US ARMY, VIETNAM, 1969-70
William “Bill” Kiser graduated from Findlay High School in 1968. Due to the Vietnam War, there was a draft ongoing for the military and Bill had drawn a low number. He enlisted so as to be able to pick the school he would attend.
For basic training he was sent to Ft. Dix, New Jersey. He was then transferred to Ft. Ord, California for infantry training in 1969. When his training was complete Bill was given a two week leave home. His next stop in life would be Tan Son Nhut air base located near Saigon, in Vietnam. He stayed there for a short time in a replacement depot where soldiers waited for assignment and deployment elsewhere. When his turn came, he loaded up on a C-130 aircraft and flew to Phu Bai base where he joined Alpha company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101 Airborne Division, as a M-16 rifleman. He was also an assistant to the platoon machine gunner, carrying 2000 rounds of ammo.
His platoon moved by chopper to Fire Base Birmingham, which he describes as “nothing more than a bald spot on a hill” where a battalion force of soldiers were located. Everyday, squads and platoons would be sent on ambush patrols. This was a 24-hour assignment where they would go out several “clicks” into the jungle and set up an ambush. They would spend the night waiting, for usually nothing as the VC saw them coming and withdrew. The next morning, they would hike back to the hill.
One of his memories of such a patrol was where they camped on the side of a steep hill. Bill had to wrap his legs around a tree to keep from rolling down the hill in his sleep.
On another excursion, as the choppers were inserting the troops into their LZ, (landing zone), the Huey’s came under heavy fire. Not willing to stay and risk his aircraft, the chopper pilot told the soldiers to jump some 15 feet down to the ground. The impact was sufficient enough to bend the barrel of the squad’s M-60 machine gun.
In March of 1970, a full company, (approximately 100 men), was dispatched to do a “Search and Destroy” sweep of an area. Once on location the company split up down to platoons and eventually squads. Bill’s squad was to cover three hills with two creeks running through them. They had not been there long, setting up a temporary camp, when Bill was shot through the thigh by a VC sniper.
Not wanting to expose himself to danger, the squad medic, (totally against the character of most medics serving in Vietnam) required Bill to crawl to him for treatment, so as not to expose himself to danger. When the medic asked if Bill needed morphine after he had his leg bandaged Bill declined. This medic then took that dose of morphine and injected himself.
(A sad side effect of the Vietnam war was a coping skill developed to survive the madness. This was the blatant use of drugs. The use of morphine, heroin, and marijuana was widespread. Those that didn’t use drugs were supplied with limitless beers, costing a nickel a piece.)
Thinking the med-evac helicopter would be delayed due to exposure to enemy fire, Bill was sure it would be a while until help arrived. To his surprise three Cobra attack choppers appeared, giving cover for the Huey to land and evacuate him to the 85th Evac Hospital back in Phu Bai. After receiving treatment Bill was sent home for 30 days on convalescent leave.
(The anti-war sentiment was active even in Findlay. Out with friends at Jac and Dos pizza restaurant, as Bill walked by a table in his uniform, he was called a “baby killer!” His friends quickly escorted him out to avoid further conflict.)
When asked about lasting memories of his time in Vietnam, one incident stands out and has bothered him since. During his first week in country, while on a battalion strength training exercise, an artillery round landed among the troops killing a soldier. It was quickly determined by an Explosive Ordinance Demolition team that it had been an American artillery shell that fell short. This made sense as all those in the field had heard the unmistakable whistling of the incoming round. However, at a briefing the next morning, the soldiers were told, by the commanding officer, it had instead been a Viet Cong booby trap that had killed the soldier. From that day on Bill had serious reservations about the truthfulness of information given to soldiers.
When Bill returned to Phu Bai and was about to receive orders to go back out in the field, he made a life altering decision. He re-enlisted and was allowed to cross train as a personnel clerk, staying in the 101st. Fulfilling his one-year tour in Vietnam he rotated out to Ft. Bellvoir, Virginia, again assigned as a personnel clerk, this time at the Combat Development Command.
(At the age of twenty, Bill married a local young lady named Mary, establishing a home in Fostoria. They would have two boys, now both grown.)
When the Virginia command closed, the Army sent him next, to Ft. Ben Harrison, Indiana, tasked to retrain troops. Bill also spent time at the Defense Nuclear Agency, located at Kirkland AFB, Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a Staff Sergeant he was sent to Korea for a year.
(It was here Bill would meet his second wife, Soon Ae, a native of South Korea. They have now been married 39 years and have two grown children.)
The balance of his twenty years in the Army were spread out, first with time spent in the recruiting corps in New Haven, Connecticut. He would finally end up in Heidelberg, Germany, assigned as an Engineer battalion personnel NCO, answering to the Executive Officer. In 1990, after eight years in Germany, Bill would muster out, just before all retirements were frozen due to the onset of the Gulf War.
till wanting to serve his country Bill would join the government as a GS-11. He would serve in Stuttgart, Germany, for another 24 years. He is still in government work, living in Virginia. Now a GS-13 his responsibilities are auditing the National Guard readiness in fifty states and four territories. This will be his final year.
He and Soon Ae have decided to move to San Antonio, Texas after his retirement.
After 20 years of military service and another 30 years serving in the U.S. government, he has earned a well-deserved retirement. Thank you sir!