I’M COMING OUT OF MY SHELL
My given name is Dwayne, but I received the nickname “Dewey” from a Catholic priest while a freshman in St. Paul High School in Odell, Illinois. I grew up in a large family, 7 boys and 2 girls. My two older brothers were also drafted at approx the same time, and I was assigned to Vietnam. Dennis went to Korea, and Donald was issued papers to go to Vietnam. But since I was already there, he said, “Thanks but no thanks,” and remained state side. Of course our last name happened to be the same as the famous WWII fighting Sullivan’s whose rule allowed Donald to stay stateside. After the Pearl Harbor attack, the brothers decided to enlist in the Navy. They did insist, however, that the Navy allow them to stay together throughout their service. All five Sullivan brothers perished.
My tour in Vietnam was with the 61st Assault Helicopter Co, which had both a base camp and field camp that we worked out of. As a cook, we would spend two weeks rotating back and forth. Our duties were doubled, as we were always short handed. I always wanted to see more action than with what I was doing (Yes, I know stupid). But I volunteered to fly as a door gunner and was given the opportunity to go on a “pick up” of infantry one day. Our mission went well with no issues so my pilot asked if I wanted to shoot the machine gun and of course I said yes!
Being an Illinois farm boy I could not resist. Our pilots called back to our CO and got the ok to take me out over the ocean. The number 1 one rule was for every bullet hole that I shot into the helicopter it cost me a case of beer. Of course I said no problem! The pilots put the ship on an angle to make it easy for me to shoot and said fire when ready. I started shooting and was doing my best to keep control of the barrel and thought I was really doing great. Then the pilot came over the radio and asked when I was going to pull the trigger back! Of course I was surprised and said I was. He indicated I was on semi-automatic and needed to pull the trigger back all the way. Holy crap! What power and awesomeness that experience was!
This quickly taught me why they said it would cost me a case per bullet hole and so I shut that down before I lost it. I came away with great respect for all door gunners after that! It was a great experience! The service picture is of my brother Dennis at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. We look so much alike it is hard to tell us apart. Unfortunately my scrapbook of my military days during basic training at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky was lost along the way of life! I just don’t know where it went. The wedding photo is on my wedding day in 2011 to Norma Rodriguez in Dwight, Illinois. The last picture was taken while I worked part-time at the Lansing Country Club in 2014.
As a Specialist 5th Class and serving in Vietnam from September 1967 through September 1968 in Qui Nhon and Bon Song, I have suffered from severe headaches and PTSD over the years. I still do not watch any bloody movies or get involved with many people. However in the last year things seem to have changed in the world on how people see the Vietnam Veterans. I’m just getting to the place where I can talk about my time over there.
So I’m coming out of my shell so to speak.
~ Dwayne “Dewey” Sullivan, Vietnam Veteran
We are very grateful to Dewey for sharing his personal story with COMES A Soldier’s Whisper and invite you to share your family photos &/or stories of those who served.
God Bless all who serve and keep us safe.
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