Ray Worstine was one of a few young men from Arlington who served in Vietnam. 

In 1948, Ray was the firstborn child to Lena and Ed Worstine, followed by siblings Richard, Kenny and sister Anita. Ed was a hardworking man who taught his children a “great work ethic.” Ed was also a WWII veteran who had served in the Army with the 37th division. (Richard and Kenny would later follow in Ray’s footsteps also serving in the Marine Corps. {See pictures)

Ray graduated from Arlington high school in a class of 40 students in 1966. (Included in this class was Tim Rinehart who would also serve in Vietnam, but was killed in action.) An average student, Ray enjoyed playing on the football team. Being short in stature and size, initially he played halfback. Later, Ray was given an opportunity at the defensive linebacker position. Coach Staley saw that he could use a little help with his tackling ability and increase his confidence. Coach lined him up against a big lineman and told him to “take him down!” It took many attempts and encouragement before he was able to be successful, but from then on Ray would earn the nickname “Mighty Mouse” for his tenacity and ability to take down much bigger opponents.

Later, this internal drive helped Ray focus on the Marine Corps as his next venture. The draft was in effect, but Ray decided to enlist in the Corps as “I wanted to be the best.”

Ray was blessed to find Nita early on in life. He and his future wife first “met” when they were both baptized as infants in the same ceremony. They became school classmates in the 2nd grade, but he didn’t “acknowledge that she was the girl” until the 7th grade. They developed a bond that continued to grow all the way through graduation from high school. When he shared his plans to enlist, she wasn’t happy, but was very supportive, “Well then, I will see you when you get back.”

Ray went through basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, graduating in October 1966. He used the determination and tenacity learned in football to “mentally” overcome any challenge or obstacle he faced in boot camp. From there, he landed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to continue training as an 0311, infantryman.  Each Marine in his training group was made very aware that the next stop for each of them was Vietnam. After a particularly tough day of training, the Instructors found it necessary to get our attention by telling us: “All of you are going to Viet Nam, and all of you are going to die there!” 

Ray spent the Christmas of 1966 at home during a short leave before heading to Camp Pendleton to stage for shipping off to Vietnam. Here Ray reflects “I had trained with 80 other Marines, we had become family, developed a close camaraderie, but after we entered the replacement pool, we began to be split off.” When the Marines boarded planes to leave for Okinawa and then Nam, they went in alphabetical order.  “By the time “W” was called, I was the only one left from my training unit. I was alone.”

He landed in country at Da Nang in January of 1967. From there he boarded an old C-123 as the only passenger, joined only by cargo, to head to An Hoa. When Ray stepped off the plane onto the dirt runway, he had no clue what lay ahead for him. He was 18 years old, and again, “alone.” 

“I remember standing there on that first day. It smelled different, it looked different, and it definitely felt different! I was far from home, and I wasn’t exactly sure what was about to happen next.” 

After awhile, PFC Worstine was directed to a “hooch” where SSgt Harper informed him that he was now assigned as an S2 Scout, part of the Intelligence branch of the 2/5. (2nd Battalion-5th Marines) At first Ray was resistant as he wanted to stay “infantry” but was “persuaded” to give being a Scout a chance.

He recalls he was barely acknowledged when he entered the assigned S2 hooch. He quickly understood that he needed to carefully “observe, learn and listen” to the more seasoned Scouts in the hooch to understand their mission. (Basically, an S2 Scout’s assignment was to go out on patrols attached to various line companies, accompanied by an interpreter and occasionally a “converted” VC “Kit Carson” scout as well. The S2 would use “intel” gathered previously to help guide the company to their target.

Ray learned his first crucial lesson shortly after arriving at An Hoa. During one particular night the base came under mortar attack. A round hit the PX hooch right behind his. When observing the damage the next morning it became obvious to Ray that the enemy didn’t care who or what it hit, destroyed or killed. It could have just as easily been his hooch.

The young 18-year-old Marine was also hit hard shortly after arriving in An Hoa. Not long after leaving the perimeter, while part of a convoy, the body of a young Vietnamese girl of about 10 to 12 years old, was discovered lying by the side of the road. More experienced Marines warned everyone about getting too close to examine the body. With everyone a safe distance away the body was carefully rolled over using a rope and a hook. A powerful explosive booby-trap, hidden under the body… exploded. It is not a vision he can forget. 

(For reference, the 2/5 Scouts common areas of recon were focused in the “Coal Mine” near Nong Son, “Liberty Bridge” at Phu Loc 6, and the “Arizona Territory.” Only others who have served in the “Arizona Territory” can truly understand the danger, stress and memories of doing patrols in this area.)

The S2 Scouts learned while on patrols, in large groups that the VC could simply become “invisible” until the Marines left the area. The Scouts proposed doing smaller missions using only a few S2 Scouts, along with a Kit Carson, and an attached radio operator. The unit would use soft covers and sandals, instead of wearing helmets and boots. They had learned that the VC would come down from the mountains to visit the women in the villages during the night. The Scouts would set up ambushes to hit the VC when they left the villages in the early morning. The radio man was randomly assigned from a pool and not a regular member of the unit. This technique was very successful, until one mission went bad. 

Ray explains: “Our favorite KC Scout was named Kinh. He was about 35, very tough and extremely knowledgeable. His brother was a VC platoon commander. Kinh’s nickname was “Salem,” his favorite brand of cigarettes. One-night Kinh expressed, just before they left on a ambush mission, that “something felt off,” and begged them to cancel. The mission continued.  After Scouts were carefully set up in an ambush situation Kinh was moving from man to man, checking on them as he always did. When he approached the radioman, just attached to the mission, Kinh was mistaken for the enemy and the radioman shot and killed him. Kinh was a brave soldier. We gave him a 21-gun salute. I have no idea where he is buried.” (This ended all small unit missions for the Scouts.) 

{PicThe last three pictures are of “Kit Carson” Scout Kinh}

When Ray was short in country, early in 1968, the 2/5 left An Hoa and headed for Phu Bai and ultimately, Hue. This was during the Tet Offensive. Ray, while at Phu Bai, remembers hearing the intense fighting and artillery explosions eight miles away at Hue. His fellow Marines in 2/5 were moved forward to Hue. Ray, having only a few days left in country, remained in Phu Bai. One of his last memories was seeing a jeep and trailer enter the compound loaded with helmets, rifles and miscellaneous equipment, gathered up from casualties at the Battle of Hue. New Marines were being reissued the gear, and then, they too were sent to Hue. Ray was never sent. 

“I knew in my gut that if I had been sent, I would not have survived. I don’t know why I didn’t have to go. In reflection I later learned that my wife, Nita, was praying every day for my safe return. That can be the only explanation.” 

“I left Phu Bai in late February, but I remember nothing about the trip home. I was vaguely aware of a stop in Okinawa. I know I must have stopped in California for the last leg of my journey back home but I have no memories. I know my parents picked me up in Toledo. No memory of this either.  I first became aware I was home when I walked through the front door in Arlington.”

After being on leave for approximately 30 days, Ray and Nita moved to Camp Lejeune where Ray joined the 2nd Recon Training Unit at Onslow Beach. The Recon team was involved in some very intense training. This included being boated 8-10 miles out into the ocean, dropped off with a buddy and a bag of weapons and clothes. They were to find a compass bearing, swim to shore and attack a “target” or reach a checkpoint objective. 

“This was a challenge that I enjoyed. It was a fun time.  What a way to finish up my service.” 

After returning from a five month long Mediterranean deployment with a battalion of Marines practicing beach landings and playing war games, Corporal Ray Worstine was honorably discharged from the Corp in April of 1969.