The Harbinger Online

Lancers in Arms

Dave Richwine

real guy

“Tossin’ and Turnin’” by Bobby Lewis blared through the speakers of a cherry red ‘61 Bubble Top Chevy Impala. Tensions were rising between the North and South Vietnamese overseas while the East and South rivalry was just beginning. The Lancer football team was two and seven. Dave Richwine was 18 years old and graduating with the 1961 senior class at East. Five years later, he was fighting in the Vietcong-ridden jungles of Vietnam.

His choice to join the service wasn’t solely a personal decision. His father served as a Naval patrol pilot in World War II and told him there was a price to pay for living in the United States.

“[My dad] sat me down and told me, ‘America is a great place, and living here doesn’t come free,’” Richwine said. “‘You owe your country some service for the privilege of living here.’”

East played a large role in Richwine’s success in the military. Mrs. Wilma White, his senior English teacher, taught him how to organize his thoughts on paper, which, according to Richwine, paid off the most for his military career. His football coach and gym teacher, Coach Jack Hammig, showed him how to behave and work as a leader.

Richwine went to the University of Kansas, and went through the naval ROTC program, giving him the option of entering as an officer into either the Marine Corps or the Navy. Following graduation and completion of ROTC, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

In 1966 Richwine was sent to Vietnam where he served as a platoon commander for six months, a company executive officer for six months, a company commander for one month –  and a battalion logistics officer for three months.

He saw his first heavy combat in July of 1966 during Operation Hastings, a four day and three night fight. They were being heavily assaulted by the North Vietnamese from the west, when he was given the opportunity to command the company as a second lieutenant, which is normally the duty of a captain.

He was climbing the ranks faster than a usual officer would because of the major loss of American life during the war and his performance on the battlefield. He was promoted to captain in seven months, a promotion that usually takes one and a half years.

And even when the war was over, Richwine continued to move up. For the next 26 years he went through aviation school, amphibious warfare school and commanding F-4 Phantom squadrons until he reached major general, the third-highest rank in the Marine Corps. Once he was promoted to major general, Richwine worked three jobs at the same time, from Chief Informant Officer to Director of Intelligence.

After retiring from the Marine Corps, Richwine worked for Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association for three years and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for four.

Now, he lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, still working with veterans as the Vice Chairman of the Board of the Carolinas Freedom Foundation.

 

Ron Ferguson

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In 1961, Ron Ferguson was looking to destroy the player across the line of scrimmage during his senior year football season. In 1968, he was was listening to the voices of the Vietcong, protecting the men behind him.

After graduating from East alongside David Richwine, Ferguson played football for Oklahoma State.

While he was at the University of Kansas, he talked to the Vietnam War draft board to tell them he was still in school and couldn’t be drafted. He didn’t want to be drafted and wasn’t planning on going to war any time soon. He only needed one more language class to graduate, so KU agreed to let him graduate if he went to the Army language school to learn Vietnamese.

But the military came calling sooner than he thought. When he was drafted in 1966 he decided to join the United States Army Security Agency, the top 10 percent of soldiers in the Army, according to Ferguson. Everything he did during those two years was classified for 45 more years  and he still won’t talk about it today. There were secret code words to get into every building he went to. He was a “spy boy.”

Ferguson was sent to Vietnam in 1968, where he was on the front lines. He and four others would travel in front of larger platoons, scoping out potential hiding spots for the North Vietnamese. He would get as high in the canopy as possible, listening for the sounds of footsteps or AK-47 rounds being loaded.

“If we were found, everyone behind us would die,” Ferguson said. “It was our job to keep the guys behind us informed on where the enemy was.”

During the latter part of his deployment, Ferguson flew planes “across the fence,” into Laos to gather intel on the position of the North Vietnamese army. None of the other soldiers with him knew what they were doing, only that they had “fancy gear” and were “different.”

“We liked to keep it that way,” Ferguson said. “No one could know what we were doing. Very little can give away a lot.”

He was decommissioned in 1970. He stepped off the plane to a mob of “hippies” protesting and booing the soldiers.

He went from being a spy in Vietnam to living in sunny Oceanside, Calif. His life isn’t a secret anymore, except for the two years he spent in the jungle. He spends his days riding his Harley along the coastline and traveling to tend to his farm in Oklahoma.

 

Jerry Weakley

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Mayberry R.F.D. will not be presented tonight, but will return next week at its regularly scheduled time. And now, the Draft Lottery: a live report on tonight’s picking of the birthdates for the draft.

