In a little less than 5 months there will be a reunion of Vietnam veterans who served in 1968-69 in Mike Platoon of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One). It will be held in Gatlinburg, TN. It looks like it will be a small gathering, maybe 15 men. I didn't know about the Mike platoon reunions of 2004 and 2013 til months after the latter get-together. I visited with one of the guys in August of 2014 and I've spoken to a few others on the phone. In addition to our experiences in Nam, I'm sure we'll discuss where we did our training.
About this time 48 years ago I was at Ft. Lewis in the state of Washington for Advanced Individual Training in my MOS. Since my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 11B, Infantryman, my AIT was Advanced Infantry Training. My Basic Training had been at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina where my bunkmate was one of my younger brothers, Rick. Rick became a holdover at Fort Jackson and a few weeks later joined me at Fort Lewis where he became a cook for his last 21 months in the army. Our barracks were about a half mile apart, separated by a parade ground. Brother Chris spent 4 years in the Marines. My bunkmate at Lewis was a guy from South Carolina although most of the young men in my unit were from California. They would have said "dude" rather than "guy".
At the start of training we were issued green underwear so we knew where we would be going next. Special rain gear was also issued since for most of the year in the Pacific Northwest rain is a very frequent occurrence. Luckily that summer wasn't very rainy. One thing I noticed right away was that the food was a lot better than the food at Jackson. I don't remember much about the training itself. I do remember being out in the field on a training exercise and looking up to see Mount Rainier. Wow!
Many years ago my mother gave me the letters she had saved that I had written from Vietnam and also a card I sent from Ft. Lewis on 7/15/68. The front of the card said "Here I am at Fort Lewis Washington" with a picture below of guys doing push-ups. "All this exercise builds my body, but something else builds my morale ... (Inside) Mail from you! " (picture of guy sitting on footlocker reading mail) followed by the command "WRITE!"
I wrote to her that July 15th that I had visited my brother Rick and that we played some pool and Rick played his guitar and sang. On Saturday, July 13, 1968 my AIT company was in a parade in Tacoma. We were bussed there from Fort Lewis. People were lined up along the parade route, cheering as we marched by. I said that it was the first time I really felt proud to be a soldier. I heard a little kid say about our rifles, "Are they real M-16's?" A little old lady saluted the captain and there were quite a few good looking young girls watching us. A few were crying, especially when it was announced that within 2 months we'd be in Vietnam. When the parade ended, we had to get back on the bus right away. We didn't get to spend any time in Tacoma. Were you part of the crowd at that parade? I don't remember whether it was just my AIT company or the whole training battalion that participated. I would guess the latter and maybe there was more than one battalion. I just don't know.
"With the American entry into the Vietnam War, North Fort Lewis became a busy place again. In September 1964, the 6th Army NCO Academy was established there, and barracks and training areas were used by the National Guard and reserve units. On May 2, 1966, an Army Training Center was activated. It included three basic training companies, Advanced Individual Training, and a drill sergeant school. The Basic Training Course would eventually graduate 233,000 soldiers, with the last graduate completing training in December 1971. To better train soldiers for Vietnam combat, the nine-week Advanced Infantry Training course turned out 3,600 soldiers a week. The North Fort Lewis Army Personnel Center had an Overseas Replacement Center, Returnee Station, and Transfer Station. These stations sent and received soldiers from Alaska, Japan, and Korea. During the mid-1960s improvements included replacing the coal furnaces with oil heaters and sheathing residences with asbestos cement shingles.
When the Vietnam War ended, North Fort Lewis again became a ghost town. The buildings were mothballed, but for a brief period in 1975 the barracks were reopened to house Vietnamese orphans coming to America for adoption."
from military.com/base-guide: "Fort Lewis, named after Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition, ... "
8/19/09 - Freedom Bird - 40th Anniversary
2/15/10 - Lessons In Disaster (book)
12/12/11 - Christmas Truce - Vietnam 1968
3/28/13 - Brother Draft - Same Day Service
4/3/14 - The Good Soldiers (book)
5/22/14 - Photos on the Virtual Wall
5/8/15 - We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young (book)
9/8/15 - We Can Fly