Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the the day we honor those that made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. This is the story of my platoon sergeant in Vietnam, James Allen Cox, he made that sacrifice. Please read the story of the day the world lost a great man.


Early in the morning on October 31, 1968, our platoon was on patrol searching a heavily wooded area. I was assigned to walk left flank for the first time. That means another guy and I walked out maybe ten meters to the left side of the main column. Just far enough so no one sneaks up too close the main column, but near enough so we don’t get separated from the group in case of trouble. The right flank does the same thing on the other side. There are also point men that walk a little ahead of the main column for the same reason.

We were walking through the area and came across a few huts that were unoccupied and didn’t find anything. You couldn’t see very far around us so we stayed pretty close to the main column. Suddenly there was an explosion up front. We got down then moved quickly over toward the main group. I heard some of our men return fire and then someone called for a cease-fire and they stopped. The whole thing took 30 seconds, maybe even less.

Next I heard the call, “MEDIC! MEDIC!” I knew someone had been hit. The medic gets up and runs crouched over up forward. Then they call for the M-60 machinegun up front. The machine gunner yells, “Let’s go!” He starts moving toward the front where the fire came from and I follow him along with the second ammo bearer. Not too far up ahead we run past the medic (Doc as medics were called) tending to someone. It was Sergeant Cox, our platoon sergeant. He had volunteered to walk point that day. He volunteered to walk point quite often. He said he liked walking point, but I think he really did it when he wasn’t comfortable letting someone else do it because he felt there might be trouble. That’s the kind of man he was.

We got into position, the gunner in the center and ammo bearers on either side. I toss off my backpack with the ammo and put it in front of me in case it’s needed. The gunner always kept some ammo with him just in case so mine wasn’t needed right now. I search the area looking for movement and see someone moving over to my right. I turn quickly but see it’s one of our men getting into position. More men are now also moving into positions around us. I’m really expecting all hell to break loose at this point but nothing happens. Things are pretty quite and still no shooting. I just hear the sounds of our own guys moving around and talking excitedly very quietly among themselves.

I soon hear the radio operator (RTO) call for a dust off (medivac chopper). We held our positions and waited for the chopper to pick up Sargent Cox. When the chopper got close, they tossed out a smoke grenade to identify our position and then carried the sergeant out to an open area and when the chopper landed, they put the sergeant on. They were taking him to the 12th Evac Hospital at Cu Chi. The same place they had taken me a day or two ago. This is what it had in the operational report about this incident.

At 0844H vic XT513197, Co B detonated a claymore mine positioned in a tree. Results, 1 US WIA (dustoff).

This was what it was usually like was while I was there, snipers would lie in wait for us and when we got close, they opened fire with small arms or explosives. This time it was a claymore mine positioned in a tree. Then the snipers usually disappear into thin air.

We continued our patrol that day without any more trouble, but we did manage to capture one Viet Cong soldier that afternoon, I don’t remember how though. When we got back to the base camp, we turned over the VC to the MPs and they flew him into Cu Chi for questioning.

At 1400H vic XT519201, Co B apprehended 1 male detainee who was evac to IPW.

The next day we found out Sergeant Cox sustained severe head wounds and died.

I did a search of the Internet for information about Sergeant Cox and here is what I found.

On the Vietnam Memorial web site each person listed on the wall has an information page. Here is what little bit of information is listed for James.


SSGT - E5 - Army - Selective Service
25th Infantry Division
21 year old Single, Caucasian, Male
Born on Apr 21, 1947
Length of service 1 year.
His tour of duty began on Jul 01, 1968
Casualty was on Oct 31, 1968
Body was recovered

Panel 40W - - Line 63

I also found a web site that has rubbings of the names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Here is a rubbing of James’ name.

I clicked on a link on the Vietnam Memorial web page that took me to a page where I could leave a comment or pictures. I found this note from the daughter of one of James’ best friends’ back home in Queens.

