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Veterans’ Voices Ve Honoring our men and women in uniform By MARY DRENNON Special to the Tribune-Herald Note: This article was originally published in 2018. B T By MARY DRENNON en Dever, 75, of Hewitt, never intended to Special to the Tribune-Herald make a career out of the military. But two he hills hadtonames: Landing Firebases) Alpine, tours Vietnam, twoZones tours(and to Germany, and Manchester and Winchester. But they weren’t some 22 years later, he retired from anything the U.S. local. They were the namesinofNovember hills in Vietnam that often Army as a lieutenant colonel 1988. served as was area for small aircraft — especially Dever born in Washington, D.C.,helicopters and raised—into the northern Virginia area. Manassas land. And, it was to these hillsHe thatattended China Spring resident,High School in Virginia and end graduated when he was Bobby Brister, 70, would up serving on during the18. Vietnam College was on his mind and he enrolled in the War. University Richmond but quit Brister, aof Waco native, always knewafter aboutthree duty.semesters. He was “I ran out of money and I ran out of grades,” hetosaid. surrounded by family members who had served. Moving At the time, school didn’t feel like the right place. So Atlanta, Georgia, at agefor 6 he up there company. and graduated from Dever went to work thegrew telephone high school. By the time he was 18, he already registered He was 21 years old when he received had a draft noticefor the draft andSam. came back to Waco.not He wasn’t at the from Uncle He decided to waitsure until he time waswhat he was going to do. “Ithe didn’t said. “I was1966 free.” drafted and joined U.S.know,” ArmyBrister in November withInathe buddy on theBrister, “buddy plan,” The to meantime, a cousin andDever friendsaid. went down buddy designed to allow a person joining join theplan U.S. is Navy on the 120-day plan, a deferred plan. the While he service to serve time buddy. was waiting, he lefttheir Waco andwith went their back to AtlantaThings and worked didn’t quite work out that way, as both were for a time at Owen-Illinois glass. Then he gotmen a draft notice for assigned fferent platoons. They the Army.as platoon leaders of different never saw each other again. He returned to Waco to talk to the Navy recruiter, who said there was no space available, but was able to get him into the U.S. Marines. He went to boot camp in 1968 in San Diego, California, where his advanced training was in heavy artillery completing hisItbasic at “With Fort Bragg, onAfter the 105 mm howitzer. wasn’ttraining his choice. the Marine North was at selected forheOfficer Corps,Carolina, it was whatDever was needed the time,” said. Candidate School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In September 1967 ― while Vietnam was in full tilt ― he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. “My paycheck as an officer was a grand total of Brister wentsaid. immediately after his 30-day home to $300,” Dever “I asked how I couldleave make more Quang Tri Vietnam in September 1968, where he joined the money.” Bravo of the Battalion, 12th Marines, Marine The Company answer, he was1sttold, was flight school, 3rd so he Division.to go. He had to wait his turn and spent the decided timeAas a platoonwhen leader in aarrived, searchlights battery a batteryman he first Brister spent his for second couple of months before he wasHeoffand to another Mineralman Wells, day in Vietnam on reconnaissance. — Texas, and—flight both new had toschool. sit at the bottom of the hill and listen for At this point, Dever Carla Taylor inM-16, April movement at night. Sittingmarried quietly out there with his 1968 in listening, Virginia.and It was two days assassination “you’re you know you’reafter goingthe to hear 10,000 of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Riots were things,” he said. “And you’reand newhis in the country youtheir don’t everywhere when Dever new wife and spent know what to listen for or not. You just kept waiting for the honeymoon driving to Texas for his training. They next guy to come.” couldn’t drive at night due to a curfew. The grunt work didn’t last long. Brister became a section chief inHelicopter his battery of (usually) six men, although the gun could be training Dever on the fired withtrained four. Theirs wasOH-23 a mobilelight unit, observation traveling from landing helicopter at Fort in Mineral Wells, then he zone to landing zoneWolters via helicopter, with the gun hooked up learned to fly the combat Huey helicopter at Fort underneath. Rucker, even though that wasn’t what he fired WhileAlabama, it was dangerous, Brister doesn’t recall ever being would fly in Vietnam. upon the air.exactly Helicopters would land, and thehe men would Andinthat’s where he went after af ter graduated set up four guns in a zone. As section chief, Brister checked U.S. ARMY Part 1 U.S. MARINE CORPS from flight training in 1969 ― straight to Vietnam, where he was stationed in the I Corps, the northernmost quadrants, elevation and adjustments before firing the gun.at the region of South Vietnam, bordering