Rudy Kallock

Rudy Kallock

Profilers: Simon Park, Jordan Farahnik, William Parma, and Mason Woodard

Part 1: Introduction

Part 1: Introduction

My real name is Albert Callock. I go by Rudy, and currently I live in Agawam Massachusetts. I’ll be 73 in May. I come from a family, eventually of six: mother, father, I’m the oldest. There were three boys— me, my two brothers. My father, World War II [veteran], went to Northeastern University, graduated, lived in Boston, and moved from Boston back to Western Mass, and then down to Texas, where my father was in the insurance industry. During all that time, we traveled. My brother (it was the two of us at the time) and my parents traveled from Massachusetts through the South. So they gave me a pretty good upbringing on military history— we visited Gettysburg and, you know, places that were important— they wanted to make sure that I knew about the history and about the country and everything. So I had a strong sense of where this country came from. History always meant a lot to me, and I thought, going to school, this was going to be my priority— to teach history. I just saw myself as graduating and teaching history and then just going on and having six kids and you know, the American dream and everything like that. That’s what I thought at the time. 

I always say my world changed on November 22 1963. President Kennedy was young, young wife, two kids. You were in high school and you felt “yeah man, this is cool.” Here’s a young President. And we’re starting to get into Vietnam and the movies are out— there was The Green Berets and John Wayne— and we’re fighting communism. I think that was the theme growing up too— fighting communism. Nikita Khrushchev at the U.N. and taking the shoe and banging the thing, “we’re gonna bury you.” People making fallout shelters, duck and cover, the cuban missile crisis, where I guess we came pretty close to some kind of you know… You’re living in Massachusetts. How far are you from Cuba? I mean there was that sort of sense of communism, the domino theory— I always said the domino theory was one of these things that was very very present— there was something that was us against communism. And Vietnam was that place where we were going to stop, and we were going to plant our flag. We were going to stop them right there. We had done it in Korea, but now it’s in the North [Vietnam]. and once they go through North Vietnam and South Vietnam, they can go anywhere. So that was the sort of mindset that we were indoctrinated with. But President Kennedy, when he got assassinated, I remember that day; I was going to hitchhike down to the funeral in Washington; and it was a dark day; and it sort of synced with how you were feeling— that here was this young president gone. Lyndon Johnson, who was a good man, is now the president. And [I] sort of lost whatever political feelings I had. But then those are resurrected probably in ’67-’68, when cities were burning Detroit, out there in Watson, everything like that. Now what’s going on? The country’s on fire, Martin Luther King being assassinated, RFK. It was all this stuff that was just going on; it was like, “what the hell is going on here?” And you sort of became numb to it, and the war was always in the background. The war was always this movie that was running in the background. And you sort of, like I said, you became numb to it; you sort of kind of went back into your own self and said: “Well, try not to think about it I guess.” I had to be numb to what was going on.

Part 2: Life & Society Before Service

Part 2: Life and Society Before Service

You know, I remember one incident, it was probably 1965, and we were down on Cape Cod, and there was a kid strumming a guitar. He had a little sign— he was basically kind of protesting the war. This was 1965, and some other kid came up and threw a cigarette in his face. It was very unpopular back then in 1965. Like I said, you watched it every night on TV, and  since it was on TV every night, it was like, “that’s not me,” you know? There was sort of a sense of distance. But when my friends started coming back, it had a little bit more impact. These guys were early war [soldiers]. One of them was a door gunner and sometimes [he] let us in on shooting water buffalo from the air. But you didn’t want to, you know, go [to Vietnam]. 

