Harker Heights Mayor Pro Tem Pat Christ admits curiosity played a big hand in landing him in the Vietnam War in 1970.
Still in college, Christ had a front-row seat to the political activism and controversy surrounding the war, but from the outside looking in, he was unsure about his own stance on the conflict, so he volunteered himself to go while in armor school.
“It was very prevalent, what was going on, and I guess I was in one of those ‘I’m not sure this is the right thing, but I don’t know enough.’ ... I wanted to find out for myself, and that’s probably why I did volunteer,” he said.
He entered his yearlong tour as a second lieutenant with the Military Intelligence Company, 1st Cavalry Division.
“My first initiation into the Army is that I was given every additional task I could be given. I was given 23 duties,” Christ said. “I was the supply officer to the latrine officer to the varmint control officer. I got all those little extra duties to do. One of the biggest ones was I was responsible for the motor pool and all the equipment we had.”
Later, Christ was placed in counterintelligence, then became a briefing officer and analyst.
“I had a bunch of analysts underneath me, and these guys were all very smart kids, college educated. These kids were extremely smart. They could come up with all these great products of what was going on, and their analysis, they lived and breathed that. It was a challenge to keep up with them,” he said.
When he received word that the 1st Cavalry Division was headed home, Christ became the executive officer of a company, and was tasked with getting men and equipment ready to ship out.
“That was an extremely busy, hard time for me because I had all the responsibility, and we did it; we moved out,” he said.
Christ returned home in July 1971, deciding not to extend or return for another tour. Though he’d lived through a year of seeing the war for himself, Christ said the first-hand experience didn’t bring total clarity.
“I was pretty dedicated to what we were doing, and what we were trying to do, but there wasn’t a real good justification of why we were there, and yet, I still was in the military. The military does as our political leadership tells us we have to do it, and we’ll do the best job we can,” he said.
The tour did, however, provide a lot of experience for the young soldier.
“I learned a lot. I grew up a lot. I’d been in school most of my life up to that point in time. It was my first real job, I guess you could say. ... I felt like I was given an awful lot of responsibility for being so young,” he said.
The 68-year-old veteran retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years in the Army, and settled in Harker Heights with his wife, who served 28 years in the Army.
He has been on the Harker Heights City Council for 12 years and is active in organizing local Vietnam War anniversary events.
Christ said education about the war is dwindling among younger generations, and he hopes to promote knowledge about the impact of the conflict on history.
“Those were some very changing times for our country,” he said.