Little did we know at our last reunion in Santa Fe in October 2017, that we would be uniting again in this city, a year later to say our warm goodbyes to our dear comrade, friend and loved one Barney Harbin. He passed away on August 28, 2018 on his son’s birthday. His death was the result of an accident while hiking with his son, Patrick in the Jemez Wilderness Mountains of New Mexico. His life’s passion was exploring the lovely, remote regions of New Mexico, the state he loved.
When we, Hotel 2/5 reunion attendees, as a group, travelled to Angel Fire, New Mexico we were so proud to see and learn of David’s USMC Military history in Vietnam displayed there in the museum. He displayed his military uniform and the enemy flag he captured that had his blood stains still on it when he fought so gallantry at Hue City in early 1968.
We so very proud of him and his service to our nation. He not only was a man of great courage and integrity, he loved his country and his Corps. He was both a Purple Heart (twice) and a Silver Star award recipient.
Dave, along with his wife Bonnie, were our reunion hosts at the Santa Fe Hotel 2/5 reunion in 2017. Dave raised the bar with his exceptional leadership to provide a beautiful and informational reunion experience for all who attended. He insisted that the State flag of New Mexico be embroidered on the back of all attendees sweatshirts to remind all of us about his proud State of New Mexico. Each time, we wear that sweatshirt, and look at the New Mexico flag, we will remember Barney Harbin.
Rest in peace, our dear friend.
This picture was taken by Dennis Noah at lunch together Memorial Day 2018 weekend while visiting the USMC Vietnam 5th Marine KIA Memorial at Camp Pendleton, California.
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The American Flag means many things to many people. Fifty stars, thirteen stripes, freedom, liberty, patriotism, and safety are the most common. There are fifty stars for fifty states united together, thirteen stars to represent thirteen colonies that pulled together to create the beginning of the United States. For some Americans, it does not mean much of anything past the idea that it is just the flag of America.
. . . . (Click on the title piece in red above to open the PDF file to read the full article)
The flag isn’t just a piece of cloth to show that ‘America’ exists. It is there to represent us. People would die for the flag, just as they would die for their country, there is no difference. I would die for the flag and for my country so my kids and grandchildren and others may have peace, freedom and security from evil.
As a boy I had a patriotic view on life. As a young man at the age of twenty, I experienced firsthand living or dying protecting my country. As an older adult veteran, I would still do the same. Freedom is worth the price.
John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
They never trained us in boot camp or during infantry training about how to survive from many of the elements of Vietnam or its challenging environment. We were trained very well on how to use our weapons to kill and to protect ourselves from the enemy, but we never had any training for all the other ways you can catch a disease, get wounded, or even die in Vietnam.
Whether it was from booby traps, malaria from insects, hepatitis, homicides from friendly fire or suicide, a buddy shooting at you while he was stoned on pot, accidents riding in vehicles, or helicopters, or animal bits from ants, scorpions, venomous snakes, monkeys or rats; any of these can seriously mess you up or kill you. Yes, even rats!
The 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions had to deal with rats in Nam, yes very big rats. I’m talking about man eating rats. There were rats everywhere up near the DMZ. From Khe Sanh to Hue City, from Charlie Ridge to Ia Drang Valley there were thousands of rats running around everywhere. They ate from the city’s garbage areas to the store supplies full of rice and potatoes. They even ate the tossed out food and garbage from the NVA soldiers, the ARVNs, and us Americans.
When you weren’t in a firefight, ducking incoming mortars, or on night watch, you had the opportunity to catch some shut eye. Keep in mind that most of the time; you are sleeping on the ground, in an old bunker, or in a freshly dug foxhole. It’s dark, with no lights, and pouring down rain during the monsoon season. It’s a hell hole but you survive. Once in a while, but very rarely, you might get to sleep in a cot in a tent behind a perimeter line.
In Khe Sanh, there was a Marine who didn’t cover up tightly when he went to sleep his first night in the Nam and got bitten in the face from one of these rats taking a huge chunk of flesh out of his cheek. He got medevac’d back to the States.
Rat bites and scratches can result in disease and rat-bite fever. Rat urine is responsible for the spread of leptospirosis, which can result in liver and kidney damage. It can also be contracted through handling or inhalation of scat (poop). Complications include renal and liver failures as well as cardiovascular problems have resulted from rat bites. From the transmission of bubonic plague to typhus and hantavirus, rat infestations can prove harmful to human health. Rats also are a potential source of allergens. Their droppings, dander and shed hair can cause people to sneeze and experience other allergic reactions. Yep, they never educated us about these possibilities as we were exposed and lived among the rats.
