Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania - United States Navy
I graduated from Penn State and reported to the Naval Special Warfare Group Atlantic. From there I was sent to underwater demolition team training, reserve training it was called. At that time, they still had Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL Training (BUDST). I had read one article where we were called the “commandos of the swamplands.” But for the most part, nobody spoke about SEAL team. Many didn’t even know we existed. When I graduated, I was a pretty good BUDST student, especially in navigation. If you're going to be a Navy SEAL, you can't just train. You have to go play at one point in time and I so desperately wanted to go.
I flew out to Vietnam and landed at Tan Son Nhut in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. It was my first time out of the United States and here I was flying into a war zone. I knew very little about Vietnam and didn’t know what to expect. The smell and sights were very chaotic. It was both astounding and confusing. There was nobody there to meet me so I hung around for a little while and went to play some golf. Finally, my buddy Tom Norris and found me and, and we went to Vung Tau, where I met my boss, Captain Dave Shively.
Most of our missions were to go in behind enemy lines and do reconnaissance to bring out information and, if we were lucky, bring out a prisoner to interrogate. The very first time I did that, I was afraid. We had no artillery support or medivac support; everybody had just left. We had no way of extraction except to swim out in the ocean and hope to find a Navy ship. All I was thinking was, “What the heck am I doing here?”