United States Army

Service Reflections of SSG John Cihak, U.S. Army (1969-1989)


The following Reflections represents SSG John Cihak’s legacy of his military service from 1969 to 1989. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The following Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life. Start recording your own Military Memories HERE.

Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Army.

Truth be told, I went to get away from home “a Payton Place” My parents were not the best, and I was the oldest; I had to get up, cook breakfast every day, go to school, then to work and home to cook dinner, wash dishes and help my brother and sisters with their homework, then I could do mine. This was five days a week, and on weekends I did my chores and went to work, still doing the cooking and laundry. I also paid my parents to rent to live in the garage with an old car that did not rum, sleeping on two-foot lockers. There was physical abuse and sexual abuse in this family.

My BIO father was a drunk in the USAF; his law was his leather belt using either end and a 2×4. When my parents separated, I had to stay with him and two sisters; my brother and one sister went with my mother. My father once threw me out the 2nd story window for talking to my mother, telling her how we were doing (remember, we were not allowed friends as we thought this was normal). On top of all this, my mother was sleeping around with my uncle (my father’s brother), so I wanted to get away.

I had an uncle John who had been in the Marines during WWII, and so I went to get in; they turned me down, not believing my age, and those of us who went to Nam knew the Army took anyone who had teeth, two eyes, two ears, four limbs with all five on each, and anyone who could shout, so my life began well by Payton Place and hello Vietnam I volunteered for the draft early with my friend Don.

Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?

I made it thru BCT, ending up a retread because of meningitis (two weeks, I was so fracking sick and did not think anything could be worse), serviced and finished BCT at Fort Ord (48 man bays open latrine, we had an outhouse and a washtub), sent to fort bliss and trained as a hawk missile man there were Army and Marines in my class, during this time my grandfather had passed. I was requested to be at his military funeral and was granted a special pass. I returned and finished 3rd in my class.

I was trying to get orders to Germany, Bamberg barracks for a hawk unit 3/7. I talked to the CO/!SG and they said to suck it up, but the unit recruiter needed his numbers and talked his stuff; I took what was called an eight-month short to go to Nam, where Don was; we had entered under the buddy system, never found whatever happened to Don. I was assigned to a Quad unit (OJT as a 16D). I finished my tour, decided to go home and start a new life,

So after Nam, I was sent to Ft Bliss to get out. Still, my mother told me I would rot in hell to kill people and never return home. During my tour, I discovered she and my uncle, and now stepfather, had adopted me without my ok. Back at Ft Bliss, I just did not fit in with the new Chaparral unit; we had a 1sg and shack and back CO and 2 of us SGTs and had no home.

Hence, I found a recruiter and re-upped to go back to Nam to get myself killed. After all, my parents did not want me; our country did not want us; what was left?

If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which made a lasting impact on you and, if life-changing, in what way?

Duster M42A1

Yes, and war is hell, but returning is a more complicated war. Freedom has meaning to those who have fought for it that the protected could never understand, nor would they want to. No one could begin to understand what a person in combat has been through, gunning people down like Swiss cheese, and only another vet would understand what another vet could have gone through in war (Jack Cihak). I served two tours in Vietnam, one on a Quad M55 machine gun (D/71st), and the other I started out on an M42 Dusters twin 40mm (C&B/1/44 Dusters DMZ). Both weapons were WWII and designed for air defense, we did do some air defense, but for the most part, we did ground defense with the Quad and the duster, sometimes doing indirect fire with the duster.

This has always bothered and eaten at me due to our BTC training on the Geneva Conventions, wondering where we are doing right using them on people.; but like I said, I had come back to get killed, so I volunteered my track (Duster) for every mission I could get on. Once on patrol, the Marines found a mine on the road and stated we had to wait for the engineers; I walked up to see where it was and stomped on it. Nothing facking happened; it was a mine they had uncovered part of it; the Marines thought I was a nut; we all started to walk back to the vehicles,’ and a water buffalo walked on it, and it went off, the Marine Staff SGT stated it just ant your time SGT. We all laughed and returned to the job, getting to the Rock Pile and beyond.

