“Red Dog” ~ David T. Roberts


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RED DOG’s letter has been recorded on CD by Dane Brown, USMC 1/27, Nam ‘68. This is a 7.18mb MP3 file and plays for 7:55 minutes

David T. Roberts: My Letter to Doc Ferrell
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David T. Roberts: My Letter to Doc Ferrell
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I read your Warriors of the Past and I wept. No one but me knows how many times out of no where I’ve heard a whisper, RED DOG, RED DOG, what do we do now, please get us out of this alive. Or I’ve screamed Corpsman-up only to wake up with the sheets torn off the bed and being wet with sweat as though I had been in the monsoon rains without my poncho. And speaking of ponchos, no one will ever know that I’ve gone to the surplus store and bought a poncho so I could wait for a good down pour, put on my poncho, US military issue, go into my back yard where I knew I was safe and crawl under the over-hang of the hedge bushes, light up a smoke and have one hell of a conversation with the brothers I left behind, the brothers that lay dead or wounded, or the arms and legs that were scattered about that I needed so badly to figure out which one of my brothers this one or that one belonged to.

How many times have I heard a helicopter flying somewhere out of sight and tried to figure out if it was in-coming, out-going, medevac, re-supply, or mail call. How many times have I seen myself jump off this same chopper I could not see, into a hot LZ or elephant grass that dwarfs me, to land six or seven feet under the skids of this chopper and feel the loneliness as it flew away, or wonder if the door gunner knew he was killing us with his friendly fire, as we were caught in an ambush.

How many times Doc does a man just start crying for no reason at all and have to hide from your own family so they won’t see, because you know you can’t explain it to them.

How many times does a man have to wake up in the middle of the night, leave the lights out and check every door, go outside and check all four corners of your yard before he knows his family is safe from the night.

How often do you try to and want to tell a war story to the guys you work with that are your age but somehow missed the war, and know you’ve heard all their excuses why a hundred times before, just to shut-up and say, you fuckers have no idea what I’m talking about do you, then walk away with tear’s in your eyes feeling you had let a Vietnam brother down because no one could understand your story of this brave hero.

I went to Vietnam as an 18 year old Corporal Squad Leader Doc. My nickname as I came into the Corps was RED DOG. My call sign always in Vietnam was RED DOG. Every time one of my civilian friends calls me RED DOG I feel warm, cared for, and friendship. At the same time I get the chills, all alone, and feel the emptiness, a hollow deep emptiness. But I need this word RED DOG because I know it is me, and as RED DOG I had real brothers, more real than blood. Yes Doc, I know what war is and what war can do.

And I have no answer when my family, my wife, wants me to go shopping with her. How can I say crowds spread out, one grenade will kill us all. How can I tell them what is fun for them is boring as hell to me because there is no adrenaline rush. How can I make them understand that they are my family, that I need and love them, and need their support, but, I lost my real family and the greatest support I will ever know in a rice paddy over thirty years ago. My wife tells me there is more to life than the United States Marine Corps and Vietnam. No honey, there is not, but I love you.

So you see Doc, I was a gunfighter. I earned my Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon. I didn’t earn no Silver Star or Bronze Star, or Medal of Honor. I don’t pride myself or judge anyone else on the medals they may or may not have earned. I was there for them and they for me, and it wasn’t a fucking competition, it was war. And I know I never want to forget this war, the bad parts or the good parts. I never want to forget my time in the United States Marine Corps or the E-5 stripes I earned in three years and got to proudly ware for my last year in the Corps.

I’ll never forget at age 15 when I really saw my first Marine Corps poster and said; that’s what I want to be! And the day I turned 17 when I could sign up with parents consent, quitting school, signing up and standing tall at M. C. R. D. San Diego thirteen days later because for two long years I had dreamed of being a UNITED STATES MARINE.

And now I come back to reality knowing that I have just shared my most inner self with you Doc, because you were Navy, a Marine, and always a Corpsman. What I have just written is only one hour of my life since the day I turned seventeen. I could fill countless hours with my dreams, my thoughts, my ghosts over the past thirty six years but I don’t know if I want to share, because I’m afraid that no one will understand.

I thank you Doc for your Warriors of the Past, and for letting me share my memories with you. Just knowing you were there when we ask for Corpsman-up makes it easy for me to share with you. No Medical Doctor could ever mean more to me than a Combat Corpsman does.

With that I will take my leave, and welcome Doc, to a gunfighter’s memories.