Vietnam: Security Watch

Me and this Marine made the most of the day under this sun shelter.

In addition to weekly platoon patrols, we almost daily went on squad patrols, mainly just for security around our location—hill 52. The patrolling never lasted more than a couple hours, but once in a while the squad leader decided to cheat. That is, we didn’t really go where we were expected to go. I remember, on one occasion we went over the first hill to our first check-point, and just sat there for the entire time. We were always required to call in at every check-point to report. Well, we called in every 15 minutes or so and pretended that we were at the next check-point. I wasn’t in favor of it, but most of the squad justified it, explaining to me that it wasn’t worth the risk of someone getting killed. I could understand their reasoning, but yet it still didn’t sit right with me. And I hated just sitting there doing nothing.

In addition to patrolling—and fake patrolling—we also occasionally just sat and watched. I don’t remember what the exact reason was, but on one occasion 4 or 5 groups of 2 Marines per location sat alongside a gravel road. We sat there most of the day doing nothing. I suppose we were there just to let people know that there were Marine in the area. And it was hot. So, I found a couple long branches and made a shelter for shade out of my poncho liner (pictured). Some of the guys never thought of doing anything like that, but for some reason I was always thinking of ways to make the most of the situation.

Night watch was most important. Whether we were away on patrol or at our home base, it was so important to have at least one guy awake and watching. The enemy would often strike at night when most were asleep. And if the watchman fell asleep, which occasionally happened, that put the squad in grave danger. I remember many a time while on watch, I struggled to stay awake. I often used the time to pray and quote Scripture. Here’s one that I probably thought of:

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).