"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Another Worthy Rebuttal: by Jack Durish

Rebuttal to: REMFs: by Tom Peck

[Note: this was left as a comment on the original post, but Jack brings up some excellent points and I wanted to make sure it was seen by everyone.]

I was a REMF. It shouldn't bother me but it does, because I was trained to be an infantryman and an infantry officer. 

However, the fates relegated me to the rear echelons because ... well, that's not important. Ultimately, I have a bad case of survivors guilt because those I trained with died in combat.

I don't hang out at the American Legion or the VFW, because I believe that those organizations belong to the "real soldiers". I can't even visit the Vietnam War Memorial. Again, I don't fee worthy. So no, I don't need you or anyone else to remind me of my shame.

That's my shame, not the shame of REMFs in general. Remember, the vast majority were relegated to the rear areas because that's where they were needed and were trained to provide support to those in combat. 

Without them (REMFs), combat soldiers could not have fought very effectively. So no, they don't need your derision, they deserve your thanks.

Unlike WWII, the rear areas in Vietnam weren't all that safe. Every base camp perimeter was a front line and everyone took their turns, many of them. Sadly, the rules of engagement caused many casualties in the rear areas, because they were built too close to civilian cities, towns, and hamlets. They weren't allowed "free fire".  Thus they were often merely targets.

Lastly, when they returned home, REMFs didn't wear a badge that shielded them from the hostility of the "peaceniks". They too were derided as "baby killers". They too were scorned for their service.

Just a few thoughts to keep in mind.

Jack Durish
Family man, Author, Vietnam Veteran, Proud American, Conservative

Jack’s Books:

Rebels on the Mountain
Buy at Amazon

A Soldier’s Journal

Infantry School: A Soldier’s Journal

Jack's Website

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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  1. First, Be Proud.... We take an oath to serve PERIOD. As an A-10 and C-130 Maintenance Crew Chief my sole purpose in life was to keep my aircraft 110% flight ready for any type mission to any possible location. I was never shot at but my plane, A-10, could do things no human could do in our out of theater (I know the A-10 saved lives). My C-130 visited places and delivered military assets most only read about for every branch of service.

    My point, We take an oath serve without really knowing what those words mean and the rest is dictated to us until re finish our commitment or retire. We are a machine that only works well when all are committed to the same vision and are willing to do their part large or small. If everyone doesn't do their part from Intel to Infantry it will reflect in loss of life. My A-10 doesn't show up for a close air support mission, well....I'm sure it will be missed I hold my head up as I walk knowing I did the best possible job I could. That was all I could control.

    Praise and Glory be for all those and their families who made a sacrifice to support our Flag....
    Tom Nichols

  2. Jack,

    Thank you for your service and welcome home. As for REMFs, they are a vital part of any effective fighting unit. The military calls it the "tooth to tail" (TR3) ratio. In WWI it was 2 - 1 and in 1945 as WWII was winding down, it was down to 2 - 3. Korea changed the number significantly with a 1 - 3 ratio and the Gulf War brought the ratio to 1 - 3.3. Bottom-line, since 1945, the combat element has declined as a portion of an effective combat force.

    REMFs? I remember, (then) Cpl.Thomas Woolridge, B/3/82 Arty, 6/17/68, explosive device (buried), in convoy on the road between LZ Baldy and LZ Ross and CWO Homer Kendrick, Mtce. Officer, HHC/3/82 Arty, 5/13/69, ground explosive, sapper attack at LZ Baldy. And others, much to my shame, have faded from memory.

    I was on the guns into the spring of '68 when I was assigned to replace our Supply Sgt. as he rotated out, bingo REMF. Chu Lai was pretty good, Camp Eagle not so much and LZ Baldy, well was LZ Baldy.

    C. L. "Butch" Kleinberg
    (Formerly) Sgt., C/3/82 Arty
    196 LIB, Americal Div., I Corp

  3. Jack, excellent commentary, thanks. When I graduated from Air Force munitions school, half of the class went to Bien Hoa, the other half, including me, went to U-
    Tapao Royal Thai Air Force Base, in Thailand, on the Gulf of Siam. As Tom Nichols said, we went where they sent us. My group loaded bombs for B-52s for Arc Light strikes. I know those made a difference, for guys out in the boonies. Be that as it may, the guilt for not doing more, persists. I relate.
    Todd Dierdorff

