We got on the train in downtown Houston where the Astros play their baseball games now. There were eight of us traveling together on the train. The only one I remember beside Tommy and me is Ivan Thurman who was assigned to the same company and platoon I was training for. We were all members of the 2nd Armored Division.
When we joined the Army, Fort Hood was a training base. We were supposed to be in basic training for 16 weeks, then move to a base in Louisiana for 16 more weeks of advanced infantry training before going to the 82nd. During our basic training cycle Fort Hood, the unit I was in was changed from a training organization to a combat ready “T, O and E” organization. To fill the new unit with soldiers, each member of our training unit had to go see the Company Commander, who was a captain. He told me I needed to sign the waiver and help the army outfit the base and I signed. It sounded like the thing to do at the time and like I said, I was in a daze anyway. Our basic training was reduced to eight weeks, then I was assigned to a company with the same NCOs that did our training. I did not go to “AIT.”
Tommy went on to “AIT,” then to the 82nd Airborne and I spent the next two years in Texas.
In June 1963 I was sent to Korea. I spent a short period of a few weeks training with the 8th Army Honor Guard before being transferred to the 9th Cav, 1st Cav Division which was assigned to monitor the DMZ. My unit was just north of the Imjin River. We were responsible for four guard posts on mountain tops inside the DMZ looking into North Korea. We usually had three soldiers in the daytime and six soldiers at night at each guard post. Our normal mode of transportation to our work stations was a jeep and a driver to deliver guard personnel up the mountains. It was monsoon season and it rained every day, often all day and all night. In the daylight hours we were not assigned to guard duty we often spent filling sand bags to keep the roads intact going up the mountains.
On July 29, 1963 one of our jeeps was ambushed, I assume by North Korean soldiers. On this Memorial Day, I would like to remember two of my fellow soldiers that I served with when I was in Korea. I did not know them very well because we lived in different Quonset huts, worked different shifts and I had only been at the base a few weeks. They were both about my age – I was 20 at the time. PFC Charley Dessart and Pvt David Seiler were killed by small arms fire. The third member of the group was wounded and I am sorry I do not remember his name. He was shot 13 times and a hand grenade exploded in the mud 2 feet from his head, but he survived. Their jeep has about 130 bullet holes.
They renamed the guard posts in our sector after the two young soldiers that died. It was a sad day for a lot of people. Some day we may learn how to live together peacefully. Until then our children will keep making the honorable sacrifice to defend our way of life. A thankful and happy Memorial Day to all.