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Veterans History Project

Herbert J. Clark, Sergeant, US Army, 1969-1972

 

Larry Nelson

Herbert Clark

The Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

At about 20 years of age, Herbert Clark (Herb) was on a student deferment that enabled him and others to continue college studies. Each evening, the newscasts reported young men of his age being killed or wounded. Herb felt that it was time to do his part in this war as well. He called his Selective Service board and asked them to cancel his student deferment – essentially volunteering for the draft. In less than one week, he was taken to Denver, subjected to a physical examination, took other tests, and was quickly on a plane with other young men headed for SEATAC. (Seattle-Tacoma Washington International Airport.)

The Army installation was Fort Lewis, Washington. The plane arrived late into the night, in a snow storm. Military bus picked them up. The Drill Sergeant met the young guys while they were still on the bus. He remembers that the men were taught to memorize their military numbers before they left the bus. (He still knows the number.)

Another item that was in his presence was the diversity of the population. There were some Caucasian men, but also a predominance of other races as well. There were Hispanics from the Southwest and African-Americans from all over the US; Detroit, Los Angeles etc.

Herb remembered they had to clean the barracks right away - in detail. Next, form up into a group and head to the barber shop and clothing issue point. A thought lingered in his mind "what the hell have I just done?"!

Early on, the young men went through some kind of a job-fair (they already had a job) where recruiters or personnel people were present. Herb was offered a deal that if he changed his original enlistment from two years to three years, he could go to a particular school and not have to be in combat. This was also about the third or fourth day into basic combat training where the trainees hardly knew of their immediate surroundings much less sign up for a change of this nature.

Herb went for the offer of advanced schooling. He signed up for Communications Center Specialist School. Herb still had to get through BCT though. In those days the Drill Sergeants and cadre could call the young soldiers "trainee". The eight weeks passed in good time, without incidents. Upon graduation, Herb got time to see a relative and go up into the Space Needle. And back to the Army for further travels.

Herb's orders sent him diagonally across the country... Fort Lewis to Fort Gordon, GA. This installation is next to the Augusta, GA Golf Course where the Masters Golf tournament is played. The environment there was much, much different than basic training. Although the commute from barracks to school was long, on foot, it wasn't that bad. The nature of the training was brand new. In that part of the name of it was "digital"... no one really knew what it was all about. Herb liked the school and excelled. When that happens, one is offered a reward. His was three more weeks of school. In all, Herb would have nearly twelve weeks to learn to be a Communications Center Specialist.

For some reason Herb was sent on to Fort Huachuca, AZ, by Tucson, AZ. This is the Army's training post for language and intelligence gathering. It is also thirty minutes from the Mexican border. He became wary of certain persons who seemed proud of their poor attitudes! Herb adapted.

He learned that a personnel office at the base was central to his future. A soldier who had influence over Herb's next assignment worked in that office. The soldier was also an aficionado of good Scotch whiskey. Herb learned of this affinity and procured a quantity of same for the soldier's enjoyment during the holidays – with a note saying something about how nice Colorado was this time of year!

Herb went to Peterson Air Field outside Colorado Springs, CO where he could drive home to Greeley on weekends! He was promoted to Sergeant here. The office where he worked was in the downtown area, and quarters were at the Airbase. Things were going along just fine. New orders arrived though.

Herb was being sent for duty in Southeast Asia. After getting a chance to go home before the Viet Nam assignment, he was sent on. He made all the required stops and ended in Chu Lai. Herb found the best side of this situation... Chu Lai was close to the South China Sea. Well then, it could be worse?

Work at the Comm. Center was good. Herb was the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge. The work involved 12 hour shifts. All the staff had top-secret, Crypto level clearances. The very nature of this assignment put Herb in listening distance of decision-makers.

Herb took quite a number of photos. Some of them were for pleasure, some for gathering information. Herb was the victim of a fratricide incident. There was angst among the soldiers and plenty of "who cares" attitude. An unknown person hurled a grenade over the roof of the building where Herb worked. Herb was outside and heard the thing hit the roof and bounce toward him. He looked up and saw it in time to get most of the way out of danger. Herb got pictures of the incident and of the injuries to his upper arm. Herb thought there was alcohol involved but couldn't furnish proof. Herb's right arm was injured. He got pictures.

In-country the food was good, the work, although long, was good. There were good Philipino bands that came to the area and provided good music. He knew of Bob Hope being in the area. Herb went to Bangkok, Thailand for a chance at R & R. In his off time, Herb was somewhat of a disk jockey.

Herb's assignment was over in the allotted time. Back in the US, he was greeted by the protest movement. He got the hate signage and the "finger" more times than needed. He was honorably discharged from the service.

Herb went on to Columbia School of Broadcasting in Denver. He went into radio work as an announcer. One of his places of work was in Estes Park, CO. He continued in school to get the required FCC license. He worked having two talk shows and other similar challenges.

SGT Herb Clark, you performed admirably! Thank you for your service!

 

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