Eventually we moved back to West Springfield in 1960, and I finished high school in 1966. My father was out of work so I worked for a year, and then I had an opportunity to go to school. I wanted to get away from here, so I went to a school in Ohio called Defiance College. I wanted to play football— I played a little football out there— but I was asked to leave because I was a little bit rowdy and out of control, promising me that I would be able to come back in the fall. At that time, all of us if you were in school, you had what they call a 2S deferment, student deferment. There are other deferments, if you were medically 4F and everything, if you were 1A that meant that you were eligible for the draft. The draft wasn’t in existence back then. You had to register at 18 at the post office to be eligible for the draft. It was a requirement. It was a law. So anyways I tried to get back into school in the fall. They weren’t going to let me— they had already changed my status from 2S to 1A— so I knew I was going to be inducted. This was just before the lottery draft system. They were taking everybody. In fact, there was a thing called Project 100,000, where they needed bodies over in Vietnam. And I was one of them, along with two of my high school friends. We all got drafted together in January of 1969. From there, we were drafted; and I remember in the draft office, they asked for Marine volunteers. Everybody kind of got as small as they could because at that time if you’re going into the Marines, you were going into combat. But we all assumed that we’re all going to Vietnam. That’s inevitable.

Part 3: Basic Training, Duty, and War

Part 3: Basic Training, Duties, and War

The war was always in our background. The war was always [there] as you came home and were eating dinner at the table. Every night: “What was going on with the war? What were the casualty rates? And you sort of shrugged it aside. Some of my friends came back and they were definitely changed. They had sort of, not become lost, but just distant from when I knew them. You didn’t ask what they did, you didn’t want to infringe upon their privacy. But after coming back, it just seemed that you weren’t as close to them as you once were, because it was just the nature of the beast. They had been in this place called Vietnam; they didn’t want to talk about it; and if you did mention it, they would either get angry or just change the subject. So this was kind of the background that we were dealing with prior to going to Vietnam. If you were 1A, you were going, which I became; and like I said, I tried to get in the Air National Guard, the Army National Guard, the Federal Reserves, but everybody else had the same idea. I was too late.

So the three of us got drafted and found ourselves in Fort Jackson in January 1969. I had signed up for another year because the sergeant said: “If you sign up, you can pick where you want to go.” I said, “sounds good.” I can kind of control my destiny, I thought at the time, and I signed up for supply school at the place near Petersburg, Virginia.

So you finish eight weeks of basic, and you go to where you what they call A.I.T. (Advanced Individual Training). I was eventually sent to Vietnam in June ’69. I was assigned to the 11th Army Cavalry Charlie Troupe. There were three squadrons. Each squadron was made up of four companies. Mine was the first squadron.I was the armorer. And the armorer was the small arm specialist for that unit. You had to maintain all the 50 cals on the tanks, the A cabs, M16’s, which is the assault rifle, M79, all the small arms you were responsible for to make sure that the the people in the tracks had functioning weapons, because, obviously in combat, you need everything to be working for you. Sometimes we’d be out in an area, I remember running, one day, looking for the NVA, running over a dead body and exploding all over me. It was just bloated from sitting out there, and the track ran over it. You know, there are little memories that sort of come back to you. At night, you would be in the jungle. It’d probably be maybe 25 tracks in a wagon train circle, and you would be in a cleared out area, and you would have the jungle probably within 25-30 yards of you. And you’re sitting there as night is going, you’re looking: “What’s out there? What’s going to happen tonight?” Your senses were all up a thousand percent. I think about nights a lot because there were times when you’re on guard duty, usually two hours on and then somebody else, and then maybe four off. You’d sit in what they call the cupola of the track— it’s the top, where the track commander is— you’re behind a 50, a radio, and it’s so black that you can’t even see your hands if you’re holding them in front of your face. What you have is a radio, and every maybe half hour, somebody’s calling from the middle of the command track. You just click off, you see that little red light blinking, and then you’d call in and say, “situation normal”. But you couldn’t see your hands, and you were always out there just looking, peering into this darkness and, what was out there? I remember one time we were sitting there and way off in the distance, I would say maybe 300-400 yards, and again I don’t know if this is a dream, but the NVA, when they were going through the jungle, would carry these day glow sticks to mark where they were going, and I swear, that there were green, day glow sticks. You could see them on trees and so they were out there. Sometimes if we had an ambush patrol, we’d have maybe three or four people out in front and a listening post— an lP— and they might hear contact, so we might decide to have what they call a mad minute. And that means that every weapon, the main guns, the machine guns, at say 2:31 in the morning, opens up for a minute. And it’s just noise, and light, and explosions, and everything like that; and you’re in that wagon train circle. And next morning you go out there and you see whether there was anything out there, and sometimes you would find blood trails, you know where somebody had been wounded. They had dragged somebody off.