Paula Miller
Daughter of good friend
65 Blossom Hill Road
Lebanon, NJ 08833 USA
Jimmy Cox was a good friend of my father's in New York. I know little about him, but I do have the honor of holding his army green jacket with his name on it. I say I know little about him but I feel the impact of his tragically short life on my father. My father is not an emotional man, and I have never seen him cry about anything save Jimmy. I can see through my father's eyes and the tears, how wonderful this young man must have been. To Jimmy and my dad, thank you, I love you.

I sent Paula an email offering to tell her what little I knew about James. I’ve read so many entries similar to hers on so many different Vietnam related web sites from people crying for any little bits of information about someone that they knew that served in Vietnam. Maybe I can help her fill in some of the blanks. I hoped she wrote me back, but she never did.


If you want to read more about my tour in Vietnam, read them here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Little BTExpress HNT

Here are some shots of me as a little tyke. My mom always gave me a crew cut as I guess you could tell. We had no money, so she cut my hair.

Another thing, don't you just love the ears? Lori finds them good for pulling me in close, if you get my drift.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Grand Parents, Joe & Sophie HNT

This is Josef Czechlik, my grand father on my father's side and his wife and my grand mother Sofiya Wyochihoyitz. Josef was from Zembry, Russia and all I know about where Sofiya is from, is that she told my mother that she was White Russian. Today that is Belarus, Russia, so maybe she's from there.

Question of the day: If Joe & Sophie are both from Russia, why did they tell me I'm half Polish?


If any of you have an answer for that question, I'd be very interested to know what it is.


EDIT: The question was driving me crazy, so this morning I started search on line for the answer. So with the help of Google, I have the answer.

In 1569, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was established. In 1795 the territory was invaded and divided up between Russia, Prussia and Austria. From 1795 until 1918 there was no independent Polish state. Joe came to the USA in 1911 and Sophie came around that time too. So it looks like when Joe and Sophie lived there, they were both living in Russia, but since their ancestors were Polish, they called themselves Poles.

This jogged my memory and with things my mom told me and again with the help of Google, I know why Sophie called herself White Russian.

Sophie's father was the mayor of a town in eastern Europe and a member of the White movement (White Russian), which at some point opposed the communist (Red Russian) take over of Russia and the White controlled territory of Eastern Europe. At some point, Sophie's father saw a civil war coming, so he sent Sophie along with her 11 brothers and sisters and their nanny to the USA for their safety. His wife and him stayed behind. The Russian Civil War broke out in 1917 and lasted until 1921. In 1922 the Soviet Union was established under Communist rule.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pool party HNT!

I opened my pool yesterday and June 4th is the first of many pool parties this year and you're all invited.

Who wants to come for a swim and a dip in the hot tub?


Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Forty-three years ago I was drafted into the United Sates Army. This is the summary I wrote about five years ago about being drafted until I landed in South Vietnam exactly five months to the day later. You can read the rest of the story on my Vietnam blog. Feed back is appreciated.


I was drafted into the United States Army on May 6, 1968 at the ripe old age of 19 years, 6 months and 2 days. Government policy at the time was to draft all men into the military at 19 ½ years of age if they hadn’t already joined or had a deferment of some kind. I almost joined earlier that year, but backed out to take my chances with the draft.

Although draftees were a small minority (16%) in the U.S. armed forces, they comprised the bulk of infantry riflemen in Vietnam (88% in 1969). They accounted for more than half the army's battle deaths. Because of student and other deferments, the draft and the casualties fell disproportionately upon working-class youths, black and white.

My father and stepmother drove me down to the draft board office in Smithtown NY that morning where I checked in and was put on a bus for the ride to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn for induction. I remember staring out the window during the ride into Brooklyn wondering if I would live through this adventure and make it back home again after it was all over.

We arrived in at Fort Hamilton about an hour or so later, where we were interviewed and given a short physical. They asked a lot of questions to try and find out if we were medically fit, gay or mentally challenged. Not surprisingly, some were turned down. Those that were accepted, me included, were sent into in a room with lines painted on the floor and a large American flag in front. We were told to line up along the lines and then “asked” to step forward to "voluntarily" be sworn in.