When the ADA closed out of Nam, I was reassigned to an Arty Service Battery 5/42, they were sling loading out a unit, and their people and the Rigger did not know how to do it all; we were sitting by having delivered the ammo to the pad, I got picked and went over and did the rigging for them, the LTC came up and stated that I was the new Rigger for this unit and to get on the bird so started my “Slinger Dinger,” that office later on a COL presented me with rigger wings and my red Rigger’s cap witnessed by his staff and the black hats there and with him (Black Hats are pathfinders).

During my first tour, I went to jungle expert training with the 173rd, but after seeing all the new people who wear that patch nowadays, I wondered what jungle they were ever in. O’ya, after being treated the way we were when returning, and the way another military who have never fought harass those that have, I am a bitter proud Vietnam vet and understand what other Nam Vets feel after returning to the world.

Did you encounter any situation during your military service when you believed there was a possibility you might not survive? If so, please describe what happened and what was the outcome.

2 Quads & 1 Duster

When I first went to Nam at a little place called Woods (only in-country four days now), there was what they called a human wave attack; I had never seen so many people who were out to kill us in my life. They got in the compound, and I DID shit myself. The first time I ever saw what a claymore and Fugas did to a human body, they were bad, but seeing a quad and duster scared the crap out of me.

Well, welcome to Nam. I spent the next three days getting the privilege of burning CAV crap, as the 1SG stated, of the unit we were supporting, 2 Quads and four dusters; a month later, we were all sent different ways. We were never more than two quads again, and sometimes we were just one.

So the life of the brave bastards and their magic machine, everyone (unit) wanted them, and there were a few units that did not take care of us; stake night with an engineer unit, we were issued “Cs” and told that they did not get issued stakes for us, but many of them shitheads had 2, so what a live right.

Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?

97th General Hospital

This could be the most challenging question to answer with the Duster/Quads/Searchlights in RVN. I could use an old saying or one close to it: I had the best and worst of times. War is and was hell, peace is and always been a bitch for a vet, but the hardest for those who fought in the war is “returning.” This is the hardest war of all for every vet who has seen battle, and like myself, it’s a battle that never ends. We fight it every day.

The sad part is that it will never end for many of us. In a PTSD (PRRC) group, a young man asked, when is PTSD over? I was the oldest vet there that day, so I explained it to him this way: I came back in 1971 and went back in 1971. I wanted to die because I thought I was going nuts. Going back was like returning to my “Army” family, where I would be with others, I understood.

After leaving the hospitals (having spent time at FAMC WBAMC and Walter Reed after being evacuated back from Nam), I went home to see my grandma on leave and thought about what I wanted to do next. I was offered 10% medical discharge, but since I did not fit in with civilian life, I was allowed to re-up as long as I would go and let them play with my health issue for a long time; I just did not know where to go or do, so I re-upped and “started my LIFER trail.” I explained that I went to work and then home, only going out unless it was absolutely required, such as shopping for food, the military required, etc. We found out he was from Desert Storm and was there only three months as a cook aboard a ship, getting 100% PTSD.

And that today, at 61, I still make excuses with my family so I do not have to go out there. My wife (4th) also understands and works with me; my children try to understand. But in all, PTSD never goes away and is never cured; some learn to manage it, and some do not. I added that we also have WWII and ROK in the PRC groups.

From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.

By Chopper Drop

The shame my country showed me and others after RVN and the hero welcome vets today receive. Some try to make it up now, but it is so many years way too late for many to have fallen to Orange agent issues, and that is another thing altogether as the new war get disability for possible cem exposer and our own Government did it to us spraying up to the end of 1972. Then there is still the aftermath of the spraying. It is still killing us off today, so many years later, I suffer from a few AGO issues, not just severe PTSD. If they want to help, fix my claim and the other vet who is waiting.

Why are the new HEROS getting theirs, and we are still waiting? WHY? “Update I am now 100% as of 2017, and they used the original medical report from when the PTSD system first started back in 1989; they allowed me no backpay, and even the VA would not let me stay on a job with than past two weeks in 1994, because of my PTSD, it also ended three marriages because I did not believe anything was wrong with me, I finally broke down and ended getting help with the help of a friend who later on became a soul mate.

