Joining Special Forces has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made. When I joined at 19 I thought that I was making a 3 year commitment, however I have subsequently found that my choice effected my entire life. My service during the Vietnam era impacted my professional career, and not in a positive way. In interviews, the interviewing manager confessed to me their “reasons” for not (being able) to join… Head hunters finally told me to take my references to service in Vietnam, and “especially” my association with “Special Forces” off my resume. In the mid 80’s I was interviewing for a very good paying job, and the owner of the company said “You have a fine background, but it says you served in Vietnam, and I am afraid you will have a Vietnam flashback”. My response to his statement was, “if you’re talking about raping and pillaging, it has been a couple of weeks”. I figured that if he got my joke, I had the job, if he didn’t, then hopefully he got my point. I didn’t need to wait for his response.
I thank the media, and our elected officials for this treatment. In discussion with others who served, they had similar experiences. I don’t know how pervasive it was, but suffice it to say that until 1999 I never had a superior who served in Vietnam. In 1999 I had the pleasure of working for Joe Lenhart, an S.F. guy who tells me that because of us, his team had to “test” their laws to see if they fired or not.
I can’t say that if I had known in advance that Lang Vei was going to be attacked by the NVA, with tanks, that I would have volunteered for that garden spot but I am glad that I was there to support my team. As Dennis Thompson has stated, “It was a defining moment in my life”.
Being in Special Forces has affected my interaction with both men and women for my entire life. Both sexes find me arrogant. Am I arrogant because I feel that I am trained to handle the next challenge in life (whether it is one I want to face or not)? Am I arrogant because I am proud to have trained with, and served with some of the finest men who have ever lived? Am I arrogant to feel proud to have served with men who stood insurmountable odds, and did not run? Maybe there is arrogance in my stride, maybe in walking with my shoulders back, my head held high and then again maybe because I can look people in the eyes when I talk to them.
I find it difficult to trust, or therefore respect the typical guy I meet in business or in my personal life, no matter how much money they are worth, or what position they hold. I respected and trusted the SF guys that I served with, because each man was well trained and dedicated to their duty, which often included saving my bacon. I feel that we not only did our jobs as we were trained, but we originated the idea to “think outside the box”.