Part 4: Quan Loi, Cameras, & Survivor’s Guild

Part 4: Quan Loi, Cameras, and Survivor’s Guilt

Probably my big thing was August 12th, the ground attack at Quan Loi. Quan Loi was a target to capture. Quan Loi would be a big feather in the NVA’s cap. It was near a town called Anlock, which is a regional capital. There must have been a couple of NVA regiments [that had] come through.I remember running out, shrapnel hit the rubber trees (we were in a rubber plant), shrapnel hit the rubber tree up ahead, and I got shrapnel on my head. I used to pick out, I don’t do it anymore, but you still little pieces come out. Anyway, it was at night, explosions going down to the main line. The next morning, just bodies all over— I mean you could literally walk on bodies for probably a hundred yards… blown in half, arms, legs, I mean, guys dragging them cut in half, and just one half would be 25 yards away, and it looked like they had just dragged that half of the body… It was something that I live with. 

I was back in Benoit, our main area, kind of getting parts to go back out to the field, and we decided to go to this place called Mamasan’s to have a beer. I just bought this brand new Yashica camera and it was on the seat of the truck we were in. So we’re sitting around having a beer and Mamasan’s pointing at me and pointing at the truck. Well, some kids had gotten to the truck and took the camera. We’re going down the road, I remember grabbing my M16 and aiming and pulling the trigger, except I had the friggin thing on lock, thank God. I always think about that, that if I had opened up on those kids over a freaking camera and killed these kids, what would have happened? I mean, killing three or four kids for stealing a camera? I was pissed off because I just got the camera, it was a nice one, but still, killing those kids? No. That’s something that bothers me you know to this day.

So the first and only time I smoked pot in Vietnam and I got really high, and we had to go out into a contact riding on the track; and obviously when you’re high, everything is amplified. Well a guy a couple of tracks over was killed, and you sort of take it upon yourself to say: “If I wasn’t high, could I have sort of done something?” I think that’s a common theme with Vietnam guys or anybody in combat, that there’s a survivor’s guilt. I was watching a movie (we had outdoor movies), and it was kind of boring and I said, “I’m gonna go back to my bunker,” and I said, “no I’ll wait.”  And by not going back, we took a bunch of incoming, and I had a direct hit on my bunker. I figure if I would have walked, if I would have left the movie, I would have walked right into that mortar round hitting my bunker. So there’s those little things about fate— being at the right place at the right time. Some people weren’t. Some people were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ll give you a story. Sometimes people would come through that were from New England. In this case it was a guy, I’ll say his name was John. He was from Newtown, Connecticut. His unit was going home, but he had six months left to go. So they transferred him into the Eleventh Cav. and I remember talking before he went back out to the field, having a few beers. He had to do his time for six months. Anyways, I was driving for the colonel and one of my friends came over and said, “John’s dead.” He said he took a direct hit. He was a track commander, took anRPG and everything like that. You think about that. Why’d they have to send… why couldn’t they have just sent him home? Why did they have to keep him in Vietnam? When I go to the wall, it’s one of the first things that I do. I see John’s name and I kind of remember him. It’s that kind of thing of being at the wrong place at the wrong time that happens in war. 

Part 5: Returning Home, The Stigma of Defeat, & Pot

Part 5: Returning Home, the Stigma of Defeat, and Pot

Coming back that first weekend in Martha’s Vineyard and you know people knew I was in the army because of my short hair. This was 1970. And it was: “How many did you kill? How many years? Did you do this, did you do that? And you just kind of laughed it off. You were back in the world, and you were getting oriented. Going over and coming back was basically night and day. When I was going over, you know getting on the plane, mother said goodbye, it seemed like everything was normal. When I got back, it just seemed like everything had exploded. Kids with long hair, smoking pot in the streets, the protests and the war and everything. It definitely changed. The thing that blew me away over there was, and this always will haunt me, the incident at Kent State, where the national guard shot five kids. I visited Kent state. What are we doing? 

