Heavy Heart War Stories We wore The Same Dog Tags Jane Fonda
Read Power of a Name By: Valerie POW/MIA Recognition Day Poster
We Wore The Same Dog Tags...Copyright © 1997
We Wore the same DogTags . . .
by: Larry Poss
Copyright 1997

In 1968, Americans were asking, "Do you know the way to San Jose?" as Diane Warwicke serenading this great land of ours with her songs. I never made it to San Jose, but Uncle Sam showed me the way to Fort Ord, California.

If the truth were known, I didn't join the US Army to become John Wayne or to kill Viet Cong. I came from a God fearing, church going Southern Baptist family. My older brothers had already served in the armed forces (Navy, Army, and Air Force). So it was kind of expected that I would do the same thing. Enlistment in the US Army was only three years. The Air Force and Navy were four year tours of duty. And, the Marines was out-- of the question for me. So, I selected the US Army.

The day I enlisted was 29 January 1968. While my mother was crying, my father gave me twenty bucks and a shaving case kit. He told me that I would need them both. I kissed my mother and shook my father's hand and said good-bye, and God Bless. Then I turned away and walked through the main post office's doors. I had no idea that, "mommies little baby boy would soon become a MEAT HEAD and MAGGOT!" I became all that, then some, despite my amazement.

Just a few hours after I raised my hand, I found myself on a Greyhound Bus headed for Fort Ord. It was along and fearful ride for me. There wasn't much sound or talking going on for that eight-hour's bus trip. The Vietnam War was going on very strong at this time. This was the first time that I had been on-my-own in my life, and my mind was working overtime. I think that the fear of the unknown for the next three years kept materializing in and out of my head during that bus ride. I am sure that every new GI (Meat Head) was reflecting on the same channel that I was tuned in on.

For the next eight weeks, my time was taking up with learning to be a good maggot, running with a full pack, kissing the dirt, counting in a system Dewey-Decimal never dreamt of: "Up One, Two, Three, Four." Drilling, with training tacked onto it, was the mainstay. Oh yes, I learned a new name, "JODY." It seemed my girl's pledge of eternal love lasted until this guy named Jody showed up. He had my girl at home, and I could only image what they were doing together. Just turned 18, and even thought of going to see the Chaplin...but he came to us instead. To hear his inspirational words of loving support [send the children out of the room], click here (19K), here (120K), and here (69K).

I learned new songs that never made the top-ten lists of Dick Clark's show. Songs like: I WANT TO BE AN AIRBORNE RANGER, or the FORT ORD SPECIAL. If Dick Clark had heard these songs, they would have been a MISS not a HIT on his Hits Parade. I think that my DI's only knew one proclamation about my future and that was, "Do you want to come home in a Pine Box, Meathead?" All I wanted to do was finish Boot Camp with the least amount of problems possible, so that my father would be proud of his number four son. Somehow, like my brothers before me, I went from a Meathead Maggot to Private Poss of the US Army.

The philosophy that I learned in Boot Camp was very simple: Never volunteer for anything. I retained that philosophy until the day I was

C23 BCT Platoon 2  1997   Fort Ord Calif 11 Feb 1968   Copyright © 1997   To See a Larger Image Click Here
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C23 BCT Platoon 2
Fort Ord, Calif.
11 Feb 1968
discharge. I never understood why anyone would volunteer. Volunteer to go somewhere they are getting shot at--or even reenlist to go there. I knew that Vietnam could be where I might end up sometime within the next three years. But I still wouldn't volunteer to be sent there. However, the opportunity of going to Vietnam never came my way. Instead, I spent most of my Army life in Germany. I became a DI for the Non-Commission Officer Academy in Bad Tolz, Germany.

