These pages will contain e-mail messages that express our Lancer spirit and emotion.
From Brian Bailey:
Into what darkness goeth thou young warrior, spear in hand and courage high?
Perhaps to your doom, perhaps to glory? Gird well your loins and hold high
your pride; and know full well that those who remain behind hold you in
highest esteem, for you are the salvation of that which they hold dear. Your
courage, your blood will pay ransom for their tranquility. And if fate
should have you pass then into their memory, indeed into their song will
tales of your gallantry forever be told and you will be honored as if still
And for those who remain, hold true to this brave heart, he who has
sacrificed for you, and set aside a time to remember. Mark a day to honour
those who have stood in harms way, so that you may live life to it's
fullest. But take caution that with the passage of time you do not become
jaded and soil their memory with those things politic, or that which is
based in greed, instead hold true to the reverence deserved by these young
warriors and pay homage to what they have given. Even as time allows in the
hectic performance of each day, pause and remember those that have gone into
the fray so each of us can live fully and without fear. These are the
warriors of our land, those that do the unthinkable, bear the unbelievable
burden of our societal decisions, and oft times receive only the harsh
judgment of those who cannot discern politic from duty.
From Bruce Pusey:
At one point in my life the word brotherhood was just another word with some abstract meaning, that indicated to me that a few folks got along with one another fairly well. A year or so ago, I started hanging out with some local Vietnam vets and some of their friends from different areas of the country and the word brotherhood took on a whole new meaning for me. I thought I had it pretty well defined.
It meant that grown men really were allowed to hug one another.
It meant that a member of the brotherhood didn't look down upon you if you cried like a baby.
It meant that a brother was willing to babysit you for your first trip to the Wall.
It meant that you find it very easy to overlook faults in a brother that you would not tolerate in someone else.
It meant that you could look a brother in the face and say "I love you, you ugly f**ker."
Yeah man. I had that word pegged now. I knew all about brotherhood. After all, I was living it, wasn't I?
This past weekend I received a little further education. Kevin Moore and Richard Crandall came to spend Memorial Day weekend in DC with me. I had no idea how intense and overpowering this word "brotherhood" could become. The word still means all those things listed above, but it also means a few others.
It means that you panic when you can't find the hat that your brother gave you.
It means that a little tear comes to your eye when a brother gives you a pin that says "Camp Evans" .
It means that you walk a little taller and hold your chest out a little farther when three of you are walking around gawking at the sights in Washington.
It means that you no longer need help at the Wall because you are surrounded by help.
It means that when the conversation lags, you don't feel a need to talk because silence is OK too.
It means that good-byes are best handled quickly.
Welcome Home you ugly f**kers. I love you.
Sent in by Dennis Souza:
Thoughts Worth Reading
A story tells that two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face.
The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand:
TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.
They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him.
After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone:
TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.
The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?" The other friend replied "When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."
LEARN TO WRITE YOUR HURTS IN THE SAND AND TO CARVE YOUR BENEFITS IN STONE.
They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.
Do not value the things you have in your life. But value who you have in your life!
First, a letter from John Donaldson to Gary Yates about how important it is to recognize that we all had made a contribution to the effort and we were all heroes.
You know I revere you as one of the most heroic of all the Lancer pilots. I don't know of any other that actually received a real MACV/SOG plaque from those guys. To have such respect for Gary Yates, the pilot that was very responsible for their lives, it proves beyond any definition that you are a real hero. Hell, the U.S. Army Special Forces SOG declared you a hero!!
Face it. You are a hero among hero's. We looked up to A/C's as almost God's when we were peter pilots. I must admit I am amazed it doesn't seem that I didn't see as much and do as much as the other pilots have written on this web site, but I know I did some very heroic deeds for the man on the ground and I will write about them often.
An interesting aspect to all of us is that almost every day we were assigned to single-ship missions. We were it most of the time. It was you and the Chief and life or death. We each developed our survival command techniques. You survived and you kept your crew and customers alive.
I have had 'exactly' the same feeling that you expressed and I want to share with you an email conversation I had with Mike Jacobi. I had wondered since 1971 if I had made the 'right' decision about a missions he and I were on. He was a Captain and I was A/Cing one of his orientation flights. We landed in a 'green' PZ within the perimeter of a platoon. We were seated firmly on the ground and things were so lax that I hadn't even ordered the Chief or gunner to lock and load. Hell, we could see Evans from the PZ. It was just in the rolling hills west of Evans. Suddenly, two bad guys appeared from the ground about five feet from the A/C side of the aircraft, each emptied an AK-47 clip at us and a fast and chaotic fire fight ensued. All of us friendlies were so surprised and shocked that all of us "f****d up" in my mind. There was probably friendly fire injuries. The grunt in the floorboard just behind my seat, the proverbial strap puller, took enough rounds to spatter blood on the back of my neck and helmet. I though I was shot. The chief though he was shot and believe he had shot some friendlies and I believe many of the rounds came from the friendlies that hit us. The bad guys were between us and the friendlies. The bad guys were perforated. I made some decisions that I played over and over in my mind for 28 years. Did I do the right thing? Was I a good A/C to have done what I did. I ignored procedures and commands from the tower and landed at the MASH pad even though we had taken rounds and the tail boom was wet from fuel.
