Welcome To Vietnam – A True Story And Guest Blog Post by Chuck Jackson @chuck_cljjlk

I’m delighted to welcome Chuck Jackson to my blog today. Chuck is an author, writer and blogger, and lives in Florida.

A Guest Blog Post by Chuck Jackson

Chuck shares his incredible story of life as a Special Forces member of an Air Force Pararescue Team in 1968. Reading his story told me how all these men and women deserve to be remembered for the champions that they were and still are.

* * *

HH-43B (Pedro) in the foreground with a Douglas A-1 (Sandy) in the background

In December 1968, after completing 14 months of Special Forces training to be a member of the Air Force Pararescue team (PJ), I left my wife in tears and joined a hundred plus men from all branches of the military for the dreaded flight to Vietnam. Dressed in our fatigues, we boarded the aircraft at Travis AFB with stops in Alaska, Japan and then on to Vietnam. The closer we got to Da Nang, the more nervous we became.

Upon our arrival, the weather was cold and rainy; the scene was bedlam, with aircrafts of all sorts and sizes parked haphazardly. Military vehicles of various types were running back and forth-carrying men, fuel and cargo. Over to the side, I spotted a haunting site I would never forget. Lined up were many baggage carts, and on them were black bags containing the bodies of men who had given their lives. I saw no honor guard, nor flag covered caskets; only those body bags lying in the freezing rain.

* * *

When I checked into the 38th ARRS (Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service) Detachment 7 in Da Nang, they assigned me to an Air Force Kaman HH-43B team. The HH-43B “Huskie” or as PJs named it “Pedro” they never designed it for combat because of its slow speed, short range, and it was not armored.

My team included Air Force Major William (Billy) Atkins, First Lieutenant Lawrence (Larry) Riley, Airman Samuel (Sammy) Burkowitz, and me. Our call name was Pedro 7-5. The other three had been together for several months and I was replacing a PJ that had rotated back stateside.

The first week we did nothing but Medevac to get me broken in. Although I was told this was temporary, my ignorance of actual rescue missions left me bored and wanting more. I did not understand what my future held; however, it wasn’t long before they immersed me into the reality of being a PJ.

I was hanging out in Detachment 7’s ready room with Sammy when the alarm sounded. By the time we arrived at our bird, Billy had the engines running and Larry was standing out front watching for us. As soon as I got out of the vehicle, Larry yelled, “Come on Doc. Get your gear on; we need to be in the air.” Sammy and I didn’t have enough time to get anymore than our helmets on and plugged into the communication systems when Billy was lifting off.

I asked, “What’s the scoop?”

Larry said, “We got two Huey medivac birds down. Sandy 2-7 says he is not sure there were survivors. There are hostiles crawling all over the area and command has scrambled a support jet and a second Sandy from Dak To.”

“Are we the only rescue crew?”

Billy said, “No, Pedro 4-4 out of Pleiku will be in support, but we are the primary.” Billy snickered, “Hey Doc, I hope you put on clean skivvies this morning. You wanted a mission, you got one now.”

Within 20 minutes, we were in communication with Sandy 2-7. He all but escorted us over to the crash site. We were circling at 1,000 ft. and it did not look good. Wreckage was spread over a quarter mile, although one cabin seemed to be intact. It took another half-hour of circling in the distance, with the two Sandy’s and an F-100 Super Sabre clearing the area. Pedro 4-4 was in formation with us.

Finally, we got the call, “Pedro 7-5, Sandy 2-7; Copy? .”

Larry answered, “This is Pedro 7-5; Go ahead.”

They gave us the green light and Billy made the turn. We heard the Sandy, tell Pedro 4-4 to maintain his pattern. Billy made a wide sweep and then as he lowered to less than 200 ft. Sammy yelled, “We got some hostiles at 7 o’clock.” Billy instantly kicked our bird in the butt and ascended back to 1,000 ft.

“Pedro 7-5, this is Rooster nine-err, two—two. Maintain your altitude.”

Billy replied, “10-4, Rooster 9-2-2; Roger that.”

Out of nowhere, a F-100 swooped in below us and hit the area with an onboard rocket followed by his guns. The target lit up with flames and smoke.

Sandy 2-7 cleared us again for an approach. This time we saw nothing, and Billy brought us in, hovered at six ft., and I jumped. Billy immediately rose and was making tight sweeps. I ran toward the cabin. When I got within 100 yards, I started seeing body parts. While still strapped I found the pilot in the cockpit, the other two were lying outside at various distances. The body parts seemed to come from one individual.

