Growing up in a family dedicated to military service, it wasn’t hard to see that Ron Fory would follow in his father’s footsteps. In fact, just asking him where he’s from it’s hard to get a straight answer. By the time Fory completed his career in the Army, combined with his father’s Air Force service, he had moved 36 times. That’s why he says with laughter in his voice that he’s “from everywhere.”
Fory spent 21 years in the Army, retiring as a major, and spent his youth like many did in the 60s and 70s - in the jungles of Vietnam.
“I was the executive officer for a search light battery,” Fory explained. “It was a xeon search light, sometimes mounted to the back of Jeeps with infrared capability.”
Fory said, at the time they were supporting the Marines in I-Corp. He said each camp would have at least one Jeep outfitted with the special search light to help identify people without their knowledge - or until it was “too late.”
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“So when we put the white light on them, they were toast,” he said.
Fory spent some of his time at Camp Carroll, a United States Army artillery base. It was located along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and served a strategic purpose along a major thoroughfare - Highway 9 - making it a key facility.
On occasion, Fory would travel to Cam Lo from Rockpile, which was halfway between Camp Carroll and Khe Sanh.
“You could hear the rockets firing from Camp Carroll travel over our heads into Khe Sanh,” Fory said.
But just weeks into the new year of 1968, one day sticks out more than any other. While traveling as part of a convoy to Ca Lu, Fory’s convoy came under attack.
“We were in a convoy heading to Ca Lu, a place we had been to on a number of occasions and were ambushed,” he said. “We were going to relieve some people and drop off some supplies when the North Vietnamese attacked.”
All told, close to 100 Marines were either wounded or lost their lives.
“It wasn’t that the Marines did anything wrong,” Fory said. “The enemy had mined the roadway and when the soldiers jumped off the vehicles to get into firing position they found themselves jumping onto mines.”
Not long after that, Fory remembers being rotated out and recalls being at the Dong Ha Airport which was under rocket attack.
“At that time, they had the Cobra helicopters with new armament on them stationed at the airport,” Fory said. The Viet Cong didn’t like that. They were so effective, they were trying to destroy them.”
Fory said a C-130 pilot stuck his head into the shelter he was in and asked if anyone was heading to Da Nang.
“I thought, if your crazy enough to fly out with rockets flying overhead I’m crazy enough to go - so I went,” he said.
Fory went on to do a second tour of duty, only this time as a member of the Special Forces Green Berets, where most of his deployment was spent training soldiers.
“While I was between tours, at Fort Hood, we were training for riot control duty in Chicago,” he said. “Shortly after, I left Fort Hood to return to Vietnam; Hanoi Jane protested at Fort Hood, but we certainly didn’t provide anything for her.”
Looking back, he said the one thing that made an impression on him was when he was near the DMZ.
“You know, Vietnamese refugees were always moving south - never north,” Fory recalls. “So when you would listen to the stinking politicians and what they were saying was suppose to be right - how could so many of these Vietnamese people be so wrong?”
But he said the thing that made him most upset was how they were forced to leave the people they were protecting “hung out to dry.”
“Everybody knew what would happen - happened,” Fory said. “We didn’t support those people with much of anything.”
He said at that point in the war, following the TET offensive in ’68, the U.S. had won.
“General Giap said that, but because Walter Cronkite said we lost the war - we lost,” Fory said. “We left all of those guys for nothing; that is so sad - that we live in a culture that can do that. We had the war won and wouldn’t win it.”
“It was a big deal about nothing to tell you the truth. We lost a lot of lives on it.”
Those were the feelings expressed by Jim Merritt who was part of a bloody battle fought on Hill 937 in South Vietnam. Located near the Laos border, the piece of real estate became known as “Hamburger Hill,” for obvious reasons.
Merritt was part of the 101st Airborne and was trained as a medic. The Weatherford native landed at Cam Ranh Bay, where he became a part of the 101st.
“I remember the first time a saw a Cobra helicopter fire - I thought it was the end of the world,” Merritt said. “It was spitting out grenades, firing its mini-guns and launching rockets all at the same time.”
