Rattler/Firebird Association



A veteran – whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve – is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of “up to and including my life.”

“Like the book said, we may be through with the past but the past is not through with us!”


I have been very proud of our men who wore their dress uniforms to our reunion banquet. I hope more will do so at Mobile next year.

Just wondering. Does anyone but me ever notice when you see a movie or re-enactment of a helicopter flight in Vietnam, the gunner and crew chief almost always have the gunsights in the up position? The only moment that gunsight is of any value is when you were sitting dead still! I use the term dead still to drive home how dangerous it was to be in that bull’s eye in an LZ. You spent about 4 seconds on the ground with that time spent getting troops off. If they were ARVNs, you were usually throwing them off.

If you used the M-60 sights in flight, you were shooting from 20 to 50 feet behind any target. You aimed by your tracers. Just wondering!

My plea for operating funds for this Association in the last newsletter produced astounding results. You members have donated just under $25,500. I love you people! We must be doing something right. I cannot thank you enough for the love and support you have shown this Association!

Have you ever had something wonderful happen to you that you never expected. That is the way I felt the night I took Kay and my sister Sandy to a concert to see Michael Bolton. The opening act was Celine Dion. Wow!

I'm 6' 6" tall. The only trouble I ever had with clothing in Vietnam was finding boots to fit. I wore size 15 back then (16 now) and the basic training leather boots went to pot real quick in 'Nam. One day I was crossing the road from our shower area back to our tent area (this was in Bien Hoa when we lived in Tent City, not Bailey Compound) and the end of my boots were flapping up a storm. 1st Sgt. Hillhouse saw me and hollered at me to get some new boots. I told him, "1st Sgt, they don't have any boots to fit me!" About two days later Sgt. Lackey came in my tent and threw two pair of new jungle boots at me, size 15. He never would tell me where he got them.

Because of faulty record keeping there is no confirmed number of Americans who served in Vietnam. The best estimate that the Department of Defense can conclude is that between 2,709,918 to 3,173,845 GI's served in-country and in-waters Vietnam between 1954 and 1975 (this does not count the handful of Americans who served in Vietnam during WW2). However, veterans groups estimate that today approximately 9 to 12 million Americans fraudulently claim they served in Vietnam.

Chuck Carlock, Dwayne (Willie) Williams, Wilkie Boyd, Ron Seabolt and James Baldwin
Chuck Carlock, Dwayne (Willie) Williams, Wilkie
Boyd, Ron-Seabolt and James Baldwin

A few weeks ago Steve Mackey (EM 70-71) attended a fund raiser at the Pachanga Indian Resort in California. Steve was wearing a jungle fatigue shirt with an Americal patch on it. A man came up to him and asked Steve if he happened to serve at Chu Lai, which Steve confirmed. The man told him he too served at Chu Lai in the Americal with a helicopter unit that had a snake on the front.

Small world. The man’s name was Ronald Dillard (EM 68-69). Steve reached in his pocket and pulled out his Rattler / Firebird challenge coin and gave it to Dillard. Ronald had no idea our Association existed until that moment. There’s just no telling how many are out there just like that.

This past summer, James Baldwin visited our museum at Chuck Carlock's home. Baldwin is Canadian and is putting together oral histories of Canadians who fought alongside Americans in the Vietnam War.

In my life I have learned the hard way that grief is the price you pay for love.


The Association Board of Directors has unanimously agreed that at future reunions, when our Memorial Service is scheduled to begin, usually at 8:30 on Saturday morning, the doors will be closed at that time and there will be no further admittance to the room. The purpose of this service is to honor our fallen brothers by showing all the respect they are due. It is a very solemn event.

This notice will appear in every newsletter going forward and, at reunions, there will be prominently placed signs to this effect, as well as announcements.


Mobile Marriott Hotel
Mobile Marriott Hotel

Don Vishy WO 68-69) is trying to determine how much interest there is in a golf outing at the Mobile Reunion. Please contact Don no later than December 31st at [email protected] if you would like to take part in this so plans can be made.

We need reunion reservations made as soon as possible. Our room block is small and will need to be expanded as we go along, but the hotel may raise the room rates when we add these rooms. To be sure to get the best price, reserve your room ASAP. IMPORTANT: Double check your hotel confirmation to make sure it is for the correct number of nights. Mistakes have occurred on this already.