Jerry Weakley’s birthday, March 26, was selected seventh out of 366 during a CBS Special News Report. He was being immediately called to duty for the Vietnam War.

After graduating from East in 1966, Weakley headed to Baker University, where he played baseball for one year and went to school for the other three. He then went into the ROTC program at the University of Kansas to pay for grad school and go into the Army as an officer. The only rule given by the ROTC was he had to go basic training every summer while he was at KU.

The only problem with being drafted was he was married with a son. So, he made the conscious decision to go through the ROTC program at KU so he could be deferred and go in as an officer. While at KU, he blew out his knee playing intramural softball, so he was deferred another nine months. But this time, deference wasn’t a blessing – he had to uphold his obligation to his country. By 1973, the Vietnam War was winding down, so he was put in the Army Reserves.

Weakley was sent to Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA, where he graduated officer basic training and was chosen to be a member of the Mobilization Designee. He was permanently assigned at Fort Gordon, mobilizing and demobilizing units who were being deployed.

During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he was called to active duty. He was in charge of Mobilization Plans and Operations, a top secret unit used to create plans in case of a war or national emergency. He helped reserve units with logistical support, transportation plans and medical logistics to clear them for deployment.

In the Army, there’s no small role. And the same goes for theater. At East, Weakley was a thespian. Through theater and speech classes, Weakley learned self confidence. He learned how to look a person in the eye and speak in front of crowd, which, according to him, set him head and shoulders above most of the people at his level, allowing him to lead his comrades.

But he always felt a little guilty he wasn’t out there fighting with the men he was deploying.

He was called back to active duty in 1991 to demobilize a C-5A from Kuwait, the largest transport aircraft in the military, and put together their welcome back ceremony.

“That was tough,” Weakley said. “Those guys fell on their knees, kissed the ground, and here I was, just a lowly major welcoming them back after this service they rendered to their country.”

Even though he didn’t fight, Weakley did his duty. He fulfilled his obligation to his country. He knew what he had to do and he got it done. He said he’s glad he was able to service the U.S.

After 23 and a half years in the service, Weakley retired. He became a stadium announcer for the Baker University football team and then did color commentating on the radio for the team. Now, he spends his days traveling the world with his wife and working as a marshal for the Masters Golf Tournament.

 

Joseph Cline

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Joseph Cline and his battalion stepped off the bus into the California 93 degree sun after 25 hours of driving. For a month, they spent every day driving from the “hide” to firing stations, practicing deployment situations.

Cline graduated East in May of 2016. A month later, he was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for the Army’s basic training. He hadn’t grown up with pressure from his family to join and he wasn’t a victim of conscription. He joined for his own good.

Cline was headed down a bad path. His grades were falling, he couldn’t focus on schoolwork. He knew he couldn’t afford college, but even if he could, he wouldn’t be able to keep his grades on track and felt he would end up regretting his decision anyways. Enlisting was a way to get away from home, all while working toward his future.

During his first couple years at East, Cline was a reserved, quiet kid. He didn’t go out much and wasn’t too keen on opening up. Once he joined the Harbinger, he became more outgoing and talkative. He wasn’t sitting at home, he was in the journalism room, singing along with the lyrics of loud music and helping the younger staffers with their work.

“After a year or so, I really opened up,” Cline said. “I felt unstoppable. I could talk to anyone or go anywhere and not feel intimidated anymore.”

According to Cline, communication is key in the Army. A soldier has to be able to receive orders and give information so the mission goes as planned. Without the help of the Harbinger, Cline said he wouldn’t be able to communicate or become friends with his comrades.

After graduating basic and advanced individual training, he became a 13M, a Rocket Specialist, where he drives a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System truck. He spends his at days at Fort Sill waking up at 5 a.m. for breakfast and going to physical training, then makes his way to the shop to work on the truck. The rest of his day is spent sitting in a military classroom at the local United Service Organization, learning how to evade capture and going through HIMARS drivers safety courses.

Cline has never been out of the country, so he’s looking forward to his upcoming deployment, though he can’t say where or when he’s going. He’s ready to see the world and experience real war, not just practice missions.

“I hope we see some action,” Cline said. “After spending days learning about tactics, I’m ready to put them to work.”

Cline’s entrance to the Army was a complete turnaround from high school. He was thrust into a life with drill instructors yelling in his face, always making sure he was on task. His unmotivated side is gone now. He’s on the right track now, he said.

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