Or, shall I write, forgetting TET?
I arrived in Da Nang Vietnam in December 1966 barely six months from graduating from Harlingen High School.
At that period and time, I arrived by myself. In today’s conflicts, soldiers/ Marines train and go into combat with his whole unit, be it a company, platoon or a battalion. I adjusted quickly.
I was part of a company, a communication company. We operated an old style switchboard with wires and toggle switches. We provided communication within the headquarters compound.
I was part of a four-man commo team that rotated every eight hours providing communications 24/7.
Several times a week, the Viet Cong would send 120 mm rockets into Da Nang base where most of the helicopters and Phantom jets were parked. Back at the barracks, we would sleep with one year and one eye half open. Thee rockets would fly over the headquarters compound. They sounded like freight trains. As soon as the rockets were spotted going off, the Marines up on the hill would open with the M-60 machine guns and planes would start flying.
The Marine tour was 13 months. I was due to rotate home in January, but I was homesick. I wanted to be home for Christmas. In order to go home early, I had to sign up for an extra six months of combat duty. I thought I was being smart. I came to the land of the big PX and had a semi-good time.
Well, a couple of weeks after I arrived back in Da Nang, the TET offensive began. It was supposed to be a Vietnamese holiday and the Marines and soldiers were not expecting this kind of attack.
For three straight nights, we were rocketed mostly at night. It was a scary time and many Marines and soldiers were killed.
During one particular night of constant rocket shelling, we were instructed to report to the wire section command center where the only switchboard was located.
Some of us went outside during the night and watched the rockets land on the main landing strip, we were dumb and as we were watching the action, we heard a sound like a chainsaw going on behind us. We turned around and saw a light we had never seen before. It seemed like a pillar of fire raining down from the sky. We could not figure it out.
Later, we found out it was tracer bullets. The noise was deafening. It would start and stop suddenly.
The next day we found that the Viet Cong had infiltrated the base, but were back by the Spooky gunship with their side mounted Gatling guns. This was the fire and sound we had seen and heard the night before.
Several of us Marines went over the Da Nang River where the Marines were pulling out pieces of burned bodies form the river. I will never forget that sight. This is the TET I would like to forget.
The TET offensive continued for several more weeks and months and countless Marines and soldiers lost their lives. One of those was Sgt. Sano Daily. We need to never forget them all.
During this upcoming Memorial Day and Veterans Day, we should honor those to died on the battlefield and those who came home broken both physically and mentally.
They are still paying today.
The Marines and soldiers all gave some, but some of them gave all. We Marines gave all for God, Country and the Corps.
Pilar Espinosa Cpl. USMC Harlingen