SGT Lacey Polk US Army (1963-1967)
SGT Lacey Polk
Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/222206
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WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
As I stated in my Profile–I was in the Army twice. First time–I entered service a few months after I turned 18 and was in for two years. I wanted to get away and see the world!! After I was discharged, I stayed out a few weeks shy of three years then re-enlisted. Things were pretty bad–combination of family issues and me not able to find a decent job or a direction in life so I re-enlisted. It was not because of my LOVE for the Army–it was more of “3 hots & a cot” as they say. I actually re-enlisted to make the Army a career–to stay for “20.”
BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
Volunteered for the draft at 18–had basic training at Ft Dix, New Jersey. Second 8 weeks at the Artillery School in Ft Sill, Oklahoma–assigned to the 8th ID in Darmstadt, Germany–discharged as Spc-4. Stayed out a couple weeks shy of 3 years then re-enlisted. Sent to the 24th ID in Munich, Germany. While in Germany I attended the 24th ID NCO Academy in Augsburg, Germany as Spc-4. Promoted to Sgt E-5 in approximately 22 months after re-enlisting. In October of ’65 while with the 24th ID I volunteered for Vietnam–got orders in November of ’65 assigning me to the 1st Cav Div (Airmobile) in An Khe, Vietnam. Arrived in Saigon (Vietnam) on December 24th, Christmas Eve night. After arriving in An Khe I was assigned to C 1/21st Arty. Approximately 2 months with C 1/21st I volunteered for Door Gunner (I had been wounded by this time)–a month later I was assigned and served 9 months with A 2/20th ARA (Hogs). Rotated back to the States where I served as platoon Sgt/Instructor at the Artillery School in Ft Sill, Oklahoma–discharged in November of ’67.
NOTE: You are probably wondering why I wasn’t promoted to E-6. Well I would have made E-6 if I had stayed with my unit in the 24th ID in Munich, Germany. I volunteered for Vietnam. I am sure I would have made E-6 once I got to Vietnam and assigned to C 1/21st – but I volunteered for Door Gunner (not excuses–but facts!). Toward the end of my tour in the 2/20th where I was Door Gunner–there was an opening for E-6 with only “2” eligible–me and a Spc-5. By that time I had made up my mind I wanted OUT of the Army! The Spc-5 was married and was a lifer–“Just give it to him–I don’t want it!!” I soon rotated back to the States where I had a few issues–and encounters–as a result of my Vietnam experience. By then–I definitely wasn’t “E-6” material–the exact opposite of the “Strack” soldier I was prior to Vietnam.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
I was involved in several Combat Operations in Vietnam. The first being Operation Masher/White Wing. I was assigned to C 1/21st Arty 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) for the first three months I was in Vietnam. I was the gunner on a 105 howitzer. That was “indirect” combat–I did not actually“see” the enemy during that period.
Approximately two months after arriving in Vietnam–while with C 1/21st–I was wounded by friendly fire (left foot wound). While back at base camp on lite-duty there was a request for volunteers for Door Gunner. I volunteered. Somewhere around 3-4 weeks later I found myself sitting behind a M-60 machine gun–in a Huey UH-1B gunship (Hogs)–exchanging fire with “Charlie!” This was “direct” combat. I “saw” the enemy and the enemy saw me–Kill or be killed! Yes,”I’ve flown amongst the trees and seen the face of the enemy!” (I think that’s the way it goes) I consider myself to be a very, very, VERY lucky man to be alive.
The combat operation that stands out most and will forever be branded in my memory is when we were on Operation Hawthorne around mid-June of ’66–flying mission out into the Bong Song/Kontum areas up in the Central Highlands. On this day I was Door Gunner in the lead chopper on a 2-chopper recon mission–in the lead and flying low with the 2nd chopper flying a little distance behind at a higher altitude to cover us. We were ambushed by a couple of 12.7mm (51s) NVA anti aircraft machine guns. They shot us up real bad! Along with ‘several’ other direct hits to our chopper–the rocket pod right next to me exploded from a couple direct hits from armor-piercing rounds and the chopper caught on fire. A MIRACLE our chopper didn’t explode or none of our crew were killed or even wounded. Don’t want to go too deep into what happened because what happened that day caused me some serious ‘issues’ later on. I’ll just say it was VERY traumatic and one of a couple of “near-death” experiences I had as door gunner!
**UPDATE! I recently ordered and received (3/29/11) an After Action Report from the NATIONAL ARCHIVES in College Park, Maryland on that incident when we were attacked. In the report it states that based on the pilots official statements/reports after the attack–those were probably CHICOM 14.5mm machine guns that attacked us–instead of the 12.7mm (51s) I thought they were.
WHICH, OF THE DUTY STATIONS OR LOCATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED OR DEPLOYED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?
Ah! Believe it or not–basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. I wasn’t in a group of guys I knew before I came in–but there were a group of Italian guys from the same neighborhood who knew each other before being drafted. Those guys raised all kinds of hell in basic and kept the entire platoon in deep “shit!” A bunch of crazy guys that gave the cadre all kinds of problems–they didn’t respect them at all! Looking back–I really enjoyed it. (Brings a smile even to this day!)
