Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Snowball," a puppy one of the soldiers adopted looks for a handout. 
Dick Dierks works on Long Binh, South Vietnam.
Victor smiles and enjoys off-duty time. 
This photo shows residue from a party held on Long Binh army post.
Jim Fowler (shown in photo) was stationed at Long Binh, South Vietnam. 

Grant Thigpen (front) and others get ready for "guard mount" before going to the perimeter to guard the U.S. army post at Long Binh, South Vietnam, 1971.

This photo was taken from a bus entering Saigon in 1971.


  

Patrick Dunn, U.S. infantryman
A soldier readies to fly home to the U.S.

Two young ladies pose in Saigon in 1971. 

A street in Saigon. 
A street in Saigon.
A young elephant lived in the Saigon Zoo in 1971.

U.S. soldiers Grant Thigpen, Augustus Lane Bagwell and Mike Kitzmiller pose at the Saigon Zoo in 1971.

A child enjoys a ride at the Saigon Zoo in South Vietnam. 


The Saigon Zoo was a peaceful place during much of 1971.


A soldier waits near packed duffle bags. 


'Guard Duty'
By Larry Steve Crain

Months before finishing my first year as a high school art teacher (1969-70) in 1970 in Greenville, S.C., I watched a government-run lottery on TV.

Men were to be drafted in order of birthdates drawn. Officials placed 365 tickets inside a lottery cage and drew 28 times before I heard my birth date, March 2, as “number 29.” Draft time.

I might have avoided the draft by marrying the teacher who later became my wife, but I wasn’t ready to marry. A shop teacher friend said he’d get me into his National Guard unit, but I declined and “volunteered for the draft”—an option allowing me to avoid waiting to be drafted and still committing me to serve only two years.

Within months I landed in Long Binh, South Vietnam and spent a year working mainly for an inventory control center. Some nights, I guarded part of our post perimeter but never saw combat.

Our mess hall played Janis Joplin’s recording of “Me and Bobbie McGee” and Peter, Paul and Mary’s rendition of “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane.” I read a few anti-war paperbacks, such as “The Strawberry Statement” and the World War I novel “Johnny Got His Gun”—donated books I found in our company “day room.”

At a Bible study at our company chapel, a friend told me to read the 13th chapter of Romans if I ever felt resentment toward our government. Romans 13 begins with: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God….”

Each GI in our barracks performed guard duty almost weekly. About 18 of us stood in formation for “guard mount” one afternoon and heard our officer of the day, a muscular first lieutenant, call, “Attention.”

As the lieutenant inspected our M-16s, a slender, shirtless GI stepped onto the second-floor staircase landing of the barracks nearest us. He leaned against a wood railing and took a drag on a cigarette as his stereo boomed these lyrics through his room’s open doorway:

“Come on, all you big strong men, Uncle Sam needs a helping hand again. He’s got himself in a terrible jam way down yonder in Vietnam…”

No one spoke as the recording by “Country Joe and the Fish” blared.

“Well, it’s one, two, three. What are we fighting for? Don’t ask me. I don’t give a d…. We’re bound for Vietnam…”

Our lieutenant quietly continued inspection as the song played.

“Well, it’s six, seven, eight. Open up the pearly gates. Ain’t no time to wonder why. We’re all gonna die….”

The lieutenant never mentioned the music.

Before sunset, another soldier and I manned a perimeter bunker. Scrawled on the bunker were slogans such as: “Nixon doesn’t sleep with these roach bugs,” “What if they gave a war and nobody came,” and “Old soldiers never die; it’s the young ones that get blown away.”

That night, I sat and looked at a darkened rice paddy and thought about the afternoon weapons inspection, the music, the lieutenant’s silence, and chapter 13 of Romans.

                                        ________________________________________                  

Reunion after Many Years
by Larry Steve Crain, written on November 3, 2002
 
Pictured in 1971 at Long Binh, Vietnam, are Mark Lucas (left) and Larry Steve Crain.  


We met over 30 years ago—he a Yankee, I a Southerner—and we hadn’t seen each other for 20 years until Mark Lucas—the only Army buddy I’ve stayed in contact with—recently flew south.

As I awaited his arrival at the Raleigh-Durham International (N.C.) airport on a recent Friday evening, I thought about how our friendship began.

“If anyone wants to help with music, see Steve afterwards,” said our chaplain at a Sunday morning service in an Army chapel in Long Binh, Vietnam, in August 1971.

