If Gary was going to commit to something, he was going to do it at the highest level that he could achieve. His experience in the Army reflects this mentality as Gary volunteered for Special Forces. He wanted to be with like-minded people who wanted to be part of the action. Gary trained for nearly two years in Missouri, Georgia, Alaska, Tennessee and North Carolina before being deployed to Vietnam in August of 1969. He would be the youngest member of a Special Forces unit called Project Delta.
The primary objective of Project Delta was to gather intelligence. This included marking concentrations of North Vietnamese in uncontrolled enemy territory, taking a prisoner, taking photos, or tapping landlines. There would typically be six recon teams – six people on a team, two Americans, four indigenous (typically Vietnamese Special Forces). Gary was one of the two Americans (Staff Sergeant), the other American he typically ran with was Maurice Breakman.
A typical mission would last five days, in which the six would be dropped off (and picked up) by the 281st Assault Helicopter Company at a predetermined location of interest. On most of these missions, the North Vietnamese would find them first and they would signal to be picked up. “It was said among the project that when the 281st came to get a Delta team on an emergency extraction, they would either get you out, or they would all crash beside you” Gary once stated. “They wouldn’t quit until one or the other had happened.”
On one mission, Gary was in a landing helicopter that was being shot at in which someone on board was shot in the leg. Gary used his belt to mitigate the bleeding and he and the co-pilot carried him off to safety. He received a bronze star for this act of bravery. Gary had such a reverence for many of the men he served with. Names like Moose Monroe and Joe Alderman – Gary would tell us that these men were legends; true heroes. For us though, Gary was our hero. He was our legend.
After a full year in Vietnam, Gary returned home in August of 1970. Upon landing in his final destination of O’Hare airport and in uniform, a woman holding a baby spit on him. Gary begins college at Illinois State University, where his friend Terry Childers is attending, some 6 weeks after returning from Vietnam.