I still have a lot of Vietnam veterans around here, and we talked about the fact that when we got back, nobody wanted to know you were in the army in Vietnam. You couldn’t go apply for a job and say, “yeah I did my time in the army,” because if you did, I always thought that at that time with the media, the TV show programs or the movies were always [portraying] some Vietnam veteran, drunken on drugs, has cut the head off a baby. We got to go get them. And this is being broadcast at this time in the 70’s all over the country. It seemed to me there was always a crazy Vietnam vet. You know this sort of was into the psyche. So you learned not to say you were in Vietnam.

I thought people would initially say, “hey he’s back, he’s here,” and everything like that; and you eventually find out that, again this was ’69-’70, the war is running out, I mean the war is hugely unpopular. It was more unpopular, the Tet, I believe was the turning point, the light at the end of tunnel, and Nixon’s president. 

But don’t forget we lost the war. That’s the stigma— we lost the war. We were the first troops or generation to lose a war, and that was something. [There was a sentiment that] “we don’t want you guys, you guys lost the war, you’re crazy, you’re this and that.” I got back and eventually had friends that said: “You want to drive pot back from your place from Southern California?” We were living in Tustin, so we would take somebody’s car that they needed driven across the United States. We would look for a car like a Ford that had a big trunk. We would load maybe a couple hundred pounds of bricks of marijuana, drive it back and you know I get paid maybe a couple of thousand dollars to do that for like three days work. But again there was that feeling of just, “there’s the police out there, I’m getting over them.” The police are the NVA, and I’m reallytrying to empty that receptacle— I’m trying to get this thing out of me—and I’m doing it like I’m back in Nam, where basically I liken it into the Wild West, where anything goes. Now I’m doing this, I’m sort of reinvigorated by doing this. So eventually we went from that to boatloads, and we had two guys from Newport that used to sail with Ted Turner and they were going down to Columbia getting tons of pot, bringing it back to Rhode Island. We had a house on the shore in Rhode Island. Loading it up, bringing it on shore from zodiac boats, carrying it into the house, and I’d be paid probably thirty-forty thousand dollars. So we did that twice, and then I moved out to Lake Tahoe. I was gonna buy a house out there, this was probably around 1975, waiting for the next trip to come up. They had rented an island in the Juan de Fuca straits, off of Seattle Barnes Island. The guy on the sailboat was going to pick up tie sticks and so we were waiting and we were prepared. They had two super powered boats called skipjacks, twin 280, I mean these things would fly through the water. So what we would do is load the pocket, load the pot on the island, put it on the skipjack, bring it to shore, and load it in the stash house. We didn’t know there were DEA agents from the adjoining island on Clark Island, but we were told to do things at night. And one of us broke their rule, and did it during the day. They called the Coast Guard and we get busted. I’m in court in Seattle and they didn’t know what they had, and I was sort of able to say, “well, I was just just driving a boat or driving a trailer.” I minimized my role there. So they said, “okay we’re going to give you two years.” I went before the judge and he said (Judge Jack Tanner, black judge), “Mr. Callock, do you have anything to say before I sentence you?” I go: “Yes, your Honor, I’ve already done a year.” He goes, “what do you mean?” I said, “I did a year in Vietnam.” Now he must have just gone to see The Deer Hunter or something like that because it was about this time he goes, “you know I believe you, I’m only going to give you a year.” So I went to this federal facility, minimum security, in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. And when you go there they usually knock off three months for good time if you don’t screw up. And when you get out of there, you have to go for three months to a halfway house. Prison did what it was supposed to do for me. It made me think, and again, I’m very very glad that I went. The only consequence was that I’m a convicted felon, and now as a convicted felon I’ve found that you know you couldn’t get work. I wanted to work for the VA. “Well no we can’t hire you.” I applied for a probation officer in the Boston area, and I went before a couple of judges. They asked me questions and I told them I was [a felon]. “We can’t do it.” So you had to live your life with a family and try to get a good job, but you always answer that question—  have you ever been convicted. But fortunately, I found this job that didn’t check my background, and it was the best job I ever had, the last job I retired from. That was a consequence. I mean, do you ask yourself would you have done it over again? But I met my wife. If I wasn’t in jail there, I wouldn’t have been my wife. Because of the fact that I decided to go back to school, I went back to BU and met her on a blind date. So life’s strange. It’s a strange trip, it worked out, and knock on wood, I’m okay.