  4. Jack,
    I know words won't cause the feelings of shame to magically disappear, but they can provide info to help you re-evaluate those feelings and come to a different conclusion. Every man or woman who stepped foot on Vietnam soil did so with the thought, Vietnam could very well be where their personal journey ended. That first step defined us as those who would step into harms way to defend the concept of Freedom, that so many enjoy without a thought of those who paid for it. Thank you for your service. You never received a list of the men who came home alive because you did your job. None of us got that memo, God keeps the best records to share with us when it really matters.
    Survivor's guilt is a symptom of PTSD. Most of us have to deal with it, except maybe the select few who saw their role as John Wayne and Audey Murphy, all rolled up into one mean fighting machine, with no need for support. We all wonder why we are still here when so many better men didn't survive. I know grunts, who did their whole tour and never made contact one time. I dealt with my survivor's guilt by trying to make a positive impact on the world with the rest of my life.
    Lastly, the memorial in Washington DC is named, The Vietnam War Memorial. It's there to honor the men and women who died in that war. It's not meant to shame those of us who survived. Every one of us earned our right to be there. I've learned in my life, the only valid claims to shame are those people who ran when their Country called. They deserve to feel shame. We paid for our Freedom, and we can hold our heads up and be proud for the National Holiday coming up shortly, and a bumper sticker explains why. "Freedom, for those who fought for it, has a flavor the protected will never know". Taste that Freedom, Brother, you've paid for it.
    Welcome Home Brother, I'm happy that you survived!

  5. I hate it whenever I hear someone saying that they feel guilt because they did not pay the ultimate price, and others did. That was your fate, man. I was a grunt who should have died probably twenty times over. I say much more than I ever needed to. I saw many die and a sustain horrible injuries. I only received a few minor holes from mortar shrapnel. Do I feel guilty that the same round that put a bunch of small holes in my body killed someone else? Hell no. I am happy as hell that it was someone else's time to go and not mine. I obviously had more things to do before it was my time to check out. The Lord figured out a long time ago who was to die early and who was to avoid what seemed inevitable at the time. I am thankful for all those who were able to avoid getting shot at by the "bad guys). We in the heat of battle needed all the help (support) we could get. I loved them all, even though I might have had mild trepidations when I passed through Saigon and saw how the other half lived. Honestly, those of you who did the best you could with what you had to do, never feel badly about that. You did what you were supposed to be doing and no one should be thinking that you needed to do more, except yourself, and that should not count. Knock it off. If you did your best, you are a good man or woman. You should never put yourself on a self-imposed guilt trip. Totally unacceptable. Sorry. Those of us who are true military people love you all for what you did. Thank you. John McClarren (LTC IN US Army (ret.)

  6. In the American Legion, the only organization that I've become active in, I have run into some of the folks that feel they have to explain what they did, in WWII, Korea and Vietnam because they were support troops. I was bothered by the local media doing interviews of the veterans attending the dedication of a memorial and all they wanted to interview was the ones that talked about being in combat. The ones that felt slighted by the reporter had worked as a crane operator in Pearl Harbor, well after the attack there. The other served aboard ship. But all support troops, signed up and received their assignment to where they were needed. Some folks do glorify the front line troops but I don't recall any front lines in Viet Nam every base camp or large LZ got hit at one time or another. In WWII, even the folks at home made sacrifice to help support the troops and that helped win the victory in that war.
    For my part, I felt I had a pretty nice job, got to go our and return to base camp, only occasionally staying in the LZ we supplied, when we did stay we were not all that welcome as we "drew' fire. Most everyone that I served with had times when they wished they could have done more to help the ones in contact. But I think most all that were there did what they could for the team. Still I lost friends and associates and often wondered just what was different in what they did as to what I did. Mostly it wasn't what God had planned so I was in the right place they weren't. I did appreciate the soldiers that kept our machine in shape, fuel and ammo available and a place to stay between missions. Without them, it would have been impossible to do anything. While flying my helicopter, i felt much safer than the troops we were taking into the LZ s and did my best to support them until I was to pick them up and we'd do it again another day.

  7. The worst decision I ever made in the Army was in Basic Training. They offered to send me to Warrant Officers School, and being the dumb, young recruit that I was, I thought a Warrant Officer was in charge of a classroom or some other boring job, and I turned it down. When I got to the Nam, I finally saw my first Warrant Officer, and he was wearing a flight suit. I asked and found out I'd turned down a job as a chopper pilot, and I've kicked myself in the ass every time I've thought of that bad decision since. I LOVED flying in a slick,. and I can only imagine the rush of a cobra. I was awarded the Air Medal for flying in them so much, but that was kinda like the booby prize when I think what I said no to

  8. Jack Durish,
    The individuals who took almost all, if not all, the credit for everything that went right in Vietnam seldom left the rear echelon areas, and were heavily protected when they did---?--The bird colonels and the Generals, of course! And how about our Surgeons and Dentists.

    You made me feel bad about your attitude/feelings. Hell Man, you showed your interest and mastery of military matters by your books, and I'm sure your teachings/speeches.
    You did what you were asked to do, and I'll wager what you did was very good and very much needed.

    Your courage is like CJ's, visible by the words you share with others. You put your raw feelings on your cuff for all to see. You got balls and more, you have character!

    Proud to have made your acquaintance!
    Tony Lobello


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