MEET OUR VETERANS:
Pete Guinn, U.S. Marine Corps
“We were in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam. That is where I got my ticket home.”
Pete Guinn was born July 19th, 1950 in Friona, Texas. The town is located about 30 miles north of Muleshoe in the northern panhandle of Texas. “I had one sister who died of breast cancer at a young age,” said Pete from his home in Canton. “My dad, also named Pete, served in the Marine Corps. He was stationed stateside in the Military Police (MP). My dad got polio while he was in the Marines. Of course, none of it was documented since all his files were lost in the great military fire in St. Louis, Missouri,” said Pete.
INFO: The 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri (NPRC) destroyed approximately 16-18 million official military personnel files. No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained, nor were microfilm copies produced. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available. (SOURCE: archives.gov)
“My dad broke horses, sold auto parts and in the 50’s got into the automobile sales business at a Ford dealership in Hereford, Texas. I remember my dad bringing home the first 55 T-Bird that hit that area. I sure would love to have that car today,” Pete said smiling.
“Growing up I was in the Cub Scouts and played some baseball. When we lived in Comanche, Texas I played for the Western Auto Wizards where I played pitcher and first base. I really liked playing baseball. I was good enough to play on the All-Star team. I went to Muleshoe High School and when I got back from Vietnam I went to Red Rock Junior College on the G.I. Bill.”
JOINING THE MARINE CORPS
“A friend of mine and I drove over to Clovis, New Mexico to visit with a Navy recruiter. They told us at the time they did not have any openings.
The recruiter encouraged us to go to Lubbock to see about joining the Marine Corps. My friend got cold feet but I came home with military papers for my parents to sign. My dad asked me if I wanted to join and I said yes. My dad was an old Parris Island Marine and he shared with me some stories about his time there. He then signed the papers. I was ready to get my obligation over with, come home and get on with my life. I signed up for a four-year enlistment,” said Pete.
Pete went to San Diego for thirteen weeks for Boot Camp and received a nice welcoming party on arrival. “We got our clothes and seabag and they promptly marched us out to the tents. I remember at lights out I had just laid my head down on the cot. The Drill Instructor (DI) starts yelling for everyone to get off their ass, on your feet, out in the street, with your seabag. In all the mass confusion, I could not find my seabag. I fell out and no seabag. You can imagine what happened then. I had a Corporal that kept giving me karate chops and telling me to stay down and I kept getting up. I kept real good control of my sea bag after that first day,” Pete laughed.
“My MOS was 0311, or ground pounder. Now I got to experience the life of a grunt. I took a battery of tests and scored high in electronics. However, I didn’t know squat about electronics. 0311 was basically a pack mule. I survived boot and then went to Basic Infantry Training (BITS) school in San Diego for about six weeks,” he said with a frown.
“There was a mountain called Mount m’fer. I went up and down that thing many times. With a full backpack and my M14. I had a Drill Instructor named Harrison who was one of the most sadistic human beings I had ever met in my life. He had been to Nam. He was definitely screwed up in the head, bad. I personally witnessed him beating the hell out of another marine. The kid ended up in the hospital. I thought he was going to die. If he was in Nam and I was there, he would have died of unfriendly fire,” Pete said emphatically.
NEXT STOP, VIETNAM
“I went home for leave after Basic Infantry and while I was home the Corps assigned me to the 27th Marines. I drove my 1963 Ford Fairlane Coupe with three on the column to Camp Pendleton.
I had never been to L.A, so we drove my car up there. Me and a couple of buddies ended up going one way the wrong way. We then hopped on the sidewalk and went back the right way. We ended up that night going to Tijuana, but without the car. A gunny told us not to go there, but we did anyway. Glad I didn’t take my car,” he laughed.
“While in L.A. we were kind of in a holding pattern, waiting for our orders. I was eventually ordered to go to the gunny’s office. He said, you need to pack your seabag. He said you are fixing to go across the choppy waters. So, me and a couple of buddies went out and got pretty drunk. I recalled calling my dad about three in the morning and telling him. We got on a plane and stopped in Hawaii, got fuel and headed to Okinawa.
“Finally, after jerking our chain for a few days we got onto another plane. That was when reality hit. We flew in on a Delta flight to Da Nang, Vietnam.
As we flew in and I got off the plane, I looked over at the guys rotating back to the states. I saw a lot of rough looking Marines,” Pete said shaking his head.
At this time Pete and I took a short break. A lot of memories and a flood of emotions. He was there again. Back fifty years to the jungles of Vietnam.
