Welcome to Fort Puke, Louisana. We provide the fun and adventure of FTA. The travel (to a destination of the Army's choice) comes later.
"Every man a tiger" was the motto at Tigerland. The signs were everywhere on Fort Polk. There was no way to lose sight of why you were there.
No idea why, but at the time, the trainees and cadre referred to "Tiger Village" as Peason Ridge. Everyday and everything you did at Tigerland inculcated the inescapable truth that you were Vietnam bound to fight a war.
Thousands of young soldiers marched under arches like this yelling cadences, mostly with a Vietnam theme.
An infantryman's days and nights are spent in the bush and on the move. We had the pleasure of marching through the Lousiana red clay and swamps. Hut, two, three, four. This is the life of a "straight leg".
Robert T. Lewis, at 25 years old, was a senior citizen in the company. Although there were several college graduate draftees above the average age, most trainees were 19 to 21 years old. It took the Selective Service a year or two to catch up with young men who did not go to college. Notice the shelter half stretched behind him. We referred to these as "sneeze sheets". There were problems with spinal menengitis at Polk and with the close quarters in the company an outbreak would spread fast. These sneeze sheets supposedly help control it.
Stiking a pose. I don't think the Viet Cong had much to worry about. Do you suppose that's why they sent me to Korea instead of Vietnam?
In the few spare moments that we had at the end of the training day, we would play cards and talk about the inevitable trip to Vietnam. Robert T. Lewis, Vance Loeffler, with Kenneth Leonard in the foreground. Kenny was killed in Vietnam on September 15, 1969 at the age of 20. This photograph was taken in January of 1969.
Robert Lewis, Vance Loeffler, and Kenneth Leonard with Perez in the background.
In the back, Robert Lewis, Perez, two unknown soldiers; front row yours truly, Don Lopez, Vance Loeffler, and John LaDuke... just hangin' out in the barracks.
Fort Polk Boys 2
The Fab Five working on a "Dirty Dozen". John LaDuke, Robert Lewis, Vance Loeffler, Michael Kerr, and Don Lopez
This is the Company A, 4/5th Training Bridgade shingle.
Graduation was in late February and we now officially held the 11B MOS. Graduation arrived with a bittersweet reality. The pain of training was over but the grim reality for most was that Vietnam was now just a few weeks away. The soldiers in dress greens departed this day for a 30 leave. The soldiers in fatigues are holdovers. I was heldover pending decision on my OCS application. I would be denied OCS but to my surprise, I would be on my way to the 2nd Infantry Division on the Korean DMZ. From left to right: Michael Kerr, Robert Lewis, John LaDuke, Philip McCune, Don Lopez with Perez hunched over in the front.
Another graduation day picture. Left to right: unknown soldier, Michael Kerr, Kenneth Leonard, Robert Lewis, John LaDuke, and Philip McCune. We had been through a lot together and after a few snaps of the camera shutter and a few hand shakes we said our goodbyes and in most cases did not see each other again.