of what they could see and it wasn't good. We were leaking like a sieve. JP/4, oil, and hydraulic fluid all pouring out and still some blood too. Hood looked over his head and found a bullet hole in the roof. He looked behind him and found a bullet hole in the transmission bulkhead inspection panel right behind him. He pulled the panel and found a round had blown away the right rear transmission mount. If the transmission rips away, we will drop like a rock. The round should have taken his head off on the way in. He advised Mr. Reno about the mount. If the round had just cleared the mount it would have hit me in the lower back while I was at the left gunners position.
We finally made it back to the 2nd Surgical pad at Chu Lai where our maintenance people were waiting for us in a ¾ ton weapons carrier. The wounded pilot and CIDG troops were littered into the hospital and our maintenance detachment test pilot ordered us out of the ship. The ship was not even shut down. The test pilot flew the ship back to the "Snakepit", about 1½ miles away while we followed in the weapons carrier. The aircraft was still leaking a stream.
The word got out fast after the ship made it in. Mr. Reno went to operations, while Hood and I disarmed the ship. All the mechanics in the hanger came out to see all the blood and damage to the ship while I started a post flight inspection. The battery, hydraulic reservoir, oil reservoir, generator and rotor blades were all shot up plus additional holes all over the airframe. Luckily through a fluke, we were carrying two aircraft batteries, not the normal load of one. After all the sightseers left I spent the rest of the day scrubbing the blood, gore, brass and spent bullets out of the ship while Hood cleaned the M-60s.
The ship itself took at least 11 hits, most of them in critical areas. I do not know how many hits the CIDGs took but it was a lot. The aircraft should have caught fire or the engine or transmission should have seized up from lack of oil. The transmission case was cracked when the mount was taken out and we had lost all the hydraulics. I do not know how we survived. Mr. Reno was a great pilot but he could not have done anything about the oil leaks or a fire.
The master caution box was so shot up, it lit up only about half of what was really wrong.
I pulled the bullet out of the master caution box and gave it to Mr. Reno who mailed it to the injured pilot in Japan. Late that afternoon I stood by the revetment and watched a Chinook sling off 685 towards the sea. Our maintenance officer standing next to me said it was shot up so bad it wasn't worth saving. Surprisingly it came back full of scab patches about 3 months later. The engine was still just as sick. I never flew that ship again. I refused to because I thought my luck had run out on that ship.
After 685 was lifted off I finally made it back to the company area where I stopped by the operations hooch and was told by the operations officer that six slicks and three gunships had been shot up in the assault. I dumped my flight gear in my platoon hooch and went to our primitive shower (homemade) and as usual there was no water. I waded out into the beach surf to get the rest of the blood off of my bloody uniform and me. That night I got drunk.
For our actions that day both Mr. Reno and I were written up for the Distinguished Flying Cross. Mr. Reno got his but mine was downgraded to the Army Commendation w/V device (for valor). I did not care because I was happy to be alive. SP/4 Hood received an Air Medal w/V device. We later heard that they were able to save both of the pilot's legs.
11 SEPTEMBER 01 - CHAPLAINS RESPOND
by (LTC) William Broome, USA (WO 69-70)
11 September 2001 dawned with a beautiful sunrise, perfect weather, and a clear blue sky. Riding down the High Occupancy Vehicle lane (HOV) on my motorcycle heading towards the Pentagon, my thoughts were about what the day would bring. My job as the Assignment Officer for the Office of the Army Chief of Chaplains is fast paced and often driven by crisis; little did I know what a giant crisis was looming just ahead. The ride in was especially enjoyable that morning with the traffic moving fast and the hum of my bike beneath me. Yet, I had tightness in my chest that made me analyze what I needed to do once I got to work. Finally, after much inner contemplation, I decided the feeling was just the stress of working at the top levels of the military structure on staff at the Pentagon. The Chief of Chaplains has his office near the Mall entrance in the Pentagon, but the majority of his staff is located in Crystal City, about 15 minutes away, while the offices at the Pentagon undergo renovation. This would prove to be a blessing on 11 September 01.
Approaching the South Parking lot of the Pentagon, we came into contact with different police officers, military police and finally secret service officers with machine guns. Large crowds of people were running from the area and others were being directed by the police to places of safety away from the impact locale. As we passed each other I looked into the eyes of those leaving and found a mix of confusion, fear and relief as they saw the crosses on our berets and uniforms. No one was allowed to go into the actual impact area except firemen, police and EMT personnel. However, as soon as the officers saw our crosses and found out we were chaplains, they ushered us through every checkpoint and onto the actual crash site on the Washington Boulevard side of the Pentagon. The officers all said they thought we would be needed. Flames were shooting out of the crash site and the office rooms around it as thick black smoke bellowed up like some dark tornado hovering above the tragedy waiting to strike again. There was a mixture of uniformed military from all services, civilians, police, firemen and EMT personnel covering the site and the heliport area outside the impact zone. This area quickly came to be called the incident site. FBI agents were arriving and taking control of the area as part of the criminal investigation of the terrorist strikes. Everyone there felt the pain of loss of life, loss of security for our greatest military structure and the loss of our innocence as a nation so obviously vulnerable to attack. Throughout the crowd was the hum of voices that stated our world, our nation, and our lives would be forever changed by this assault.