“When I got to Da Nang, no one seemed to know where I was supposed to be or what unit I was in. I was told we needed to go to Quang Tri. Me and a couple of other guys took off walking. We had no clue where Quang Tri was or how we were going to get there. We finally flagged down a deuce and a quarter and I asked the driver where Quang Tri was. He said I was going the wrong way. We eventually got a ride back to where the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines were located. It was the most dis-organized bunch of bullshit I had ever seen,” said Pete.
“When I finally reported to Quang Tri they issued me an M-16, and one magazine. Yep, one magazine. I went into one of the tents and found me an open cot. One of the Marines asked me, “Is that all the hell they gave you is one magazine?” I said, “Yeah, why.” “He said, you won’t last five seconds out in the bush.” “I asked him, where the hell do I get another magazine,” he said, “you are going to have to steal them, and you better be careful because you will get shot if you are caught.”
“I ended up with several magazines, and yes, I stole them. I found the enlisted man’s club and sat down for a few drinks. I sat there as a battery of 155’s were going off. I was jumping out of my britches every time one exploded. Someone yelled, incoming and every one flew out of there except me and this other guy. We just sat there and drank our beer,” said Pete recalling his first days in country.
“I was given two days of orientation and assigned to a squad. The first activity I had I was guarding a bridge. I was sharing a foxhole with a salty old Marine. We would walk along the tanks with our weapons and look for enemy. There were about six or eight of us in the squad. We were providing security for the tanks. We were behind a tank one time and I was eating pound cake and peaches. Man, they tasted good. About that time a round came flying over my head and I tossed the cake and peaches and hid behind the tank.
There was an 81-mortar team across the river from where we were located. The Army had set up a bunch of tents and we looked over in one of them and there was a stack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. We were going to steal their beer. Instead, we ended up playing football with them with a big rock and we all ended up drinking beer together. We had a great time playing football in that river with the Army guys,” and Pete laughed about that story. “The beer was a whole lot better than the river water. I drank some and got dysentery. The corpsman finally came down and got me straightened out, but I thought I was going to die from it. That was my first week in country,” said Pete.
“My next assignment was on a chopper and we flew to “Firebase Cunningham.” We were in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam. That is where I got my ticket home,” said Pete choking back his words.
INFO: Perhaps no other battleground in Vietnam defined “war of attrition” better than A Shau Valley in the northernmost part of South Vietnam.
The mile-wide, 25-mile-long bottomland running north-south along the Laotian border was a conduit for the Ho Chi Minh Trail as it bypassed the Demilitarized Zone. Containing an estimated 20,000 Communist troops by 1967 and a massive store of war supplies, A Shau was a painful thorn in the side of South Vietnam. The enemy used the steep mountainous terrain surrounding the valley to launch battles against every major allied position in the south during the 1968 Tet Offensive. (SOURCE: historynet.com)
“Our unit was going to replace the 9th Marines at “Firebase Cunningham.” When we got there, they were getting incoming and rockets. I got to the door of the chopper and looked down. It seemed like 1,000 feet to the ground. I hate heights and I remember someone placed their boot in the middle of my back and kicking me out that door. I hit the ground and rolled over into a hole and stayed there until the firing stopped,” said Pete.
“We went out on a lot of night ambushes patrolling all around that mountain. We were supposed to have a battalion size sweep thru the A Shau Valley. Our platoon ended up going and they put me on point. I had a Chieu Hoi scout with me. I did not trust him at all.”
INFO: There was a special program initially created by the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War involving the use of former Viet Cong combatants as intelligence scouts for American infantry units. Enemy cadre and combatants ( Viet Cong, NVA) who defected and rallied to become aligned with the Saigon government were known as Chieu Hoi or Hoi Chanh Vien the latter being a term loosely translated as “members who have returned to the righteous side”. Only a very small number of these Chieu Hoi were selected, trained, and deployed with American infantry units as Kit Carson Scouts.
Those Chieu Hoi who volunteered for selection and training as Kit Carson Scouts had, during their service with the enemy, little or no contact with anyone speaking English. Few had any knowledge at all of the English language, creating a communication challenge as they were deployed with American units. A further complication was that almost all Hoi Chanh Vien had a distrust of Vietnamese soldiers and interpreters because of the degree to which friendly forces had been infiltrated by enemy agents. (SOURCE: Wikipedia.org)
I WAS SHOT TWICE
“As time went on we got more contact with the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). There is a lot of rice, ammunition and rifles,” said Pete trying hard to get his words out.
Pete and I once again take a break. This was the toughest part of the interview.
“Me and the scout moved forward. We run into about six NVA soldiers. We shot two of them. The others took off and we followed. One of NVA were hit pretty bad. We followed his blood trail. We get into some thick elephant grass and then it got really quiet. I knew them son of a bitches were in there. They were, and they were waiting on us. I got hit twice and the scout got hit. Then they all hit us. It was like the fourth of July. The rest of the company finally got to our location. I don’t remember too much other than I was in a lot of pain,” said Pete.