As an enlisted man working for “The Army Reporter” newspaper, I sometimes led music at our company chapel, using a 7-dollar guitar purchased in nearby Saigon—now Ho Chi Minh City.

Uniformed men exited the chapel as one smiling, trim, blonde, 6-foot-2, new-in-country soldier walked toward me.

“I hope he knows music,” I thought.

Not to worry. Lucas, from Wyckoff, N. J., had a Manhattan School of Music degree in cello and played trombone in Long Binh’s Army band. He found an old, stand-up bass fiddle among the Army’s instrument arsenal, and we sang folk-gospel at chapel services—even did a concert at TC Hill. To leave Vietnam, each soldier had to pass a drug test or face detox at TC Hill, a Long Binh prison.

We sang “Kum Ba Yah,” “Put Your Hand in the Hand,” and “Why Did They Nail Him to Calvary’s Tree?” (using the tune of “Blowing in the Wind”). And Lucas’ highbrow training didn’t get in the way of his thumping out some great bass on blue grass songs I taught him.

We often discussed Christian faith. He hailed from a Dutch Christian Reformed background; I was raised in South Carolina Pentecostal tradition. He’d absorbed a lot of teaching about “eternal security of believers,” and I’d heard a good bit about infernal insecurity of believers. (As a teenager, when I used to give my grandmother the argument that Jesus said that no man could “pluck”—that’s a good King James word—anyone out of his hand, she’d say, “Yes, but you can pluck yourself out.”)

The Apostle Paul wrote that, “in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek.” I suspect that also means that, in Christ, there is neither North nor South. Mark and I seemed to believe that.

I left Vietnam before Christmas ’71, returning to my wife Carol in Greenville, S.C. Mark, still single then, visited us in the summer of ’72. Later that year, we made a job-related move to North Plainfield, N.J., meeting Mark’s family. And when Carol delivered our first of two daughters in N.J., Mark came to the hospital. We moved back to S.C. in ’74, and 1982 arrived before Mark—by that time a Calvin Seminary graduate—and his wife Kathy and their daughter visited us. We corresponded after that but somehow let 20 years rush by without a face-to-face visit.

My mind returned to the airport as I saw Mark, now a Latin and strings teacher at Eastern Christian High School in North Haledon, N.J., descending toward the baggage claim area on an escalator.

Bear hug.

Mark, Carol, and I talked until after midnight. He and his wife also have two adult daughters.

On Saturday, Mark and I drove to Ft. Bragg, showed ID, and let a young soldier search our vehicle before we visited the Special Forces Museum.

On Sunday evening, I took Mark to an interview with Pastor Mark Wethington and Pastor Erin Martin at Southern Pines United Methodist Church. I needed to write a story about their opposition to preemptive strikes in Iraq. During the interview, we could hear the muffled sound of Fort Bragg artillery booming in the distance.

On Monday, we visited my wife’s fifth-grade classroom at Hoffman Elementary School. Mark talked about 9-11-01. Two girls in his school lost their father, a fireman.

“In my town,” Mark told the children, “you used to be able—from this one street—to see the World Trade Center towers. Now they’re gone.”

On Monday afternoon, I waved “so long” to Mark and walked to the airport parking lot. A gray sky was sending down raindrops. A few seemed to get into my eyes.

---------------
By Larry Steve Crain (written in 2013)

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall: 
The Names of Ronnie Eugene Norris and Stanley Norris Green Are on that Wall.

 Ronnie Eugene Norris: his name is on "The Wall." 
 
