Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Good Day to Die

Hueys at Camp Lang Thanh (CLT)
Clockwise: Cpt. Jim Hruska (with sunglasses); SFC Corey (black hat);
Lt. Edwards (hands in pocket, back to camera);
SFC Johnnie K. Berry (squatting, back to camera);
SFC Brockelman (sitting in profile to camera);
SFC Kenneth Lovelace (standing in front of Hruska, hand on back of head)
photo taken between June and September 1970

His nature is too noble for the world:
He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,

Or Jove for ’s power to thunder

(III, i), Shakespeare

Ranger looked at this photo for 40 years before realizing that Lovelace was in the frame. It is the only picture he has of him and a poor one at that, and an internet search revealed no more.

It was a beautiful day on 21 Jan 71, much as in this photo, on the day Lovelace died. Ranger wishes to remember his friend who was killed on that date, but first some background prompted by the photo.

We are here conducting an Airborne operation (note parachutes on ground). SFC Corey is wearing a CLT Vietnamese camp unit patch on his left pocket. Instructor S-3 section Lt. Edwards was not camp personnel, but he was present for training. Notice his cut-off sleeves and our lack of headgear; we did not always hew to standard uniform niceties.

SFC Berry was assigned to Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (MACVSOG) HQ at Pasteur Street, Saigon. SFC Brokelman was an instructor S-3 section in the Combat Reconnaissance Course, also called One-Zero School (see,
Down in the Zeroes), along with SSG Lovelace.

We appear casual, but we were doing the job. I am reminded of our comfort with each other, and the lack of feeling crammed even when working in close proximity, which was often required. We appear to be problem solving in this photo. These men are mentoring me and are patient in so doing. It also shows the young bloods of that era, like myself and Edwards, integrating with more experienced members.

Lovelace, Corey and Brockelman were low-key professionals, confident but with no need for showboating. I remember marveling at SFC Corey's weathered 40-ish face, and remember telling him he looked like he got shot by the wrinkle gun. As a First Lt., Corey was my primary instructor in 1-0 School. Ranger was required to graduate in order to be assigned to staff functions at CLT/B53.

As mentioned yesterday, the 1-0 course was modeled on the Ft. Benning Pathfinder course, with the addition of in-country experience. Men like Lovelace, Corey and Brockelman were fine examples of the expertise and professionalism which
brought this training to the next level.

Now to 21 Jan 70: As mentioned, it was a clear blue sky day, and the men had just returned following a successful mission; all was well in the world.
We were happy to be there.

I don't know if Ken was talking to me man-to-man or soldier-t
o-soldier, but he mentioned he was short-timing and didn't like the idea of going to the the field before his Date Estimated Return Overseas (DEROS). I felt he had a foreshadowing of his death, which made his death all the more poignant.

The last time I saw him all that I would recognize was the tattoo on his arm.

Kenneth Lovelace was from Bellefontaine, Ohio. The only data given online differs somewhat from Ranger's recollection of the day, to include the date of death. There are no personal recollections of Lovelace on any of the military boards, only this:

KENNETH LOVELACE SSGT - E6 - Army - Regular Special Forces; tour began 27 Mar 70; Casualty was 22 Jan 71 In BIEN HOA, SOUTH VIETNAM. Age 27, DOB 21 Feb 43. He was married with children.

The 5th Special Forces Group left country five weeks later, and SOG remained operational for about another year. The deaths of four men on a lovely day in January 1971 are of little import to the planet's transit and were not the result of a great battle. They were in a desperate encounter ending in death, and such is the way most soldiers die. (As an aside, in WW II 15,000 airmen died in training in the U.S.).

Soldiers die daily and most of us fail to notice. More soldiers die in nasty little battles than are killed in the big named conflicts, especially in Low-Intensity Conflicts.
Their deaths are the deaths of a 1,000 cuts, so inconsequential as to be unnoticed by a great nation.

Except ... every now and then, someone stops to think that all these deaths are too many to count.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was there E-5 Richard Silva, stationed at long thang. We were practicing repelling from Helicopters that morning with packs and weapons, when the call came to go secure a shot down skin ship. I wanted to go but our Colonel had called me to his office. When I got back they were gone.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 4:31:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

SGT. Silva,
pls contact me =lf9012@yahoo.com.
i have some questions on that day,and maybe you know the details.
My phone number is 850 627 8607, evenings only.
i'm glad that you seem well.

Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 3:28:00 PM GMT-5  

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