“I got hit in the hip, here in the ankle, blew up my femur artery. It broke my femur, tibia and fibula, an inch and a half of bone and sixteen units of blood. It took them forever to get me out of there. They finally got the medivac chopper and loaded me up. I did not know if my guys were dead or not. It was one hell of a ride back,” said Pete shaking his head slowly.
“They operated on me in the Quang Tre field hospital. I woke up and there was a gook to the right and a gook to the left. I thought I had been captured. Fortunately, I wasn’t. The doctors gave me the impression that they did not know if they could save my leg or not. I shouldn’t even be here. But I am,” Pete said.
“They eventually flew me to the US Navy Hospital Ship Repose (AH-16). I had a chance to see what had happened to me. The first thing you do is feel sorry for yourself. I did. Then they brought in a guy who lost both his legs and an arm. He stepped on a mine and I remember him screaming constantly. I thought to myself, by God, I’m going to be all right. He’s not. To top it all off the Colonel came in there and started giving medals to all of us. I would have liked to have him take those medals and stick them up his %^#.”
“I don’t how long I was on that ship but from there they flew me to Guam. One of the Corpsman by the name of Bradshaw was there from Lazbuddie, Texas which is just a few miles from my hometown, Muleshoe. I knew who he was.” “He said Pete, I am going to take care of you, and he did.”
I remembered I called my dad and told him I would be coming home soon. I left Guam and then they fly me to Travis Air Force Base in California and to Lackland from there. I am highly allergic to morphine but a nurse at Lackland gave me morphine. It was in my records and luckily, I survived that.
From there I once again was transferred to Corpus Christi Naval Hospital in Texas. There, I was put on an orthopedic ward. They put a pin in my knee and I was put into a full body cast around both my hips and leg. I still had mud in my hair. Believe it or not, I had not had a bath since all this had happened. Finally, the Red Cross contacted my folks and told them I had been wounded. My parents drove to Corpus Christi to the hospital. I had problems near my groin area and I asked my dad to pull up the sheet and tell me what they did to me down there. I told him, whatever it was it didn’t feel right. He raised the sheet and just shook his head and pulled the sheet back over me. I said, “ well, what did they do dad?” He said, “Well son, they cut off your balls.” I said, “You got to be kidding me,” and he started laughing. “I am not going to repeat what I said,” and we both started laughing. “That was my dad.”
“The hospital allowed us to have one cigarette at night, a beer and a sleeping pill. I saved up several sleeping pills. You mix that with the beer and you have one hell of a cocktail mix. The next morning when the Doctor was making the rounds. He noticed in my chart I had a bad nightmare and ended in a chair next to my bunk. They were giving me Demerol shots for the pain. There was a corpsman there from Sweetwater, Texas named Fred Butts. He was a short guy with curly hair and could surely play a guitar. He and I became friends. He bought me a guitar and I wanted him to teach me how to play. I never did learn how to play as well as I wanted to.
The ward I was in was pretty sadistic. There was a kid in there named Jerry Tumi from Oklahoma. He was in the bunk next to mine. He had been shot in the heal. They would take this large gauze and pack in his heal. I would laugh at him and say, “What is the matter Jerry, does it hurt?” When it was my turn I had the nurse take about six tongue suppressers and I would bite down and start cussing like a sailor.” He would say, “what’s the matter Pete, does it hurt?” we both laughed loudly at that story.
“There was a guy in there with me named Gary Hollingsworth from Lubbock, Texas. Long, tall red headed kid. He had somehow screwed up his knee. He would smoke his cigarette down to a nub and stick what was left between my big toe and my second toe. I could reach only so far. I had burnt toes on a regular basis. I told Gary, your time is coming my friend. It did. I had one of my friend switch bunks so Gary’s was next to mine. I had this long cane and it was hung next to my bed. They brought Gary out of surgery and he was laying there all peaceful. His knee was all wrapped up and had pillars under it. I carefully reached up and got my cane. I pulled myself up on the bed and proceeded to whack that son of a bitch across his knee. I said, “now we are even.”
These stories play themselves out all across military hospitals in America. It is a tension reliever for vets coming home from war. Their way of coping, thru laughter.
“I was in the hospital for over a year. I ended up in a VA hospital in Big Springs. I wasn’t really happy with the doctors there. I had seen some of their handiwork. They were convinced they needed to amputate my leg. I told my parents and that Doctor that he wasn’t going to do any cutting on me and that included my fingernails and toenails. In hindsight, maybe I should have had them take it off. I figured now I have had this limp for this long I am going to go ahead and take it to the grave with me,” Pete said as he slowly rubbed his leg.
