I have become aware of online posts that challenge the accuracy of my military service record, including service in Vietnam (joint Army-Navy-Marine Corps civic action team, III Corps, November 1971-January 1972). These posts also claim that I never served outside the continental United States, a claim contradicted by 23 months of foreign/sea duty documented on my DD-214. Further claims challenge field medical and other military training that I did, in fact, receive. Finally, my work as an author has been mischaracterized.
These questions have been raised based on a chronology of military service issued through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. Such requests provide only a general outline of a veteran’s service. In this case there appear to be discrepancies, notably in regard to the amount of time on foreign/sea duty, duty locations (which also included Guantanamo Bay and Panama, but never the Mediterranean as one post claimed), and nature of duty. While I appreciate concerns within the veteran community regarding the veracity of any veteran’s service background, questions in this case are based on information that is either incomplete or incorrect.
I was called home from Vietnam after six weeks due to a family matter. The joint service team was disbanded while I was on leave (the war was winding down). I was reassigned to the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Medical Battalion. I was later advised when discharged that I was ineligible for the Vietnam Campaign medal due to inadequate time-deployed. This information may or may not have been correct; I left the service and never revisited the issue.
In regard to military training, my DD-214 documents my military occupational specialty (MOS), HM-8404, Field Medical Service Technician. This training prepares Navy hospital corpsman for service with combat and combat-ready units of the Fleet Marine Force (FMF), and includes aspects of jungle warfare and special operations such as night ambush tactics, infiltration, navigation and tracking, hand-to-hand combat, and use of small arms. I also attended Jungle Warfare School (Ft. Sherman, Panama) where similar skills were taught. Therefore, the bio note on my web site that refers to having received these sorts of training is accurate.
In regard to the claim that I “worked in the clinic,” this is incorrect. I never worked in a clinic setting while attached to the FMF. I was always a field medic assigned to battalion landing teams or rifle companies.
I saved very few service documents, files, photographs or letters from my Navy years, and do not have a copy of my complete service record. But even though these are events of nearly 50 years ago, I certainly recall the nature of my training and duties, and where I was and was not in the course of my enlistment.
In regard to my later, post-service work as an author, I have been identified online as “an author who writes books about his experiences in the Vietnam war as a Fleet Marine Force corpsman.” This is incorrect: I do not actively write, nor have I ever written, books about my personal experiences in Vietnam as an FMF corpsman. I have written only two books with Vietnam as a subject, the first originally published 35 years ago and the second 27 years ago. Both of these books are fiction – imagined stories about fictional characters with no direct or factual connection to my personal life or the actual details of my military service. My own military experiences serve only as general background for both of those books. Both books have been marketed and sold as fiction since their first publication many years ago, and I have never made any claim to the contrary. I have, in fact, often corrected the mistaken impression that these books are autobiographical or historically accurate. They are not. They are fiction – books meant to tell stories. I apologize to any readers who may have felt misled, or misunderstood that they were reading fiction, not fact.
In an era when many avoided service, I volunteered and served honorably. I remain proud of that service, and proud of the volunteer work I have done with young vets in the years since.
June 12, 2015