4. My Story by Denny Agan

I couldn't stand Ft. Rucker after aircraft maintenance and huey crew chief school (67N20), so like an idiot; I reenlisted for duty in Vietnam. Probably didn't help that the barracks I was in had all Vietnam returnees but just 2 of us.

I wound up at Oakland Overseas Replacement. They told us we would be landing at Ben Wha (told us to write it down). Well, we got there and I decided they flew me to the wrong place, Ben Hoa. Stepped out of the place and the heat hit me like a force field. I found this great big fan no one was using and headed for it. How stupid! As hot as it was and no one using it. Damn, all it was-more hot air!!! Went to Long Binh, got hit that night on the perimeter and didn't know the difference when we were sending out-going and receiving in-coming. Made it to Tuy Hoa and on my first day assigned to 134th we had a party. Roast pig (I later found out the pig was the mascot of the unit next to us), women and lots to drink. That night we got the word there was an enemy concentration near us and I was put on a yellow reactionary alert secondary perimeter. I was with another soldier and we both saw a big dog with a monkey on his back. Smoked a full pack of swisher sweets to keep those mosquitoes away and came out of it just fine. What a start. Guys were giving me free cigarettes, the real ones. Smelled like perfume and tasted about the same. 4-packs from C- rations.

My first job was hosing out a slick where a gook officer had his head blown off. Welcome to the Nam! I was asked if I could type and I said yes. Wouldn't you know it, this guy was from the same town as the maintenance captain. I got volunteered for the job. I was responsible for at least 29 birds. A CW3 or 4 told me I was also going to schedule all the birds for missions each day and not to let the birds come into maintenance at the same time. Did that. Became close with most all there and they seemed to depend on me. Spent the first four months at about 20 hours per day on the flight line, often sleeping down there.

I flew some but wasn't allowed to very often. They claimed no one else knew my job. I was accepted to crew in the gun platoon but the maintenance officer (Cpt. Hamp) would not release me. I tried to transfer to ground pounder, no luck there either. I just couldn't stand getting hit once in awhile and then waiting for the next. Was it going to be me next time, or were they just messing with our heads.

I remember when I first flew two pilots and me. No weapon, just the 38's the pilots had. We went into this one pass and the pilots said Charlie had a captured 155 and would at times take shots at a bird coming through. All I could do was look back and forth ready to key the microphone. Taking fire, like it would have helped by then. Never knew if it was a joke or not. It wasn't to me!

Next was my first motor/rocket attack. Never knew you could exchange the air in your head. Scared me so bad I got stuck in a doorway and bounced back and forth, saying oh god, I'm going to die. Heck, I was so scared I couldn't wet my pants if I tried to. Too damned tight! Then when on bunker duty (I think the roster went from A to B and back to A), the grunt from 1/22 told me it wasn't safe to sleep on the front of the bunker due to the rats. Yeah right! We were on the Tuy Hoa side and I began hearing a crack and then a thump, repeated a couple of times and then it dawned on me, Hey I’m being shot at. Scared again! I did what the Army taught me, I low crawled. Trouble is, I rolled off the bunker to the outside, not the inside. Man, I'm sure I left buckle marks in the sand.

I also went on some convoys like an idiot but came thru unscathed. Got my first confirmed kill. A damned kid. Not Charlie, but a kid. I didn't know his true intentions, but I guess that's part of this war thing.

I took R&R with a 7 day leave and went home to Newton, Iowa. First thing I did was go to a family picnic. Three tables of food, no momason or papason and clean, clear water that tasted good. I went to McDonalds and spent $6.00 on myself. I didn't tell anyone I was coming home for leave and my stepmother seemed upset when I came up behind her. Like I was AWOL. Going back to Nam was easy as long as I caught my first flight. If I had missed it I don't know if I would have returned. Anyway I made it back. I had a day to rest and lost that too. The maintenance officer begged me to come down—things all messed up. So much for rest.

I did all the things I shouldn't have, saw the medic and his 3 shots, smoked a few things I shouldn't have along with most everyone else and left it all there!! Except for the drinking. Lost three friends, found myself, lost myself. Learned what counting on each other meant and came home early due to the unit standing down. Made a lot of friends and saw them come and go. Saw heads, rednecks and racists. Man didn't we have it all. Oh yeah, and Charlie too. When first sergeant gave me those 15 minutes to pack and hit the flight line I had mixed emotions—glad to be going home yet sad, as if I was abandoning by brothers in arms. It just didn't seem right I should go home and they should stay. Even though I requested to stay. Got on Big Windy (shit hook). It was leaking hydraulic fluid and they did crash once in a while. I thought to myself I survived and now I 'm going to crash in this. Made it to Cam Ranh Bay. Cleared, got on a bigger plane, got over the water, couldn't see land and said again, I made it through Nam and I'm going to crash into the water and die. Well, we didn't.

On December 20th 1971 we landed at McCord AFB in Seattle at night, and at the end of the stairs disembarking were three Vietnamese soldiers. I thought my God, we flew in a circle.

Time has now passed and thanks to computers I have been able to tell my story to those who understand. As a rule, we were treated poorly when we came home and I am sorry for that. But no one can take away what we who were there, have. EMOTIONS, you know, it comes without warning. Little things can trigger a cry in a heartbeat. Even today. Hans' WELCOME HOME did just that and I am not one bit ashamed. A feeling you can't explain even if you were there. It just happens and yet other things can make you feel proud yeah, I was there. Maybe times were not good politically for being a soldier, but I was proud to serve then and I am proud of those who serve us now!
AM Def Ser Cam
Last modified: Tuesday April 18th, 2023