Stories about my family

Month: August 2019


It was not unusual for an infantry officer to receive orders a second or even a third time. But it was a bit uncommon to be sent to the same division, same brigade, and ultimately the same battalion. It had been a year since I had been back to the 1/35th Infantry Regiment.

After in processing at 3rd Brigade Headquarters in early January, 1969, the Personnel Officer assigned me to Brigade Operations. I was disappointed. To be an Infantry Company Commander was my desire. Vacancies were few and were coveted by many captains in the division. In the meantime, I would become the best Assistant S-3 I could be.

As I analyzed after action report after action report for lessons learned, one thing became apparent. Many times inadequate security measures resulted in placing individual soldiers and units in jeopardy. Sometimes causalities were the result. Perhaps, from my cushy job sitting behind a desk, I was being too critical. But I think not. To my discredit I did not make friends and had much time on my hands.

I had always been somewhat of a loner. Depression is a strange phenomenon. I would never admit its influence on me. But it was there. I slept in a nice bed. I ate well prepared and tasty food. But in quite times, my mind would drift to family. My wife Phyllis, was a strong and a lovely person, but I knew I had left her a heavy burden to make a home by herself, manage finances, care for three children and make decisions by herself. (She never told me that she also struggled with depression,) as I had until years later. She explained she didn’t want to worry me.

But intuitively, I knew, and so in the darkest hours of the night silent tears would leak from my eyes. I was embarrassed and faulted myself for my own weakness. I asked for double duty to counter my loneliness and worked even harder to erase my shortcomings.

When the company assignment came, I was ready. I took command in March, but I was a changed person. For one thing, I became more careful when it came to matters of security and protection of my men. Security for units operating in the Central Highlands took many forms from always operating within range of supporting fires to spacing between soldiers. To close with and kill the enemy was fundamental to our mission, but not at the expense of adequate security.

Near the end of my tour a situation developed which tested my commitment to this tactical concept. (see Personal Integrity). Finally, the time spent at Brigade helped me better understand myself. More importantly, it helped me become a better commander.



Dad and mom bought a farm by the coal pits southeast of Warner, OK in 1948. They had high hopes of growing corn, cotton and other cash crops. But high hopes and hard work did not provide enough money to keep the farm going. 

The early 50’s were hard on small farmers as it was with most families in rural Oklahoma. It seemed to me that my folks were just hanging on, hoping that things would turn around next year. But it didn’t. 

Consequently, the family migrated to California and other places to work the crops. The money earned would then be used to buy seed, fertilizer, etc. for another year at the farm. So come harvest time dad would pack our tent and we would follow the other migrant workers. 

Several seasons we went to Stratford, California to follow the cotton and grape crops. Many times dad set goals for us to meet and when we met that goal we would be through for the day. He usually set the goal at 2000 lbs. when we picked cotton. We started early in the day when the cotton was heavy with dew. 

He would announce the goal early in the day, most times about 6 AM. Usually by 2 PM we were over 2000 lbs and could call it a day. At $4.00 per 100 bs. $80.00 a day was a good family wage in 1951. 

I believe it was 1952 when John Clark, a family friend, moved from Webber Falls to a small town in western Montana. He called dad for help. Acres and acres of golden wheat were ready for harvest when we arrived. Dad operated a combine that I pulled with a caterpillar and my brother drove a large tractor pulling another combine.

We worked for thirty days straight and went back home. Dad was paid $900. and Leo and I were paid $600. each. Dad took John Clark’s check to the bank and was paid partially in silver dollars which we had to spend. In those days the government frowned on hoarding silver. 

The money was enough to buy school clothes and shoes for us kids with enough left over to buy seed and fertilizer for next years crop, and a little left over for the mortgage. Money earned belonged to the family. 

Dad was a man of dreams, a man of convictions, a man of hope, ambition and a family man. But most of all a Godly man.  


My mother was more introverted and perhaps more intelligent than any of us. She had a mind that recalled events and transactions from the past with accuracy. Addie Burr was also an artist. 

Her artful use of the English language was evidenced by the poems she left behind. This poem was written while traveling from Warner, Oklahoma along route 66 on our way to Stratford, California. This story happened in the early 1950’s. Her writings emphasize her love of God and country. 

