In 1967, demonstrations against the war in Vietnam were rampant on college campuses. As a student at North Texas university, David Rasco decided he wanted to see the war first hand before making up his mind. Rasco did get the opportunity to see the war up close.... At times much too close.
"I got a purple heart, " Rasco said.
When David Rasco joined the ARMY in 1967, he didn't think about winning purple hearts, or the three bronze stars, and other medals he earned for valor during the Vietnam war. He simply wanted to better understand what was going on.
Basically, I decided that rather than talk about it and criticize it, I'd get involved and see for myself."
Right off the bat, Rasco qualified for officers candidate school and was sent to the Meykong Delta of Vietnam only twenty years old at the time, Lieutenant Rasco headed up a combat operations platoon whose officers had all been killed in the tet offensive, along with eighty percent of the platoon.
"What we found out later was, at least 68 and 69 when I was involved, fully 25% of the published casualties in the army times were either warrant officers or second or first lieutenants," Rasco said.
Vietnam for Rasco was almost constant combat: fighting in rice paddies, rolling out of helicopters for special operations, and providing security for his sniper team. Rasco and his unit were so effective in their job, the VietCong put a bounty on their heads.
"We took a little pride in that is why I'm smiling. I look back at being 21. I turned 21 over in the rice paddies and there was a little pride."
Ultimately, it wasn't the VietCong bullets or missiles that were the biggest danger.
Joan: And booby traps were one of the biggest dangers?
"Of the people in our unit who were wounded or killed, fully 80% were the result of booby traps, " said Rasco.
It was a booby trap that almost took Rasco's life.
"I opened my eyes and I was lying flat on my back looking up through the tree, through the branches, and I thought, where and then started to hurt; and I got up and I had a pretty good size hole in my wrist," said Rasco, "The point man had been blown into a creek and I jumped in and pulled him out. "
The medic was looking over Johnson who was the number two guy. Although, Rasco was hit in the wrist, both arms, leg, shoulder and right eye, he called in a helicopter to evacuate his men, while planning to stay behind himself.
"Our medic started looking me over and said too big a hole guy, my call sign was 6, delta 3-6, the holes are too big, we've got to get you back; and so I climbed into helicopter two and we moved out," Rasco said.
In Vietnam, David Rasco did learn about the war first hand, but he learned much more about living and dying.
"We followed the rules, played by the rules and did a good job."
Joan Hallmark, reporting, firstname.lastname@example.org