Serving in Vietnam with Richard Hershel Green

A story by Peter P. Joyce Jr. from 1968-1970

Christmas dinner in Vietnam, 1969, the first day of hot food not out of a can in a couple of months! Peter Joyce stands in the back of the talbe with his head bowed.

I grew up in Portland, Maine, where I live today. After graduating from college in 1968, I was drafted and was assigned to be a combat infantryman in Vietnam. I have many memories of my time there, but one that keeps me up at night was about another soldier, RICHARD HERSHEL GREEN.

He was new in country…A NEW GUY as we called tem (among other names). An unwritten rule was that you never got close to new guys because they most likely would not be around long. We only talked to them to tell them things that they needed to know to not get us killed.

One day the lieutenant sent me out to OP (observation post) with Richard. We were away from the rest of the company to watch for any VIET CONG approaching. Since it was just the two of us we got talking. Richard told me about his wife and new-born son and his life in New York.

At one point he asked what to do when the firing started. “Above all else, DO NOT stand up to run away from the firing! Get down on the ground and crawl to some cover! But do not stand up.”

Later in the afternoon we were called in to the rest of the company and helicoptered to go rescue a LRP team (8 to 15 guys that were on their own) that was surrounded by Viet Cong (VC). Upon arriving we were able to hook up the LRP team while under heavy fire. We spent the night in a dried out stream bed which protected us. Throughout the night we had many firefights and when it was quiet we could hear the VC banging bamboo sticks to communicate with each other. It was a very long night! Next morning reinforcements came and we found the VC had left.

We now had time to talk and the first thing we all wanted to know is, “did anyone get hurt?” We had three wounded slightly and one dead. I asked, “Who died?” The reply “THE NEW GUY GREEN.”
“He stood up to run when the firing started!”

I was devastated. From that day to this I always think, “Why didn’t you listen to me, Richard?”

Richard Hershel Green's entry from THE WALL in Washington, DC

Peter Joyce Jr., Maine, 2017