Our guest speaker for the Saturday night banquet is SFC Sammy L. Davis (retired). Sammy served with the 9th Infantry Division and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on November 18, 1967.

As in our previous reunion, an anonymous donor has pledged to give $100 cash to each unit member whom this is his first Rattler-Firebird Reunion.

Reunion information is included in this newsletter. Registration and hotel deadline is May 7, 2020.

Reminder: The next newsletter will be after the Mobile Reunion, in June 2020.

Additional Reunion Information at the bottom of this page.


Gerald E. Kislek (EM 64-65) died on 21 August 2019 from the effects of COPD. Gerald was a retired Command Sergeant Major with 1800 hours flying time and four Purple Hearts.


From Bill DiDio (EM 68-69)

A breakdown of where KIAs occurred in The Vietnam War:

I Corp*26,011
II Corp7,172
III Corp13,277
IV Corp2,599
North Vietnam1,120
South Vietnam (no region)6,602

*Over 44% of the Vietnam War deaths occurred in I Corp.


In a news release promoting VA healthcare the following VA MISSION ACT is announced:

Veterans are eligible for care in the community when any of the following criteria are met:

  1. VA does not provide the service needed.
  2. Veteran was receiving care under the Choice Program distance criteria. Veteran may continue to be eligible until June 6th of 2020.
  3. Veteran is more than a 30-minute drive from primary and mental health care and more than a 60-minute drive from specialty care.
  4. Veteran must wait more than 20 days for a primary care appointment and more than 28 days for specialty care from the day they ask for the appointment.
  5. Veteran and provider agree that it is in the Veteran’s best interest to be seen in the community.*

Last year in a vision examine, the technician I was seeing saw something he felt needed more specialized attention. They scheduled me to see this specialist about a month later. That appointment got canceled and rescheduled. Then that appointment was canceled. The VA then made me an appointment with one of the best civilian specialist in my area. I did not know they would do this. I was very satisfied with the care received. rs

*Note: Using the VA “find-location” directions, I entered my information and was directed to use a community provider in Mississippi, 391 miles from Mabank, Texas. I think there may be some bugs in the system! At least my mileage payment would have been a whopper! rs


10 November 1966
Received from Paul Teelin (WO 66-67)

14 Oct 66: Today was a dark day in the Rattler book of history. The Rattler flight was in support of the 4th ARVN Marine Battalion and the 30th ARVN Ranger Battalion. With 12 UH-1D and 5 UH-1B aircraft the Rattlers were to conduct airmobile assaults into three LZ’s in seven lifts. The first three lifts were made with no enemy fire received. The Firebirds made firing runs into the LZ’s. This marked the end of phase I of the operation. Phase II began shortly after 1300 hours. At the first LZ fire was reported by the Firebirds and two firing passes were conducted. “No fire” areas had been designated by the mission commander to minimize civilian casualties. Three troop ships were hit coming out of the LZ and air strikes or artillery was requested but denied by the mission commander. This happened repeatedly. Seven ships were used for the second assault and three were hit on short final. Upon leaving the LZ, two more Rattler aircraft were hit. Also two Firebird aircraft received hits while escorting the slicks out of the LZ. Again air strikes and artillery was denied by the mission commander. Two FAC’s and three A1E’s were overhead but were not used. After two more hours had past, air strikes were finally directed into the village which had previously been a “No fire” area. We received additional support from the 120th Aviation Company, the 116th Aviation Company and another light fire team led by Rebel 21. The Rattlers flew 92 hours and 225 sorties. Our greatest loss was in personnel with five WIAs and one KIA (Robert Pruhs). Today’s mission was a job well done by the Rattlers who deserve full credit for the accomplishment of the mission.