What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?

I got a Purple Heart and Silver Star. When I was evacuated, they messed up on my name, which was pronounced (She-ack; long S); they had typed Shehack and it’s Cihak. The SFC stated he would get it fixed and mail the corrected orders and certificates, but I was to keep the medals; I still have them but never received the updated paperwork.

Also, during my 1st tour, we had to take 50 cal out in the bush at night. During the day ambushes with the inf, we were issued CIB just like them after all their CPT stated we were humping the heaviest loads (“LOL” one man on the full 50 and another with the tripod). When we returned, personnel said we were not authorized CIB and researched them, “Valor stolen by our own.” They stated we did now deserve them as we did not have an inf mos; we were machine gunners, and a CIB is just for inf personnel, but there were others that went with the inf with non-inf mos that kept theirs. But they faced many of us back then, and they should have had to carry a complete 50 in the bush. In WWII, machine gunners were part of the inf and received CIBs.

I live next to a SSgt (stripe has a T on it) who was a machine gunner in the Army in WWII and Korea; his CIB is the 2nd award. During 1st tour, when assigned to an arty battery with an ARVN inf battalion, we were his, and I was on a ground-mounted 50 when the gun blew up. The arty LT decided it was our (My) fault because we did not know how to use a 50 (wow, a quad crew did not know how to use a 50 cal) lasted two days the ARVN Cap came to us, and stated that he informed the LT he found out that one of the soldiers he assigned to the 50 teams had missed with it as he was a VC and that he had been shot by firing squad, the LT said well sorry about that. Still, I submitted my report, and our CO told us later that he had gotten it pulled. I remained with my Quad. I was the NCO. We only had a crew of 3 of us at this time, healed up in the field, having taken shrapnel and powder in my knee and leg; oh, what a life, I would not have changed a thing I lived thru, but would have liked my awards taken and never issued.

Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or other memorabilia, which one is the most meaningful to you and why?

Quad Truck

When I retired, an unnamed Major gave me my 5th ARCOM, telling me that since I had an AR15 and a profile (P4) from injuries from NAM, that was all I deserved. The funny thing is he was caught cheating during the aviation world composition and was disqualified. I should have expected nothing as I had been medically boarded and retained for mandatory retirement only because I had served in NAM and the strange hearing loss I had suffered only eight from Nam and something like 27 before that in combat. I was totally deaf on the right side and had 68% tome loss in my left ear, then I was given classes on lip-reading and sign language at Walter Reed in Washington DC. It’s so funny how mail pail and bail all have the same lip movement and that vaccine and F–K you also have the same lip movement is the things they teach older people who end up deaf. Legally I was considered to be deaf. Still, the army was not done with me; they never figured out why and or how.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

The Widow Maker

SSG Davenport was a DI I worked with at FT Leonard Wood and did his best to help me with my combat issues; 1SG Campbell at FT Bliss; was the only one who understood how I was feeling after what my mother had told me and why I went back, he and his wife offered to make me their son, wish I would have returned to find them later on in life. Then there was Maj Fast at Fort Hood, and he was the 1Sgt at 312th MI Bn 1CD.

All of these men had one rule in common, and that NCOs should always put their troops first and take care of them, this was old school. The troops come; first, that is an NCO job, among many other things. I learned this very early and lived by it my entire life; it’s why I got the only AR15 because I stated that the SP4 that messed up worked for me and that it is my fault. (and the fact the Bn CO did not want and broken lamed f–kup in his bn, much less any NOC who was that way, as he referred to me that way to my face many times “hay broken dick NCO,” and tried to put me out the service at 18 years, wow showed what leadership had become, NCO out and Officers lead, what a change that became and a real cluster. There were a few that didn’t, however. The worst. FC Davison, CPT Boysten, and 1SG White. They put themselves first, and when things went bad, they always pointed the finger.

