by Brent McCellan
Sept. 30th 1968
By Brent McCellan
It was April 1968, and here I was standing on the hot metal tarmac in Cam Rahn Bay Vietnam with several hundred other soldiers. We had formed a small group of guys from our old AIT company. We were waiting for our marching orders to be assigned to a new unit. Countless times they would call us to attention and then would call out the names of the soldiers and the unit they were assigned to. This went on all day and into the night and then into the next day soldiers coming and going. The whole time we just sat there on the tarmac waiting. During the night we would watch the flashes and the flares in the mountains and later hear the explosions of the battles being fought. In our minds we knew this was probably the place we would be sent. It was a matter of logic; only units that were in battle would need replacements. Rumors would travel quickly around the tarmac about what unit was catching hell and you don't want to go there. Yea like we had a choice! Then it finally happened we were called to attention and told these individuals will report to the 4th Infantry Division. I remember saying to myself oh no, please not me because I had heard, this was the unit you absolutely did not want to go to. Of course my name was called along with a few of our AIT buddies. At the 4th Division we went through the same process until we were assigned to C Company of 2nd of the 35th infantry of the 3rd Brigade. This time only two of us got the call, a big tall lanky kid and myself from Montana by the name of Francis Wheeler, or Wheels as we called him. Our unit was currently operating in Kontum and so we were flown to an airstrip and then caught a helicopter to our company LZ. LZ Virgin as it was called looked like anything but a virgin from the air. It looked more like someone had blown off the top of a mountain and a bunch of GI's took up residence. After arriving at the LZ we were assigned to the Mortar Platoon. It was here we were introduced to a young medic by the name of Timothy Sines or Little Doc as we all called him. Little Doc had just arrived in the C Company a short time before us, and so there we were The Three Amigos, actually we were NFG's or FNG's doesn't really matter it still means the same thing. F#!% New Guys in our brand new olive-drab jungle uniforms and our black shinny jungle boots. The term FNG really wasn't meant in a derogatory manner it was part of the right of passage until you broke into the unit and got to know the guys and what was going on better. The three of us shared a bunker together and thus started our close friendship.
Little Doc was a really nice young man who looked younger than his age although he was younger than the rest of us. He was one of those people that the minute they walk up to you and introduce themselves you couldn't help but ask how old are you? By the looks of him you were sure he had no business being in the Nam. Not that the rest of us were that much older, but because he appeared that way. I think because of Little Doc's youthful appearance and his demeanor he sort of became our little brother. The three of us were sitting in our bunker when he told the story of how he got into the army. It seems that he and a buddy decided they would join the army under the buddy system, where they would train together and be stationed together. After Little Doc and his buddy joined the army his buddy had something wrong with him and so was sent home. Because there wasn't anything wrong with Little Doc he got to stay in the army or should I say he had to stay in the army. Around the company area you could hear the whispering and the muttering between the other GI's and in fact Wheels and I had discussed it ourselves in the beginning. We had decided that if any of us got hit or wounded we would call for another medic, not that we didn't like Little Doc, we just didn't know how this kid would react. How ironic that we who were kids ourselves thought he was too young. Over the months our friendship grew and we always stayed in touch even though Little Doc had been moved to another platoon. We would go to his platoon and chat, or he would come over to our area and visit, play cards or whatever. Then the strangest thing happened. Our Battalion 2/35th Infantry was working in the Bam Me Thout area when we got OP Orders to move to Duc Lap. I had just returned from our platoon meeting where they handed out mail. I sat and was reading a letter from my wife when I jumped up and shouted holey shit! The guys around me immediately thought we were under attack, but I managed to calm them down enough to tell them what I had just read. My wife had written in her letter that she was so glad we were not in the Duc Lap area because the newspapers were full of reports of heavy fighting in that area. I could tell by looking at Little Doc and everyone around me that we all had that sick feeling in our stomachs. We knew if the people back in the World had heard about this place it wasn't going to be an easy operation. We couldn't help but wonder what we were getting into. Little did we know this was the beginning of one the toughest operations our company would encounter, and the beginning of the end for some. When we landed at the Duc Lap Air Strip we had to run off of the back of the moving plane and take cover because we were taking incoming mortar fire as we landed. As the operations progressed, our company was moved to an LZ we called Crater. It was an old volcano covered with jungle over growth. From LZ Crater we could look right over into Cambodia.
Our company began to have more contact with the enemy getting into more firefights and skirmishes. After a major firefight there were tales of heroics and valor about a medic that had put himself in harms way and risked his own life for the safety of his fellow comrades. Of course the medic was none other than Little Doc, the medic that everyone had worried about.
As we sat around and talked about the events that had happened that day someone yelled "hey Little Doc throw me a canteen." I don't remember who it was but they grabbed a canteen and threw at the GI saying "This is Big Doc now" "Big Doc" can you imagine how long this kid had wanted to get that kind of respect from his peers and what it meant to him. At that point in time Doc was the "man," anything he wanted or anything he wished, his cohorts would try to provide. Knowing how much Little Doc liked soda, I had one stashed away so I told him to come over to our hootch and I would give it to him. The three of us Wheels, Little Doc and I sat and chatted for a while but Little Doc was different and distant. He stared straight ahead and when he looked at you it was almost as if he were looking through you. Wheels and I talked about it later and felt like Little Doc had looked right into the face of War and saw all of its brutality and horror.
Evening began to fall when they yelled pop smoke birds coming in. Two choppers came in and quickly left a large group of FNG's in their brand-new uniforms. I couldn't help but wonder if they were as scared as I was when I first landed on the LZ or possibly even more so after hearing what our company had been through. Our Company was in desperate need of replacements so they were a much welcomed sight.
Dawn the next morning, (9/30/68) and Charlie Company is on the move again, our platoon is left behind as fire support. The company once again goes down on the red ball in the same area where they had hit the shit before. It seems like they hadn't been gone very long when all hell breaks loose Automatic weapons fire, explosions, screaming on the radio Charlie 40 fire, fire anything anywhere, so we fired. The F.O. couldn't locate the round and so he kept screaming to just keep shooting until we got close enough for him to direct our fire. Other companies of the 2/35th quickly rallied and came to Charlie Company's aid but by then the damage had been done.
Evening begins to fall and what is left of our company pulled back to LZ. Crator. Wheels, and I waited, and watched hoping to see our Little Brother, Little Doc coming up the trail even though we had been told that Little Doc, (Timothy Sines) was among the eleven of our comrades that had lost their lives that day. The last memory we have of him is waving as he begins to walk down the trail on the last morning of his young life. He was killed in action with bravery and valor, this young medic 18 years of age, who was as big as anyone on the battle field and braver than most.
I am sorry Little Doc, I didn't come home and locate your parents like I wanted to. I didn't know what to say or how to tell them your story. So for the time being this will be part of your story "May God bless you and may you rest in peace".