"You give up your life is what you do," said Roy Foote, of Leesville. He was speaking about what it means to be a soldier, to serve during a war.



"You give up your life is what you do," said Roy Foote, of Leesville. He was speaking about what it means to be a soldier, to serve during a war.
Foote himself served with the 5th Infantry Division, 77th Armored attached to the 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam for 8 months and 23 days in 1968-69, he said.
"We was on the demilitarized zone," he said. "We covered the DMZ from one end to the other with the Marines."
The DMZ separated North Vietnam from South Vietnam and was supposed to be an area free from military conflict, but both sides guarded the strip of land ferociously, sometimes creeping over, with fierce, bloody battles resulting.
"They had thousands of [North Vietnamese] across the river watching us, and we was watching them," said Foote.  Guarding the DMZ had enormous potential for being a deadly assignment. For Foote, and many others, the primary objective was crystal clear.
"I was just trying to make it out of there and get home," he said. Many, many did not. According to Foote, the Marines suffered great casualties.
"I seen them take the bodies of dead Marines and put them on a Chinook (helicopter) and take them to a reefer unit (a refrigerated trailer) ... then that evening a C-130 (a cargo aircraft) would come in there and pick those bodies up," he said.
"The Marines they contrlled that DMZ, and it cost a lot of people, but they did it ... they was constantly pushing back and forth," said Foote. One such battle in October lasted four days and resulted in Foote's unit being awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. "They tried to run the Army out of the DMZ, and they couldn't do it." But that battle, and all the others, left its impact on the soldiers and the Marines.
"It was a mess. It wore us all out. You had to be alert," said Foote. The North Vietnamese lobbed artillery that blew up all around them at unexpected times. Foote remembered a dining hall being hit by several rounds. More than 30 Marines were killed at one time. Others were killed in rocket attacks or in land mine explosions.
Two buddies, one by the name of Marinelli from Florida, and another named Lockhart, were both killed.  
"We didn't go by first names," he said. "Just last names. [Marinelli] got killed in the DMZ when his tank hit a mine. Lockhart–I don't know–stepped on a mine one day and it killed him.
"The other solders in the South, I don't know what they did. I know what the 5th Mech did, And the 3rd Marine Division. They had to suck it up," said Foote.  
"I always ask Marines what division they was in," he said. "They suffered some casualties too, boy, I'll tell you. Yeah they did."
"It was crazy how it ended," Foote said of the conflict. "It doesn't even make sense. Maybe we shouldn't have went ... "
To Foote, the price was high–about 63,000 lives.
"And that doesn't count them young soldiers coming out, the ones who made it back. A lot of them died at an early age with cancer or multiple types of cancer. The kids lost their parents. The spouses lost their husbands," said Foote, who was drafted into the Army the same year his daughter started kindergarten.
He has no regrets about his service. "I was paid every month I was in the Army. I was doing my job ... the Army was pretty good," he said. "I thought I might not have to go to Vietnam, but that didn't work out. I found out I had to go anyhow. But I wasn't the only one."  
Others, however, were able to get college deferments and avoid the draft, something that Foote said he resented at the time.
"But I don't now," he said. "That's the way it was set up at that time. I know people that ... went to college to avoid the draft. I don't blame them. if I'd had the money to go to college and pay for books, I would've went. But they snatched me up before I could ge enrolled. That's all in the past ... Their lives turned out to be successful,  and I'm glad.
 "I retired out of the Army," Foote said. I get a Social Security check, and that's more than a lot of people get. I can do what I want. I can travel when I want, and that means a lot. Personal freedom.
"Yeah, people need a life. That's worth more than anything, he said. "[The soldiers and marines who died] never got to live their life."