I can say that it was nice to see all three of these relieved of duty. S that Bn CO, XO, CSM were I also the S$NCOIC and the HQ PSG when they passed the no DWI policy, and the first two to get one in ICD was one of my SP4 turned 21. In the Div CSM, the rule was immediate discharge with no exceptions. They were trying to give my SP4 out on a BCD and let the CSM retire; I said no way, so the CSM retired, and my SP4 was barred from re-up. G Scott told me that I did the right thing. He was with me!!! Oops.

List the names of old friends you served with, at which locations, and recount what you remember most about them. Indicate those you are already in touch with and those you would like to make contact with.

M42 Duster Nam

This would be beyond doing. I have the utmost memories of the people I served with in Nam “Tex, Chief, Roach, Rocky, Hollywood, and Shippie. Pops H, BA, Sparks, Nevada Kid, AZ ranger, Cowboy, the names are what we called each other, these great “Bastards of Fighting Machines,” many not knowing the real name of who they were with Hollywood, was my NCO on my 1st Quad when I arrived to woods I went to introduce myself. He said, shut your fucking mouth, you are. Let me see. “Kid Gunner: ya, that’s it, hi; I’m Hollywood, the bossman. Later Shippie, our driver, told me it was better not to know who you really were that way, you did not have to remember them by name, but I can tell you it makes no difference as I can recall every one face and even the ones who gave their all. I have had the best life one can have with these great “Bastards of these Fighting Machines.”

Quads, dusters, and searchlights, they who stood in the open doing a job protecting then that could be in fox holes, etc., and doing this with straight out pride; I love them all Dustenmen as we refer to ourselves, not there were only 3 Duster bn, four quad Btry’s and a search Bn divider up into I believe five batteries spread from the DMZ all the way down south, on being from 3 to about 12 individuals together at most times, woods had 26 of us for about 3,5 weeks. A brie ball that had a few tracks at it but started within just two dusters. These men and a few others I would die for, and many who gave their all I would gladly trade places with, then thair my one other MY LT, the maid I want to live and carry on to become a teacher, I would take a bullet for him any time and do it again the very next second, I have never known another.

Can you recount a particular incident from your service, which may or may not have been funny at the time, but still makes you laugh?

Gun 2 at Carol 175

Yes, we started getting incoming one morning, and when manning the Quad, Red had to take a crap, so he used a crater. The incoming got heavier, and he got scared and left the AO to board the Quad. Afterward, we all noticed that he had left his pants in the crater, too, LOL. Being a redhead, we always teased him about being an albino. We were at our stations for almost an hour, and he was sunburned badly. On his backside, we laughed for a long time; I asked him what were you trying to do, you nut, and he started to fill the crater a little shit at a time, and all started laughing again. He did hurt for some time with that sunburn. I know just how he felt having red hair, but I know everything is all white hair, and I have played pants a few times for military events.

What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? if you are currently serving, what is your present occupational specialty?

Political Career – Photo – around age 32.

I fought with VA for years, but a man needed to survive and take care of his family, so I worked where I could, working at ITT Loans as a loan officer and the collections/repro officer. When they closed all offices in TX, doing what I could, hell, the VA fired me because one of them said that he scared me, he was a Vietnam vet, and they were killers (A GS6 civ emp). I was let go.

I had 2 degrees, electronics and computed info and tech, with a side in programing, but being in a wheelchair and a vietnam vet there was alway a reason the would not hire, I ended up doing what I could, i suffered braking my limited destabilized and cleaned up and set up a convention center for the city of killeen TX as the Opers/maint crew supervisor, after that job caused a stroke i fully was put on disability by the SSAN when they reviewed my records having AGO diabetes and onset of PTSD dementia being back in a chair because right leg side not working right, but the VA kept telling me I could work in computers/ as a walmart greated, until a VFW SO got in to it and what ever he did I ended up with 100%, I had gone to him to claim my stroke issues, dementia, soft tissue, she looked at my records as I waited went to see another SO and came back stating to hell with this do you know what they write in 1989 about your ptsd when you blew up at the doctor in Temple VA, I said yes I do, I had a copy. And that I had spent six-day with that shrink, and he went to work. The rest is history.

What military associations are you a member of, if any? what specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?

