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My Story

by Ben Musquez (Missoula '56) |

It has been more than 49 years since I met the boys of Charlie Company at Fire Support Base Hawk Hill in a place called NAM. The following is my story, my history, and memories that I will have for the rest of my life.

Over the years, there have been many people, like me, who have served overseas for months or even years. When we returned home, there was a great feeling that we were home. It made one feel like kneeling and kissing the ground, and I can attest to doing just that. After being away in foreign lands, I realize how lucky we are with our freedoms that many do not have.

During WWII many young men from our town of Sabinal, Texas, were drafted. Eleven of these men did not return home, and our community felt the loss. I felt a sense of patriotism, and it was then that I thought that I, too, would join the Armed Forces. I joined the U.S. Army in January 1949 at age 17.

I served for almost 30 years through the Korean conflict and two tours in Vietnam. I operated as a platoon sergeant from the top of the Delta in the south through the central highlands to the DMZ. I'm proud to say that I accomplished all assigned missions without losing a single soldier on my watch.

My life started on my grandfather's ranch where my father was working. He met my mother there. My mother died when I was 18 months old, and I was mostly raised by my grandparents. We moved to Sabinal, Texas, when I was six years old, and I was raised by my Aunts and Uncles.

When I joined the Army at age 17, I was assigned to AA Artillery at Fort Bliss, Texas. We were ready to deploy to Korea, but the mission was cancelled. Later, I requested Airborne duty and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. After three years, I Ieft to become a smokejumper and continued serving in the Army reserves.

Before I left the 82nd, I married my childhood sweetheart, Maria Rodriguez, and we were blessed with two sons and four daughters.

I jumped at Missoula 1956-57 and decided to go back into active military service and started at the bottom as a buck private. I soon was selected for drill sergeant duty and later would become Senior Drill Sergeant at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. We were getting feedback from Vietnam that the trainees from Ft. Polk were some of the best.

I thought that we were losing too many soldiers and that this could have been prevented.

At the time, no Drill Sergeants were allowed for combat duty as we were needed more at the training centers. One evening I talked to my wife and said that I had to go and do my duty in Vietnam. I felt that if I went and was able to save even one life, it would be worth it. At the time, my wife was expecting our 5th child and had four children at home, but she agreed. I had to push and pull some strings, but I went off to Vietnam in for my first tour of duty.

On September 16, 1968, while serving in the central highlands, I received word that I was the father of a baby girl. Twenty five years later, she would join the military and do her own combat duty overseas.

Through the ups and downs it has been a wonderful journey. Now you know the story. “We were Soldiers Once and Young.”