Exert 7 A Hard Truth to Swallow

     Triet stayed around the Long Nguyen Secret Zone, after my 1/18th was pulled out. He dueled with Dick three times and lost, but it didn't matter. When Dick left, Triet just turned his focus onto the next Big Red One battalion, in line, which just happened to be Lt. Col. Terry Allen's 2/28th Black Lions. Perhaps more notoriety has been created around Terry Allen's Black Lions losing the Battle of Ong Thanh, than has been created around any other Battle in the Vietnam War. On the other hand, hardly a word has been said about Dick's Dogface Battalion winning anything. I find this remarkably strange, but easily explained. You see, as more and more of our people turned their thinking away from God, why wouldn't Americans begin to think more like her enemies, becoming more sympathetic toward our communist foe's victories and at the same time more dismissive of our own successes, rooted in Judeo-Christian values.    
     We will never know how many American lives were lost during the Vietnam War, due to tragic events occurring in a guy's family situation back home but Terry Allen's situation at home certainly contributed to his losing the battle of Ong Thanh. You see, in war, emotional stress brought on by events at home can be just as deadly as the enemy, because these situations cause trauma which shuts down the normal functioning of a keen mind. When a leader is suffering from stress created on the home front, the negative consequences are magnified many times over, depending on the amount of responsibility that person has been given. However, this deadly effect on a leader's mind can be very hard to spot. You see, a person suffering from this kind of severe and acute stress will many times actually increase their productivity in the performance of routine matters, giving the impression to all concerned that everything is not only okay but better than okay. So, it was with Terry Allen. Perhaps his ability to continue addressing the routine stuff was his way of masking the pain. However, combat is never routine. It's true that it is an endeavor which is filled with many routine and boring hours, but those boring hours are interlaced with moments of living hell on earth. It's during these hellish moments that the creative juices of one's brain are needed the most, but that creativity is severely curtailed if the mind is unduly stressed to begin with. Furthermore, during these violent moments, one can never count on just drawing from the well of old learned habits, as can be done during the boring routine times. It was those creative juices which allowed Captain Caudill to visualize what he needed to do next during the battle of Da Yeu and it would be the stoppage of those creative juices, more than anything else, which would lead to the death of Lt. Col. Terry Allen and half his men in A and D companies.

     Six days after my unit was removed from the field the 2/28th Black Lions of the First Division faced-off with that same "ole nemesis", of the First Division, Vo Minh Triet, and this time Vo's dream finally came true, albeit at the expense of hundreds of NVA conscripts under his command. 

     Terry Allen, the commander of the Black Lions, was a major when he first arrived in Vietnam. He was married to a beautiful woman, and they had three beautiful daughters. Shortly after arriving in Vietnam, he had been given the coveted job of operations officer for the Black Lions Battalion. It was that next step for anyone reaching for the stars and Terry was now well on his way to having those far-off stars come down out of the sky and land squarely on his shoulders. There was nothing but smooth sailing ahead to make that dream come true, if he could just keep his head down and continue to do an average job. You see, his father had been a popular commander of the First Infantry Division in World War II, so his ascension in the military was arguably a birth-right of sorts. Yes, his was a story book life until a personal tragedy struck shortly after moving into his new assignment at third Corps. His much younger wife not only started having an affair with a rodeo clown in their hometown of El Paso but had allowed the clown to move into their home with her and their three young daughters. It was a stabbing wound straight through Terry's heart and I believe one which turned him into just a shadow of himself.

