My Personal Connection to Staff Sgt. Robert Bales


What do you say to us Blogging friends having a few moments of real heart-felt honesty.

Was it General Sherman, who conquered and burned the South (my birthplace) that said “War is Hell?” Was the General going for the understatement of the century or looking to land a role on Celebrity Apprentice? In the interest of full disclosure I’ve had two drinks and I’ve been reading about Staff Sgt. Robert Bales being charged with seventeen counts of murder. When I’m stone cold sober I almost never think about Vietnam and absolutely never talk or write about it.

What do I know that you don’t know? What life experience do I have that gives me any right or authority to speak to this topic? In 1969 I went to Vietnam as an Infantry Staff Sgt.- the same as Robert Bales. On my first Hot CA – with all of two weeks experience – the Huey’s that flew in our platoon approached the LZ and began to take enemy fire. The chopper I was on – along with the 1st Lt. Platoon leader was hit and we all bailed out a few feet above ground level. As you can imagine the exit wasn’t calm or coordinated and the 1st Lt. had his head cut off by the Huey blades as it tilted to his side on exit. Here I am – rawer than uncooked Cowboy Ribeye at Ruth’s Chris and I’m the new Platoon Leader.

Fast forward the mental and emotional video a few months later and “my” Platoon has been CA’d into a South Vietnam Village in the Central Highlands near the Cambodia border. Army Intelligence (no jokes intended) tells us this seemingly tranquil Village is a refuge for “Black Pajama’s” operating freely in the area and regularly harboring NVA Regulars and ambushing US Army troops on Search and Destroy Missions.

We arrive and encircle the Village at dusk. Sometime during the long, hot and steamy summer Vietnam night mortar rounds are lobbed at our positions from inside the Village. A few of our men are injured but thank God no one is killed.

At dawn – on my command – we open fire on everything that moved. Mostly we kill Water Buffalo and farm animals but we light up every “Hooch” in the Village. I don’t know who died. I don’t know that anyone died – be they men, women or children. On that day – in my mind – every person in that Village was responsible for wounding and attempting to kill the men in “my” Platoon.

Was my command a bad call – an immoral decision? Only God Himself is going to judge me on that one.

What do you think? What would you charge me with today if it were your decision? What if I had served three tours of duty in RVN like Staff Sgt. Bales has served in the Middle East?

The Army has charged Staff Sgt. Robert Bales with the “murder” of seventeen “innocent civilians.” Maybe they were and maybe they weren’t! I wasn’t there and I’m not about to render judgement based on the reports in the Media and the Politically Correct Department of Defense.

If Staff Sgt. Bales went off the rails and killed seventeen Afghanis then I trust he will receive the very best defense we, his fellow Americans can offer.

In the meantime – like 43 years ago for Staff Sgt. Larry Stephens in Vietnam – when are we going to wake the hell up and get our young men and women out of this God forsaken pit of a country called Afghanistan?

Then again – that’s just my opinion.

Uncle Larry

7 thoughts on “My Personal Connection to Staff Sgt. Robert Bales

  1. Watson Ian

    I hear you, Larry. We have never given Vietnam vets their due. That we are fighting in the Middle East in a very similar situation shows that we have learned squat over the past years.

    Ian Watson

    Reply
  2. Anita in Ohio

    Uncle Larry,

    I know from what I am reading that you continue to feel that pain that your country has called and asked of you. I am thankful everyday, that unlike my brother who directly out of high school was sent to Vietnam to fight an enemy that he did not know, that I, as a woman, was not asked to do the same.

    I have often said if my home was broken into and that my own life was at stake, I don’t know if I could pick up a gun and kill someone else, but if any of my family or friends were in the room with me, I would not only pick up the gun, I would use it immediately to stop whoever who was so ill-informed that this nice little old lady would never cross that line. Larry, you were asked to cross that line at a very young age, not to protect just your immediate family and friends, but to what our government told you, “was in the best interest and safety of all Americans.” Thank you, Uncle Larry, you are a hero in my book and always will be. I know a just God has already forgiven you
    for protecting the young men who were under your charge, young men whose families were praying for their safe return and depending upon your guidance to make sure that happened.

    Fortunately, all my country has ever asked of me is that I go to the polls and express an educated opinion on my choice to lead our nation and our communities. A vote, that in this year’s election, will mean how life will be for our children and grandchildren in the days ahead. Will it remain a land that is free where anyone who is dedicated to their cause can become whatever they wish to be or will we accept that our government knows best in all situations. Uncle Larry, you and others like you, may not have given your life, but you definitely gave up a part of you soul to do what was asked by your country. Again, thank you, Uncle Larry, for reminding me that I have a god-given privilege to vote that has been honored and protected by brave men and women who serve in our armed services. May God grant you the peace that is able to pass all human understanding as you strive to leave the past in the past and look forward to much brighter tomorrows. I love your honesty in your blog as it humbles me as I reflect upon the life you have lead.

    Reply
    1. Anita. Thanks. Much of what you say is true. I don’t mope about the memories or expect a handout from Obama’s crowd but like millions of Vets – some silent – some not – they never go away. Larry

      Reply
  3. Well written and great analogy. Thanks for sharing. Sorry to hear you had to go through all that crap. As a non-action Marine I only had to deal with pain inthe arse Drill Instructors. Thanks for serving.

    Reply
    1. Christopher. Thanks for serving and I’m glad you didn’t have those experiences. Many Blessings to you and yours and keep praying for those in Afghanistan. Uncle Larry

      Reply

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