I was born in Florida and resided there until I was three years of age. I have two older siblings and a large extended family. My father’s family is Pennsylvania Dutch Amish and have lived on the ancestral lands since the mid-sixteen hundred.
When I was three the family relocated to New Jersey where I completed my elementary and secondary education. When I was in High School, the war in Vietnam was just beginning to escalate, my friends and I were preparing for the inevitable draft and service in Vietnam. However, I was granted admission to Brown University in Providence Rhode Island and at least temporarily escaped the draft.
During my Junior year at Brown, I was forced to withdraw due to financial constraints. I knew full well that as soon as the draft board found out, I would receive my induction letter.
I joined the Air Force and did my basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas. I tested well and was sent to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi Mississippi to attend Morse Radio Intercept training. Upon completion of this training, I was sent to Good Fellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas for training in signals and electronic intelligence.
Upon completion of my training, I was sent to Crete and was assigned a position which required travel to several embassy’s and covert locations to pick up intercepted intelligence and escort it to the Directory of the Nation Security Agency. I continued at this job until I was assigned to an intercept station monitoring covert assets and security integrity.
After about eighteen months, I received orders for Vietnam. I was to report to the 6994th Security Squadron, Saigon. However before reporting I completed additional training in: Water Survival, Air Born Radio Direction Finding, Escape and Evasion, Prisoner of War survival and communication, Basic Survival in a Hostile environment, Special Weapons Training, Combat Medical intervention, Jungle Survival, interrogation techniques and resistance.
When I arrived in Vietnam I was immediately sent as a detached unit to Da nage Air Force Base where I was assigned to fly EC-47 aircraft which were sanitized (no markings, unarmed, un-identifiable). While at Da nage, the enemy placed a bounty of five thousand bags of rice for the heads of any members of the flight crew. As a consequence of the bounty, we were obliged to relocate to various airfields through out Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Our missions were to locate and identify significant enemy targets, identify them, intercept any and all radio communications, determine the strategic and or tactical value and direct air strike against them if warranted. The day after we directed air strikes, we would go in by helicopter and search the enemy dead for any information which might have an intelligence value. Upon return to our base we would review, and the information assess it and forward any and all viable information to the director of the National Security Agency.
During my time in combat, I was shot down three times. The first was by 66-millimeter anti-aircraft guns. I was the only survivor of this shoot down and spent five days evading enemy troops attempting to capture or kill me. Eventually, I ran into a patrol of Royal Laotian Rangers who arranged for my medical evacuation.
My second shoot down was when we were approaching a runway at landing and the Viet Cong has set up a machine gun nest tasked with shooting our aircraft as it was landing. The machine gunner fired and killed the pilot and co-pilot causing the aircraft wing to catch on the jungle trees and the aircraft flipped wing over wing coming to rest approximately five miles from the base. I was wounded and unable to exit the wreckage due to enemy fire. After about three hours American troops came and rescued us.
The third and last shoot down was when we were tasked with locating American Flight Crews that were prisoners of the North Vietnamese Army. When I directed the aircraft in for additional targeting information, we were hit by a SA-7, shoulder mounted Anti-Aircraft Missile, the plane went into an immediate spin and crashed. I was again rescued by Laotian armed forces and evacuated to Da Nage, then to Saigon, to the Philippines and finally to Japan where after three months I finally regained consciousness.
At the end of my service in South East Asia I was one of thirteen survivors out of a contingent of one hundred twenty-eight, and of the twenty-six planes there when I first reported there were only four. Everyone else was dead or missing.
As a result of my experiences in Vietnam, I have been awarded a service-connected disability encompassing several areas.
Recently I was diagnosed with testicular cancer diagnosed as Agent Orange related. They removed the testicle and the doctors informed me that in 90% of the cases that was all taken care of. After three months I went back for a follow-up and the doctors discovered lesions on my bladder. After medical consultations and additional testing, the doctors determined that I had bladder cancer. The doctors ordered additional testing and determined that I also had lesions on my kidney.
Treatment of my cancers is un-conventual because I lost one of my kidneys in the war and chemo therapy would destroy the one remaining kidney. The doctors are now using stem cell treatment along with injections of platinum. We are hopeful, but only time will tell. At this point I am optimistic and feeling much better then I had in the recent past.