Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vietnam -- The Day Men from 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Were Overcome By A Force that Won Their Hearts

I can't remember my exact words I wrote. All I knew was the article was published in Screaming Eagle, Stars and Stripes and Army Times. I couldn't pen it because I also included myself in the story with quotes. Below, is the closest I'm going to come to the original article:

Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery knew they were out numbered, despite the fact that they were armed to the teeth with plenty of delicious ammo.

The opposing forces knew just where they were the weakest.  The Nuoc Ngot Orphanage childrens' eyes glued on the bulging pockets and the enticing scent of sweets motivated them into action. The attack was on! It was all over before it got started. Not a drop of blood was shed. But in the end, a few tears were.

The air was filled with the screams of glee as the soldiers opened up their pockets and started pulling out from their ammo pockets bar after bar of Hershey's chocolate.

"These children need our help", said Sp4 Harold Roberts, a Cobra crew chief for B Battery, 4th Battalion, 77th Artillery, 101st Airborne Division ( Air Mobile), from Spokane, Wa.

"They didn't choose to be here. They can't feed themselves. They can't defend themselves.

"They are as human as you and me, and we're here to show our support."

The 101st Airborne (Air Mobile), has been supporting Nuoc Ngot Orphanage in Hue for the past three years. In-other-words, since the unit arrived in the area.

Once a month a unit from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Mobile), comes to the orphange to show support; they bring food, clothing and money. They also provide the children with some laughs and good times.

In a place where the world saw Hue on TV as a place where the NVA fought our military during the TET offensive, its hard to believe a year and a half later, that same city is the refuge for orphaned children from all walks of life.

The 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery briught with them some special treats for the children as Sergeant Franklin Spencer, A Battery, 77th Field Artillery, from Chicago, IL, had the children gather around him for 30 minutes worth of magic tricks.

This gave SP4 Richard Edwards, B Battery, 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery, from Moorestown, NJ, time to set up the projector, thread the film through it and set up the portable projector screen.

"It was amazing to me to see 30 children of all ages sitting on the ground and spell bound while watching Tweety-bird cartoons on the silver screen.

"I only wish I could have brought more cartoons for them as they seemed to enjoy them. They may not have known English that well, but they knew when to laugh at.

"Just to see that sparkle in their eyes, the smiles on their face was enough to know the extra effort to bring the projector, films and projector screen to the orphange was well worth it and rewarding."

With everything packed in that was going back to Camp Eagle, the soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery, gave each child a hug, handed each another Hershey bar said goodbye to the children of the Nuoc Ngot Orphanage, got back into their vehicles and started their trek back to Camp Eagle.

The mens' mood had changed. Some where quite, some reflective, a few had tears rolling down their cheeks of otherwise hard nosed faces. All that day realized those children had won their hearts with the innocence of their smiles.

On the "freedom bird" flight home, I read this story published in Army Times on October 27,1970. I rolled up into a ball beside the window and felt the tears of pride weld up in my eyes. I was, in fact, nothing like my father. I had flown with the eagles.

I fell asleep with those thoughts and wondered how I would write the next chapter of my life.

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