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Column: Complications of war

Posted: May 31, 2018 1:07 p.m.
Updated: June 1, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Have you ever slept with your boots under your arms?

Bruce Rush worked as a infantry advisor in various villages in Vietnam near Bien Hoa. He would arrive during the day, meet, eat, and drink with the village elders and at night he would go out on patrols looking for the bad guys. Upon returning to the village he would hang a hammock, but never in the same place as before, catch a little rest then again go back on patrol.

One learned to sleep with their boots in the hammock to keep the creepy crawleys away, but also to keep your feet dry. In the jungles and rice paddies a pair of dry socks was a luxury because if you did not keep your feet dry, then they would look as though the slimey bacteria would eat your toes.

In January of 1966, Caston West and Otis Bowers were in the same basic training regiment, but after a few weeks Otis did not see Caston. Otis finished basic and transferred out and never knew the status of Caston, who had gotten sick for about a week and then had to repeat basic training.

Caston was eventually sent to Vietnam as was his brother, John, who was later sent there. Caston was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division as was Tim Horton, who used to roll around 55 gallon drums of Agent Orange. One night, this division, which operated near Pleiku where Ray Hazelwood was also stationed, were attacked and the next morning the barber, who had been cutting the G.I’s hair, was found dead on the wire. Caston was wouded by the VC and sent to Guam for  treatment where he was in the same ward as Teddy Morris who had been wounded as a member of the 1st Division, which is known as the Big Red One.

Robbie Anderson, who served with the 1st Cavalry, came from a long line of family members who have proudly served our country including his brother-in-law Glen Inabinet, who was with the Ninth Division in the Mekong Delta, and cousin, Mac Jr., who was with the Marines around Da Nang. In the spring of 1970, while serving as an engineer during the invasion of Cambodia, Robbie was hit in the shoulder by a round from a 51 caliber machine gun. The bullet went down rather than through. Robbie rehabbed in Japan and after recovering, he chose to rejoin his unit rather than come home.

Allen Whitaker worked for Sheheen Grocery for 37 years and raised his grandson, Jerry, who was proud to join the Marines. Jerry was a rifleman in the 1st Marine Division. Jerry was killed on May 10, 1968, in Thua Thien province by small arms fire. His name is on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

The recent visit to our county of The Wall That Heals and the 15,000 visitors who showed up is a great testimony to honor those like Jerry Whitaker who fell “in country,” but we also need to remember that the complications of that war such as exposure to Agent Orange with Bruce Rush and Caston West succumbing to cancer and the wounds that Robbie Anderson had to endure are grim reminders of combat. Hats off to the local Legionnaires who did the work to bring the “Wall.”

Another Memorial Day has come and gone. Please remember those “who wore the colors” and could not enjoy this holiday.

Thank you for your attention.

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