War Stories

Recollections of Jack Burr

by Jack Burr




It was not unusual for an infantry officer to receive orders a second or even a third time. But it was a bit uncommon to be sent to the same division, same brigade, and ultimately the same battalion. It had been a year since I had been back to the 1/35th Infantry Regiment.

After in processing at 3rd Brigade Headquarters in early January, 1969, the Personnel Officer assigned me to Brigade Operations. I was disappointed. To be an Infantry Company Commander was my desire. Vacancies were few and were coveted by many captains in the division. In the meantime, I would become the best Assistant S-3 I could be.

As I analyzed after action report after action report for lessons learned, one thing became apparent. Many times inadequate security measures resulted in placing individual soldiers and units in jeopardy. Sometimes causalities were the result. Perhaps, from my cushy job sitting behind a desk, I was being too critical. But I think not. To my discredit I did not make friends and had much time on my hands.

I had always been somewhat of a loner. Depression is a strange phenomenon. I would never admit its influence on me. But it was there. I slept in a nice bed. I ate well prepared and tasty food. But in quite times, my mind would drift to family. My wife Phyllis, was a strong and a lovely person, but I knew I had left her a heavy burden to make a home by herself, manage finances, care for three children and make decisions by herself. (She never told me that she also struggled with depression,) as I had until years later. She explained she didn't want to worry me.

But intuitively, I knew, and so in the darkest hours of the night silent tears would leak from my eyes. I was embarrassed and faulted myself for my own weakness. I asked for double duty to counter my loneliness and worked even harder to erase my shortcomings.

When the company assignment came, I was ready. I took command in March, but I was a changed person. For one thing, I became more careful when it came to matters of security and protection of my men. Security for units operating in the Central Highlands took many forms from always operating within range of supporting fires to spacing between soldiers. To close with and kill the enemy was fundamental to our mission, but not at the expense of adequate security.

The time spent at Brigade helped me better understand myself. More importantly, it helped me become a better commander.