While at Fort Hood, I was sent to the Panama Canal Zone for six months as a guard at the
Tropic Test Center. At this time, August 1968, I was promoted to Staff Sergeant. In December 1968 I received orders for Viet Nam, but prior to leaving for Viet Nam I returned to
Panama for Jungle Training. It was there that I met Staff Sergeant Elmer Pittman and we quickly became very good friends.
Next, SSG Pittman and I were sent to Oakland, California, for transport to Viet Nam.
We arrived in-country April 6, 1969 - Pittman and I were assigned to the 4th/47th Battalion, 9th Infantry Division at Dong Tam, where we immediately received in-country training. On the last day of this training, SSG Pittman and I, along with an infantry squad, were assigned to go out on a live patrol mission. The squad split into two fire teams, one with our Lieutenant and one with another Sergeant. I was with the Lieutenant and the first night nothing happened to us, however the others were not as fortunate. They were in a firefight almost all night long and several were wounded including SSG Pittman. Back at Dong Tam, I visited SSG Pittman in the hospital; he was hurt pretty bad and was soon sent to Japan for further medical care. That day was the last I ever saw him. If anyone out there knows him or could inform me how to locate him I would be eternally grateful.
The next day I was assigned to C Company 4/47th and I was made a squad leader and trained to take over one of the
platoons. There, I met Specialist 4 Alfonso Hernandez and PFC Dale Fahrni. Hernandez was our point man and had only two/three months left in country so I had him training Fahrni to take over point.
On May 7, 1969 after three days in the jungle patrolling for Viet Cong we were on our way back to Dong Tam and Dale
was looking for a good place to cross a small canal when a deafening explosion abruptly went off. Fahrni, Hernandez and myself were wounded. Dale's wounds were mortal and he died the next day
at the Dong Tam Hospital. Hernandez's wound was bad and I only saw him one more time before I was sent to Okinawa, where I spent the next five and a half months recuperating. If anyone has any
information about Alfonso Hernandez, please contact me.
My medical condition prevented me from returning to Viet Nam and so I was sent back to the
U.S.A. August 8, 1969, and was immediately discharged six months early due to my medical profile. I surprised my family when I arrived home early on August 9th and I couldn't believe how big my daughter had grown. I'll always remember the next morning when my daughter hit me on the head with my combat boot because I was in bed with her mommy.
I have two daughters, Claudia and Lora, and one granddaughter named Sydney, who is the apple of my
eye. Helga and I reside in Mansfield, Illinois and on August 1, 2003, after 34 years of service I will retire from Kraft Foods - Champaign, Illinois.
We are planning to do some travel and really relax and enjoy ourselves. Jim Paris - July 20, 2003