THE SIGHTS, THE SOUNDS, AND EVEN THE SMELLS STAY WITH YOU
My name is Greg R. Harle, and I am the proud son of a
decorated World War II veteran, Robert Harle, who served with
the 101st Airborne Division, 502nd PIR.
I was born in Jamestown, New York, in November 1946. My
father became a cabinet builder, inspector, and plant guard.
He was also an artist. My mother worked as a waitress and in
department stores and factories as well as being a housewife and
mother to two sons and a daughter.
My grandfather served in the Army during World War I. My
uncle, father, and father-in-law also served in the Army during
World War II. My brother was in the Navy during Vietnam. I
received my draft notice for Vietnam and decided to go ahead
and enlist to have a better choice of what I wanted to do. I chose
the Army because of my grandfather’s and father’s service.
I left by train for Fort Dix, New Jersey, in January 1966. The
weather was cold. I was hospitalized for an upper respiratory
infection and later graduated basic training in March. I was sent
to Fort Gordon, Georgia, where they assigned me to telephone
switchboard installation and operations. I graduated first in my
class in June. From there, I was sent to Fort Huachuca, Arizona,
for advanced training in a combat area.
I didn’t have much trouble adjusting to military life, but missed
home and my girl, Jan. The food and physical regimen were okay,
as I had always been physically active anyway. I made a few good
friends and got married in May 1966 at Fort Gordon. I made
lots of friends, and many friendships lasted years after I got out.
One of them stood up for me when I got married. Departure
for Vietnam was in October 1966 with the 459th Combat Area
Signal Battalion on a troop ship. The first month on the ship,
we had no communication at all. After we settled in, we wrote
almost daily. We received R&R in Tokyo and got one phone call
home. There wasn’t much free time, but I listened to music when
I got the chance and played guitar.
I served in Nhatrang-Tuyhoa and Ninhoa. There were B-52
strikes that came close to us, with air strikes by jets carrying
napalm and gunships. I was made the company mail clerk
and drove 60 miles one way 6 days a week to pick up mail
and supplies. Most of the time, I was by myself. When the Tet
Offensive started, I was the only one allowed off the compound.
The worst part for me was being unaware of who the enemy was
unless I was being shot at. You learned to count your blessings
every day, as you never knew how much time you had left. My
greatest fear was not coming back and leaving my wife behind. I
later came to realize how lucky I was to come home in one piece,
as many did not. After all is said and done, I don’t regret going,
not at all. I got the chance to see life outside of the United States.
There was an adjustment in civilian life changing from days to
working nights, but I don’t think it really changed me. Even
though I feel it didn’t change who I am, war can’t help but change
you. The sights, the sounds, and even the smells stay with you for
life. The thing I see with a lot of veterans is the lack of wanting
to talk about it. It must be something we try to block out. As for
my 101st Airborne Dad who fought during World War II, we have
learned more in the last couple of years about his experience than
we did our whole lives. He is 94 years old as of this writing.
I got out of the service in January 1969 and flew from Cam Ranh
Bay to Japan, then on to Fort Lewis, Washington, and back to
my wife again. I only had enough money for airfare to Cleveland,
Ohio. So my dad and wife came to pick me up. I was well
received by my friends and family. It was good to be back home.
To this day, my closest friend is a fellow Vietnam veteran. I am a
member of Post 777 with the American Legion.
As for the protesters of any war, you have the right to protest
government policies, but not the veterans who serve and sacrifice
for your freedom. When people thank me for my service today,
I think, “Where was the thanks 50 years ago?” But it’s a nice
~ Greg R. Harle, U.S. Army
Greg Harle’s father, Robert Harle trained and fought with my
101st Airborne father in the 502nd PIR, Regimental Headquarters.
Both were radio communicators together in Normandy,
Carentan, Holland and at the Battle of the Bulge during World
War II. Sadly, Robert Harle passed away in July 2014.
~Jenny La Sala
We Honor History And Veterans www.JennyLasala.com