Dear Friends and Colleagues, The Reflection below is from a friend and one of the Founding Fathers of the National Veterans Foundation….Dan Falk. I wanted to share his words with all of you on this Memorial Weekend….2011….Respectfully….Shad Meshad
Reflections on a Memorial Day
I joined the Army in the spring of 1965. Since I was fortunate to be athletic and have a proficiency with weapons, basic training was not all that unbearable. Getting used to the chain of command was a little more complex. We were trained to salute pretty much anything that moved. An NCO was God. I completed basic as an E-2 and was volunteered for leadership training. On completion I was awarded PFC, my first stripe. I was 2nd. in my class at AIT, another 8 weeks of infantry training. I had volunteered for Parachute Training School at Ft. Benning Ga. It was to be the hardest 3 weeks of my life. It was also the start of a life that would define the person I was to become. I graduated 1st. in my class and was promoted to Corporal E-4. I was now a Non Commissioned Officer and had never issued an order. I was given the opportunity for Ranger School at Ft. Benning and accepted. Since Ranger training was extended to 16 weeks from the previous 8 weeks, I was not to begin Ranger School until January of 1966. I was
temporarily assigned to the 101st. Airborne with a security element, on it’s way to Viet Nam, as a squad leader. During this short 3 months I learned two things: 1. Viet Nam was not a movie; and 2. with rank came a huge responsibility. I experienced the deaths of Americans, and killed for the first time.
I returned to the United States for Christmas of 1965 and began Ranger training January 1,1966. I was awarded E-5. Upon graduation I returned to Viet Nam and was assigned to a Long Range Recon element (LRRP) working the Ashau Valley in the north. It was a strong hold for the enemy. We lost some, but killed many. There is no validation in this, just an observation. I earned my first Purple Heart and returned home in fall of 1967 as an E-6. I completed Jungle Warfare Training School in Hawaii, immediately requested a return to Viet Nam and was there for Christmas of 1967. I experienced TET, the massacre at My Lai and the beginning of the end of our occupation. In 1968 I made E-7. I was awarded my second and third purple hearts. In December 1968 I returned to the United States and never returned to combat.
The point to all of this is I, like so many combat veterans, share this terrible feeling of remorse that so many died, why not us? We see sunsets, enjoy our family and friends, love and are loved, so what separated us from them? Why can so many that returned, so readily take their own lives? I’ve been there, but have no answers. I loved them. If you ever saw the movie “We Were Soldiers” there was a correspondent named Joe Galloway. He was a real person and experienced the first major conflict between American forces and the North Vietnamese Army in the Ia Drang Valley in 1965. We lost hundreds, they lost thousands. Upon his return to the United States, in his first article written about the battle in the Ia Drang, he started with these words: “Those of us who have seen war, can not stop seeing war. In the silence of the night, we can still hear the screams”. On this Memorial Day remember those who made the
ultimate sacrifice. They were the best of us. Honor them. Daniel