3:32 | 17-year-old Mark Kramer enlists in the Marine Corps despite his father's protests, and to fast track his enlistment, agrees to travel from Ohio to the west coast boot camp in San Diego - his first time west of the Mississippi.
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As one of the smallest recruits in Boot Camp, Mark Kramer works hard to earn respect during combat training. He attends administrative school in Camp Pendleton and is shipped out to Da Nang. Kramer reflects on the training he received vs. the training Marines get today.
After only a few hours in Vietnam, Mark Kramer is sent to spend the night in a foxhole with 2 slightly more experienced soldiers. He soon learns he will be sent to Khe Sanh, where the Tet Offensive is already underway.
Kramer must rely on his resilience and inventiveness to overcome the challenges of Khe Sanh Combat Base. After a precarious landing, his unit spends several months under intense artillery fire in a dusty, war-torn camp with limited food, water and sleep.
Kramer recalls his mentor at Khe Sanh, and his first experience with racism - in the shadow of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination.
After surviving the rigors of Khe Sanh, a hungry, filthy Mark Kramer returns to the seemingly safe Quang Tri base, where he is seriously injured in a freak vehicle crash. As he slowly regains the use of his senses, he volunteers to help wherever he can be useful. His service in Vietnam has come to an abrupt end, but he continues to make the best of his situation.
Now stateside, Kramer navigates the restrictions his injury has placed on his military career. Thanks to his administrative skills, he lands a government job and works his way up through the ranks, but becomes frustrated with the apathy of the reservists he oversees. He offers sober advice to future war vets.
After his injury in 1968, Kramer loses touch with a good friend from boot camp and Khe Sanh. 44 years later, the two find each other and reunite. Their friendship lasts to this day.
After heading to Phu Bai, Bennie Koon and his company went to Camp Evans to be stationed. Facing mortar fire, he remembers feeling terrified and not knowing when it would pass. Bennie explains the defenses they had set up to defend them from the Viet Cong.
McMahon becomes part of the Combined Action Program (CAP), working with Vietnamese militia to protect villages from Viet Cong thugs. On one occasion, the village is spared from enemy attack by an army artillery unit acting without orders. He and the villagers develop a bond that would last for decades.
With great difficulty, Sardo Sanchez recounts critical events that prove both devastating and fortunate. After taking the life of a VC soldier, he is hit by a sniper and told he may never walk again. In a state of shock, he narrowly avoids a fatal miscalculation.
Under heavy fire, choppers attempt to evacuate wounded GIs from Kontum. After one fatal crash, a dustoff chopper manages to lift Ernest Banasau to safety. Years later, Banasau meets the pilot who saved him, and learns how close he came to meeting a tragic fate. Part 2 of 2
He made Buck Sergeant about the time he figured out that he and his buddies were basically fighting for each other and for no other reason. They were taking a large bunker complex and when two others were under fire, he went out to get them. After the fight was over, he was disturbed to learn what his superiors intended to do about the enemy base.
As Marine Captain Ron Christmas fought to regain the city of Hue, he found the enemy adept at concealment and surprise. Every soldier in a spider hole was armed with a rifle and a RPG launcher. He also encountered a nun with an AK-47. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
In a letter home, Tommy Clack expressed his worry that something bad was going to happen and it did when his unit engaged the NVA near the Cambodian border. He saw the enemy soldier stand and fire the RPG that changed his life forever.
The RPG that severed Joe McDonald’s foot didn’t kill him. The machine gun fire that hit him as he still tried to help others didn’t kill him. The grenade taped to his hand might have killed him if the VC had found his hiding place.
Growing up in the Midwest in a military family, Rick Bates joined the Air Force with the desire of flying fighter jets. He had to learn quickly to prepare himself for the intensity of navigating these huge machines.
Deciding to re-enlist after Vietnam, Donna Lowery deployed to Germany where she had a nice deployment there and found readjusting to post-war life easy. She ended up spending 26 years in the military and retired a sergeant major. Donna also has some thoughts on the Vietnam Women's Memorial in Washington D.C.
After re-enlisting in the service, Charlie Pocock passed his flight physical and was on active duty in Utah where he lived. When his plane was shot down over Vietnam, he had to think on his feet to run through the jungle and transmit his whereabouts via radio.
After spending so much time in Hanoi, Rick Bates remembers being released and feeling relieved after they flew to a base in the Philippines. Returning home and getting some leave, he decided to stay in the Air Force and finished out his career flying the F-4.
When one of the Marine units supporting them left, Bennie Koon and his platoon had to think quickly to fill in the gaps to stay secure. In their down-time, they played games and drank beer, which became pretty habitual for him.
While stationed in Vietnam, Peter Ruplenas had a number of enemy interactions that turned out to be extremely close calls and left him with a few injuries. Being a photographer, capturing these moments was still very important to him despite the difficulties.