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
Basic at Fort Dix, New Jersey as an 18 year old kid will always be an experience that I will never forget and of course my 12 months I served with the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) up in the Central Highland in Vietnam.
I have to add the memory of the 1st mission I went on as the “Door Gunner” of that chopper. I realized that I was actually now looking to engage the enemy for “direct” combat–kill or be killed. It was surreal!!
WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?
I wasn’t awarded any medals or awards for valor–however–on the recon mission that I was the Door Gunner that I mentioned earlier–the pilot of my chopper was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) medal for the action he took that day when we were ambushed by those 12.7mm (51s) NVA anti-aircraft machine guns. I am almost sure that was a DFC with “V” (Valor) device. I had rotated back to the States when the Capt. received his award. I guess I should state his name–Capt Fredrick Beck (Capt. at the time–retired as Colonel)–who by the way–was actually not the pilot when we first came under attack–he was the AC (Aircraft Commander) flying “left-seat” but took over control of the aircraft. I’ll just say when it was all over–we left none of the enemy alive that had attacked us. That’s enough–going into this too deep.
A side note: Colonel Beck passed this past January (1/11). A slow hand salute. May the Colonel rest in peace.
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The most meaningful award or decorations I have would be my Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters or Air Medal with the Number 4 (5 Air Medals) for ‘combat’ time as Door Gunner–with me having a 13B40 MOS (light artillery). Also very meaningful because of what I experienced in order to be awarded those medals and was lucky to have survived when so many helicopter crew members didn’t. And of course the Aircraft Crewman Badge–which in my case–my Air Medals and Aircraft Crewman Badge are connected.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
I really don’t have an individual who stands out during my military service. I was at that time and continue to be a ‘self-motivated’ person.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
(Laughing!) This was while I was with the 8th Infantry Division in Darmstadt, Germany. This guy stayed in trouble because of his off-post activities–mostly reporting back late from weekend pass. Anyway–this particular morning around 6 o’clock we were all at attention standing in formation with the platoon Sgts ready to give their “All present and accounted for-Sir”–when all of a sudden we hear the sound of somebody running! It was this Pvt who had just got back from another weekend pass and was late. Imagine this: When he joined the formation that morning he had no head gear on…his fatigue shirt was hanging out and unbuttoned…his field jacket was open…his boots were untied and all the time he was struggling very hard trying to get his belt through the loops of his pants.
Here is the kicker, you are not going to believe this, he had his fatigue PANTS on BACKWARDS!!!!!! Top–our 1SGT was about 6’7″ and about 300 pounds and a real bull-dog type. Well–first EVERYBODY was cracking-up!! Top chewed up one side of his butt and then the other side. It was a scene right out of a Bill Murray movie!! Unbelievable!
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?
Well – we don’t want to get into the first 12 years after I was discharged–not a good period in my life. Like I said I had some serious issues stemming from my Vietnam experiences. Almost 12 years to the day after I was discharged–I boarded a Greyhound Bus at the Port Authority Terminal in Manhattan (New York City) and headed West to Los Angeles, California to try getting my life in order. I did not know a single soul here in Los Angeles at the time. Nobody! I had to get out of the environment I was in!
Once in Los Angeles and kind of got myself settled-in–I managed to survive for close to nine years at which time I bumped into this real estate broker. To make a long story short–he convinced me to go to real estate school. The plan was for me to attend real estate school–which he would sponsor–get my license and work in his office. Which I did.
As I stated earlier I don’t want to talk about the first 12 years after I was discharged. I have used the term “near-death” experiences but that’s a term I was introduced to along with “traumatized” and “PTSD” after being convinced to go up to the VA here in Los Angeles to be evaluated. The result of my evaluation was “cronic” PTSD caused by combat in Vietnam!! I committed to the PTSD program and continue to attend a Home Group–periodically.
I retired in 2005 as a self-employed real estate loan consultant/agent. Now–I can say that I’m “OK”–relatively speaking. I am still prescribed medication for PTSD.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I am a member of the following Associations:
*Veterans Of Foreign Wars
*ARA (Aerial Rocket Artillery) Association
*24th Infantry Division Association
*VHCMA (Vietnam Helicopter Crew Members Association)
*Army Field Artillery Association
*1st Cavalry Division Association (Lifetime Membership)
The thing about each one of these Associations is that I’m qualified to be a member and I belong. I mean–I truly have an “association” with each and every one I have listed. Might not sound like much but to me it’s special!
HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
There is a long list of things the military has had an influence on my life that I use every day–but right off the top of my head–to be specific–I would say discipline and mental toughness.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?
Remember, *DUTY*HONOR*COUNTRY and stay safe!
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
I have not actually ‘met’ any of the guys in person here on TWS–BUT I have “connected” with a bunch of great guys. Some I feel as though I actually know. Then there are the Vietnam Vets that I have connected with–“WE” speak and understand the same language. It has been and continues to be a VERY gratifying and rewarding experience!