Ranger Exes Memorial-TX - Salute the RHS Veterans

Joel Jimenez (RHS-1966) 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 words, having fun. "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 happening. 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 Viet Cong. 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 opposite directions. "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 them." 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