This ‘Ole Vietnam Veteran

Yep, that’s me 49 years ago. Funny but it seems like yesterday, time sure fly’s. I still remember the smells, the endless rain in monsoon season, the rocket attacks that blew up the officers latrine and the E club.

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all fun and games. Like the time the New Jersey was off the coast firing all night over our heads into the mountains; ya hit the rack after a 12 hour day and “Boom, Boom, Booooom”. The rack would bounce and things fell off the locker. My ears still ring from the sound.

Then there was the time I was on the flightline and saw three tanks lined up by the runway. They began firing across the runway at something I could not see, they kept up the barrage for about ten minutes and then they went away. Never found out what that was about; ears ringing again.

I was in the Marine Corps, First Marine Air Wing, VMFA 115, F4 Phantoms. I loaded bombs and napalm and Air to Air heat seeking missiles on the Jets. At 25 years of age, I was older than most of the Marines I worked with. I loved my job and got to be pretty fast at turning an empty bird into the lethal weapon it was.

For me. the F4 was an awesome sight. The power when it raced down the runway with thunder in its wake. Then it would lift off with the grace of an Eagle, shoot skyward out of sight in the blink of an eye. In the field it was more like a Paragon Falcon,  go into a steep dive and drop a load on the unsuspecting enemy. Sometimes they would come in low and burst overhead with that thunder spreading fear in to the hearts of those below.

This was not an airplane, It was a human guided missile; pilot and RIO just along for the ride. When they came back, they came in hard and fast, tailhook down and hitting hard. I wanted to ride in one of those, but alas, I was just the guy that loaded them up, never got the chance.

So you see, I am no hero, just a guy in the rear with the gear. My heroes are those who spent their days and nights trudging through the rain and mud with death behind every bush and tree. Those are my heroes for sure.

More to come, please sign up to follow me; lots of good things to follow.

Rick Sweeting


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