Years later, my niece's husband Chuck came home from the Gulf War and all of our family was there to welcoming him home. To my amazement, one of my brothers (a Vietnam Combat Veteran) stood up and said, "I would like all of the Veterans up here for a picture. He motions to my other brother (a Vietnam Combat Veteran), and to Chuck a Gulf War Veteran. While they were standing, my brother made a speech about serving under wartime in the military. As I was watching and listening to him speak and I experienced a feeling of non-recognition for not being a veteran of the Vietnam War. I wanted to tell him that I wore the same dog tags that they did.

I used to think that I missed-out on Vietnam, but I know now that was not true. I don't have any war stories about taking Hill XYZ, or I saw my best friend's head blown off his shoulders. I can tell you how I escaped from a French whorehouse, or when I fell into a barrel filled with German Farwline bosoms. Oh yes, when I came out of that barrel, I wasn't sucking my thumb.

And like all GIs, I spent many lonely Christmas Eves and Days-Off in some lonely place thinking of home, family, and loved one's. I did my share of KP, and walking a Cold War post--but most of all, I served my country proud of the uniform. It never crossed my mind to go to Canada like the cowards were doing. I just served our country in uniform as men and women of my family have since the Revolutionary War.

Instead of having red-mud on my boots, I had spit and polish. Instead of a steel pot helmet, I wore a Smoky Bear hat. I believe that I contributed to the war effort in Vietnam by making sure that our Non-Commission Officers were all ready to lead our troops into combat.

Not all soldier's posts can be in a combat zone. There are many other duties stations that are just as important for the outcome of any war. So to all of those Combat Veterans, I would like you to remember those non-Combat Veterans who served just as honorably as you served.


Larry G. Poss

US Army Honorable Discharge

Larry: I sort of remember our brother Jerry calling us up for that photo and thinking that it was not fair because we were all veterans of the larger Cold War--which we won under President Reagan, by the way.

Serving the country during the Vietnam era was a challenge, regardless of where one served. Some Vietvets today only consider those serving In-Country to be Vietnam Veterans. I believe those serving in direct support of the war, like the Air Force men and women in Guam, are also Vietvets. But the question, if there is a question, is what or why do Vietvets (or of any war) feel different? Notice I said, "different" and not "better."

I do not know what it was like to serve in the hell of WWII Germany, or peacetime Cold-War Germany. I do know what it is like to stand before The Wall in DC carved with 58,000 names of those men and women killed-in-action in Vietnam. I know what it is like to write a letter to a friend's family after he was--yes, blown-away. And to touch his cold granite-etched name, knowing his 19 year old body is long since dust in a nearby cemetery.

So, what does it come down too? Vietnam Veterans are more inclined to have memories of sucking chest wounds rather than barrels full of nude-women and sucking more than a thumb. And yes, horrible things did happen, I remember things like three flatbed trucks racing through Danang's main gate with bodies of Vietnamese in tangled piles . . . and standing post staring at the blood-trails with flies gorging for several more hours. Does that make us better, or different than non-war-vets? It just makes us what we are: Veterans of the Vietnam War, and proud of those who served with us.

[Readers: In 1968 the War was indeed raging. A peace time Army would not have accepted my brother Larry's enlistment. But in 1968, 98.6 got you in and a letter from your Congressman kept you out (right Bill?), so they accepted Larry's enlistment, collapsed lung and all. I have on occasion wondered if an Army doctor had made a notation not to send him to a combat zone because of that. I also know that policy was not to send two brothers to Vietnam at the same time, and brother Jerry was In-Country while Larry was in Germany.] Don Poss

Subject: Vietnam Era Vets and We Wore The Same Dogtags
From : Tom Johnston Organization: VVA 512

Yes, we all did wear the same dog tags. Those of us who are non combat vets can take a stand with pride, that we also served. Me, U.S.Navy 59-63. Electricians Mate 2 (E-5), after boot camp and E.M. school then the rest of my four years were spent on an ammo ship with the most time spent in WESTPAC ferrying all kinds of munitions from the Philippines to our task forces off the coast of Nam. For many years I denied the fact that I was a Vet of that era, then I turned around and went on a self imposed guilt trip that really took me down, I COULD HAVE DONE MORE. Now I hold my brothers all in high esteem, for each combat vet, there are an uncountable force of support personal, and we all did a job that doesn't sit well with any of us, but we did it. Thanks to you for doing your job, and from the bottom of my heart let me say WELCOME HOME ! Tom Johnston VVA 512 (This is the first time I have ever contacted anyone in this way.)