I radioed, “Pedro 7-5, PJ 7-5; Copy?”

Larry responded, PJ 7-5; Go ahead.

“No survivors here. Give me the direction to the other site.”

“PJ 7-5, 3 o’clock and 200 meters.”

“10-4”

I hightailed over toward the other site. I had to break through some thick brush. Once I did, I saw a burned cabin, or what was left of the cabin. I also saw severely burned bodies. I only found what I could identify as two crew members.

“Pedro 7-5, PJ 7-5; Copy?”

“PJ 7-5; Go ahead.”

“No survivors here. Check on the number on board this Huey.”

“PJ 7-5; Roger that.”

While I waited, I searched the area. The stench from the burned bodies was nauseating. I checked in all directions, finding nothing.

“PJ 7-5, Sandy 2-7; Copy?”

“Sandy 2-7; Go ahead.”

“Command says crew of three on each bird. Copy?”

“10-4, Sandy 2-7; thank you.”

Billy instructed me to return to the first site. He said Pedro 4-4 would handle the burned site.

With both Sandy’s, keeping watch over our backsides, Billy landed at the first site. He kept our bird’s engines running. Sammy helped me get the pilot out and put him in a body bag. We gathered as many body parts as we could find and put them in a separate bag. We did not have another bag, so we used a tarp out of our emergency locker and wrapped the third crewmember. Then we loaded all three in our bird.

Pedro 4-4 landed at site two and it took its crew 30 minutes to find the third crewmember. We left before Pedro 4-4 and headed for our base. For the last week, I had hauled body bags when we did Medevac. However, this seemed more dismal. Perhaps it was because these were flight crews and not Army grunts. No one spoke on the return to base.

As I helped unload our formidable cargo, I must have had a melancholy appearance. Billy walked over, put his arm around me, and said, “I’m sorry to tell you Doc, it doesn’t get any easier.” Then, cynically, he added, “Oh yeah, Welcome to Vietnam.”

Thoughts of a Pararescueman

I am that which others do not want to be. I chose to go where others fear and excel where they have failed.

I ask for nothing from those that will not give… and reluctantly accept the thought of eternal loneliness, …should I fail.

I have seen the face of death, felt the stinging cold of fear; I have realized the harsh reality of just what this job is all about. I enjoyed the sweet taste of victory and love; but those were just fleeting moments.

I have cried, pained and hoped, most of all, I have lived times others would say are best forgotten…But,

At least I will be able to say that I was proud of who and what I am and that in my heart and soul I will always be a “PJ”

<Unknown author>

“These Things We Do, That Others May Live,”


Author and writer Chuck Jackson

Chuck Jackson is a retired accountant living in Southeast Florida. He was an ‘Air Force Brat’ and followed his dad’s 33-year military career by also serving four years in the Air Force.

He is an extensive reader and since retirement; he has spent much of his time studying and enhancing his love for writing. This story is taken in part from his published memoir. He is a two-time cancer survivor and draws his strength from his faith and church activity.

For years, he spoke little of his Vietnam experience, suffering similarly as many Vietnam Veterans anguished in silence. With this writing, he wants to help return the honor and dignity of those that served with him. He dedicates this story to those men that proudly served as PJs.

Connect with Chuck

Blog

Twitter

Amazon Author Page

Chuck’s story appears in the Anthology – Stories Through The Ages – Baby Boomers Plus 2020.

Stories Through The Ages – Baby Boomers Plus 2020

Click here to order your copy.

One Month, 20 Days, and a Wake Up

My thanks to Chuck for writing this guest post.

If you have any questions or comments for Chuck, please leave them in the comments section. He’d be delighted to hear from you.

Copyright © 2020 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

Author: Hugh W. Roberts

My name is Hugh. I live in the city of Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom. My blog covers a wide range of subjects, the most popular of which are my blogging tips posts. If you have any questions about blogging or anything else, please contact me by clicking on the 'Contact Hugh' button on the menu bar. Click on the 'Meet Hugh' button on the menu bar to learn more about me and my blog.

45 thoughts

    1. Thank you for reading my story and leaving a comment. By definition, I was a hero and was given a medal for my valor. But the true heroes were the men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice. Their memory needs never to be forgotten.