You haven’t seen big rats until you’ve been face to face with these rats that roamed the areas we lived and fought in. The rats had fleas, ticks, and mites. The rats would hide during the day and run around at night looking for food to eat. We could stab them with our bayonets but not shoot them. Shooting them might have given away our night position. Besides, it would have been a waste of preciously needed ammo.
What was your experience dealing with rats in Vietnam? Please login and leave a comment below this blog telling us your story about the big rats.
Zippo lighters captured a wide range of feelings and opinions about the war in Vietnam, from the obscenity-laden anti-army mottoes of the unwilling draftees, to the simple love notes of the homesick, to the eight Special Forces emblazoned lighters, conspicuously absent of any further embellishment.
These lighters were used for lighting cigarettes, heating food, illuminating letters from home, or setting fire to huts of suspected VC, Zippos were used so frequently in Search & Destroy missions that GIs nicknamed them “Zippo Missions” or “Zippo Raids.” After purchasing one from the post exchange store for $1.80, a soldier could personalize his lighter at sidewalk tents with one of a wide selection of stock designs or a personalized message. Today, these collectable Vietnam Era Lighters cost about $100.00 each. I bet you wish you had hung on to yours. New ones today shown below cost $18 – $25 each
Although I do not have my Zippo anymore, I had it engraved with a map of Vietnam and the city of “An Hoa” marked on it. I used mine for the typical uses listed above but also for lighting the C4 for boiling the water when making coffee or hot tea for the Sergeant Major and the Battalion Commander. I also used it for lighting the skipper’s tobacco pipe. I practiced a lot to be able to snap and twist of my finger one handed and the lighter top would open and light.
I also had the privilege of using my Zippo to light the candles on the Marine Corps birthday cake for 2/5 that was served to the troops on Hill 65 on November 11, 1969.
My Thoughts While Walking Point in the Arizona Territory
Many Vietnam veterans struggled upon returning to the United States. They wrestled with the psychic trauma of the war and felt isolated and out of place, rejected by their country.
As point man, the greater danger wasn’t from an ambush or getting shot from a sniper, it was from the booby traps. Our point element would often take casualties from them.
In the Arizona Territory, our point team existed of 3 or 4 men. Point lead, left and right flank and often a radio operator directly behind the point man. We were about 15 to 25 yards apart from each other as we moved through rice patties with distant tree lines and also through dry land, fields, and even small villages.
I picked up the radio shortly after arriving in Vietnam and became a squad radioman and then later a platoon radio operator. I often volunteered to walk point and did so from mid-February through April 1969. No one died while I was walking point. We did however take casualties. I looked for everything, anything out of place, listened for the birds or the lack of sound; I always knew what I was doing, within sight of my point team and knew where I was going. Sometimes, I would stop to check the compass and/or review the map I carried.
As we slowly approached the terrain in front of us, I would examine the area for trip lines, NVA bunkers, broken branches, blood trails, a matted down path, bunkers, obvious openings in tree lines where a booby trap could be planted. Trip wires, spider holes, a gum wrapper, a tin can, a pile of leaves or a pile of brush, a change in the color of the ground foliage where it turned a bit yellow, wilted leaves or dead branches. These could indicate a booby trap.
As radio operator, I knew how to key the handset for relaying messages to the other radio operators. We would run in silence mode. One press on the handset meant stop or hold up. Two squelches of the handset meant all clear move ahead, three clicks of the handset meant enemy or non-friendlies observed nearby. We also used hand motions between the four of us walking point. Each team member would be in constant hand signal communication to the radio operator walking point.
I can remember one afternoon in late March while in the Arizona Territory, All hell broke loose, we got hit and were pinned down and couldn’t move. A machine gun position opened up on us. My right flank machine gunner went down. He was hit with four bullets in the left leg. We had to call in air support and mortar power to chase away the enemy.
I did whatever it took to keep me and my team alive. Nerves, sense of touch, sense of smell at night, being smart and extremely alert, a keen sight, including a 6th sense to know we were close to danger all contributed to the safety of my point squad. We had a lot of respect and trust for one another during our walks at point.
On a separate occasion, I lost a point man to a booby trap. He lost his left foot just below the knee and was medivaced in a timely manner. The rest of us lost our hearing for a few days and all four of us were hit with some hot shrapnel. I was glad for my helmet and flak jacket.
I saw many men die and many more wounded while in the Arizona Territory while being a combat Marine in Hotel Company.