Larry Nunn Remembered
by Jerry Prater
Larry Edward Nunn was born January 22 1947 in Fort Worth, Texas and lived most of his life in Azle, a suburb just west of Fort Worth. Larry received his draft notice and reported to the draft board in Dallas on December 12, 1966 where he and I, along with 36 other draftees were inducted into the Army. All of us were then transported by Continental Trailways Bus to the Reception Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
|Robert J. Dargis|
|The Reception Station at Ft. Polk|
At about mid-afternoon of our second day, and after we had our hair cut and checked out all our uniforms and all our supply items, a group of about 60 of us were loaded onto a “cattle car” trailer and transported to our basic training unit E-4-5, which was in north Fort Polk. We were divided into four platoons alphabetically, which placed Larry and I in the 3rd platoon. Each platoon consisted of about 60 “trainees”. Up to this point, Larry and I had not met face-to-face.
Our Drill Sergeants were adamant that everybody had to shave every morning. This was made abundantly clear to all of us when we were wearing in our dress greens waiting for transportation home for the Christmas holiday. All the Drill Sergeants were walking around inspecting the trainees and when they saw someone who did not look clean shaven, they had to pull out their razor blade and dry shave. Almost all of them were bleeding because no shaving cream was allowed, and they had to hold a towel or handkerchief so blood would not get on their uniform.
A week or so after we returned to Fort Polk, Larry was standing next to me as we were doing our PT. One of the 3rd platoon Drill Sergeants walked up to Larry and asked him if he had shaved that morning. Larry said “yes” but the Drill Sargent doubted that and he asked me if it looked like Larry didn’t shave. I looked at the Drill Sergeant and said “No, it doesn’t, but I know he did because he was at the sink next to me.” After the Drill Sergeant walked away Larry thanked me for lying for him so he wouldn’t have to dry shave.
Army Aviation Flight School
Inside the Barracks at Ft. Polk
Larry and I had no other contact during basic training because we were in different squads and I was on the 1st floor and Larry was on the 2nd floor. Our next meeting was after graduation exercises because both of us had been assigned to infantry training at Tiger Land. We spent time talking and John Heflin joined in our conversations before we were loaded on the back of a deuce and a half truck that transported us about 2 miles to Tiger Land. We met Ed House, who had been in basic training at an Army base in another State, and the four of us decided to be bunk in two bunk beds next to each other.
A Deuce-and-a-Half Truck Entering Tiger Land, 1967
Two incidents stand out during our time in Tiger Land. One evening in the chow line, Larry said something to one of the cooks that he didn’t like. As a result, the cook told Larry that he was to report to the mess to clean the pots after he ate his dinner for the next seven evenings. Larry was exhausted each evening but accepted his punishment. The other instance happened when we went through escape training in case we were ever captured by enemy forces. Three of us decided to stay together and work our way from the beginning point to our barracks. Larry took charge and directed us on our escape journey. Unfortunately we were captured and put in a “prison camp” where we had to endure indignities from the “prison guards”, which included having mud wiped on our face and our uniform.
After graduation, the four of us received orders to report to the Oakland Army Terminal to be processed and scheduled for shipment to Vietnam. John Heflin was ordered to report one day earlier than Larry, Ed and me, which resulted in him being transported one day earlier and being assigned to the 25th Infantry Division. The three of us were very saddened when we heard that John had been killed on September 2, 1967.
Larry, Ed and I were shipped out on the same day, and the three of us set in the row of three seats for the entire flight to Pleiku. The three of us were also ordered to report to the 1st Cavalry Division and we flew together on a C-123 plane to An Khe. After spending our 3 or 4 days of orientation, the three of us were shipped to LZ English, then we were air assaulted to the 1st platoon of A Company.
Three incidents stand out to me while we were in Vietnam. During the first week or two that we were in the platoon, we set up our perimeter for the night and Larry and I were in the same position with a highly experienced member named “Hand Grenade” Brown. We agreed that Larry would take the first guard, I would be second, and Brown would be third. After our time was up, we would wake up the person to relieve and give them the watch we were sharing. Everything went great until the very end. After Brown finished his last watch, which was supposed to end at dusk when we all awoke and started preparing for the day, he woke up Larry and told him to watch until daylight. Well, being the good soldier, Larry stayed on guard for more than an hour and then he woke me up. We didn’t know what was going on, but I pulled another watch for more than an hour before it started getting light. When Larry and I asked someone else why we had to stay on guard so long we were informed that Brown would always take the 3rd watch and, after about 5 or 10 minutes, he would set the watch up almost an hour and a half, wake up the next guy and he would go to sleep. He would do that when one or two “cherries” were at his position. So, Larry and I had to be on watch almost 4 hours each and Brown was on guard for no more than 20 minutes!
During the heat of the summer of 1967, a chopper brought out a 55 gallon can filled with ice, soft drinks and beer. The soldier from Company or Battalion HQ would reach in the icy water, pull out a can and hand it to the soldier next in line. When I got my drink, it was a can of beer. I told the guy that I don’t drink alcoholic beverages and asked for a soft drink. I was told to drink it or throw it away, but he would not give me something else. I knew Larry drank beer and I asked if he would swap his coke for my beer. He said that he really wanted the coke, but he swapped with me after I asked another time.
Larry and I were members of a six man patrol that moved during the middle of the day to a location where we were to observe and report any activity. We set up on a small hill that had no trees, there was a little foliage and it was covered with a grassy growth that was about three feet high. We set in the blazing sun for several hours, then we set up watch schedules for the evening. I must have been dehydrated because I kept drinking my water, but I was still thirsty. I drank all my water at mid-morning and I was still very thirsty. I asked Larry if he would share some of his water with me. He told me that he was thirsty and didn’t have much water. But he did share his water with me, which helped me make it until we were air assaulted back to our platoon’s location.
Larry, Ed and I had the same DEROS date because we arrived on the same day. We were given orders to report to Cam Ranh Bay for transportation back home on May 24, 1968. The three of us were on the same plane, and we, once again sat on the row of three seats for the entire flight to Fort Lewis, Washington.
To my surprise, Larry and I were assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, and once again we ended up in the same platoon of Company B, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry, 2nd Armor Division. I lived off post in Copperas Cove so Larry and I had no contact after hours. However, we ended up being on the Battalion Honor Guard together. I was a rifleman and Larry was the flag bearer and lined up next to me. We spent a lot of time training together and became very good. The Battalion had two formations that required our Honor Guard services, and we did a good job both times.
Larry and I were discharged from active duty on December 11, 1968 and we lost contact as we lived our lives after the army. I spent a lot of time after I retired trying to find Larry. I finally did and we met for about four hours on two separate occasions. I called to set up another meeting but his wife informed me that Larry passed away on July 16, 2015 after a three year battle with cancer.
I think about Larry a lot because we spent two years in the same platoon. We never asked to be assigned together, it just happened that way.