One thing that bothers Vietnam veteran Gary Morgan is when people start talking about ‘closure’ in regards to the war.
“There is no closure,” he explained. “You have life changing experiences. And that was one of those.”
Morgan, of Laceyville, served as an automatic rifleman in the U.S. Marine Corps, Infantry Third Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, from 1965 to 1967.
“I was a grunt,” he said.
The reason he joined the Marines, he said, is because many of his family members have served in the same branch of the service.
“My brother, cousins. I even had an aunt who served in World War II,” he said.
Morgan arrived in Da Nang in August or September 1965, where he was assigned to parameter defense.
“At night I pulled guard duty,” he said.
Another of Morgan’s responsibilities was to locate and eliminate enemy snipers.
“It was a two-man team,” he explained. “I carried an automatic weapon, and my partner carried a shotgun.”
Morgan’s weapon was an M-14, a very effective ground combat rifle, which became popular during the Vietnam War.
The two-man combination was deadly for Viet Cong snipers attacking the parameter.
“We were contacted on the radio, or what was then called the walkie-talkie. We would receive information directing toward specific areas. It was called detect and intercept.”
Morgan also participated in Sparrow Hawk teams, in which troops were dropped by helicopter into specific areas to eliminate enemy forces. Teams would sweep down and try to force the Viet Cong to areas where they could be captured. If an enemy tried to break out or scatter, the helicopters would pick them off with machine guns and rocket launchers.
Morgan’s tour of duty came to an end when he stepped on a land mine which would cost him his left leg.
“I was on patrol – they were dropping mortars all around,” he recalled. “I was the point man, and we came to a bamboo fence. The fence had a bamboo gate.”
Morgan rightly suspected that the gate was booby-trapped. He avoided the trap’s first land mine, but unfortunately missed the second.
“I have shrapnel scars on both legs,” he said. “I was picked up by the medical helicopter, and taken back to the aid station, where a corpsman patched me up.”
Morgan would be transferred to various medical facilities, during which time his leg was amputated below the knee. He eventually ended up at the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, Calif. There, he was informed his leg would have to be removed above the knee, due to infection.
About 25 years ago, Morgan moved to the area where he met and married his wife Hildy.
“There are a lot of good things for me in this area,” he said.
Morgan has worked as a county corrections office at the Wyoming County Jail, as well as a state corrections officer for SCCI in Dallas.
“I might be the only amputee in the state that worked as a corrections officer,” he said.
Morgan believes that veterans deserve all the support that can be provided for them.
“You have people who gave their limbs or their lives for their country. Some call it patriotism. But if you look at veterans - all gave something, and some gave all. And that’s pretty much it, when you offer your life for your country.”