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Duty in the sky

Hindel reflects on his combat missions, time in Vietnam

David Hindel stands next to his garden.
By Josie McCormick Staff Writer for Coshocton Tribune (Ohio).
Photograph by Trevor Jones.

DRESDEN -- When David Hindel graduated from Tri-Valley High School he told his mother that he would be headed to Vietnam before the next class graduated. "I knew I was going to get drafted, there was no doubt in my mind," Hindel said. "I went with the attitude that I was going to do the best I could do and do what I had to do."

Before shipping off for training, Hindel's family, which includes several relatives who saw time in World War II or Korea, gave him advice about what to do when in the military.

"My family told me to keep my head up and do the best I could do."

Once drafted, Hindel's first stop was Fort Jackson, S.C., where he was with D Company 5th Battalion First Brigade. From there he moved on to combat engineer training at Fort Lenard Wood, Mo.

Hindel ended up in combat engineer training by luck. "When we took our tests to see what military occupation specialties we qualified for at Fort Jackson, I was sick and that night they asked me what I wanted to be and I said an engineer," Hindel said. "There is no doubt in my mind that I did poor on those tests and that I should have been in the infantry."

After training, Hindel moved on to Vietnam and the Army's B Company 326th Engineers 101st Airborne. "You are never prepared to go into a place like that," Hindel said. "You do the best you can do and hope God will take care of you. I had good training and was in good shape, but you knew where you where going and what your chances of coming home were." Hindel, however, felt that he was lucky because he was not in the infantry.

Hindel served in Vietnam with the Army's
B Company, 326th Engineers,
101st Airborne Division.

"I might not go out every time they (the infantry) went out," Hindel said. "They could go out five days and I might go out for only three of them." As a combat engineer Hindel's job often consisted of clearing minefields, blowing tops off of mountains for fire bases or trees off of land for landing zones and blowing up booby traps.

On Hindel's first mission in Vietnam his unit did not see any action, but it didn't take him long to find out what combat was all about.

One of the many missions that Hindel went on with his unit was to support the 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi.

"They (the Vietcong) hit us with everything but the kitchen sink," Hindel said. "I was never scared during the whole thing until it was over. You could hear bullets whizzing past your ears. There are something's that you don't forget and others that you wish you could forget."

When Hindel went out with his unit the next day they found no bodies and no brass.

"At first I thought I was never coming home, but when I got there I knew I was coming home because God told me I was," Hindel said. "I could have extended my tour 55 days and gotten out early, but a voice told me that if I did that I was not coming home."

Not extending his tour saved Hindel from going to Hamburger Hill with his unit, which was a battle fought in the A Shau Valley for Ap Bia Mountain from May 10-20, 1969. Fifty-six Americans were killed, 420 wounded and 597 Vietnamese were killed. The hardest part of being in Vietnam for Hindel was being away from home, but his friends, family and the girl he was dating at the time, kept in touch with him on a regular bases through letters.

"The mail was the main thing that kept my mind off of everything that was wrong," Hindel said. Upon his return home from Vietnam, Hindel discovered that he had to learn to curve the cuss words that were a part of everyday life in Vietnam.

"I had to learn to watch my tongue," Hindel said. "People also asked where you had been and you didn't want to say Vietnam because they might call you a baby killer. I don't even know if I killed anyone. I knew what it was like to see people die though." Over the past several years Hindel has looked up men that he served with, had his pictures from Vietnam organized on the computer for easy access and collected Vietnam memorabilia.

"I met a lot of good people there," Hindel said. "I now get e-mail's from people all over the United States that I was in Vietnam with."

Hindel is also very active with the Coshocton County Vietnam Veterans. He joined the organization in 1988. He is the first vice and participates in parades with them and any community service projects that they take part in.

"I have heard great things about them (the Coshocton County Vietnam Veterans) and have talked with members at their fair booth over the last several years," Herb Tidrick, assistant veterans service officer said. "I liked the way they presented themselves and what they are trying to do for area veterans." Tidrick was so impressed with the group that he recently joined it. When Hindel first came home from Vietnam, meeting other veterans of the war such as those who belong to the Coshocton County Vietnam Veterans, helped him learn to deal with his experiences.

"I learned to talk about it with someone that would listen to you," Hindel said. "I joined the Coshocton County Vietnam Veterans because of the guys. They are a good bunch of guys and it is family oriented."

Facts on Hamburger Hill were contributed to this story from 295-3417 Originally published Monday, June 23, 2003