Was I a bad pilot? Was I and my crew heroic when we braved 51s just to get soda's and mail into a fireballs? Your damn right I was. Was I and my crew hero's when we braved popping in and out of clouds to get important radio equipment to Hickory? Yes we were. Was I and my crew hero's when we hovered around out in the A Shau at 2:30 in the morning in zero-zero trying to find and extract an recon team? Your damn right we were. Was I a hero when tools were sucked into the engine , it exploded and I got my crew and the aircraft safely to the ground in seemingly impossibly circumstances. Yes. Hell, I was a hero spending 900 hours in the air over I-Corp with enemy sights on my aircraft probably 60% or more of the time. Yes. Was I and my crew hero's when we flew, just crew, deep into Laos to try to find a downed fast mover pilot. Yes. The list goes on and on as it does for each of us.
Your list is long Gary Yates. You, and all of us, are great American Combat heroes. Those you looked up to as "more" of a hero to you were no more a hero than you. There were even younger and less experienced pilots that looked up to you the same.
Face it! You have hero status and that is verified by myself and all the other bona fide heroes in the air and on the ground.
Here is some of the conversation between Mike Jacobi and I. It was a boost and a turning point for me.
Mike: [email to Lance].....Does anybody remember who was with me when we were
picking up a dog team in the hills just west of Camp Evan's and a guy
jumped up just a few feet away and stitched the side of the aircraft with an AK-47? A couple of Pact's were wounded and our fuel
line was nicked. They greased the guy and we took off and when we landed at the medivac pad on the west side of Evan's our
aircraft was covered in fuel, and the Doc put our wounded on hold while he beat on the chest of an drug overdose case trying to get
his heart started again......
Do I have a surprise for you. I was the A/C on the mission where the
(one or two) bad guys stood up from underneath the elephant grass and
let go at us. You were flying because I had a bad hangover. We circled
the LZ which was on the eastern slop of the hills just west of Evans.
The unit on the ground popped green smoke and you acknowledged green.
I believe we could almost, if not see Evans from the LZ. This may have
even been your first or near first peter pilot ride. We had a dog team
on board and some other packs and stuff. It was a day of go to LZ A,
pick this or those up, take them to LZ B, then C then D and so forth. It
was all supposed to be green and cold. The platoon unit of the LZ where
we got shot up opened fire, and the Crew Chief on my side opened fire.
The bad guys were in between. There was some friendly fire injuries,
maybe even some KIA. You pulled pitch immediately. I had some trouble
getting you to give me the controls, but you did. I wrote it off to
shock. We had a fire light, I thought I was shot and we had at least one
bad wounded. His blood was blown up on the back of my neck. We were
losing fuel, the CE could see it.
The tower cleared us for an emergency landing on the runway and had
called out the crash trucks and ambulances, but I chose to land at the
MASH pad. The Crew Chief thought he was shot (but had slammed his back
against something trying to bring up his 60 to firing position. The dog
knocked his master out of the aircraft and to the ground. One guy had
one leg on the cargo bay floor with something he was putting in or
taking out. The sudden lift off broke his leg.
I think I was flying at the time we landed on the MASH pad and shut it
down. You may have been flying because I thought I was shot in the back
of the neck. I and the Crew Chief were checked out and there were no
holes. We were told that if we hadn't come directly to the MASH pad, the
guy or guys in the back wouldn't have made it.
I refused to fly the aircraft back to the Roundtable. Maintenance sent
over a crew, checked it out and flew it back. We rode back in a jeep or
truck. I was chewed out from one side and down the other for landing or
'emergency landing' on the MASH pad because of the condition of the
aircraft and shutting down on the pad was bad. I definitely broke SOP
and I knew it. Becker let me have it with both barrels and threatened me
with an Article 15. I told him to send me to jail or send me home....