The chaplains, of all military services, very quickly organized into cells of chaplains going to assist the various helping organizations. Some stayed with the wounded as they waited to be evacuated, others went with the make shift mortuary crews setting up a morgue area and still others were assigned to the groups of people trying to enter the building to look for more survivors. At that time, perhaps the saddest groups of people were those that kept running up to the entrances of the building hoping to get inside to search for others who could not get out on their own. It was with one of these volunteer groups that I found myself soon after arriving. Again and again we ran up with firemen and EMT units, only to be turned back as smoke and flames shot out. The heroic efforts of these volunteers never faltered and their actions seemed so normal for such a surreal situation. The concern on the faces of those waiting to help was for those left inside, not for themselves. The helpless feeling of watching the Pentagon burn and then having to retreat time and again as we attempted to enter the building was truly demoralizing. A call went up for all medical personnel to gather in one spot for instructions on setting up different triage sites. Chaplains joined with the medical teams setting up the immediate site; a site where those not expected to live were to be placed. Just after the call for medical personnel, a call came for the chaplains to gather for instructions. An Air Force sergeant began to say that the chaplains were needed to head up the body bag detail to help place bodies in bags as they were removed from the building. Unfortunately, this sergeant didn't really understand what chaplains do, they minister to the living and honor the dead; bodies into bags is a mortuary detail. Ch Biggers, a one star Navy Reserve chaplain, and Ch (BG) Hicks, the Deputy Chief of Chaplains for the Army, continued to organize chaplains where needed.
As evening fell, the chaplains were well grouped into areas of support for the various organizations helping out at the Pentagon. A tent was set up just in front of the actual incident site where 6-8 chaplains worked 24 hours a day divided into 12-hour shifts rotating at 0700 and 1900 hours. These chaplains would encourage and minister to the workers on site. The Pentagon has a pastor who ministers to those inside the building and this chaplain was given several other chaplains and assistants to help as calls came in for a chaplain to visit the offices affected the most by loss and other directorates where people just needed some reassurance as they came back to work. Chaplains were assigned to the mortuary services for the military and the FBI. These chaplains saw first hand the horrible mutilation that occurs when a speeding plane explodes at 400 MPH with a full load of fuel into a building full of people. In fact, DNA alone will be used to identify many of those lost. The chaplains with the FBI mortuary team had to minister to agents responsible for handling the bodies and parts of bodies, as they looked for evidence in the criminal investigation. Chaplains blessed the bodies, made sure the bodies were treated with respect and dignity and ministered to those responsible for the removal of human remains. There were also chaplains placed at several locations in Crystal City. A Joint Family Assistance Center (JFAC) was set up at the Sheraton Hotel in Crystal City for the families of the Pentagon victims. Representatives from all the services were placed there to assist families in legal, medical, financial, and spiritual matters. Six chaplains from the different services worked days and three chaplains worked nights. Rooms were set-aside for families to sit and talk with a chaplain if needed. A chaplain Operation Center was established in our office building on the 12th floor of the Presidential Towers in Crystal City. It was from this location that all the command and control as well as logistical support for all the sites was managed. Beginning the night of the 12th of September, I began to head the Chaplain Operation Center during the night shift and held this position for the next eight days until reserve chaplains came in to relieve us. A chaplain was also assigned to man the Army Operations Center in the Pentagon.
Before long, the grim task of notifying families that their loved ones were actually dead began to take place. Notification officers were assigned to each family and a chaplain went along with each team to offer support and spiritual guidance for the families notified. The Navy chaplains actually do the notifications for the Navy personnel. The Army and the Navy suffered the most losses on 11 September 2001, as well as DOD civilians working for both services. Notification continues until the last victim is positively identified, it may take several months for this to conclude as teams of forensic experts work at this task in Dover, DL. Chaplains will be a part of every action and team involved in making the Pentagon whole and well again. Every denomination is represented with chaplains from the Active Services, Reserves, and National Guard as this process unfolds and finishes. From notifications of Next of Kin, deployment of units, family support teams, to the final family reunion briefings; chaplains will be there every step of the way. They will minister to those in harms way, help those left behind, honor those who may lose their life for liberty, and aid where ever spiritual leadership is needed. In the military, the chaplain IS the recognized representative of God to those who so valiantly serve their country for freedom's sake. The chaplain is often the only spiritual link a service member ever encounters while on duty, and perhaps the only religious leader the soldier, sailor, or airman has ever known. What an awesome responsibility and opportunity for witnessing and service to Christ our King!
Running to the Pentagon, I had time to think about what was happening and what I was going to do. The text in Matthew 24:6 kept running through my mind, that there shall be wars and rumors of wars, but the end is not yet. This brought a peace that man does not offer to my troubled mind and heart. True peace and assurance came to me as I ran and I knew that my God was in charge and would guide me to where I was needed most. The Bible tells us that we will be a part of the wars and rumors of wars that befall us, and if this is true, then God has a plan for us all, to protect us and to use us to help others. On 11 September 2001, there were chaplains on duty at the Pentagon, doing exactly what God was asking them to do. These chaplains were ministering to the wounded, the dying, the families, the workers, the firemen, the medical teams, and the soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and civilians who volunteered to do any thing needed that dreadful day. As you think about the events, the families, and the victims, think about the chaplains who are there performing ministry and pray for their renewed strength and spirituality. They too, become tired, discouraged, disillusioned, and depressed as they attempt to answer again and again the question of why this happened to our great Nation. They too are human and feel the same pain and hurt that they must comfort in others. My own denomination, The Seventh Day Adventist church, believes in the prophesies of the Bible and looks at these tragic events as a part of the fulfillments along a time line leading to the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Understanding this Bible truth does not make ministry any easier during the crisis. Yet, even in the midst of tragedy and evil, God assures us He is with us, now and to the end of time, never forsaking or leaving us, but rather, holding and uplifting us when we are the weakest. This fact is what strengthens me now, and this fact is what brings me the peace I feel inside, peace that passes all human understanding. Thank you Lord, for allowing me to serve your people and this great Nation during this troubled time.