US Army Veteran Dave Pelletier is from Salem, New Hampshire, and is now living in Haverhill, Massachusetts. After Dave withdrew from Woodbury High and served a short sentence in a reform school in Manchester, he started working at Superior Shoe.
While at Superior, he enlisted in the US Army. Dave was trained as an infantryman and scout dog handler at Fort Dix, New Jersey and Fort Benning, Georgia. Dave served eight years in the US Army, with tours in Vietnam, Germany, and Korea.
Landing in Vietnam in 1966, he served as an infantryman with the 25th, known as “Tropic Lightning”. The 25th Infantry Division had its headquarters at Củ Chi Base Camp, near the Iron Triangle, from January 1966 until February 1970. Dave was assigned to the 40th Scout Dog Platoon, patrolling the area around Plei Ku with his dog, Lochunivar.
While serving with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 25th Division, under the leadership of Captain Emil Gregg, Private (later Staff Sgt.) Dave Pelletier, and his dog, found a submerged Vietcong bridge across the Suoi Ba Tu tributary during a search and clear mission. The action is described in an article by Lt. Frank Lawson for the October 28, 1967, issue of 25th Division Newsletter. US Army leadership was stumped as to how the Vietcong were moving so easily during monsoon season. Following ox cart tracks, on a hunch, the soldiers found a submerged, 36” wide bridge, roughly 20” below the water line, which allowed the enemy to cross the river quickly, with their full load of combat equipment.
During lunch with David, he vividly portrayed what it was like patrolling the jungle in Vietnam with his dog, often having to carry as many as six full canteens of water due to the heat and length of the patrols. Before a patrol, he would load his M16 with all tracers to effectively control his fire during combat missions. He talked about search and destroy patrols which often resulted in killing or capturing Vietcong and their supplies. He and his dog were assigned to go out on ambush style patrols, meant to engage and destroy the enemy. On one of these patrols, Dave was wounded, and received the Purple Heart. Dave also earned the Combat Infantry Badge during his tour in Vietnam.
One of the lighter stories he shared, Dave and his platoon members used to have a competition at night when back at base camp. The men would turn on the lights in the middle of the night and take turns shooting Cobra snakes as they were slithering around their cots. The soldiers felt it was better and safer than having a snake take a bite out of you!
During his tour in Vietnam, he was granted a brief R&R (Rest and Relaxation) to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which he fondly remembers. During the Vietnam War, the US Military, paid for the transportation and hotel costs for a “vacation” destination on the “approved R&R list” for each soldier about halfway through their one-year tour. After arriving at the destination, the serviceman attended a briefing on the location by the local USO staff (United Service Organization).
Dave said that other than transportation and hotel, you were on your own, and any expenses were out of your own pocket. Each soldier qualified for only a one-week trip to an approved destination outside of Vietnam. Some of the other approved spots during the Vietnam War were Bangkok, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Hawaii, Taiwan, and Singapore. The timing of a Soldiers “vacation” depended upon how many other Servicemen were on the list for that same destination. Each approved spot only had so many allocations available each week. The longest wait was for Australia, as it was the most popular. Dave received two “R&Rs” while in Vietnam. Because he contracted malaria during his tour of duty, was removed from combat for two weeks and then sent back after he recovered.
Dave earned his GED while in the US Army, and reaching the rank of Staff Sgt, Dave served two tours in Germany, one in Korea, and one in Vietnam. Asked why he left the US Army after eight years? He vividly described the problems with racism and drug abuse the US Military fell into in the early 1970s. In combat, he encountered no issues with racism or drug abuse, but in the post-Vietnam War era, Army leadership grappled with widespread alcohol and drug abuse, and several major and minor incidents of racism. Dave said most of the discipline was left to senior noncommissioned officers such as he. Many of the college educated, commissioned officers, would avoid confrontations with enlisted men, over substance abuse and racial issues.
Dave is quick to point out that these problems were largely solved after he left, when the US Military transitioned to a better paid, (compared to draftee pay) all volunteer force, after the end of the draft in the 1970s. The last draft call was on December 7, 1972, and the authority to induct expired on June 30, 1973. Making the high school classes of 1973 the last class to be drafted. The date of the last drawing for the draft lottery was on March 12, 1975. American Draft registration with the US Selective Service System was suspended on April 1, 1975. US Navy Submarine Veteran, President James Earl Carter brought back controversial “male only” draft registration in 1980. What caused the uproar, over the exclusion of women in the draft, was the nearly simultaneous admission of women to the Military Academies a few years earlier in 1976.
After leaving the US Military, Dave worked very hard, he installed carpet, worked in sales, was employed at Bradco Industries, and is now semi-retired, he delivers the Valley Patriot each month to readers throughout the Merrimack Valley. Dave and his wife Karen have been married for twenty-three years, Dave is blessed with, in addition to his wife, two stepdaughters, one son, and three grandchildren.
Dave Pelletier, truly a “Hero in Our Midst”!
The Dracut American Legion asks all World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veterans, to call (603) 518-5368 and sign up for an Honor Flight to the Memorials in Washington DC! Veterans of all eras are asked to go the American Legion’s Web site www.legion.org, and join the American Legion, preserving our Veteran’s Benefits for future generations.
John Cuddy served in the US Navy’s Construction Battalions (also known as the Seabees) after retiring from the US Navy; he earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in economics from the University of Massachusetts on the Lowell Campus. He has been employed in Logistics at FedEx for the last 25 years. If you know a World War II, Korean War, or Vietnam War, Veteran who would like their story told, please email him at John.Cuddy@Yahoo.com. ◊