Wherever the Bugle Blows
On the 24th of August, 1968, I was shot down in south Vietnam. One-hundred and nineteen days later, I was shot down again, that time in the jungle of Laos.
Thirty minutes after I ejected from my crippled fighter, it was dark. There could be no rescue attempt at night. No one knew where I was.
But the next morning, at first light, a recovery plan was in operation. A C-130, full of search and rescue experts, was circling high, directing my rescue. A forward air controller (FAC) spotter plane had found me and pinpointed my position on the ground. It was Lt. James Swisher.
Four Sandy airplanes whose duty it was to strafe all around my position to keep enemy heads down, were doing their job. Four F-100 fighters, flying low and fast, and pulling Gs, were ready to roll in on any enemy position the FAC could find. Several other fighters, including a Misty, were close by, sauntering just out of the way, and ready to come in if needed.
A Jolly Green Giant helicopter (the Candy Ann) came in low and dropped 240 feet of cable with a heavy jungle penetrator attached. Airman Bob Sully, and M/Sgt. Lee Maples, were watching from the chopper. When they saw me unfold the penetrator’s legs and strap on, they activated the hoist that reeled me 175 feet up through the tangle of trees and an additional 65 feet above that canopy to the relative safety of the helicopter.
Meanwhile, a spare Jolly Green circled 1000’ above my position and was ready to assist if the Candy Ann started taking battle damage.
Looking back at that incident, which occurred almost exactly fifty-one years ago, I am still humbled, and proud. And honored that all of that effort was expended in harm’s way just to save my life. I wish I could express myself more eloquently.
I wanted to say those things now, at a time when our military seems to be taking heat from every radial. Are we ready to handle a homeland assault from a foreign power, especially one who possess gigantic weapons? We were not on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Could that happen again? We must keep our military strong.
This old flag flies to warn anyone who sees her weak. Long after they have gone, she will wave, still at her peak, daring all of those who call her out to test her wrath and act as foes. Her strong stripes still proudly there, her resolve still strong, her teeth still bare, ready to charge again…wherever the bugle blows. f