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Sidney Alvin Lee - U.S. Army Airborne Ranger

 In Vietnam, airborne companies consisted of three infantry platoons and a weapons platoon.  The weapons platoon carried the machine guns and 40 mm mortars that supported the infantry.  Airborne in name only, the terrain and style of warfare in Southeast Asia did not lend itself to parachute assaults.  More commonly, we transported by truck or helicopter then deployed and did our search and destroy missions. 

To find and kill the bad guys, our company swept an area for one to two weeks, and anything that moved got shot or blown up.  American forces rarely had trouble killing the enemy.  Finding him was the hard part.  The mountainous, jungle terrain we frequently patrolled made it difficult even to move, much less locate and kill the enemy.

When not in the field, the company deployed back to a base camp of one kind or another – not permanent installations but temporary encampments made from sandbags and sheet metal and ringed with barbed wire.  Of course, there were bunkers, fairly sophisticated perimeter defenses, and in most cases, an artillery battery to support the ground operations.  After two weeks slogging the bush, we welcomed returning to these primitive camps for four or five days of light duty where we stood down, ate hot food, showered and changed clothes and maybe got a beer.  Also, our mail usually caught up with us in camp.    

By the time I’d been in country a month, I’d seen a lot of action and knew I’d have to pay attention to business if I were to finish my tour in one piece.  In a very short time, I developed a mental toughness, a keen awareness of the bloody nature of the no-holds-barred war we fought.  Mental toughness, emotional callousness, call it what you want.  I wasn’t there to play games. 

  • Sidney’s belief in his own mental toughness was illusion, albeit one that enabled him to endure his months of almost constant combat.


1. Racism in the Military
2. Tossed into a River
3. Dad's Death
4. MLK
5. Jump school
6. Rosie Marie
7. A lot of action
8. The world turned to shit
9. Attacked from three sides
10. Green tracers
11. The last day
12. PTSD symptoms kick in
13. Too petrified to move
14. No support from Uncle Sam