 I have never visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. I was near it in 1997 when I attended a Promise Keepers’ meeting in D.C., but the crowd attending that gathering was large and my time limited; I decided not to try to visit the memorial that day.
According to “Wikipedia,” the Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors service members of the U.S. armed forces who fought in the Vietnam War, service members who died in service in Vietnam/South East Asia, and those service members who were unaccounted for (Missing In Action) during the War.
The Memorial Wall, designed by American architect Maya Lin, currently consists of three separate parts: the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women's Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall,’
Stone for the wall came from Bangalore, Karnataka, India, and was chosen because of its reflective quality. When a visitor looks upon the wall, his or her reflection can be seen simultaneously with the engraved names – an effect intended to symbolically bring the past and present together. As of May 2011, there were 58,272 names (including eight women’s names) engraved on the wall.
During the 1980s, I saw the traveling version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Greenville, S.C. That “moving wall” is a 3/5-scale replica of the permanent memorial wall in Washington, D.C.; it stands six feet tall at the center and covers almost 300 feet from end to end (www.themovingwall.org).
Many people who visited that touring wall touched names on the wall; some laid flowers and notes at the wall’s base.
I served in Vietnam for almost all of 1971 as an U.S. Army GI – “GI” stood for “Government Issue,” but by World War II “GI” had become a nickname for military personnel. I never saw combat and experienced an easy “tour of duty.”
I knew at least two men whose names are engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall.
I attended Greer High School (Greer, S.C.) with Ronnie Eugene Norris and his brother Tommy, both likable fellows. Ronnie was in one of my high school gym classes. I remember seeing Ronnie adjust his glasses with a sweaty hand before serving as we played volleyball outside the gym on a spring day. He put the ball over the net. We were just boys, goofing around, having fun.
Shortly after his high school experience, Ronnie ended up in the army. When I heard of his death in Vietnam, I envisioned his laughing face as he served during a volleyball game. According to available records, “RONNIE EUGENE NORRIS” is honored on Panel 13E, Row 85 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Born in 1945, Ronnie died on December 27, 1966, in Binh Dinh Province, South Vietnam. He reportedly died “outright” as a “ground casualty” of hostile “gun or small arms fire” as he participated in an “unspecified operation.” His body was recovered. Ronnie served as a private first class (MOS 13A10: Field Artillery Basic) and as a member of C Battery, 6TH BN, 16TH Artillery, 1ST CAV DIV, USARV (U.S. Army Republic of Vietnam).
I met Stanley Norris Green from Macon, Georgia, at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. I didn’t know Stan well, but he and I were art students at BJU and members of the same school “society.” The university had no sororities or fraternities, but it required that every student be a member of one of many “literary societies.” Those societies met weekly (on Wednesdays) around noon and served as social and service organizations and sponsors for intramural sports teams. Stan and I belonged to “Lanier,” a society named for Sidney Lanier, a Georgia poet.
The son of an evangelist, Stan was a handsome young man who possessed a friendly, outgoing personality. He did well in art, but for some reason he seemed restless and enlisted in the army.
Stan served for a year in Vietnam and returned to BJU for a visit (I think he visited the school in the spring of 1967). Our societies met in university classrooms, and when Stan visited our Lanier meeting, he sat on a professor’s desk and related some positive things about his Vietnam experiences. He seemed relaxed and proud of his service in Southeast Asia. He appeared to have found a “cause” and seemed happy and at peace. He told us he had reenlisted.
“STANLEY NORRIS GREEN” is honored on Panel W38, line 26 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Born in 1947, Stan died on November 21, 1968, in Binh Thuan Province, South Vietnam. He reportedly died of “hostile wounds” sustained from an “air loss or crash over land” when he served on a helicopter (“non-crew”) – meaning that the helicopter he rode was probably shot down. His body was recovered. Stan served as an infantryman, a sergeant (E5) with an MOS of 11D40: Armor Reconnaissance Specialist. Stan served as a member of B Troop, 7TH SQDN, 17TH Cavalry, 1ST Aviation Brigade, USARV (U.S. Army Republic of Vietnam).
I often think of Ronnie Norris and Stan Green. Years ago, I never dreamed their names would be engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. 


  Pictured is The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. 
------------- 
In October 2013, I (Steve Crain) received the following e-mail:  



Sin13 said...

Dear Steve,

Thank you for honoring Ronnie in your post. I have never met him or his family, but I have lived my whole 36 years knowing of him as family.

My dad served in Vietnam with Ronnie and was there when he was killed. My father was also injured, and he has recently passed due to agent orange exposure while serving. It's been almost 2 years.

Last year, we went to the Wall for the In Memory program to honor my father and those who have died from their service but are not eligible to be on the wall. In the end, my father's memorial picture was 2 panels away from Ronnie's name, which I thought was very fitting.

My father talked of Ronnie often and said that he was his best friend. I imagine that their time serving together brought them pretty close as my grandmother and aunts have been in touch with Ronnie's family since the war. Ronnie's death devastated and haunted my father for the rest of his life, it was a big loss to him and for me personally as well. My father never got over that, and the talks we had left me with a lifetime of wondering and imagining.

Our trip to the wall was one of the most emotional things I have ever done, not just because of the loss of my father but because of his stories and my eagerness to learn and understand our Vets and the war. The loss, suffering and flat out neglect of our Vietnam Vets breaks my heart and leaves a heavy burden that I sometimes wish I didn't have to carry, but I always will.

I have several pictures of Ronnie in my dad's Vietnam album that I would like to share with you, I'm not sure how though.

If you aren't already, I encourage you to become involved with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. http://www.vvmf.org/.

