“A Year From Now You’ll Be Dead For Six Months”: Service In Vietnam With The 5th Cavalry

Brian Trask


Brian Trask was born in 1947 and grew up in East Wilton, Maine, with an older and younger brother. His father, who served in the Navy during World War II, worked in a shoe factory, and his mother was a homemaker who earned her teaching degree. As a boy, he worked at a general store and studied electronics at a state Vocational Technical school. He then worked for IBM and applied for an occupational deferment but was drafted in 1967. He was shocked when he was drafted and wanted to be trained as an Army electrician, but was assigned to the infantry instead. After basic training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, he completed Advanced Infantry Training at Tigerland at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. After AIT, he went to NCO School and considered it to be good training. He returned to Ft Polk as an E5 Sergeant (a “shake and bake” NCO) and was married during a three-week leave period. When it was time for him to deploy to Vietnam, he left Portland, Maine, for Oakland, California, and then flew to Vietnam on a Flying Tigers 707, stopping in Alaska and Japan before landing in Bien Hoa. He remembers being awakened in the middle of the night soon after arriving in Vietnam because blood donors were urgently needed for the casualties being brought in. He was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division at An Khe, and processed through Camp Radcliff and Camp Evans on his way to LZ Jane in I Corps near the DMZ. He participated in combat assaults in the mountains that had been defoliated by Agent Orange. He remembers watching engineers blow up enemy bunkers. He frequently spent two or three weeks in the field, punctuated by brief interludes on the base camp. The Cav then moved to Tay Ninh in III Corps and experienced better living conditions. He recalls an operation around Kontum Special Forces camp when he ran into an ambush. His unit had walked into an enemy bunker complex, and when he needed to “pop smoke” for incoming Cobras, he realized that he had left all of his smoke back inside the perimeter. That day he felt that he would never live to see morning. On Christmas Eve 1968, he was out on an ambush. The next morning when he came in, he recalls a Jewish Chaplain performing a Christian service, and that impressed him. By mid-January 1969, he was serving as a Platoon Sergeant. In mid-February, he was offered a job in Long Binh with the MPs, and eventually was assigned as a Security NCO at the International Hotel. When his old unit was ambushed in April, he felt that he was in the wrong place. During his tour in Vietnam, he and his wife met for R&R in Hawaii and enjoyed their leave. When his tour ended, he flew out of Tan Son Nhut and left the service right away. He was able to put Vietnam behind him until the mid-1980s, when his Post Traumatic Stress began bothering him. He realized that the fall season in Vermont triggered him. He visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by himself, and he was struggling in his marriage. Reading Vietnam War novels and historical accounts occupied his time, and he suffered bad dreams at night. He and his wife sought counseling and therapy, and attending reunions helped him reconcile his service and memories. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, being drafted into the Army, his service in Vietnam, and reconciling his memories of the war years later. He shares numerous vivid recollections of his time in Vietnam, including being demoted, surviving ambushes, and experiences on patrol. He honestly recalls mistakes he made in combat and describes the consequences. He recalls how his experiences in Vietnam affected his marriage, and the steps he and his wife took to improve their relationship. Finally, he reflects on what his service means to him.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie Returning from War Military Techniques Military Family Life After Military PTSD
interviewer David Siry
date 14 September 2021


name Brian Trask
service Infantry
unit 3rd Squad, 2nd Platoon, D Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry
specialty Squad Leader, NCO School at Ft. Benning
service dates 1967 1969