  1. Thank you for sharing your story, Chuck. As you said, many Vietnam veterans kept their silence. There was no word to what they (and you) had gone through. My neighbor didn’t talk about his experience in Vietnam at all. He might have shared bits and pieces with his son, not enough to tell a story. When I was a rehab counselor, one client suffered from the panic attack. He said every time he closed his eyes, he saw his friend dead next to him. Your book is helpful the Vietnam veterans to verbalize themselves as well as the readers to understand them.

    Thank you, Hugh, to have Chuck as a guest today.

  2. I honestly can’t imagine what it must have like to go through an experience like that – and to know that more would be waiting in the pipeline. I was at school in the UK during the Vietnam war and it wasn’t until I went on a French exchange visit and met some army and airforce personnel in France that I began to appreciate the harrowing reality of the situation. I’m glad you came through the experience relatively unscathed and that you’ve beaten your battles with cancer. This sounds like an excellent memoir.

    1. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. I think because we were young, we adapted to the war at the time. But, the scars left from the experiences, never go away. Any man or woman experiencing the horrors of war will agree it is the worst part of humanity we impose on each other.

  3. What a story, Chuck. These accounts always make me cry, not only for the lost lives, but for the danger and stress our young men and women had/have to endure, the suffering and trauma. I’m so glad you’re sharing your experiences. Thank you for your bravery, your honor, and your service. A great post, Hugh.

    1. Thank you reading my story and leaving a comment. For years I didn’t discuss my experiences. When I started writing, I found it was a way to honor those I served with and those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

  4. I have just recently being reading up on Vietnam, Hugh. My boys have been studying this war at school so we all became interested. Everything I’ve read has been totally horrifying. I suppose that is how war is, but it doesn’t help to know that.

    1. Hi Robbie, No war is worth the damage that is done to humanity. When you look back at history and see the reason for the war and the effect, it doesn’t seem rationale we would engage in such hostility. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  5. Reblogged this on Write to Inspire and commented:
    This is a very powerful extract from Chuck Jackson’s personal story, brought to us in a guest post on my friend’s blog. Thank you Hugh Roberts for sharing it with us.

    The book, ‘One Month, 20 Days, and a Wake UP: One man’s story of what it meant to be a PJ’, has been added to Lance’s TBR mountain.

    1. Hi Lance, Thank you for your comment and especially the reblog. The book is the 2nd edition being first published in 2016. When I received several negative comments on the writing, I made the commitment to rewrite it. It was released in July of this year. I hope you enjoy it.

      1. I shall, of course, post an honest review once I have read it. I must warn you that my TBR mountain is massive and it can take a while for books to reach the pinnacle from which I grab my next read.
        However, I look forward to reading it. I was a teen living in Hong Kong during the Vietnam war years and we felt the side effects.

  6. This is a very powerful extract, Hugh. Thanks for sharing in your guest post. The book, ‘One Month, 20 Days, and a Wake UP: One man’s story of what it meant to be a PJ’, has been added to Lance’s TBR mountain and I will re-blog your post.

  7. Hugh- thank you for sharing Chuck’s story, and Chuck thank you so much for both your service and being willing to write about it. I have so much to be grateful for because of sacrifice like yours. I saw this link on the Inspire Me Monday link up, and it has inspired me. Thank you again.

  8. Hi Chuck,

    You were kind enough to leave comments on my guest posts a few weeks ago, but I had no idea I was receiving them from someone who had gone through such experiences in the living hell of the Vietnam war. And from someone who had also gone through two bouts of cancer.

    A very evocative, excellently written post that gave us just the merest hint of what it was like, because a hint is all we could ever have.

    Respect to you for what you came through and for maintaining your faith under the harshest tests on a daily basis.

    Best Wishes,

    Paul

    1. Hi Paul, I’m touched by your comments and appreciate your recognition of us Vietnam Veterans. Our service was almost 50 years ago, but for many of those years, our sacrifices weren’t honored. I feel fortunate to be able to share my story. I’m seven years cancer-free, and with God’s blessings, I’ll stay this way for at least a few more years. Thank you for your support of my writing.

  9. A riveting and heartrending post Chuck. I am sure the images and being on constant high alert remains with you for a lifetime. Your bravery and those of all who serve on the frontlines and as first responders in peacetime is something we should never take for granted. Thank you for sharing and Hugh for hosting.

    1. Thank you, Sally; I can always depend on your continued support of my writing. I feel honored to share my story and honor those men I served with, and the PJs of today. HUGS

Join the discussion by leaving me a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.