North Vietnam Vietnamese Demilitarized In all, Brister participatedZone. in 16 different operations in South Dever was assigned platoon leader an AirVietnam. Vietnam and close to theas demilitarized zone infor northern Cavalry troop: F Troop, 8th Cavalry. His job to fly2, He traveled to five different landing zones, includingwas Charley the “scout bird,” as they called it, or Loach, for light where they went between missions. observation helicopter (OH-6 Cayuse). It was one of the Memorable most dangeroustime assignments in Vietnam. His job was to fly out low toZones the ground andWinchester observe where enemy Landing Alpine and were thethe most may be. Once found couple Cobras memorable for they Brister. Everythe dayenemy, at Zone aAlpine, theofmen would would come in to take care of things. get two incoming mortar rounds from the enemy, followed that “I’m the he said. evening by bait,” jets bombing around the hill. It was how they (the The small helicopter might take fire, and a crew enemy) adjusted their firing, Bristerbomb said. to mark the location member would throw a smoke They never did find out who was firing locatedarrived a hole and of the enemy. Then they fired until thebut Cobras where the mortar round was and destroyed it. they could get away. “Sometimes you don’t see anything. just cutting At Landing Zone Winchester, it was ratsYou’re — and monsoons. holes“During in the sky,” he said. the monsoon you stayed wet,” Brister said. “We would fire in our shorts, hats and boots. If you had anything dry, Shot down you to stay that He wanted was initVietnam forway.” five months flying over the Chu At night,doing the rats, attracted by the foodmissions left behind by the Lai region search-and-destroy over thelast tenants, would jump up under the sleeping pallet and hit Brister mountains. On one mission, the crew chief yelled, “I got one running!” Ashethe turned back around, it rats, tookthey in the back when wasbird trying to sleep. “They weren’t small fire and lost“To an this engine. were trying to were arms monsters,” he said. day, IThey don’t like rats.” get the copter a smallbefore clearing tree on the way Roughly twotomonths he wasbut to hit leavea Vietnam, Brister down. went home on emergency leave when his father died. While he 574 Youngblood Road, Waco, Texas, 76706 • 254.662.5571 • JRoof.com Ben Dever, of Hewitt, retired as a lieutenant colonel China Spring after 22resident years of Bobby service Brister served as in the U.S. a section chief with the Army. U.S. Marines the Photo byduring Mary Drennon Vietnam War. “We just crashed in enemy territory,” Dever said. Photo by Mary Drennon The crew chief and observer both were okay, but was in Waco, he married Judy Herbert; in they to ditch their Dever had compression fractures hishad back. Twowedding Cobrasplans. started shooting at the enemy and a Hawaii Huey came and picked them up. “We wereinnot When he returned to Vietnam, he was placed Echoon the ground more than five minutes,” he said. Company with the 3rd Division, which was about to pull out HeVietnam. was taken to an aidback station, ana evacuation from Brister went to thethen Statestovia Navy troop hospital in Vietnam. From there, he went to a hospital carrier. “That’s when I finally got my Navy experience in,” he in in Japan, then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center joked. D.C., effectively ffectively ending his tour. tour. On Feb. 12, 1970, was mustered of the Marines, but After about two he months he wasout stabilized and sent to Fort Meade, lightearned duty. his Right after spent four years inMaryland, the Reserves.for Brister associate he gotatout of the was promoted captain. degree Texas Statehospital, Technicalhe College in Waco andtowent to Dever spent about a year at Fort Meade, becoming work for Owens-Illinois in Waco for 32 years before retiring. company commander of the Army garrison before he Today, he and his wife have been married 48 years. They have two left. children andwent two grandchildren. He then to an advanced training course at Fort For a long time,where Brister he didn’t talk about Sill, Oklahoma, geared up tohis goexperience back to in Vietnam. He wasn’t hiding. It just wasn’t popular. Today, he Vietnam. wouldn’t want to do it again, but he’s thankful for the experience. Next serves again Vietnam and goes “Backweek: then,Dever that’s just what youindid,” Brister said. directly to Germany. His military service continues with a “Veterans’ Voices,” featuring stories about variety of assignments, including commanding troops. Central Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday. “V erans’aVoices,” featuring stories about Central To“Vet suggest story about a Central Texas Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday. To suggest veteran, please email email@example.com. a story about a Central Texas veteran, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Voices” is “Veterans’ Voices” is proudly“Veterans’ sponsored by proudly sponsored by Johnson Rooﬁng. Johnson Roofing. At Johnson Rooﬁng, we believe in America and proudly stand behind the men and women of our armed forces.