Part 6: Trauma & Recovery

Part 6: Trauma and Recovery

And like I said, we operated in three corps, which was near the camp, which is adjoining the Cambodian border in War Zone C, probably the most heavily sprayed area with Agent Orange. So you were working in Agent Orange every day, going through the jungle or any place. Any kind of condensation coming down was always coming on you. I would say 365, you were inundated with some kind of Agent Orange exposure. I have diabetes two, I have peripheral neuropathy, high blood pressure. Agent Orange is sort of this nebulous substance. I always said that 50 years from now they’ll figure out what Agent Orange actually did to us.

I’m still in therapy at the VA and I was just talking to my cousin. I said, I don’t know if this is true, but I think for a lot of US Vietnam veterans getting out it’s almost like there’s a receptacle that still has something left in it that hasn’t been emptied. And we have to empty that, we’re obligated to get through that. Some people don’t empty that and they just kind of live with it. And the war is, “don’t talk about it,” or just “stay away.” We lost that war and nobody talked to us. Up until the Iraq War, which really kind of changed things for us, where they started having vet centers, now you could come back and they could talk and you could de-process some of the stuff about the war. But we had a gap of say from 1970 or even before that, until say 1985, when they started figuring out PTSD where you had a generation that was sort of just lost. I mean just fend for yourself, do what you have to do to get by. That’s where I was. 

This is part of this whole Vietnam experience, there are a lot of things I think that are still back there, that are still in my head that I haven’t processed, that I don’t want to go to because if you go to them that means that you have to spend time. And is it worthwhile to deal with that stuff in my age? That’s sort of one of those little situational dilemmas that I have to deal with. I think a lot of us have to deal with that. Some of us just don’t want to do it. And why should they? 

So eventually I got out of the army and went back to school. Eventually, I figured out after a summer camp, I went back to school, went to Boston University, got a degree in Rehab Psychology. I wanted to work as a physical therapist but I didn’t make it, so I did rehab psychology and I eventually ended up in hospitals. Whenever I was in the VA and in hospitals I wanted to work with the VA. I was always assigned to any veteran coming in specifically the Vietnam veterans coming in. In the VA it was called battle fatigue shock, and the therapy was to give them what they call three hots and a cot— give them three meals and a bed to stay in. There were people that were still dealing with the war, being alcoholism, drug addiction stuff like that. 

I joined one of the first PTSD groups called Combats at the local hospital up in Northampton at the VA hospital. It was a group of us. It was really cool because there was a group of us that got together and didn’t share war stories but just shared what was going on in our lives. You always think that as a veteran you’re the only one going through this. But when you’re in a group situation, you find that yeah, I’ve gone through six divorces, I’m drinking, I did this, I did that, and somebody says well yeah I thought I was the only one. So Combats was one of these early [programs] and there was something there about it. Then finally some of the doctors and the VA started coming up with this theory on PTSD. That that there are different aspects of this

particular disease pertaining to the individual and what they went through. And a lot of us just don’t want to say there’s anything wrong with us—  that’s the first thing you’re dealing with, sort of psychological issues. It’s, “there’s nothing wrong with me,” and you sort of put it in the back of your mind and does it affect your relationships?

Sure it does. Does it affect that you don’t want to be around people? Sure it does. Does it

affect your relationships with other people, because when you’re with other people they might die just like other people did in Vietnam, and now you have to go through that all again. I went through that when my wife passed away in 2012. I mean I still live with that and I’m sort of dealing with it, but it brings back that sort of PTSD feeling of losing people.