From John Mayteko (OF 65-66)

I was released from active duty in 1968, immediately joined the Connecticut National Guard flying H-23s. That lasted about three months before I transferred to the Army Reserve as an IRR. 'Summer Camp' 1969 and 1970 at Corpus Christ as a test pilot. 1971 and 1972 at New Cumberland Army Depot as a test pilot. 1973 I was assigned to Hqtrs, Military Traffic Management Command at Falls Church, VA. They were in the Nassif Building (owned by a Kennedy corporation) on US 50 about five miles west of Henderson Hall (HQ, USMC). During each two week tour I wore the appropriate issued uniform, be it a flight suit or dress greens. EXCEPT for the two weeks in June of 1976 (Bicentennial Year) when I was told to wear civilian clothes as the military in Washington, DC was concerned about anti-military demonstration. Hell, my family and I were staying in the motel across US 50 from the Nassif Building. Who is going to demonstrate while I was crossing a four lane city road? I complied and wore business suits during those two weeks.

At the time I thought it strange that during part of the bicentennial year our military didn't wear uniforms in our nation's capitol. The older I get, the more crap like that bothers me.

On Sunday, June 16, 2019, 5:55:04 PM CDT, Ron Richtsmeier wrote:

I think you will all find this as repugnant as I do. When I came back from Vietnam, my old Cobra Company XO came back shortly after. He was stationed at Ft. Ord, CA. There was a weekend Family Day scheduled so family members and visitors could visit their uniformed friends and family to see where they lived and worked. He told me that the CG canceled the event because Jane Fonda sent him a message that she would organize a protest and block the gate. Mike went down to personnel on Monday to resign. He had to stand in line because other captains were there ahead of him.

Ron Richtsmeier


by Terry Garlock

Well into the autumn of my life, I am occasionally reminded the end is not too far over the horizon. Mortality puts thoughts in my head, like “What have I done to leave this world a better place?”

There actually are a few things that I think made my existence worthwhile. I will tell you just one of them, because so many of you need to hear it.

No matter how much this rubs the wrong way, I am quite proud to have served my country in the Vietnam War. Yes, I know, most of you were taught there is shame attached to any role in the war that America lost, an unfortunate mistake, an immoral war, an unwise intrusion into a civil war, a racist war, a war in which American troops committed widespread atrocities, where America had no strategic interest, and that our North Vietnamese enemy was innocently striving to re-unite Vietnam.

The problem is, none of those things are true. That didn’t stop America over the last 50 years lapping up this Kool-Aid concocted by the anti-war machine, a loose confederation of protesting activists, the mainstream news media and academia. They opposed the war with loud noise, half-truths and fabrications. They are the ones who still write their version in our schoolbooks, and their account of history conveniently excuses themselves for cowardly encouraging our enemy while we were at war. You see, having the right to protest does not necessarily make it the right or honorable thing to do.

So, yes, I am defiantly proud to have been among those who raised our right hand swearing to do our duty for our country while so many others yelled and screamed and marched, burned their draft cards, declared, ”Hell no! I won’t go!” and some fled to Canada. In that period of uncomfortable controversy, even patriots tended to look the other way when activists heartily insulted American troops as they returned through California airports from doing the country’s hardest work in Vietnam. War correspondent Joe Galloway summed it up nicely in a column about Vietnam vets in the Chicago Tribune long ago; “They were the best you had, America, and you turned your back on them.”

To be sure, there were lots of warts and wrinkles in the war. We were fighting a tough Communist enemy, defending South Vietnam’s right to remain free. At the same time we were betrayed by our own leadership in the White House with their incompetent micromanagement and idiotic war-fighting limitations that got thousands of us killed while preventing victory. And we were betrayed by fellow citizens encouraging our enemy.

I was trained to be an Army Cobra helicopter pilot. I remember many times, with no regrets, shooting up the enemy to protect our ground troops, firing to cover fellow pilots, and firing to keep the brutal enemy away from South Vietnamese civilians. A high school student asked me last year how I deal with the guilt. I answered that I don’t have any guilt, that I was doing my duty and would proudly do it again.

When John Lennon turned the Beatles into a protest band, his song “Give Peace a Chance” was hailed as genius. Look up the inane lyrics and judge for yourself. At protest rallies, crowds of tens of thousands would raise their arms to wave in unison while chanting in ecstasy, “All we are asking, is give peace a chance!” over and over. Luminaries like Tom Smothers, presidential candidate George McGovern, writer and self-acclaimed intellectual Gore Vidal and a host of others lauded Lennon’s song and observed “Who wouldn’t prefer peace to war?”

