The First Last War On The Vietnam War

Submitted By Abigail-Scroggins
Words: 1122
Pages: 5

THE FIRST LOST WAR During the Vietnam War millions of lives were impacted. I had the opportunity to interview Sgt. Kenneth Leland, a 71 year old retired veteran, about how his life was changed during the War. ”I first volunteered for the Marines at nineteen (1961), served four years and was discharged (1964). I volunteered for Vietnam, at age twenty-two (1965), nine months after I was first discharged.” Though he didn’t have any support from his family he did his best everyday carrying out the jobs he was given. Just to list a few, Ken was an infantry squad leader, battalion scout, tunnel rat, demolitions, and machine gun section leader. “I was in the best shape of my life. I had served four years, got out, and was asked by the secretary of the navy to volunteer for Vietnam. At that time, I felt it was an honor to serve my country two more years.” He seemed proud and confident until he added on, saying, “But I wasn’t prepared for that hell-hole.” Ken wasn’t surprised when he was assigned to Vietnam because, after all, he volunteered for it. His knowledge of what was going on in Vietnam was based off what he had been told. “The reason given to us by our instructors while training at Camp Pendleton, California, before going to Vietnam was that South Vietnam requested assistance of the United States… We didn’t think it was going to be that bad.” He was assigned to the First Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, Fifth Marine Division, for six months then after being wounded was transferred to Second Battalion, Third Marines, for seven months. He was wounded in an ambush on the evening of September 19, 1966 while trying to reach another squad that had been cut off from the main unit. My heart ached as I listened to him describe the ambush. “As we ran down a path and around a curve toward the village, the NVA ambushed us, wounding the boy in front of me. We hit the ground and returned fire. I tried to yell out orders, but there was so much firing going on, I could not even hear myself yelling. As I looked back, our company corpsman ran toward us and was shot, got up, was shot again, and killed. I yelled to the kid behind me to help me get the wounded boy in front of me off the path, when he was shot in the head and died instantly.” He only shared with me a small part of what that night was like and was very emotional (like any human with a heart would be) while remembering the horrifying loss of the men he served with. When asked how he handled such tragic deaths, he simply looked up and said, “I haven't.” I wondered what kept him going. How did he manage to push on after seeing something no one should have to see? “Letters from home. Hearing about my family and friends and knowing they hadn’t forgotten about me and wanted me home... That was the fuel to my fire... That was the fuel to everyones fire... Letters from home.” Ken told me about his encounters with napalm and Agent Orange. Luckily, neither made direct contact with his skin. “The napalm was mostly used to rid the hills of foliage, so we could see the bunkers as we assaulted the hills.” Ken and his platoon had a much more close encounter with Agent Orange. “We were never warned of the effects of the herbicide. We slept, ate, and drank from the streams and areas sprayed with the gray-brown substance that destroyed everything green except our uniforms. No precaution to prevent exposure was taken, because at the time, we did not consider the herbicides to be dangerous. We actually thought they were spraying for mosquitoes.” Thankfully, not many men felt strong side effects of this deadly herbicide. As if the war itself wasn't difficult enough, they had to battle the land, too. “The weather was wet and hot, mud everywhere, averaging approximately 128 inches of rain annually, temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees at midday. It was like fighting a battle against the Vietcong and the land.” The weather wasn't even the worst part. The animals