“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.”
on what made him finally submit to the draft.
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
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
“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
“I was getting short. Why go there now?”
he said. “It wouldn’t be a full tour.”
Foner, Blacks and the Military in American History, 205 (1974).