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Veteran Spotlight

Dale Morgan June 30, 1949 Vietnam U.S. Army-2nd and 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division

Like many other young men in 1967, Dale’s draft number came up when he was a senior in high school. Instead of waiting for the notice, and because of his situation at home, he decided to enlist. He left school but promised his mother he would get his diploma.

In January 1967, like many others, Dale reported to Fort Lewis, Washington, for basic training. After basic, he got orders for Fort Monmouth, New Jersey for signal school. He learned to repair radios and be a “radio man” – not the best job because the enemy could see the antenna sticking up. Luckily he never actually had to do that.

Next, Dale went to Fort Ord, California, for five weeks of truck driving school to get his military driver’s license.

Then, for eighteen months Dale was at Fort Richardson, Alaska, with the 33rd Signal Battalion. Top secret stuff came in “down in the crypt,” which was off limits to Dale because he didn’t have his security clearance. He was labeled S4 and worked in supply because he knew how to type. When his top secret clearance came through, he was assigned to drive around the General who usually had a briefcase cuffed to his wrist. It was in Alaska that Dale fulfilled his promise to his mom and got his GED high school equivalency certificate.

In February 1969, the Captain called Dale in and said, “You knew this day was coming!” He had orders for Vietnam. Because of his training driving military trucks and his records showing supply experience, he was put in D Company in Bien Phouc out in the boonies down by the Mekong Delta. He spent the first six months delivering supplies to remote units and hunkering down in rice paddies watching the roads. 

Dale drove a water truck for a while delivering water for camp showers, and then a 1500-gallon gas fuel truck. One time, “Boom!” a tire blew out. Dale didn’t stop. When he got back to camp a new Lieutenant chewed him out for the ruined tire – wasting military resources.  The Captain intervened and Dale heard no more about it.

The next three months were lucky duty – Dale drove the Commanding Officer (CO) who stayed in base camp and never went anywhere. The next three months were even luckier duty – he ran the bar at the NCO club (non-commissioned officers). He made a liquor run into Saigon each week. Did he know about tending bar? Well, it was a lot of OJT – on the job training.

Dale recalled a particular scary night - when a Major went out with a company of 548 trucks and got three of them stuck in the middle of the jungle. Dale and others were assigned to take 2½ ton track vehicles with winches to the rescue - but two of those got stuck. Now it was dark and the enemy was all around – nobody even struck a match for a smoke. One of the guys named “Moose” kept hearing noises. He said if he heard one more noise he was going to open up with the 50-caliber gun mounted on his truck. Well, he heard another noise and opened up. The next morning four dead wild pigs were found at the edge of the jungle.

The 9th Division had a Navy unit called “River Rats” that patrolled the Delta to intercept supplies coming down from the North. When he could, Dale made sure he had to overnight there because they had good food. Mostly what he had for rations were LRPMs (long range patrol meals) consisting of freeze-dried food to mix with water and cook in his helmet. They also had some C-Rations that Dale was sure were left over from the Civil War.

Dale had a chance to stay in Vietnam five more months in exchange for an early out but he didn’t want to push his luck so he shipped out March 1970 to Fort Dix, New Jersey.

At Fort Dix, Dale worked with trainees, taking a bus to pick up recruits and deliver them to the rifle range or wherever they needed to go. He also went to Camp Drum in upstate New York in the summer of 1970 to help train National Guard units. He went home on a short leave before reporting for his next assignment. When he got off the bus in Ronan with his duffel and suitcase, someone set off some firecrackers. Just like that Dale hit the pavement and rolled into the gutter.

Dale went back to Fort Dix in August and got another good job – he worked two nights per week and every other weekend. Duties included checking trainees learning guard duty at the PX (Post Exchange store), typing vouchers and getting plane tickets for soldiers going to Europe. The Air Force had offices next door – Dale would find a reason to be there around midnight to get a breakfast “go-box” – another spot for really good food.

The hardest things he ever had to do were going with his Lieutenant to the home of a family who lost their son, and driving the family of a career Sgt. Major to Arlington, D.C. for his funeral.

In November 1970, Dale got the 90-day re-up talk. “Sarge, you’re wasting your time!” After four years, he had his fill. Dale got his separation papers, was discharged from Fort Dix and was on his way home in February 1971. 

The war came home with Dale. For years, his wife would have to get him out from under the bed, and there are still times now when he gets a thought from those days and it’s just like things happened yesterday. He saw kids killed and deformed by mines left by both sides. People without combat experience think you come home and forget the war, but war never leaves you. 

In looking back, Dale says he appreciates being an American no matter what is said. Too many people take everything here for granted. God has blessed this country tremendously – people need to step back and reflect on that. He was raised with welfare but he feels he was rich compared to the Vietnamese people. Vietnam, he said, was a learning experience he’ll never forget.

Dale believes young people should go into the service but only if our country will let them go and do what is needed, and then come home. The troops were held back in Vietnam – they could have won. For poor kids, he said it’s a way to get educated but they must understand they will always be subject to being in harm’s way.

Thank you for your service, Dale.

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