     Now, Terry Loved his wife in the same way Adam loved Eve, so he took leave and went home to try and reconcile things to no avail. The trouble, however, with Terry and Adam too, was this. What both men thought was love really wasn't love at all. It was a passion filled emotion, which both men placed high above their love for God. Looking back on the tragedy of "Ong Thanh" in that all too common hindsight offered up by the world, some would later say Terry was incompetent, as a battalion commander. Others would say that he was pressured from above to do things which he normally would not have done. A few would simply call him a fool. Many would simply state the obvious. However, the obvious can also be the superficial. I say that Terry had already started to die long before he marched to his tragic death on October 17th of 1967 and here is the reason for that. You see, when we put our feelings for anything or anyone above our love for God, our soul starts to die, and a paltry passion soon takes the place of real love. The shocking truth is this. Most husbands, including Terry, never love their wives in the first place, because they do not love God. What they experience instead is passion and all passion fades with time. I know this to be true, because I have experienced both strong passion and God's love.

     Big Jim Shelton was already operations officer (S3) of the 2/28th Black Lions when his battalion commander was fired. Terry Allen was then promoted to Lt. Colonel and given the job in that man's place. Big Jim had played college foot ball, was happily married and had six kids. He was book smart and wore his emotions on his sleeve. He had learned how to be loyal to his superiors in the same way he had learned to be loyal to his coaches in school. In other words, he would carry out their commands, no matter how foolish he thought them to be, and then he would spend a great amount of time complaining to himself about it. Big Jim was a socializer and a talker and an all around good guy but like so many others he walked in his own light and not that of the Holy Spirit. He would never have dreamed of changing an order to pop smoke if that order was given by General Hay, as the Holy Spirit led Captain Caudill had done.

     As battalion S3, Big Jim was in closer proximity and required to work in sync with the battalion commander more than any other person in the unit. In this way, it was only natural for Terry to start confiding in the very loyal, trustworthy and family minded Jim Shelton. Maybe he shared the dirty details of his home life with Jim on one of those very damp drizzly dark nights, in a smelly bunker somewhere in War Zone C because he just couldn't keep the mental anguish of it to himself any longer. No matter how or where it happened, it happened, and one black night Terry let it all come rolling out. Many years later retired Brigadier General Jim Shelton would tell about these shared family secrets, little knowing that he was giving enough clues for a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ to deduce the much more profound spiritual reasons for why the events of October 17th 1967 had happened the way they did. The truth is this. There were many reasons for the outcome of the Battle of Ong Thanh to turn out the way it did. The much broader overall reason was this. A nation which has completely turned its back on God's directions can never win any lasting righteous endeavor on a national level, unless that nation returns to God for guidance. Even the ungodly George Patton knew this and sought prayers for the battles he faced. Yet, in a righteous war, there can be righteous victories within the larger defeat. In the bible, David won every battle he fought in the midst of King Saul's ultimate defeat by their common enemy, the wicked Philistines. Since the first of October Dick had won three major battles with Triet. The circumstances in two of those battles were almost identical to the Battle of Ong Thanh. The question which has never been answered is this. Why did Dick win all three times and just a few days later Terry faced the same enemy under identical circumstances and was slaughtered?

     I believe a major reason for that was because Terry's personal trauma had become a tipping point. Unlike Dick who had also walked in his own light, Terry had no Christian legacy from the missionary's daughter to fall back on. His life was already a ticking time bomb and that trouble at home became the fuse igniting the bomb, which blew his command apart. Yet, Terry was a good man and I believe that he was a born again Christian. However, he chose not to walk with God and to make matters worse he had nothing outside himself to reshape his thinking. He had been living life like so many other Americans, which was anyway he saw fit, rejecting the notion of an ongoing walk with God's Holy Spirit. The irony is this. I believe (though there is know way I can be certain) our commander too, though Christian, also chose not to pursue that walk. He also was living life anyway he saw fit. However, Dick was fortunate enough to have had that "anyway he saw fit" kind of thinking shaped by the enlightened legacy of the missionary's daughter, as a child growing up on the ranch. His soul was able to reflect that light even if he didn't understand it. The missionary's daughter, more than any other Christian in South Texas, had literally reshaped the chaotic culture of the world around her, turning chaos into order for many people and Dick was one of those people. Simply put Dick became the beneficiary of her actions.