Roar - by The Panther Eye

Cpl. Robert Shaul

Every year, we take a day to honor those who have served. Today, we talk to a Vietnam veteran and hear about some of his experiences.

Listen to Roar with the web player or subscribe at any of the links at the Roar webpage. This transcript may contain grammatical edits.

Jacob: Every year, we take a day to honor those who have served. Today, we talk to a Vietnam veteran and hear about some of his experiences. From The Panther Eye, this is Roar.

What encouraged you to join the military?

Cpl. Shaul: I always wanted to wear those dress blues. I saw them when I was a kid. The neighbor guy next door came home to visit his parents and I saw that he was wearing his dress move.

Jacob: Do you think that reason applies to many others who serve?

Cpl. Shaul: Yeah, that plus, the mystique of the Marine core and all that. And the fact that they’re the toughest and the hardest to graduate and get out of. So, in other words, that was the greatest challenge, if you’re going to do it.

Jacob: Why do you think it is important to take a day off and honor our veterans?

Cpl. Shaul: Because if it wasn’t for the Veterans and the battles they fought and one for America, we wouldn’t be here today.

Jacob: After the Vietnam War, was there a lack of respect for all veterans?

Cpl. Shaul: After the Vietnam war? It was during the Vietnam War era. But then, yeah, it continued on after that for a while too. So the answer to that is yes, but.

Jacob: Did it hurt veterans from other wars? Like, the Iraq War?

Cpl. Shaul: No, it’s been totally the opposite. It’s truly, truly strange times we’re in.

Jacob: Considering how many homeless veterans there are, what do you think needs to change?

Cpl. Shaul: The benefits for veterans in general? But, I don’t understand, I’m not sure about that. Homeless vets get a lot of attention, but, I think they’ve always been there. There’s a percentage of them that are that, a lot of the time the problem is that a lot of let them get mixed up with alcohol an booze. And, the psychological things too.

Jacob: What is the best way to honor your veterans?

Cpl. Shaul: I think we do a pretty good job with what they’re doing today. Veterans don’t come home asking for a lot. You know, the average veteran doesn’t. That’s not why you do what you do.

Jacob: Are there any fun stories you can share from your time serving?

Cpl. Shaul: Fun stories? I got all sorts of stories. All right, I’ll tell you one of the funniest stories that I still have memories and, more importantly, visions of. When I first got to Vietnam and the outfit I was which is the fifth Communications Battalion. There was a guy, his name was Fritz Jolly, and yes, the name fit the character. He was tall and skinny with a great big nose and curly blond hair, he looked the part. When I first got there, you know you’re in a war zone. You know what the term harassing fire means, yeah, they just be up in the hills somewhere, and they’d zero in somewhere and they’d lob one or two. In this case, it was mortars and they would beat or and run like hell before anybody could chase them down. That’s harassing fire, and we’re in a tent sleeping one night, ten men to at tent, and a mortar landed out in the back.

When I first got to Vietnam, they were just getting things organized. So every different outfit. We were not infantry. We were communications, but we were still train Marines, of course, we get the same training. So our different battalions were clustered around the perimeter of Da Nang airstrip for security because they were just building things up.

So, between us, where or our unit was and then the airstrip was over that way, easily within sight there was a big swampy area and our showers, which was a wing tank from an airplane full of water on a wooden platform. The heads were out there and it’s important to know the layout., knowing where this guy was. Around two o’clock in the morning, all of a sudden there was, you have to experience what it’s like to have a mortar round land nearby. Mortars are the things the little short tubes that they fire way up in the air and they come down in an arc and they’re designed that when they hit the ground, they penetrate the ground and when it hits the ground it hits the ground with a real ugh instead of a crashing explosion there’s a real whomp. It’s one of those things that can shake your chest.

So, anyway, two o’clock in the morning. There was a real whomp. Everything moves in the tent. Immediately, we knew, everybody’s up, scrambling and yelling and we had a little light, one little light bulb. Turned the light on so we can find our gear. Basically, wind up running outside and our boots, our underwear, with all of our gear and our cartridge belt, rifles and helmets. And we ran outside.

But, just as we turn the lights on, a couple minutes after, not even a couple minutes because this is happening very quickly. All of a sudden, the flashes. The tent flew open, there was Frisk Jolly standing there, naked from the waist down. His pants, his underwear, his cartridge belt, then his equipment belt was all around his ankles and his feet and he looked at us. He was sitting in the head when the thing landed and he came running all the way back to the tent like that, naked from the waist down. One of the funniest things I ever saw.

Long story short, they siren went off. We go out, we get in the trenches. Usually you wind up, you wait for an hour. No it’s not an attack, you’re not going to be attacked till they sound the all clear. So we all went back to the tents, Jolly had been on guard duty and at 2AM, he had just got relieved and he was going to the john before he was going to come to the tent to hit the hit sack. And so after it was all over, we were all back in the tent. He comes following me into the tent throwing and is throwing his stuff onto his cot, cussing and swearing like a sailor. And he said, “What’s the matter with you?” And, he looked at us and he says, “I gotta go back outside now and wipe.” And he did, that’s a funny story. You’d have to envision it.

Jacob: Considering your experience, how would you encourage other high school students to go into military?

Cpl. Shaul: I think the military is grossly overlooked, nowadays, if for nothing else, for educational purposes. And, I’m not just talking about the benefits you get when you come out. I’m talking about the training you get when you’re in there and it’s all free. Not everybody and I’m a good example, that goes into the military winds up in the infantry. In an infantrymen in the Marines, we call them grunts, your job is to fight, until you do. If there’s no war and no battle going on., then you just spend all your time training. You’re always on training exercises, but there’s others. For every grunt, for every front-line troop, there is out there, there’s nine others in support units in the back. We were the communications outfit in Vietnam, which was pretty critical back in the day.

Never should Google radio relay, that’s what we did radio relay. You got to realize in the mid sixties, there was no such thing as cell phones and GPS and satellite technology. Everything was done either with wires or the greatest thing they had from wires was the three man teams we had with a great big round parabolic transmitter receiver type screen things and we had three man teams stationed all over the northern third of Vietnam. And that’s how the communication net was maintained, by what’s called radio relay and that’s what we did. But the guys, even when I was in, cause I was a supply guy for this outfit, and I had my little area back set up there where I would [cover]. My desk was too big wooden boxes stacked up. But, when they need the supplies for all our electronics and all that stuff, they had to order it and I requisitioned it through me. And, next to me in the same tent where we actually worked, if you can call it work, and that was work, was what they called a bench tech. Every one of our three man teams that we had, there was one technician and two operators. Even though the technician also operated the radios, the technician was like he was much more educated. While I was still in Vietnam. A couple of the techs I knew, they were getting letters in the mail. Hey, when you get out, come on and see us for a job and they were getting these letters from the two main ones were GE and Sylvania. I think Motorola too.

Because they knew that these guys were now trained and in this latest technology at the time when they were offering them jobs while we’re still in Vietnam. So, education and learning things and of course, that’s one of the things. Know that old thing, have you ever heard the expression, join the Navy and see the world. It’s true. Think about it. You know, you’re traveling all over the place! I mean I’ve been to places you can’t even imagine and see and done some things.

Jacob: This episode was made by Jacob Lymberopoulos and Chudy Ilozue. Music by Verified Picasso.

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