Wednesday, October 26, 2016

25 Life History -- Serving in Vietnam by Dan Merrick

by his son, Daniel Merrick (school report) 

Garrett Richard Merrick was born on the 15th of December in 1946 in Akron, Ohio. He was 21 when he joined the military service. When he was going to college in Southwest Missouri College he enrolled in some ROTC classes. He knew that as long as he was a student he couldn’t get drafted, but afterwards it was a possibility to be drafted. His plan was that since he was going to be in the army he might as well be an officer. Sure enough, he had to go into the army. He was in the 15th Engineer Battalion. He received his basic training at Ft. Still in Oklahoma in the summer. It was always hot, dirty, and dusty. His training consisted of the use of a rifle, a bayonet and endurance tests. His other training as an engineer was accomplished at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia where he learned to build roads and bridges. Mr. Merrick served one and a half years in Vietnam and Dalat which was where Teddy Roosevelt liked to hunt when he was there. What Mr. Merrick did while he was there was oversee the construction of roads and bridges. 

He was also the supply officer and civilian personnel officer which meant he hired the Vietnamese people to help with the roads. Arguably, the greatest thing the Americans did for the Vietnamese was to build those roads and bridges that improved their economy by making travel easier. The engineer officers lived quite well. They had hot water heaters, and a ten by ten room to themselves with a mortar shell-protection roof over them. Mr. Merrick even had a maid to clean up his room for him. They also had whatever supplies they needed because it was a military “necessity” for them to have whatever they needed to build what they did. 

Mr. Merrick’s greatest challenges were to understand people and to overcome the initial fear of being in a war zone not knowing where the enemy was and where they might strike next. The only time when Mr. Merrick was near an actual attack was when he was in Cam Rahn Bay airbase and three or four mortar shells fell on the base a long distance from Mr. Merrick. One interesting experience Mr. Merrick had was when he was on a truck riding back from a convoy sent to his base. He saw a 50mm gun on the back of the truck and decided that since he was an officer he ought to be able to fire it. And fire it he did - right in to some bushes. He thought nothing of it, but when he got to base the Assistant Battalion Commander called him in and asked if he was the one who fired the gun. Mr. Merrick admitted it. The reply of the commander was that the convoy thought that they were under attack when he had fired the gun. 

The most important thing Mr. Merrick learned while serving in the Armed Services was that the United States is great and even the poorest among us is rich compared to other countries. His advice on the possibility that some of us may be called into service for our country is to “Always do your best.” A valuable lesson for people is that “Leadership is an art that needs to learned..”

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