I’m a DAV (life) and VFW (Life) member and have been in and out of others. I and a member of the 7th Cav RVN Association, at CD troopers association, and a member of the Dusters Quads Search Light Organization; I am not very active because I do not go out, and I do not like people staring at me and my chair. It’s funny in Texas. A car with DAV plates can now park in ADA parking. When I go shopping with my wife, we often end up parking halfway down the parking lot because there are so many DAV “walking people parked in handy caped spots—all vet org.

Sometimes I get so mad at the ones that can walk and worse at OTHERS using a vets auto, and when they laugh and play when walking up the store, well $*#@&^$%

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career? What do you miss most about your time in the service?

Randy on Duster

That is a hard one because of PTSD/BTI. I trust no one 100% and am always looking over my shoulder. Being a vet and living in a world where most people take what they have for granted is hard. They do not understand what others go through for them to have the simple things in life. I do and always have supported the military for their events, reunions, and bn adine-is when at the KCCC Killeen conference center, giving the extra mile. It was sad the day the 1/44 Bn had an event, and the C Btry Co did not know what the unit had earned during Nam, a really sad day; we also had an Operation Freedom for all the Troops at Fort Hood with the Temptation and others who came to perform and be there to support our troops, Anything For The Troops:)

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Army?

Guarding the mountain pass

Do your job, and learn your lesson from your NCO. Many have your best interest at heart (We did in my day). Stop crying and whining because you look ridiculous, and you are the one who joined. Military life is not a bad life. It is hard, but you can retire at 20 years and draw the retirement starting at that retirement. That is enough time to go out and start working on a second retirement. Life is hard moving all the time but think of the things you get to see, and more than likely, you could not do it another way. It would cost an arm and leg. There is fun and adventure in this life if you just use the resources.

In what ways has togetherweserved.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.

I have not found anyone I served with yet, but I like to think I will. I also hope I made a new friend, Diane, today. She was a big help, and because of it, I have opened up about my life more than at any time in my life; I have opened up and typed more today than I have ever in my 70 years about where, when, who, how and what about the years of my life and the years in Vietnam, I have met some good people here the chief who help me prove my ex-father in law was not killed in just a chopper accident. Still, he was KIA, and they all were changed from accident to KIA because he took an interest in me and what I was doing; the LT was at Hamburger Hill and said that after following a Duster, he understood how it got its name, and some other Dusternem, too. I have loved researching my fallen Brothers 213 on the wall, Tank-U Eddy.

I still research them today. My life has been good; it is just so sad that some people think they know more about your life in the military than you, and they were smarty nose kids when you served. Amen, my Brothers and now Sisters, and most of all, Diane USN, you are a lifesaver; I was going to KIA myself before talking to you back in 17. You came along; you and My Mary have always helped. THANKS, MY SOUL MATE and NEW NAVY SIS!

Updated, and truth be told, 2/12/22 wanted this all done b4 the end of Parkinson’s/Liver Disease/PTSD, Dementia/Diabetes, and other AGO issues been suffering for over 40 years; now GOD willing, I will still make it to 100 and beyond.

Boot Camp, Units, Combat Operations

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Tags: 1/44 Bn, 173rd, 312th MI Bn 1CD, 7th Cav RVN Association, Arty Service Battery 5/42, BCT at Fort Ord, D/71st, DAV (life), Dusters Quads Search Light Organization, FAMC WBAMC, FT Leonard Wood, Geneva Conventions, KCCC Killeen conference center, M42 Dusters, M55 machine gun, Operation Freedom, PTSD (PRRC) group, Purple Heart, Silver Star, TogetherWeServed.com, two tours in Vietnam, unit 3/7, USAF, VFW (Life), Vietnam Vet, WWII


  1. Randy

    Such a horrid and inspiring story. God Bless you and I wish I could meet you and hug you.

  2. MAJ Tom

    After reading this, I just thought I had had a bad time. Kids today do not even begin to understand what SSG Cihak went thru. It still amazes me how quickly the military will break you and then other government agencies will drag ass wanting to help you. I think that the civilians that pass judgement on your treatment and disability percentage should serve and see what military people go thru esp in combat.


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