Response: Thanks Tom. My little grunt-brother, Larry, wrote We Wore The Same Dogtags. I have received a lot of positive feedback on it. You're right, of course . . . what is it: 10 support for every combat vet? and probably an equal number of support also in-country? Don Poss

Subject: Glad We Wore The Same Dogtags
From : Robert A. Galloway

Dear Brother Larry: I just read your story on your brother Don's website, and I must respond:

I call you "Brother", because that's what you are, having served your time in the "Big Green". Do not feel any less a hero for not having seen combat. There is nothing heroic about having been a VietNam COMBAT Veteran, per se. There is no heroism in survival. That's what was foremost in the minds of the vast majority of us who spent time in that vermin-infested Hellhole - simply "SURVIVE AND GET THE HELL HOME!"
      True, there were many medals for "heroism" awarded to people who saved the lives of others at the risk (and TOO many times the sacrifice) of their own , but those individuals never considered themselves Heroes. Heroism is in the eye of the beholder, or in the eye of the recipient of an extraordinary deed. All that any Medal-Winner ever did was react to a situation in the manner in which he had been trained (by people like yourself), automatically and without thought of the consequences.
      I enlisted in the US Army in September 1967. Upon experiencing the same fun things you did in boot camp, I developed the same attitude toward Volunteerism. I never "Volunteered" to go to Nam, but in a sense we ALL did - yourself included. By raising our right hands and swearing before the symbol of our country, we all volunteered to go and do anything the Government deemed necessary. Call it "The Luck of the Draw" or whatever. I'll say this: I never could understand the mentality that compells one to volunteer for Combat Duty; to actually WANT to be able to have the opportunity to kill another human being indicates to me some sort of serious basic defect in the human psyche. I suppose that I had more than my share of those experiences, but to this day I cannot muster up even the smallest shred of pride in having taken another human life.
      The pride, my friend, comes from knowing that you raised your arm to the square, took an oath, and upheld it no matter what. The pride comes from knowing that you took a chance that damned few had the guts to take. To put one's self a notch above another who "Wore the Same DogTags" simply because you saw combat and he did not, is WRONG. That's what we were ALL trained for. People like you trained the leaders that saw to it that I made it home alive. To those who never had to take a human life in order to save his own or that of a buddy, I say "THANK GOD - GOOD FOR YOU!" I wish to this day that I had never had the experience. Every VietCong, NVA, and ChiCom soldier that fought for his life in that War and lost, had someone at home whose heart was ripped out when they never came back, and that fact haunts me to this day. I SURVIVED: That is all I EVER wanted to do.
      We are ALL Brothers, who wore the same dogtags. We all took the same oath: Me, You, your brother Don, your neice's husband the Desert Storm Vet, your own brother who (unconsciously) snubbed you at the family gathering, even my own son who served in the US Navy on a supply ship in the Pacific 5 years ago in "Peacetime". I put that word in quotation marks, because I feel that there is no such thing as "Peacetime" any more. We all take the same chance along with The Oath - just some of us are UNFORTUNATE enough to find ourselves having to use our training to survive.
      God Bless you, Brother Larry Poss, and God Bless all my Fellow Americans, male AND female, who raise their arms and swear by our flag to "defend our way of life against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . . etcetra."

We all STILL "Wear the Same DogTags"!

Robert A. Galloway, RA 18814353
D Co., 19th Combat Engineer Battalion
VietNam 1Apr68-30Mar69
SSG Ret., Idaho National Guard 1971-1989 (and Damned Proud of that, too.)

 
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