While traveling one day down life’s busy avenue
with no thought of destination,
where I was headed to.
I caught the glimpse of a billboard that stood beside the road the boards were weather worn,
the paint was faded and old.
Some of the words were missing from the sign
but the two words I did read.
keep going through my mind.
Find happiness it read,
I kept driving, and thinking, what is happiness?
where is happiness? does happiness really exist?
Is it on the other side of the world in some foreign land?
Or right here in America,
In the heart of every man who sincerely desires to find it?
I traveled on farther thinking and looking at the barren so then another billboard (prepare) I didn’t quite comprehend, so then I read on, (to meet thy God).
Then another billboard just up the road
(God’s Prayer Station)
the doors are never closed.
True it was no big cathedral with stained glass windows
and not an inch of carpet was laid
but just a simple little place
where another traveler prayed. 

Written by Addie Burr 

For mom. it was the notion that America is a place where there is freedom to worship God, which is the path to true happiness. What better way to express ones’ patriotism than to demonstrate a love of God and country. 



I took command in February, 1969. For several months B Company, 1/35th Infantry Battalion was involved in a number of small skirmishes. We had a few minor casualties.

Jack Burr

I had several encounters during my first tour with an enemy that had been trained in North Vietnam conventional tactics and usually fought battles with forces large enough to stand and fight. When they massed forces we used over powering air and indirect weapons to inflict significant casualties.

The enemy we confronted this time employed smaller units to strike and run. By using alert security teams permitted B company to anticipate where and when the enemy was likely to strike and take aggressive action to counter his plans and take the fight to him. Sometimes it was difficult for soldiers to maintain a high level of alertness when no evidence of enemy activity for days on end.

In fact, in those cases where we suffered casualties, the enemy had capitalized on lax security. But sometimes we suffer from our own mistakes. Such was the case on this day.

It was Saturday, June the 21st, 1969 when I called a halt to our search mission.  We had been on the go for several days and needed a few days rest. We found an area suitable for security and could be easily defended.  Of course, the area was near a stream where men could bathe, fish or just relax.

Platoon Sgt, SFC Freitas and I were sitting in the shade and talking about something that I cannot remember.  As infantrymen do, our talk turned to our profession.  We were sitting near the command post and overheard the battalion operations announce pre-planned artillery fire in an area about 4 kilometers from our location. 

SFC Freitas asked if they needed a forward observer for the planned fires.  The company RTO passed the question to Battalion Operations and the reply was affirmative.  I decided to go with him. I told my friend and RTO, Sgt Dill to inform the platoon leaders what we were going to do.

We found an elevated area about 600 meters west of our base and SFC Freitas made contact with the firing battery and started his fire commands.  With our binoculars, we could clearly see what the Sergeant was doing as he walked the fires along a ridge line and into a ravine.

Suddenly, a radio voice barked “SHORT ROUND, SHORT ROUND”.  We didn’t have time to react.  A loud explosion shook the ground as I could hear shrapnel whizzing all around.  SFC Freitas was hit by a large piece that took off his right arm at the shoulder.

I was kneeling no more than three feet to his right but was unharmed. I tried to stop the bleeding as I tended to SFC Freitas. I believe he was immediately knocked unconscious.  I called for help and continued my efforts to stop the bleeding to no avail. 

I cried and cried as I tried to stop the bleeding. But I could not.  I lost a friend.  After 50 years I am now able to reconcile his loss. (see preface to the “First Battle”, for comments about my reconciliation struggle.) 

NOTE:  A short round occurs when an artillery projectile does not have sufficient charge to reach the intended target and falls short.

Note: I was contacted by the niece of SFC Freitas a few weeks ago thanking me for writing this story. She had found the story I had posted over two years ago on the 1/35 Infantry Regiment website and contacted the website manager who forwarded her inquiry. I responded by telling her what I could remember about her uncle.

She was one of several relatives that I have had discussions with about a loved one lost in the Vietnam war. This is the most important reasons I maintain this site although I no longer write.

In fact, the Lord has impressed upon my heart to provide comfort to as many as I am able to find, or who find me. God has blessed me and I aim to bless others as I am able.

The decorations earned by SFC Robert Edwin Freitas include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star with V, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation.

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