What self-indulgent, naive stupidity!

My friend Anh Nguyen was 12 years old in 1968, living in the city of Hue, the cultural center of Vietnam. One morning when he opened the shutters to his bedroom window, a shot was fired over his head, the first he knew the enemy’s Tet Offensive had begun. The Communists had negotiated a cease fire for their New Year holiday of Tet, then in treachery attacked on that holiday in about 100 locations all over South Vietnam.

The enemy was well prepared and they took the city of Hue. They had lists of names and addresses provided by spies, and they went from street to street, dragging from their homes political leaders, business owners, teachers, doctors, nurses and other “enemies of the people.” The battle raged four weeks before our Marines retook the city. In the aftermath, mass graves with nearly 5,000 bodies were found, executed by the Communists, many tied together and buried alive.

Anh and his family had evacuated to an American compound for protection. Anh says when the battle was over and they walked Highway 1 back to their home, the most beautiful sight his family had ever seen was US Marines lining the road, standing guard over South Vietnamese civilians. To follow John Lennon’s plea, Anh’s family and countrymen could “Give peace a chance” by surrendering to the Communist invaders, but even a mush-head like Lennon should know there are some things you don’t give up without a fight. I doubt Lennon would have understood the best way to ensure peace is to carry the biggest stick.

Want to know what causes me shame?

In 1973, when we basically had the war won, the US gave it away in a peace agreement when escape from Vietnam was the only politically acceptable option. In the peace agreement, the US pledged our ongoing financial support to South Vietnam’s defense, and pledged US direct military intervention if the North Vietnamese ever broke their pledge not to attack South Vietnam. In the 1974 elections, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and President Nixon’s resignation, Democrats were swept into Congress and promptly cut off all funding to South Vietnam in violation of the US pledge.

Of course North Vietnam was watching.

In early 1975 when the North Vietnamese attacked South Vietnam, President Ford literally begged Congress to fund the US pledge to intervene, and Congress refused.

The same news media, protesters and academia who had screamed against the war, firmly turned their back in 1975 and refused to notice the slaughter and inhumanity as the Communists overwhelmed the ally America had thrown under the bus. Even today, few on the anti-war side know or care there were roughly 75,000 executions, that a panicked million fled in over-packed rickety boats and died at sea by the tens of thousands, that a million were sent to brutal re-education camps for decades and also died by the tens of thousands, or that South Vietnamese who fought to remain free - and their descendants - are still persecuted to this day. Abandoning our ally to that fate is America’s everlasting shame.

We could have won that war if our military had been allowed to take off the soft gloves, but it went on far too long with no end in sight, mismanaged to a fare-thee-well by the White House and became America’s misery. Through it all, even the betrayals from home, we fought well and never lost one significant battle.

Leftists think they know all about the war and the Americans who fought it. They don’t know didley.

At the 334th Attack Helicopter Company in Bien Hoa, we Cobra pilots were 19 to 25 years old with very rough edges. We thought of ourselves as gunslingers and might have swaggered a bit. We drank too much at the end of a sweat-stained day, for fun or escape or both. We laughed off close calls with the bravado of gallows humor. We toasted our dead and hid the pain of personal loss deep inside. We swore a lot and told foul jokes. We pushed away the worry of how long our luck would hold, and the next day we would bet our life again to protect the South Vietnamese people and each other.

To properly characterize my fellow Vietnam vets, I need to borrow words from John Steinbeck as he wrote about the inhabitants of Cannery Row, and ask you to look from my angle, past their flaws, to see them as I often do, “. . . saints and angels, martyrs and holy men.” America’s best.

I am proud to be one of them because we faced evil together in a valiant effort to keep the South Vietnamese people free, doing God’s work for a little while, even though it failed by the hand of our own countrymen working against us from safety at home.

More than any other class of people, I trust and admire the American men and women who served in Vietnam and met the test of their mettle, even the ones I don’t know. I wouldn’t trade a single one of them for a thousand leftist anti-war elites.

