Mel Feather grew up in Jamestown, New York. His father was a firefighter and his mother worked in a supermarket. He received a draft notice in 1968 while he was a history major at Fredonia State University. He completed his Basic Training at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, and his Advanced Infantry Training at Tigerland at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. He also signed up for Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) School before deploying. Leland Bryant grew up in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, in a large family of four boys and two girls. His father was a steelworker, and his mother took care of the children. He did not particularly enjoy high school, and participated in the “votech” program. He was drafted in 1969, and attended Basic Training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, and Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Lewis, Washington. Both Feather and Bryant deployed to Vietnam, and overlapped in 2nd Platoon, D / 1-5 Cavalry. They both describe typical patrols. Feather remembers being out in platoon-sized units and getting resupplied every three days, while Bryant recalls the strenuous work of carrying his pack, the M-60 machine gun, and 200 rounds. He also describes breaking the barrel of the ’60 jumping into tall elephant grass from a helicopter. Prior to D/1-5 Cav entering Cambodia, there were rumors of an operation, and then an “armada” of helicopters arrived to airlift the unit across the border. On June, 14, 1970, their fire base, David, was attacked by a well-prepared North Vietnamese Unit. At 0300 that morning, Bryant was under a poncho trying to stay warm when a flare went off, and when he “saw heads in the wire,” he picked up the M-60 and began firing. The battle lasted until dawn. D/1-5 spent two months in Cambodia until they were pulled out. Returning home, Bryant, who did not take his experiences at FSB David well, looked for solace in alcohol and drugs. He felt that he had a chip on his shoulder, and did not talk about his service, even though he eventually returned to the military and served again from 1977 to 1985. Feather was proud of his service, but regrets that he lost a Soldier. After grad school, taught junior high, and high school history. He still questions the war in Vietnam, and attended the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (“the wall”).
In this interview, both Veterans talk about their childhood, their service in the military, and life after the war. They discuss patrols, and their different roles in the platoon. They describe the fight at FSB David, and the action for which Leland Bryant was awarded the Silver Star. Finally, they reflect on what their service means to them.