Veteran Salute: Vietnam search and destroy missions

Veteran Salute

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – One Wichita veteran has a long family history of service, so when the time came, Tom Allen decided the Marines was the only way to go.

“I said if I am going to go, I am not going in the Army,” Marine Tom Allen said.

He joined the Marines on a 180-day delay plan, which gave him time to get things in order before he shipped off to Vietnam.

He said, even after all he lived through, he would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

“The Marines is the man’s department of the Navy,” Allen said. “That’s your goal when you are going to get trained with the best.”

Allen will always be thankful for his extensive training but said he didn’t go to Vietnam with the guys he trained with.

“You got on an airplane with a bunch of guys,” Allen said.

It’s the sound of another type of aircraft, he’ll never forget.

“I hear helicopters that are miles away. I know it’s coming,” Allen said.

Decades ago, that sound meant their ride was coming.

“Go find that landing zone and get on the bird as quick as it gets there so you could be gone,” Allen said.

Allen spent a lot of time in the commanding general’s bunker.

“I used to run in and out of it and make changes of recon inserts,” Allen said.

He was often tweaking the maps.

“I was with the first recon battalion,” Allen said.

They were hunting the enemy.

“I’d go out and find them, tell on them, and excuse the French, run like hell because they were going to be hunting me,” Allen said.

He said sometimes they would locate an entire division.

“Try not to have a gun fight with them, we didn’t want them to see us or even know we were there,” Allen said. “At worst, you could find a batallion, and then, you would really be in trouble!”

Through many missions, Allen said a Lance Corporal was always by his side.

“If you seen one of us, you were going to see the other pretty damn quick,” Allen said. “We had a job to do, and we weren’t going to let it get messed up.”

The two also also took care of the guys they served with.

The guys teamed up to make their home overseas more homelike, and they built a back porch on their hooch.

He said they had to barter for the screen wire and lumber, so they would offer up things like battlefield souvenirs at the airbase supply.

“They were the only ones that would take things like AK-47s, they would take them and some officer would take it home with him,” Allen said.

He said after nearly a year in and out of the jungle, he was so thankful to come home, but the search and destroy nature of what they did never goes away.

“The Kansas Veterans and Family Reunion gives me a chance to communicate with people, that know what I am talking about,” Allen said. “They’ve walked a mile in my shoes.”

He said he’s found closure from the reunion, he helped organize more than decades ago.

“It means a lot, or I wouldn’t be doing it for 33 years,” Allen said.

He’s looking forward to another year of comradery.

“I’ve got friends who come a long ways, every year,” Allen said.

The reunion is coming up on June 18-20 at El Dorado State Park.

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