“After President Johnson left the White House, I asked to be sent to Vietnam. Once a Marine, always a Marine. You have to lay it on the line sometimes. I was in charge of all of the Marine helicopters in Vietnam. If a helicopter was shot down, I knew it was mine. Helicopters were an easy target. Every time we flew a helicopter, someone was shooting up at us. I wasn’t red hot about that. I put a metal plate under my seat so I wouldn’t get shot in the ass. The other helicopter pilots thought it was funny, but soon, they all had one.
Vietnam was rough. We lost a lot of men. I tried to help us laugh to keep up our morale. There was a lot of back and forth between the helicopters and the jets. While I was in a meeting, the jet guys painted my jeep psychedelic colors. I wasn’t driving that jeep 20 miles back to base. I called and ordered a helicopter big enough to carry my jeep. When the helicopter landed, I drove that psychedelic jeep inside and flew off.
The Vietcong tried to knock off the guys at the top. I was a colonel, so I was a target. I can sleep through anything, but one night, I heard a small tap, tap, tap outside my door. Somehow a Vietcong made it through the wire outside my hooch. I hollered for some Marines to help, and they saved me. It wasn’t my time to go. I guess the Lord had something else for me to do. I still need to figure out what it is.
When I left Vietnam, The Marines scheduled me to go to Hawaii. I changed my orders to Memphis. The Marines wanted to promote me to General as the legislative liaison between the Marine Corps and Congress. My family didn’t want to move to D.C. I put ‘deceased’ on the orders and sent them back. The Marines didn’t like that. I retired so I didn’t have to go back to Washington, but I am still a Marine.
The walls of my home are covered with memories and memorabilia. The Presidential flag was flown wherever the president was. The one hanging in my home was used the last time President Johnson was in residence at the ranch. I took the flag down on the last day Johnson was president there, and he gave it to me. I am 93. I lived through a lot and have thousands of stories.“
Haywood (Part Two)