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Pat Lisi/Southern Utah Vets Aid 

I joined the Marine Corps in the fall of 1967.  I had graduated from high school and was a freshman at a state university in Wisconsin with failing grades.  The war in Viet Nam was in full force and raging, and I watched the 6 o’clock news at night and got a belly full of the war.  It was truly a ‘living room’ war for those of us back home in America.  It didn’t bother me that much, because at the moment I was safe and sound and others were doing the fighting for me.  The more I watched the more I became intrigued with the idea of joining up and going over myself.  It was all still surreal as I had made no commitment. 

As my very first semester drew to an end I was put on academic probation due to my poor grades.  My grade point average was below a 2.  I guess beer drinking instead of studying was not the way to a college degree.  I was doomed for reclassification with the draft board and it was then that I joined the Corps with a couple other buddies.  We went to boot camp out in San Diego and it was tough.  It was more than I thought it could ever be; but, going to Viet Nam still wasn’t a reality.  It was very surreal and at the time I had nothing to worry about other than living through boot camp. 

The DI’s hollered at us day and night, sometimes they got physical with us, and it was a long time before me or anyone else in my recruit class could even dream of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Perhaps it was due to this hellish experience that Viet Nam seemed such a long way out in the future.  Boot camp was my main problem at that time and the days crawled by one at a time.  I did things that I never thought possible, and I knew it was for my own good.  Somewhere out there was a place called Viet Nam and I was probably headed there.  But, surrealism prevailed and I didn’t think about actually going to Viet Nam that much.



By the middle of Phase III of boot camp we were a well-oiled herd of recruit, wanna-be Marines.  My particular bunch of “ladies” as the DI’s called us, which was Platoon 226, worked very well together by the third phase; we were so in tune with each other that our platoon was able to win all but 1 of the coveted streamers that would hang proudly on our platoon’s guide-on at graduation.  These streamers were awarded for marksmanship, drill, PT, academics, and formal inspection.  Still, Viet Nam was not reality as we glowed in the warmth of being the best platoon out of the 4 in our company.  Life was fun by then and graduation would be splendid!  Viet Nam was surreal. 

Back in those days you did not know exactly what your next billet would be right after boot camp, until the afternoon of graduation day.  Some of the guys had enlisted under the aviation ‘guarantee’ program, which really meant that they were probably still going to Viet Nam, just not as a grunt.  A couple of us would be heading on a ‘Med Cruise’ aboard navy ships.  I think one of us even ended with some sort of embassy sentry training.  The rest of us would be grunts, riflemen, headed for Viet Nam.  

If you were being assigned to Viet Nam the orders said, “WESTPAC” which stood for Western Pacific. 

I still remember looking quickly through my set of orders for the word WESTPAC.  It didn’t take long, because it was near the top and written just as I have done here.  There was no mistaking the letters WESTPAC.  WESTPAC!  It was becoming a lot less than surreal.  I was going to Viet Nam as a rifleman.  WESTPAC.  Holy crap, what had I done? I read it over and over to myself.   

It had finally dawned on me.  I was going to war in Viet Nam as a Marine infantryman.  I was excited and nervous at the same time, because it had become reality and it was time to go to work and really prepare myself for what lay ahead.  It was what some people call an “A-HA Moment.” 


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