The days were long, the nights monotonous, recalls retired Sgt. 1st Class Ezechial Bermea, of his 1966 tour in Vietnam.
He boarded a ship in Oakland, Calif., and after a 22-night journey, entered the war-torn jungle nation as the conflict was still building.
“We got to where we were going and there was nothing, no tents, no nothing. We had to erect camp that day, and at midnight we were still putting up camp,” Bermea said.
He joined the 21st Supply and Service Company, and spent the next 12 months distributing rations to the units stationed in the area.
“At night you could see the napalm bombs; just a big, huge orange flame coming up, and you could see the helicopters shooting and the (tracers of the) bullets. ... We saw a lot of action, but we never witnessed it,” Bermea said.
Aside from the occasional excursion to a nearby post exchange at the 1st Cavalry Division camp, Bermea said there was little to keep the soldiers occupied when they weren’t on the job.
“There was nothing to do. Once the sun goes down, you can go nowhere. You’re stuck to your hooch, and your weapon right next to you,” he said.
The Harker Heights resident recalls the monotony affecting some more than others, particularly those in his unit with families of their own.
“Especially the ones that were married, they cried every night. There’s no holidays, there’s no Saturdays, no Sundays. Every day’s a Monday. We worked from 7 o’clock in the morning to 7 o’clock at night,” he said.
The soldiers were given the option to extend their tour, but Bermea declined, and returned home in 1967.
“I didn’t want to go back. I was lucky because we went over there during the buildup, but I had enough. One year was enough for me, and I didn’t want to go back, and I never did go back,” he said.
From the other side of the world, he was unaware of the political climate back in the U.S., but realized the polarizing views of the war upon his arrival at the Seattle airport, where he remembers an unwelcoming crowd there to receive them.
“At that time you still had full combat gear and your weapon. They were throwing trash and sodas in cups full of ice as we were walking through that ramp,” he said.
After retiring from active duty in 1985, Bermea returned to working for Army logistics, this time as a civilian.
He and his family have lived in the area for more than 20 years.
From his time in Vietnam, Bermea keeps his combat fatigues, as well as some difficult memories, which he tries not to think about.
“I don’t talk about it, and I do not watch war movies. Why would I want to watch war movies, when I was actually in the real thing,” he said.