Hello, name my name is Mike McBride. COL Tirone asked me to write a short bio of my time in the Marine Corps. I graduated from a small Catholic school in Winchester, Kentucky, in 1965. There were 6 in my graduating class 4 of us joined the Marine Corps and served in Vietnam at the same time; three of the four of us were wounded in action. We all made it home alive.
I was a helicopter crew chief/door gunner on the old UH-34D. My squadron was HMM-363, The Lucky Red Lions. When I first arrived in country, I was given a 12 gauged shotgun and put on night perimeter guard; at 18, that was a pretty scary first detail being alone in the dark in a hostile environment. After a month or so, I was finally assigned to YZ-82 as 1st Mech/window gunner. Our first mission was a huge eye-opener. It was such a hot one that we all received a letter of commendation from the 2 star in charge of aviation for Vietnam. It was like you see in the movies; we were in formation and being assigned our birds. Suddenly the sirens went off, and we all ran to our helicopters, took off for Ky Ha, flew in guns a blazing, and rescued several trapped Marines. After 251 more missions, I can attest to the horrors of war which I do not have to tell you, brave men. Many of our missions were emergency extracts of severely injured Marines, some as bad as what you have experienced.
When I returned to the states, I had 2 1/2 years left on my four-year enlistment; I still was not old enough to vote or drink (you had to be 21 in those days). I was lucky in that my CO allowed me to start college part-time. It took me seven years to get my AA degree. It was not popular to be a Marine during that time, nor was the entire Vietnam War. I would get so angry at the professors, who were mostly opposed to the war and ignorant of the soldier’s experience. I would cuss them a little and walk out; then, a few months later, go back. I do not advise any of you to follow me in that knee-jerk reaction.
After my four year enlistment was up, I was still enrolled at Orange Coast College; after graduating with the AA degree, I went on to Cal Polly for a four-year degree in hotel restaurant management. I spend the next ten years working in that industry. I had many young vets working for me. I tried to get every one of them to use their GI Bill for college and buy a home.
I moved back to Kentucky in 1979, built ten apartment units, and managed a coinvent store. After three years of this, I became bored and made the best decision of my life and went to work at the Lexington Blue Grass Army Depot, starting in supply. I became the Housing Manager and loved every minute of it until they closed the Lexington part of the Depot. I went to work at the Richmond side and became the Military Affairs Officer (best job I ever had). I would get reserve and NG units, including Marines, to train at the Depot. It is here that I met the most decent, hard-working, and dedicated Officer ever in COL Joe Tirone.
Joe would bring in men like you severely injured to the Depot for deer hunts. After Joe left the Depot, he got involved in Jason’s Box. I continued our friendship over the years with Joe, who is back in Central Kentucky working for the Army. I let Joe know I wanted to be involved with Jason’s Box and now am on the Board of Directors. Joe requested that I write about myself so that you would know what type of people care for you. I am not a professional counselor but have tried to help many veterans, some with PTSD and other problems. If you want to talk, email, or message me on Face Book, please do so. Feel free to contact me any time, day or night, if you need someone to listen. My contact information is listed below.
Lastly, I want to thank each one of you for your sacrifice to our country. After the war, Vietnam veterans were treated with the same disrespect as the politicians responsible for the war. Fortunately, there has been some progress in distinguishing troops following orders to serve and the politicians’ decision-making.
I am enclosing a book by Dan LaBlanc, a squadron mate of mine. Dan was severely injured when shot on a mission. If you feel like reading his story, please do so. Dan has made a wonderful and productive life for himself and his family. He has been instrumental in developing prosthetics for our wounded vets.
God Bless every one of you.