Letters to the World

 



    “I didn’t know if I was supposed to go…I don’t think I could have dealt with being labeled a coward and be Black.”
                                      Ronald, on what made him finally submit to the draft.


Boys in Basic    After finally submitting to the draft and taking the oath, Ronald was shipped to Fort Cambell, Ky. for basic training. From he was sent to Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Stateside, he was assigned to the 542d Maintenance Co.  
     
     Rank followed closely as he was the only person in his company with a total weapons Military Occupation Specialty, and he became the company armorer.

   “Life was good,” he said.

   But life was totally smooth sailing, like most Blacks, our hero was under the command of some less than sensitive non-commissioned officers.

    “I was informed that I would be killed in Vietnam. Why this NCO would tell me this was beyond me,” Ronald said. “He didn’t know me from Adam. Perhaps it was the climate of the times.”

    Incidents like this, and those even more startling were common during the Vietnam era. In 1969 only 2.1 percent of the all officers, in every branch of the military, were Black. As such clashes between Black soldiers, white NCOs and white soldiers were very common.*

   After on such confrontation, Ronald was shipped off to Vietnam.

   “I was getting short. Why go there now?” he said. “It wouldn’t be a full tour.”

*John Foner, Blacks and the Military in American History, 205 (1974).

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© 2003 Jasmine McNealy