At the final phase of the induction process, a military recruiting officer will order the Registrant, and any other Registrants present, to "line up on the line.” (a line, or several lines, is/are painted on the floor). A military recruiting officer will then order all those "joining the army,” (or whatever) to “take one step forward” … THOSE WHO LINE UP AS ORDERED AND TAKE ONE STEP FORWARD JUST "VOLUNTEERED!" BY TAKING ONE STEP FORWARD, YOU CONVERT YOUR "REGISTRANT" STATUS INTO THAT OF AN "INDUCTEE"!!!!

The oath is administered:"I, (state your name) do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America and will defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic, and will obey the orders of the President and the officers appointed over me, so help me God."

Well, that was it, I was now the property of the United States Army. We were then lead out of the room and broken down into smaller groups depending where we were assigned. I was assigned to Fort Jackson in South Carolina, where ever that was. My group got on a bus for the ride to JFK airport in Queens. When our plane landed in Columbia South Carolina a few hours later, we were met by someone from the Army and put on another bus for the ride to Fort Jackson where the fun really started.

As soon as the bus pulled to a stop in front of the Reception Center, the meanest man I’ve ever come in contact with up to that point in my young life, jumps on the bus and starts yelling and screaming orders. “OFF THE BUS! DOUBLE TIME! LINE UP!" and all kind of crap like that.

I spent one week at the reception center where we were given haircuts, tested a lot and were issued our uniforms. Then it was off to 8 weeks of basic training (where I met much more mean men). Next it was 8 weeks of Advanced Individual Training (AIT) not to far from where I took basic training (the men were a lot less mean here, but not nice by a long shot) where we were actually taught to be infantryman. I graduated from AIT with the rank of PFC, issued my orders for Vietnam and then given 30 days leave.

When my leave was over I caught a plane out of JFK airport in Queens bound for San Francisco California. I spent one night in a hotel room crammed in with about 8 other guys. I slept on the floor that night. The next morning I reported to the Oakland Army Terminal to begin my processing for deployment to Vietnam. I spent a few days in Oakland before getting my orders and then boarded another bus ride to the airport where we boarded a Flying Tiger Airlines plane and headed out across the Pacific on a 25 hour plane ride.

Our first stop was in Hawaii where they refueled and changed crews. We were sent to a deserted terminal while this happened, where they could keep an eye on us. When we got back on the plane, attendance was taken and one guy had bailed. Next stop was Midway Island for refueling. Midway is literally just an airstrip in the middle of a lot of small islands. We were suppose to stop in Guam next, but a typhoon diverted us to the Philippines instead. Here they refueled and changed flight crews. The whole time up to now, we flew with the sun in daylight, but the rest of the way was in the dark.

Things got pretty quite on this last leg of our journey because reality was setting in fast. I did manage to sleep a little, but mostly I just did a lot of thinking and trying to imagine what was in store. Once over Vietnam, the stewardess announced we were over the country and to wake up and get ready for landing. I remember looking out the window; I had a window seat, and seeing the vast darkness and every once in a while, a small point of light.

It wasn’t long before we were landing at Bien Hoa airbase in Vietnam which about 20 miles northeast of Saigon. The date was October 6, 1968 somewhere around 11:00 at night if I remember correctly. Just before getting off the plane, the flight crew thanked us for flying Flying Tiger Airlines and said something like “We hope to see all of you back with us in a year for the ride home”. We all looked at each other wondering which of us here wouldn’t make that flight back to the "World".

Bien Hoa Air Base was located 20 mi (30 km) NE of Saigon and near the infamous LBJ (Long Bien jail), which was the in-country military prison compound. Bien Hoa was also a huge munitions storage area. The base itself was upgraded from an old French post, and still had many of the old French buildings and small concrete bunkers scattered around the perimeter.