Letter: Serving in combat
What is meant by the term: serving in combat? Military service in Vietnam during that 12-year war was considered being in combat. However, approximately 30 percent of the troops in country actually fought in combat with a chance of being killed every day. The remaining 70 percent were service troops. They were involved in transporting supplies, repairing equipment, or assigned to medical duties. Most of those troops never heard a shot fired in anger.
The actual combat troops, in contrast, lived a life of hell on earth. They wore the same clothes for days without bathing facilities. During the dry season, their clothes and web gear were soaked in their own sweat. During the monsoons, their bodies and all their equipment were never dry. What sleep they got was in a muddy ditch. They were attacked by hundreds of different biting bugs, snakes and mosquitoes. They drank warm water out of plastic canteens and dreamed about a cold glass of milk. They ate cold rations out of cans with pull-off tops. Their weapons, ammunition and equipment weighed as much as 70 pounds. They were constantly reminded to keep their weapons clean. They were engaged with the enemy receiving hostile fire for days at a time. They watched some their fellow soldiers get shot dead right beside them.
I served two one-year tours of duty in the Vietnam War. One of those years I carried combat assault troops seven days a week. We received hostile fire approximately 20 percent of the time. I did not volunteer for those assignments. I received orders from the Department of the Army and it was my duty to comply.