Everyone deserves a second chance. But for the naval-gazing flower children who remain unrepentant about encouraging the enemy we were fighting, who still smugly know all the wrong answers about us and the Vietnam War, who have never known mortal danger and didn’t give a fig when Saigon fell and the Commies made South Vietnamese streets run red with the blood of innocent people, I want to be sure to deliver this invitation before I get too old and feeble: kiss me where the sun don’t shine.

06/21/1969 Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

By Scott Runyon (EM 68-69)

Distinguished Flying Cross

It was a Tuesday, May 21st, 1968. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was playing at the movie theaters and Simon and Garfunkel’s, Mrs. Robinson was on the radios across the United States. Halfway around the world, in the Republic of Vietnam, on Hill 112 there was a different kind of story being acted out. The exception is that, these men are not actors or singers, they are comrades, soldiers, and Patriots.

Scott Runyon, Bill Patrick, Larry (Smitty) Smith and an unknown Peter Pilot were in for a day of filled with unknowns. One thing was certain, their bravery and comradery was something even Clint Eastwood himself would have been proud of. The day started early with Bill Patrick, the AC (Aircraft Commander), and crew flying C&C (Command and Control). They got on station at about 07:30 that morning. This is their story as told by Scott Runyon, the crew chief.

My aircraft, a UH-1 Huey, was flying C&C and I was with Bill Patrick, Smitty, and a Peter Pilot that I can no longer remember the name of. As soon as, we got on station around 07:30 that morning, we were asked to take an emergency resupply of water and ammunition to the ground forces that were in contact with a large North Vietnamese Army force (NVA). We took off and low leveled into the Landing Zone (LZ) to drop off supplies. We went back to LZ West and were asked again to take another load of needed supplies and, this time, pick up 2 fallen soldiers. When we had got there, the troops, on the ground, piled five of the casualties on board. We returned to LZ West and then from there, we went to LZ Baldy to drop off the casualties and refuel our helicopter. We then returned to LZ West, again, this time to pick up the Colonel and fly over to the area of operation (AO) so that he could get a look for himself and see what was going on in the active zone. By the time we had gotten back to LZ West, a Minuteman Aircraft was on station and getting ready to take more supplies into the hot zone. Bill Patrick spoke to the AC from the Minuteman and told him that the area was very hot, that we had been receiving heavy ground fire.

The Minuteman took off and climbed to about 1500 feet before reaching the LZ and then started to orbit back down into the LZ. They took heavy ground fire and were, ultimately, shot down. At this time, we took off and low leveled into the crash site. Sadly, the Crew Chief had been killed and we, ourselves were taking heavy ground fire. Smitty had taken out 2 of the NVA and I took out at least one, maybe more.

Prior to our return to LZ West, we were able to pick up the Aircraft Commander, the Door Gunner, an Infantryman and their Peter Pilot. We were also, able to recover the body of the Crew Chief. It was a long, gruesome day. Three other aircraft had also been shot down that day, but we had a job to do and so we carried on and finished our job. We were the only aircraft left that day on station, so, we just kept on running much needed supplies to the units on the ground.

I don’t think any us of consider ourselves heroes or this an act of heroism. We considered it our duty to each other and to our country. It was simply, our job to do and we did just that, our job.


"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.” Paul Horning

I thought getting old would take longer!

Japanese scientists have created a camera with such a fast shutter speed they now can photograph a woman with her mouth shut.

Q.. If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go until you would find the letter 'A'?
A. One thousand

Bookseller conducting a market survey asks a woman, “Which book has helped you most in your life?”
The woman replied, “My husband’s check book.”

An old man was asked, ”Even after 70 years you still call your wife darling, honey, love, etc. What’s the secret?
The old man replied, “I forgot her name and I’m scared to ask her!”


Larry the Cable guy said, “I have a friend who is distressed because he had had sex with his third cousin. I told him to stop counting!” (Now that’s funny, I don’t care who you are!)

Steve Mackey and Ron Dillard
Steve Mackey and Ron Dillard

Jim Adams and Doug Schultz
Jim Adams and Doug Schultz

Our Paver Brick at the Ft. Rucker Museum
Our Paver Brick at the Ft. Rucker Museum

Ken Wiegand and Mark Leopold
(both WO-67-68)


Additional Reunion Information

The links below are for downloadable, printable .pdf files that will all open in a new window: