Veteran recalls fight in jungles of Vietnam
Jimenez honored with Combat Infantryman Badge
It was June of 1969.
Young soldiers were growing up fast in a strange world, and something
deep in the heart of a nation was tumbling.
Things wouldn't be the same again.
But in the deep jungle of Quang Tri, Vietnam, the turmoil of war had
been whittled down its barest tenet: kill or be killed.
Joel Jimenez (RHS Class of 1966), who will be honored with The Combat
Infantryman Badge on Oct. 20 for the events told in the following
story, was in that swath of jungle at that time and he was, in his
"I think I was ready, but any man or woman is never prepared for the
unknown," - Joel Jimenez
Jimenez, a specialist on a M-48 tank, and a company of infantrymen
arrived at a point in the Quang Tri province of Vietnam where soldiers
from the unit dispersed into the jungle for days, carrying out missions
and confronting the unknown.
"We had to wait for them to return," Jimenez said.
Over a week into the mission, the company was low on the three things
they needed most: ammunition, food rations and water.
Helicopters designated to deliver those vital elements were being shot
down before they could make their drop.
One option remained: traveling to a pick-up point about 20 miles away.
They left in a convoy.
Jimenez's tank was the rear lookout, and the men didn't see what was
Viet Cong cut off the convoy after the tanks in front passed, leaving
those front tanks aimed forward - if they turned to fire, they would
shoot in the direction of their comrades.
Jimenez grabbed a machine gun and started firing on the ambushers.
A rocket propelled grenade nailed the tank Jimenez was on, Ronald A.
Parrett, the tank commander wrote in a recollection of the firefight.
"I get back up," Jimenez said. "There's sweat, but it ain't sweat,"
he said wiping his face.
He got up wearily, shook it off, grabbed a machine gun and fired
hundreds of rounds. When the bullets were no longer pumping out of
the barrel, he grabbed another machine gun and hailed bullets on the
That gun cashed out.
He started grabbing grenades two at a time, he said, standing up and
showing how he pulled the pins of both grenades and slung them in
"Bloodthirsty - that's what makes a soldier a soldier," he said.
Under the massive explosions, the radio grumbled something.
Jimenez knew what it meant even though he didn't hear the words.
Cobra Gunship Helicopters swooped over the foliage of the jungle,
giving back up to the ambushed convoy.
"They came over the top and then, dah dah dah dah dah dah, and the
jungle becomes silent," Jimenez said. "We won that one."
But it was not without a fight that left shrapnel in Jimenez's neck.
Parrett pulled a piece of metal out - it was right next to the jugular.
"It was a well-planned ambush," Jimenez said. "We'd do the same to
Jimenez said he has only started talking about the war about five years
ago - and the emotions still well up tears.
"Many comrades didn't make it," he said. "That's the bigger part that
makes us stronger in the end... so we can tell somebody a true story.
In Vietnam they didn't treat us right. For a long time we wouldn't share
these stories because of the bitterness in the country."
By Brent D. Wistrom, Times Record News - 10/20/2003