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The Sustaining Value of Patriotism: A Principal's Story

Antilles High School
Fort Buchanan, PR 00934 | December 9, 2019

I arrived in Basic Training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, in the spring of 1966 and arrived in Vietnam in the summer of 1968.  The airplane was dark, and all shades were pulled down we landed at Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon about 2:30 am.  The two hundred and sixty new soldiers as replacements for those who were lucky enough to complete their tours of duty. AirBase  Tan Son Nhut Air Base

The following day, twenty-four of us were sent off to Cu Chi to the 25th Infantry Division Replacement Station (Tropic Lightning).  It was hot and dry with very little wind blowing and a smell in the air that I had not noticed before; it was different.

Ch-ChiCu-Chi Home of 25th Infantry Division Vietnam

I was a tanker my military occupation specialty was 11E; I was expecting to see some tanks.  I was disappointed, there were no tanks but 113 armored personnel carriers, I was told at the end of my week of replacement infantry training that I was going to the infantry.  I protested that I was a tanker, not an infantryman; the replacement NCO smiled and said, we need infantryman, not tankers.  I was assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion 22nd Mechanized Infantry in Dau-Tieng, an outpost near the Michelin Rubber Plantation.

dau_tieng

Dau-Tieng Support Base Home of 3rd Brigade 25th Infantry Division

This base was home for my unit Company C 2nd Battalion 22nd Mechanized Infantry.  The firebase was about five thousand meters south of the Razorback Mountains, where the Vietcong would launch their 122mm rockets at the base on a regular basis.  This outpost is the place where I turned into a man and began to think of America and the people I left home, even though the girlfriend I had upon leaving left me for someone else.  I felt bad for only a few days because I was in survival mode and learned the language of war.

To be truthful, I had no idea about life, but I had learned discipline from my family.  In the infantry, training means survival.  One always had to keep his head on a swivel, be on the look-out, and to listen for any strange sounds.  The infantryman quickly learned the sound of AK47 rounds passing overhead or the pop of 82mm mortar rounds, the deep leach infested rivers, the care of one's feet, and the wear of the appropriate undergarments to prevent chough rot.  I survived the may lay of Vietnam, but many of my buddies did not, I saw war up close and personal and what it was like to see good young lives lost and never reach their potential.

Growing up in south-central Mecklenburg, Virginia, I attended segregated schools and was taught that if you work hard, you can become anything you wanted to be.  I wanted to be more than a sharecropper working from sun up to sundown. I dreamed of seeing the world and making a name for myself because America is a place that you can be anything you want to be with hard work and effort also sacrifice. 

I knew something about sacrifice because I had Rheumatic Fever growing up.  My parents did not have the money necessary to take me to the doctor, but there was a doctor in South Hill, Virginia that would see Black people even without money.  Dr. Sanders was a short man that had been affected by Polio at the time he saw me, and I was unable to walk.  However, Dr. Sanders suggested to my family that there was a new drug called Penicillin, my dad said, "I don't have any money."  Dr. Sanders gave me the shot for nothing.  This is the America I came to know.

America could not require so much of me that I was not willing to pay; I chose to become a Patriot.  I decided to give back to a country that gave me life and my parents hope for the future of their child.  Going to Vietnam, I was scared as hell once my feet hit the ground.  I just never considered abandoning the call of my country to do so would be cowardice on my part.  In my head, I had to deal with Jim Crow Laws, Civil War Monuments, and bathrooms for colored, riding in the back of the bus, and yes, segregated schools.  Nonetheless, America had given me an opportunity, and my blood was shaded in Vietnam in the hope of America becoming a better country, and that bet was a good investment.

The award of a Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, and the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) were part of my down payment for the future of America.  My expectation for myself was, I wanted to be the best damn solider that I could be so that Americans would be proud of my service.  I still believe in duty, honor, and country; America is still the land of the free and home of the brave, and I believe in patriotism.

Now! Here we are at impeachment because of the greed of a few over the needs of many.  America, I invested my blood in America and we the people deserves better, she stands a testament to baby boomers, to the millennials, to the young, and to the yet to be born generations. America is an old ship, but she is a good ship, America is weather-beaten ship, but she still sail worthy, and she is still delivering families to the shores of life's promise future.  This is why, as a veteran, I chose to be a patriot.

The desire to continue building America lives is in me; still, I now serve as the principal of a high school for the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), where I was selected as the principal of the year for school year 2018.  I still have the undying hope for a better tomorrow for America.  Merry Christmas to all of you who continue to live in hope.

 

 


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