Eloy Garcia Jr.

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LAREDO TO SAIGON The Beginning: Well i had graduated from A&M, because i was in the core cadets I had signed a contract with the army that upon graduation i would be commissioned as a second lieutenant. And the first job that the army had me do was to go to fort bliss texas. following that deployment is when i got assigned to go and do my primary helicopter training at fort walters texas. Well, we did four months of training in primary helicopter school there in walters and then we went to advanced helicopter training for another four months at fort rucker alabama. After that you know do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, and you go to vietnam. so i flew out out of travis air force base in oakland california and we had a stop in guam and then straight into saigon. You know I remember one of the things that was of interest that as we got into the traffic pattern to land, it seemed like everybody in the aircraft would either rush to one side of the aircraft or the other because somebody would say look look at smoke down there you know like if all of a sudden that smoke designated a fire fight or something was going on. The Mission: It’s an air cav unit and the mission of our particular unit which was the d troop third of the fifth cav was to do hunter killer missions and that’s why the attrition rate was so high. Because a lot of times you know you’re the hunter but every now and then you become the hunted we were down in the Mekong delta and the Mekong delta was primarily third and fourth core i was a platoon leader for the the lift platoon i flew on the lotus i flew in the cobras i was obviously because of my rank i was a command and control a lot of times too and so you got experience just about in everything you know and my roommate who was the doughboy platoon leader was killed so for a while there i was also the doughboy platoon leader besides being the lift platoon leader so you fill in and you do what you got to do in case one time i took an rpg round that took off from the sink elevator i’ll show you on the model here that’s the sink elevator back here and the round hit right about here and it took all this part off which is a sink elevator took out the 90 degree anti-torque system as well as your tail rotor and so they took all this part out so what happens when you lose that much of your aircraft then the front part becomes heavier right so what he wants to do is roll over this way go forward so you have to fight that and a lot of times when you do get shot down is because you’re in the midst you know they use fire and maneuver on you and you might be attacking the person to your front and somebody from the side shoots you you know or you’re doing the night missions night missions were always very dangerous and i did a lot of those because i had very very good eyesight my eyesight at night is to be i guess like a cats you know and i could really see well and and those were single ship most of them were single ship and even when you had two ships I always led you know and i would go and i’d fake landing in different places and then finally land where the people wanted to be inserted and sometimes it’d be a few hours later sometimes it’ll be a couple of days some people that called and would say please hurry up and come and get us because we we have injuries we have some so going back and taking them out even though they’re right in the middle of a big fire fight and and of course the bad guys know where they are and you got to come right down the middle of them pick them up and so you’re vulnerable because you have to come down and come down to the ground and and they gotta load the wounded or the dead those that are killed in action and get the rest of the guys out and so you’re kind of sitting there like a sitting duck and so so sometimes you get shot down a lot in some of those type of missions um so it’s always a it’s always good to get back at the end of the day you know and that’s why we always kind of celebrated each other because you’re there really for the other guy you know to make sure he got home safe and he was there for you to make sure you got home safe at the end of the day and of course we’re all young and we went and we sometimes had a had a beer for the for our comrade that’s no longer with us and we went out and did it again the next day and just moved on i got there in 68 in 1968 and i came back in 1969. so i was there a little over a year i remember it was kind of rough for me because my daughter was born 10 days after i left to go to Vietnam i had an option to extend 30 days so i could be here for my firstborn and and it’s you know a very important event you know but you’re your first child and all that but in my discussions with my wife you know we knew that it was going to be harder to leave once the baby’s born and and not only that when you’re there there’s a certain amount of dependency that falls upon you and and then it’s harder to break that dependency so i knew that if i left ahead of time that the other family members would help and friends and whatever you would help in in and kind of ushering through that that that moment of childbirth and in the first few weeks and months of adjustments so i decided no it was best i say bye but we decided it was best for her to go to laredo which is my hometown and be there close to family and like that as she required or needed she could have assistance from family members and from friends that she knew so i did that i had another friend of mine we used to call him the preacher because he was you know god-fearing man a really really nice gentleman and his wife was also due about the same time as my wife and he decided to extend well when he got to vietnam my sense is that he because him being present you know for your the child birth and all that i think his mind was still back in the united states instead of on the job and so it didn’t last long before you know he was before he was killed i think he was killed within the first two or three months there and because it makes a big difference you know when you’re there you see something and become of something versus what i got it was just back then it’s like a little telex that said: your wife had a baby you know somebody you know and everybody’s okay and that’s that’s all you get you know and then month or two later you’d get a picture you know and then another month will go by then you get five or six pictures you know that got lost in the mail somewhere because you know it didn’t have you know all this communication that we have now you know and an occasion if you wanted to stay up half the night you know you’d get a chance to have communication back for the state with some some sort of a satellite hookup or something but it wasn’t like like today where you know everybody runs around with a cell phone and they can call all over the world with it um we didn’t have those kind of capabilities and and since we’re always flying and we’re always having to leave early in the morning i couldn’t stand in line until three or four in the morning waiting to see if i could get a phone call back to the states knowing that i better be sharp the next day and i’d be drowsy or sleepy or tired or whatever even when we celebrate it you know I mean we yeah we celebrated fast and furious but quick and go to bed get rested and be ready to go because somebody else’s life is dependent on you Reunion what i do remember is that we had a reunion in Philadelphia and we marched through the streets you know down pennsylvania avenue in washington dc and i thought it was it was just wonderful the outpouring of the first time i’ve ever seen this you know and everybody was like they’re expecting they didn’t know what to expect all of a sudden you know i mean you had all kinds of asians blacks hispanic doesn’t matter i mean all the buildings just poured out and everybody was just praising us and thanking us and and it was it was unbelievably positive you know and that was my first that was my first reunion that i went to with a vietnam helicopter pilots association and that entity was formed in 85 so this was probably around 87 88 that’s about the time that i joined but it was it was heart wrenching it was it was wonderful it was wonderful we all lost a lot of friends a lot of buddies we have a lot of war stories to tell when we’re together you know some are funny some are serious some are sad but we’re all happy to be here you know we’re all happy to be those of us that made it back and so we were able to kind of kind of carry on and remember our comrades that didn’t make it home Final Thoughts so my sense is to be flexible to be open-minded to be willing to learn you know and prepare yourself the best way you can once you see an avenue or something that you gotta you go out there and do the job you prepare yourself the best best you can and go out there and do it you know and if you something doesn’t work out no big deal learn from it keep right on going and keep going so I think that’s that’s what i learned and i also learned that there’s a lot of folks out there not only just like yourself but that are willing to work with you and and willing to help you and i saw that in vietnam you know guys that were from new york and god knows places i never even heard of all of a sudden you know they’re your Intimate buddies they’re looking after you you know they’re caring for you and you say you know where did this guy come from you know you know here i am i’m a hispanic i’m from south texas now these guys are from bird bath somewhere you know and i’ve never even heard of and yet there they were they’re they’re human beings there’s good people out there you know and you can learn from them as they can learn from you

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