Today’s veteran: Glenn King, 67
Service: Marine Corps, 2 years
Rank: Lance corporal
Recognitions: Vietnam Service Medal; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; Combat Action Ribbon (with gold star); National Defense Service Medal
Duty stations: Vietnam; Cuba; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Parris Island, S.C.
His story: Glenn King chose to volunteer to serve in the military rather than wait for his draft notice in the mail, but he didn’t enlist with the hope of getting a non-combat job.
He chose the Marine Corps because one of his friends had just enlisted, and he wanted a challenge if he was going to serve.
After he completed his infantry training, King was sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where his job was to guard the base perimeter.
“It was a good duty station at the time,” he said.
After serving five months in Cuba, orders came for King to go to Camp Pendleton for two months of warfare training in preparation for a tour of duty in Vietnam. He had no idea what to expect once he got there, despite the time he spent preparing to go to a war zone.
“There wasn’t a lot of talk during training,” he said.
His unit spent the first week in Vietnam in meetings to learn about where they’d be going and the types of missions they’d be doing.
When they went on patrols in the bush, helicopters would fly his unit to a drop-off point. The first patrol kept them in the bush for a month conducting ambushes and identifying enemy movements.
He said he was afraid the entire time he was in Vietnam.
“That’s where all my nightmares took place,” he said. “I just had a feeling I’d be killed the entire time. In Vietnam, I never felt relaxed.”
Some battles were caused by American artillery that would intentionally target areas beyond enemy positions in an attempt to drive the troops toward the Marines waiting in ambush.
“The most scary part was when they shot beyond enemy troops to make them come back to you,” he said. “Then they’d adjust. You’d hear three or four rounds, and it would go quiet.”
After the fighting ended, King said the telltale signs of combat — spent shell casings, blood and debris — would remain, but they never found dead or injured enemy troops.
“They wouldn’t leave their injured behind,” he said.
The battles were often confusing because of the dense foliage in the areas where much of the fighting took place.
“We couldn’t see what we were shooting at,” he said. “I saw dirt kicking up around me in my fox hole.”
During one patrol, King said he had to walk point looking for booby traps.
“I didn’t like that,” he said. “Wherever we went we had to walk. All I was doing was following orders.”
Near the end of his tour of duty, King contracted malaria and was sent to the USS Sanctuary off the coast of Vietnam for treatment. While he was recovering, his unit was sent home.
“I never had a chance to fly home with my comrades,” he said. “I think about it all the time.”
He returned home suffering from post traumatic stress disorder but didn’t know it at the time. He is now receiving help from the Veteran’s Administration to deal with the psychological effects from combat.
“We share things that help each other out,” he said.
Still, King said he is proud of his service and has no regrets.
“Everything I did in Vietnam I’d do again if I had to do it,” he said. “Over there, everybody was just like a blood brother.”
Our Veterans runs Wednesdays. Contact Gordon Jackson at email@example.com, on Facebook or at 464-7655 to suggest a veteran for a column.