I ETS'd out of South Vietnam in 1969. I was with Alpha Company, 3rd of the 39th Infantry, 9th Division, down in the Delta. That was my last service.
Is it true that you volunteered to go to Vietnam?
I was National Guard. I went to a boarding school in northern Oklahoma called Chilocco and the National Guard unit there was the 45th Infantry Division.
I joined up in my senior year. I got permission from parents to join when I was 17 or thereabouts and joined the National Guard mainly because we got to march around our school grounds and had a paycheck as well. For a while there, after joining, I went to Basic Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, down with the pine needles and pigmy rattlers. Six months was the amount of time we had to spend there on active duty.
I got out and then I went to a few meetings and summer camps. At the time, we had a six-year obligation. I stopped going after a couple of summer camps, so I was activated into the regular Army. I still had my ER number, but I was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, upon activation and I joined a company there that was mainly a holding company for returnees from Vietnam.
When I was a part of that company, I heard so many stories of how bad it was over there but also how much fun it was over there. I heard all kinds of stories from guys who came back not just telling war stories, but telling stories of good times. The experience of it intrigued me. I have always been a person who wonders how I would do in a situation like the ones these guys would tell stories about. It just began to stay with me, that feeling of, Wow, I wonder what I would do, I wonder if I could measure up?
So I volunteered. I had just about a year left of my six-year obligation. In a very short time, I landed at Thomson-Hood and went to Bearcat. I was assigned to the 9th Division and off I went. The first location that I remember was a place called the French Fort on one of the rivers very near the opening out into the Gulf.
I landed just as the Mini-Tet was starting up around the first of May of that year. I actually didn't partake of all of the fighting that was going on there in Saigon. I think they decided to leave most of us who were new in country there at the French Fort, even though the company was very active in the defense of Saigon at the time.
We went on to move around all over the place, down in the Delta area, from base camp to fire camp to firebase camps. We mainly we traveled around by helicopter and by the boats on the rivers and patrolled moving around like that. We even rode helicopter boats and hovercraft. It was quite the time.
Eventually, I was off the line for about 30 days at the end and then was home sweet home, back to the world. Of the whole time I was there, I was the most nervous on that last day before we jumped on the plane. You never know when they were going to hit the airbase there.
One of the most interesting thing about "Hostiles" is how it examines the way warriors process the experience after the fighting is over. Your character and Christian Bale's character are enemies who have to find common ground.
Right, and the common ground is a common enemy. That's correct. I think that was the beginning of not necessarily a friendship, but at least a peaceful coexistence between former enemies who perhaps become actual allies in battle. That's pretty much the history of humankind, how we come together when we need to, when we have to, in order to continue to survive.