Thank you again for your post and please know that there is another family out here that regularly honors and thinks of Ronnie.

Proud Daughter of a Vietnam Vet,
Cindi Engle Bolden

--------------- 

Linda Passwaters sent to me (Steve Crain) the following e-mail in July 2013:

Dear Steve,

Thank you for posting the photo and article about Stan Green. I met Stan in 1967 while he was at Fort Bragg for several months before he was killed in Vietnam. He was staying with an Army buddy, and I had the opportunity to join them for a day at the beach. He was such a nice young man, so polite and courteous.  My father liked him right away.

We only met once or twice, so I don’t know much about Stan,  but your article filled in several gaps. I do remember him talking about art and how much he liked to draw and also about how he had left college to join the Army.  He talked a lot about his parents, especially his Mother. He told me that she was a speech therapist and preceded to tell funny stories about her. As a Mother of two sons my heart goes out to her for her loss. I  have often thought about him and wondered who he was and what he might have been.

I am sorry about going on and on, but this is the first time I’ve spoken to someone about him since that summer in 1968. If you don’t mind, please go to http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Green&GSfn=Stanley&GSmn=Norris&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=18409329&df=all&  .  There you will find a memorial to Stan with a photo of his grave marker as well as a copy of the photo you posted of him. I am trying to keep his memory alive by maintaining the site. Please feel free to leave a short message there.

Sincerely,
Linda Passwaters 


Here is a photo of Stan Green's grave marker as displayed in the Mount Hebron West Cemetery, Elmore, Elmore County, Alabama, USA: 

 

---------------------- 

In February 2014, Stephan Howard, who attended church with Stan Green when Howard was a boy, e-mailed me and said, “Cliff Welding was the oh6 Loach helicopter Pilot with Stan Green in the aircraft with him [Green] as observer. They were flying wing on the mission for Joe Shepherd in the lead helicopter. They were working as a pink team (2 oh6 helicopters, 2 cobra helicopters), and went back to assess the cobra's attack damage on a trailed group of VC and they were hit.”
S. Howard referred me to an internet site that contains more information:  
that yielded this information: 
"Cliff Welding and SGT Green were flying my wing that day. We were covered by two cobras and were following a fresh trail from an over-night contact into the foothills. We caught a group of 8-10 VC on the trail. Cliff and I both engaged with mini-guns and fire from our observers. We dropped smoke and the cobras rolled in as we moved off to the west. After making several passes, the cobra lead called us back for a BDA. Cliff's mini-gun had stopped working so he led back into the area and I followed to cover him. As we neared the smoke from the cobra's rockets we received small arms fire. Then Cliff's aircraft was hit by an RPG. It went down immediatley! I tried to land but could not because of small arms fire. I could see that Cliff was still in the burning aircraft and that SGT Green was out, but that he was burned very bad. I stayed on station until the Blues arrived and confirmed that Cliff was KIA and SGT Green was medevaced."
Submitted by Joe Shepherd, Scalp Hunter 15
This record was last updated on 10/22/1999 

The full report accompanying the above site lists this information: 

Information on U.S. Army helicopter OH-6A tail number 67-16355
The Army purchased this helicopter 0968
Total flight hours at this point: 00000047
Date: 11/21/1968
Incident number: 68112101.KIA
Unit: B/7/17 CAV
This was a Combat incident. This helicopter was LOSS TO INVENTORY
This was a Recon mission for Unarmed Recon
Unknown this helicopter was Unknown at UNK feet and UNK knots.
Unknown
UTM grid coordinates: AN962487
Count of hits was not possible because the helicopter burned or exploded.
Small Arms/Automatic Weapons; Gun launched non-explosive ballistic projectiles less than 20 mm in size. (7.62MM)
Systems damaged were: PERSONNEL
Casualties = 02 DOI . .
The helicopter Crashed. Aircraft Destroyed.
Both mission and flight capability were terminated.
Burned
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Defense Intelligence Agency Helicopter Loss database. Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center Helicopter database. Also: OPERA, LNOF, 80466, CASRP, CRAFX, JSIDR, HUGHS, Joe Shepherd (Operations Report. Lindenmuth Old Format Data Base. Joint Services Incident Damage Report. Crash Facts Message. Casualty Report. )
Summary: Shot down and destroyed by a group of VC during a BDA after a Cobra rocket attack during a VR mission.
Loss to Inventory

Crew Members:
P 1LT WELDING CLIFFORD KAY
KIA
OB SGT GREEN STANLEY NORRIS KIA

 

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