I was born in Astoria, Oregon in 1950. I graduated at Othello High School in 1968 in Othello, WA.
In December of 1968, I joined the Air Force. After Basic Training and Weapons Mechanic School at Lowry AFB, my first station was McChord, AFB in Tacoma, WA. At McChord I saw a bulletin board post for “Palace Dragon”, in search of weapons mechanics. A friend, Wally Moore, said, “Let’s sign up for this. We’ll get overseas pay, flight pay, hazardous duty pay AND our base pay!” Extra money sounded great to me! Next thing I knew, I had orders for SERE Survival School at Fairchild AFB in Spokane, WA. Next, I moved on to Columbus, Ohio, for Flight School and Gunner School at Lockbourne AFB. Last step, Jungle Survival School at Clark AFB in the Philippines. After the Philippines, I was flown in to DaNang AFB in August of 1970, trained and ready but inside, heart thumping.
My experience in Vietnam is similar to everyone else’s, except for being on the best crew a young man could ever expect! Captain Ben Collins was our Pilot and a great man. 2nd Lieutenant Terry Bott was our Co-Pilot. These two men were 5 and 4 years older than I, respectively, and shared a wealth of knowledge. I am forever indebted to them both. We were known as “Crew 10”. We had the most truck kills at the time. Our first record was 21 trucks and we later topped that with 36 trucks. Our crew received a Distinguished Flying Cross for each of these missions. We also had missions when were hit by Triple AAA but we always made it back to base.
In Nam, I made lifelong friends. Bob Hamorsky, who I believe is my true brother in life. Joe Alvarez, Steve McCloskey, Tom Nolan and Ron Deuri, we were all gunners. And, roommates! We took three 2 man rooms and made sleeping quarters out of half the room and in the other half we created “The Cave”, our black light music room, decorated with black light posters, signs and artwork. We six still keep in contact with one another.
In May of 1971, I went to Nakhon Phanom. I was flying with a new crew. I didn’t really know anyone that well. One night we got hit and lost 2000 gallons of fuel in the cargo compartment. We all put on our chutes and tightened each other up. I was second in line at the door to bail out, with my knees knocking, over the middle of Laos, in the middle of the night, thinking to myself, “I am going to use my SERE training. I was scared as hell and 20 years old. I wanted my Mom right then. At the last second, the pilot said, “I think we’ll make it back to base. NO SMOKING!!!”. I have never been more relieved in my life, than I was that night.
The guys I met in Vietnam are still as important as family to me. Bill Petrie was one of those then and is today. I’ve come to love this man, a true friend.
My last station was Mountain Home AFB in ID. I was a Weapons Mechanic Supervisor during my duty there. I was out in December of 1972, coming home with 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 8 Air Medals that I didn’t look at for 20 years.
The first seven years post Nam, I was lost, screwed up, and not making good decisions in my life as many of you were, also. In 1979, I met my wife Susan, who is my soulmate. We just celebrated our 40th anniversary. We have 3 children, Darla, Danielle, and Jace and 5 grandchildren. I’ve been a mailman, a forklift operator, and best of all, owner of a screen print and embroidery business for 24 years into retirement. I turned 70 this year and am in good health. Knocking on wood! Life is good.
I want to thank everyone who helped a 19-20 year old kid make it through that time in a strange land. I did survive Vietnam. Not all of us did. I’ll never forget.
I also want to thank Everett Sprouse for helping me with anything and everything in our Gunship group. He has nudged and pushed me along.