MEDICALLY DISHARGED FROM THE MILITARY
“With all I had been thru I still had to fight to get a medical discharge. The Marine Corps was so kind since I couldn’t perform any of my duties they were going to just discharge me. My dad said, “that isn’t going to happen son.” I was just ready to get out of the military. My dad started to write our Congressmen. No results. After three long years, he finally got the attention from President Nixon. Don’t know if he personally read the letter but somebody did. I got a letter from the Marine Corps to report to San Diego and go in front of a medical review board. I flew out to San Diego. Was there three days. I had a Marine lawyer, who was worthless. He told me I had not have a Chinaman’s chance in an ass kicking. I told him if that is what you think then sit over there in the corner and keep your mouth shut. The first day I was there I was examined by one doctor. The second day I was examined by a bunch of doctors. By this time, I had cancer of the bone. On the third day I go in and all the Brass are there. I felt like I was on trial for murder. They wanted me to give them an example of a normal day for me. I told them what a normal day for me was like. They asked lots of crazy questions. They had me get up and walk. I was pissed off to say the least. Like I was trying to hide something. They asked me to leave the room and I did and waiting out in the hall. They deliberated. They finally came to a decision that I was to be placed on permanent disability from the Marine Corps at fifty percent,” said Pete shaking his head.
“I took the disability and the next battle was with the VA. Another nightmare. I got $180 a month combat pay in Vietnam. I battled the VA for years. Again, my dad stepped in along with a retired Master Sargant in the Air Force in Lubbock. I am now on eighty per cent disability. The VA has one of the most asinine ways of evaluating a person’s disability. It is worse than a Chinese fire drill. The Government has no common sense. I feel bad for any of these veterans coming back from any war and then have another war with the VA. There is no reason for it,” Pete said shaking his head in disbelief.
“I was officially discharged in November of 1970 after spending two years in the military. The Marine Corps teaches you to adapt. I have adapted pretty good. I have pretty much adapted to society. I have PTSD issues but it is not in my record,” said Pete.
INFO: Starting October of 2019 the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial will be publishing a six-part series on PTSD.
I have talked with several veterans along with professional counselors and PTSD medical experts along with Doctors from the Veterans Administration.
There is a tremendous stigma with reporting or being diagnosed with PTSD. Veterans say they know they were turned down from a job after admitting they were diagnosed with PTSD.
Most of the arguments are not justifiable but never the less, they are real. Veterans do not want to report any PTSD issues to their employer because they are afraid it will hamper them from getting promotional consideration.
Please mark your calendar for October 1st and visit our Facebook page at Van Zandt Country Veterans Memorial and the series will be permanently displayed on our webpage at www.vzcm.org.
PTSD is a battle veterans face from traumatic experiences from war, and then have to battle the stigma associated with the DISORDER. Phil Smith
“When I got to Big Springs VA hospital the first thing they told me is I had to go to Rehab,” said Pete. “So, I went into this big room and I saw guys making belts and some were making wallets. There was this guy with a ball of yarn. He was rolling it back in and back out. I surveyed the situation. I then hobbled myself out of there and went back to my room. I didn’t go back. I felt like, yeah, I screwed up but I wasn’t crazy. I am ok. You can experience something very traumatic and it surely can affect you. Going forward is up to you and the man upstairs. I don’t know what the answer is and how to fix it,” said Pete.
MOVING BACK TO TEXAS
“We moved back to Van Zandt County and closed on our house on March 15 in Canton. We looked all over North Texas. We have a daughter and three granddaughters in Wylie and a son in Nevada, Texas. We have a grandson who lives in Fate and a son in New Braunfels and finally a son in Amarillo. Lot of family in Texas.
I like to fish and just be out on the lake or pond. I don’t hunt anymore. After I got shot twice in Nam and once in the face and chest hunting with some buddies so I am done with that.”
“On my bucket list I would like to see more of the United States. I would like to go to Seattle, Utah, Montana, Wyoming and maybe Fall River, Massachusetts. The second thing on my bucket list is just to get up every morning.”
“I have some regrets. I would go back in the Marines but under different circumstances. Of all the services the Marines always had the lowest budget. I had some good times in the Corps. I don’t regret it. I don’t have any animosity. I understand all their madness of what they are trying. Not that I totally agree with all of it. They didn’t hurt me. It is a brotherhood. You never stop being a Marine and I am proud. I will take it to my grave,” said Pete.
Pete Guinn, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States Marine Corps. Your courage, bravery and honor will never be forgotten.
NOTE: Meet other Veterans from Van Zandt County by going to the top of this page and click on MEET OUR VETERANS and click one of the (5) branches of services and the veterans last name first, and click to read.
“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
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