John, I had an occasion to talk to an officer from the ground unit maybe a year or so after the incident [of us being shot up inside
the supposedly secure perimeter]. It could have actually been the unit CO I talked to, I can't remember for sure. I do very clearly
remember the context of his conversation and that was the gross incompetence of security up there on that hill that day [enemy
penetration right in and among our infantry]. Were our guys lazy? Tired? Didn't they follow any of the fundamentals? You see,
there was a failure, and failures do happen! I remember pulling pitch as the rounds were going off ..... and that's a judgment call in
and of itself. What if we made it up over the trees ...... and no more. At least we were on the ground when the s-hit the fan. And
what if we hadn't moved ... would he have gotten us then?..........the enemy was with-in.
Bad combination. As far as your deciding to land directly onto the MASH pad .... somewhere out there a guy is still alive because
you did it. Its one of those deals where you make your own calls and accept your own judgment .... internally. It just goes with
the turf. I sleep better than my wife, and so should you. And nobody else was up there in that cockpit but you ... and me.........How old were you, nineteen, twenty years old?
ME: ....Thank you for you words. Yes, it was you and I, and we made it. I was
with 9, 10 or 11 months in country. I don't remember the date of the
incident - do you? Even the month would help. I am researching and the
closer to the actual date we can come, the higher the probability is
that I can find the information, if there is any.
It may be that I can find the guy that was saved and meet him. I would
like to remember the crew chief and the gunner. I want to know what
happened about friendly fire. If anyone died should I find the families
and maybe help put it to rest for them. An what of the injured, maybe
talking to them can help put things to rest for them. I fell rather
strongly that anyone in that moment of chaos will remember it for the
rest of their lives. I believe, besides myself, that one or more others
might be able to put it to rest if they just talked to someone else that
was there that day. I don't know right now if all of these meeting I am
pondering are from guilt or a desire to heal. I remember the Crew Chief
coming to me with such sadness and guilt on his face that he may have
shot some of our guys. I wonder how he made it through that guilt.
For many years I went over and over the many decisions I made as an
aircraft commander. I what if'ed myself into a depression.
I was a good aircraft commander. I made decisions that saved lives and I
would have lain down my life even to bring out the body of another
American. I took chances, but they were calculated. I wasn't a great
officer, but I was a great pilot. I should be satisfied with that.
That day, there were so many things happening at once. The aircraft was
dangerously hit and could catch on fire at any moment. I even seem to
remember an intermittent fire light and some other warning lights. The
grunt in the back was dying quickly. I thought I was shot. What had
happened to my neck was that I jerked my head to the left instinctively
to look at the noise and my neck popped just as the grunt behind me on
the floor took the rounds. His blood was splattered onto my back and
when I rubbed the back of my neck and looked at my glove, there was
blood. I felt guilt because I thought that maybe it was concern over my
wound that pushed me into the decision to go to the MASH pad. The Crew
Chief even thought he was shot. I even remember purposely landing hard
at the MASH pad. I wanted anyone observing to know there was big
trouble. I even felt guilt over that maneuver. I believed it wouldn't
cause any damage, or maybe I wanted some bent skids. I don't remember. I
seem to remember fire extinguishers being used, but I don't remember any
fire. I think we believed there was one and it went out on it's own.
God, what if that helicopter had burned on the MASH pad. It seems I
remember the MASH unit was a tent and we landed fairly close, or did I
land back from the pad and the tent. Do you remember?
Maybe it was EVERYTHING that pushed me into the decision to go to the
MASH. I remember calling an emergency to Evans tower and they cleared
all traffic from the pattern and called out the trucks. I told them we
had wounded. I even seem to remember the tower warning me to not land at
the MASH and that I must land on the runway. If they did, I don't
remember getting whacked officially for it. Maybe someone covered my ass
on that one. I calculated the distance and time it would take an
ambulance to go from the runway to the MASH unit. It was too long and
that amount of time would probably have meant death. The Crew Chief was
telling me the guy in the back was shot up bad and was going fast. I
made the call and did what I felt was the best thing to do. I remember
you and I doing our job together in the cockpit. I think we even
discussed putting it down or taking it in.
I don't know if you read that I put anything negative on you about this
incident. I did have some negative feelings because I thought you were
in shock and wouldn't let go of the controls and were flying us into the
trees. Now I know you had the controls and got us the hell out of there.
I know now there was no reason to have any negative remembrances of you.
I felt much guilt over that incident. Maybe I unjustly transferred some
of it to you. We both reacted and we made it home and a life was saved.
I now have the opportunity to put this to rest because I actually talked
to the man in the right seat from that day.
Reviewing it in my mind. You knew I had a hangover. You were flying the
aircraft. Any investigation would show that the pilot with the most
experience was on the controls. I didn't know that until now. My
hangover was there and I carry guilt for that. I seem to remember
telling you I had a hangover, it was probably obvious, and that once I
got the aircraft out of the revetment, I turned it over to you. My
hangover didn't affect the mission. It probably gave you some additional
anxiety, but that additional anxiety may have affected your frame of
mind. Maybe that anxiety helped your quick reaction time because you
were more vigilant. Until 1985, that was just one of my countless
hangovers. I am a sober now and each day I fight to stay that way and
each day I win.