Not much for words, he describes his ordeal at Hamburger Hill “harrowing.”
“It was bombed so much it looked like a sand dune in the middle of the jungle,” Merritt said.
After the 10-day battle in early to mid-May was over, the U.S. and South Vietnamese captured the hill, but not before close to 100 Americans lost their lives and more than 400 were wounded, racking up a staggering 70-percent casualty rate.
“I don’t think much about it unless I have to,” he said.
Merritt remembers two other Weatherford friends enlisting at the same time he did - Alvin Burt and Robert Nelson.
“We all left together and all came back together,” Merritt said. “Not one of us with a Purple Heart between us and yet I am the last one living. Agent Orange got both of them.”
Merritt said he had the privilege of serving with some “magnificent” soldiers and hopes residents of Weatherford will remember those who fought for their country by supporting the Soldier Springs Veterans Memorial Park.
Me and My Dragon
David Calhoun was just barely old enough to drive when he entered the war in Vietnam. At 17 years old, he became part of the 158th Aviation Battalion and was a Cobra helicopter crew chief when he landed on May 5, 1971. Because of a family emergency, he rotated out but returned as a door gunner manning a M-60 machine gun on-board a Huey helicopter.
“For the most part, we transported people and supplies so it was not too bad, almost enjoyable when we were flying,” Calhoun said. “Of course there were those times you were scared to death, especially when you fly into a hot landing zone (LZ).”
Something he said he did on more than one occasion.
“You went from a boy to a man real fast when you are firing your guns on approach and take off,” he added.
He was stationed at Camp Evans - named in honor of a Marine named Paul Evans, who was killed in action on Dec. 22, 1966.
Calhoun remembers one enjoyable moment as he and some of his comrades were able to attend a USO show featuring Bob Hope.
Looking back though, the 63 year old sometimes wonders if they did any good.
“I wonder how we did what we did so young,” Calhoun said. “I wonder sometimes did we do any good - the way the world is today.
“I’ve never been ashamed of my service in Vietnam, but the older I get, the more ashamed I am of my country. I’m not blaming the soldier for the country being the way it is - just the politicians.”
The following poem was written by David Calhoun and from his book, Me and My Dragon
The rotor blades popping as they cut the air
Altitude fast, you learn to bear
Stomach turning as a phonograph
Whistle shrill of a turbine shaft
Crew talking just having fun
Sudden moment says this war is not won
Content feeling as now you’re a man
Instant lost went the upper hand
Man to boy, boy to man; grab a different toy
Seconds pass, soil your pants
Can’t be food for Asian ants
Feel the heat; hot brass trails fly
This LZ for sure, we’ll say good-bye
Time passes very quickly
For in a while, you shake and feel sickly
But you weathered that fight
And get drunk tonight
For tomorrow we play
We’ll fly one more day
Huey, you’ve got a sound I’m missin’
You fly over, I’ll stop and listen.
This book titled Me and My Dragon. Total manuscript 76 pages, index two pages. This book is poetry about Vietnam and the aftermath, feelings, thoughts, guilt, pain, etc., that many veterans went through and many still do. Many think they brought home with them a dragon, a beast, a monster and more. For me, it was a dragon. This book has 74 poems. The poems in this book are about the many walks of life in Vietnam. A lot of the poetry in this book was actually experienced by the author, family, friends and many who were affected by the war.
Veterans Memorial Park Committee: Donor Bricks are being sold for families of Veterans or Veterans (you do not have to be a resident of Texas) that will be placed in the Walk-of-Honor forever. The cost for donor bricks are $50 for a 4”x8” or $100 for a 8”x8” brick. For order forms call Ron Chandler at 817-223-8926, send e-mail to email@example.com or you can deposit a donation to the Veterans Memorial Park Fund c/o First Financial Bank, PO Box 259, Weatherford, TX 76086. Visit our facebook page at www.Facebook: Parker County Veterans Memorial Park.com