People I know from Vietnam: one of my friends I had heard, over in my unit, suicidal, drove right into a truck. You know, he just wanted to end it all. I have personal friends. One guy, I live by the Connecticut river here, jumped off the bridge. Another friend, Danny, shot himself in the head. I don’t know what to say, I mean PTSD has got so many tentacles and everything like that but you have to be able to be open to deal with it. I’ve gone through many groups and I’ve found a lot. I’ve been fortunate with the VA since 1990, they have some really really good people to talk to about you know the situation. It’s kind of like a lifeline for me.

Part 7: PTSD, Road Rage, & Teaching

Part 7: PTSD, Road Rage, and Teaching

There was an incident that you know, talking about PTSD, and this was probably around 10 years ago. I was driving in New Hampshire, one of my daughter’s soccer tournaments, and

in New Hampshire they have the toll booths— you have to stop and then you know put the toll in. And I’m driving into a toll booth and I’m looking behind me and there’s this woman looks like she’s falling asleep, she’s driving so I slowed down and honked my horn; and she started screaming at me, like mopping off, and I pulled into the bay and she’s right

behind me I could see her in my rear view mirror. I said, “f**k this!” So I got out of the car and I went over to her side where she was, and I’m back in Vietnam and I wish I had an M16, because I was going to jam it through the window and let it go. It was the weirdest thing that ever happened to me, it scares the hell out of me that you can sort of snap at that particular moment. I don’t know why, but I remember just thinking it was only like around three or four seconds, I wanted to take a M16, put it through the window and let it go. And that was it, but I all of a sudden I snapped out of it, got into my car, and got the hell out of there. But it was just so weird. When I retired, I drove a lot and sometimes you’d be driving and you look over the side of the road and there’d be a blown out area and you would look over and all of a sudden this little piece of thing and your eyes would be off the road for three or four seconds when you’re going 70 miles an hour. It was scary, which is one of the reasons I retired because I just eventually, this was after my wife passed away too, said I can’t do this anymore. The Vietnam experience had sort of come back or it was more acute than it was. It sometimes gets that way. It could be depending on the situation, and to this day you look up you hear a

helicopter and you say: “Oh that’s a Chinook. Nope that’s a Huey, or that’s that. You know, you sort of in the back of your head have that little vignette.

You know we’re very, as Vietnam vets, we’re very very thankful and grateful. I am, personally, for what the VA did. And you know it wasn’t like that originally, but the VA has come a long way. My father had frozen feet and would go to the VA, but they could do nothing other than operate. Let me talk about my father just for a second. He had severe PTSD. Severe. He had six kids. He eventually had ECT shock therapy, was a little bit suicidal, and lost his job, but managed to survive. He divorced my mother and then remarried her again after 12 years. He never said anything, and this is the way the World War II guys were. Many of them didn’t talk about their experiences; and we were supposed to be like that. You didn’t talk about your war experience; you sort of sucked it up and that was sort of that stigma or mindset. I didn’t buy that. I think talking about this not only helps us, but it helps you guys to understand. I mean you’re doing a lot of this work; you guys get an understanding by talking to us. You’re going to see this again; I mean we’re always going to be fighting some stupid war. 

So what she does, she starts at the beginning of you know Dien Bien Phu and the French influence and works her way up to the 1960 coup. 1963 where ZM was assassinated and then how the American entry started to increase. She has movies and she has a textbook that she’s kind of put together, and she has Jim and me sort of to contribute, where the kids can ask questions and we can give our personal experiences like we’re doing here with this thing. So it’s a pretty good class and she’s a very astute and great woman for what she’s doing. It helps Jim and I too because, like I said one of the things that the Vietnam veterans I talk to, is their PTSD is never going to leave us. It’s always going to be there. Some people in the VA say, “no, we can deal with it,” but for Vietnam veterans, because of that gap between ’70, when we started being able to talk to somebody, you sort of have that stuff that’s ingrained that’s sort of inside you that you have to live with and it’s hard to get rid of as you get older. It’s harder to dump things, so there are people like Jim and me that are into it. We want to deal with this situation, and it helps us be better people, and to get along.

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