It is amazing to me that I was really the green pilot in the cockpit
compared to your background. I was cocky and belligerent and by that
time in my tour, I was waiting to die. I believe I wasn't going home
alive. I made a conscious effort to giving the right seats as much
experience as possible. They were making right seats into left seats
quickly because we weren't getting enough replacements and the VNAF were
getting the parts and the new aircraft. I wanted every right seat to
have the best chance he could have. By that time I had taken on the role
of sort of a combat instructor pilot and I even thought I was teaching
this new green peter pilot something that day. Were you a Captain? Boy,
was I cocky. I was training a Captain. I bet you thought I was just
another young Warrant that thought he knew it all, especially with your
background. I must admit at this point that I did treat RLO's different
than new wobbly ones and I don't mean I treated RLO's better.
That day, I thought I was shot. With your experience, you made the best
decision under extreme adverse conditions. In hindsight, God was
watching over all of us by putting you in the right seat. He may have
put me in the left seat because he knew I would ignore SOP and go for
the MASH pad. He knew I would grab the aircraft away from you and take
over the situation as it was my responsibility as the A/C. I knew every
nut, bolt, noise and capability of that particular aircraft. I had no
idea you had prior experience. Until your message, I thought you were a
green pilot on his first mission. Maybe I had to think that in order to
do what I did that day. Someone probably knew from the night before that
I would have a hangover the next day and they put me with you because
you had experience and would handle things.
God was watching over all of us, especially the guy that was severely
wounded. We were the right team, with the right experience, in the right
place at the right time. Yes, God only knows what would have happened if
we had done something else, but we didn't.
With Respect and Admiration..........
John, you need to say "I forgive you" .... to yourself. It'll make you feel better .... and there's nobody else out there. A kid runs with
the ball instead of passing it or misses a basket .... it's all instinctive and mostly physical, but guilt? ... does that really enter into
it? And oh by the way, how good was his training and how good did he play the whole game? How about the whole season? And
what about all of the other aspects of his life, outside of sports?
Flying [and crewing] is both mental and physical and aviators were the only group I can recall who peer reviewed each other for
promotion with-in the cockpit. Nobody made "Aircraft Commander" until the other AC's felt like they could handle it, and no other
branch of the army had anything like that, that I am aware of. And when someone new like myself came along, we still had to learn
the area and ground troops and .... prove ourselves .... to our peers, and nobody else. Not some BS chain of command. But to our
peers. Unimaginable, when you stop and think about how the army typically operates, and I dare say that only a bunch of aviators
would operate that way. This system existed because, if you played the game long enough .... somebody was always going to get
killed or injured .... it was the nature of the work, and you had to be a hard core combat aviator before you could even hope to
keep those loses to a minimum. And if you were put right back out there into that environment again today, and if you flew long
enough, other casualties would occur. You can't beat the casino!!!! A whole army wanted you dead !!! And by the way, my
recollection of you was as a hard core combat hardened "Aircraft Commander" in every good sense of the word, and you should feel
proud about your service....
Gary, maybe this helps.
Lancer 14 and damn proud to be considered a Lancer - the unit full of true combat hero's like Gary Yates.
This submitted by Steve Crimm, Lancer 43
I hope there's a place, way up in the sky,
Where pilots can go, when they have to die.
A place where a guy can buy a cold beer
For a friend and a comrade, whose memory is dear;
A place where no doctor or lawyer can tread ,
Nor a management type would ere be caught dead;
Just a quaint little place, kind of dark, full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke;
The kind of a place where a lady could go
And feel safe and protected, by the men she would know.
There must be a place where old pilots go,
When their paining is finished, and their airspeed gets low,
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And songs about flying and dying are sung,
Where you'd see all the fellows who'd flown west before,
And they'd call out your name, as you came through the door.
Who would buy you a drink, if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to the others, "He was quite a good lad!"
And then through the mist, you'd spot an old guy
You had not seen in years, though he taught you to fly.
He'd nod his old head, and grin ear to ear;
And say, "Welcome, my son, I'm pleased that you're here."
For this is the place where true flyers come,
When their journey is over, and the war has been won.
They've come here at last to be safe and alone,
From the government clerks and the management clone,
Politicians and lawyers, the Feds and the noise,
Here all hours are happy, and these good ole boys
Can relax with a cool one, and a well deserved rest;
This is heaven, my son......You've passed your last test!"