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Veterans’ Voices
Honoring our men and women in uniform

By MARY DRENNON

W

Special to the Tribune-Herald

aco resident Jose A. Morales, was only
17 years old when he joined the U.S.
Army.
“I’ve seen it all, done it all, I just
can’t remember it all,” he said.
Though he makes light of it, it was serious
business for a young man. In fact, he joined to get
away from the wild crowd, as the lifestyle wasn’t
for him.
In March 1960, Morales, a native of Brighton,
Colorado, went to basic training in Fort Benning,
Georgia, and advance training for infantryman at
Fort Lewis in Washington. He remained at Fort
Lewis for his first duty station for three years.

U.S. ARMY
In January 1962, on the heels of the Berlin
crisis, Morales was sent to West Berlin with the
4th Infantry, along with two airborne units, for six
months. The wall had just been erected in mid1961. “There was a lot of turmoil and tension,” he
said, but they were instructed to stand by and be
ready. “We were basically there in case something
happened. We heard a lot of shooting at night, but
we never got involved in combat operations.”
Morales returned to Fort Lewis and finished
his three years. He left the military at that point,
but three months later, he was back. He was
stationed in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks and
entered training as a helicopter gunner. Within
a few months, he would make his first trip to
Vietnam, one of several that would span a total of
48 months.
It was a volunteer program that required door
gunners for UH 1-B “Huey” helicopters. He was
stationed in Soc Trang in South Vietnam. Though
originally there only in an advisory capacity
– troops had not yet built up – there was more
than advising going on. “We were defending
our helicopters,” Morales said. Their job was to
defend “slick ships.”
He was flying into a landing zone when the
helicopter was hit, taking the engine out. Through
auto-rotate, they made it safely to the ground.
“We landed safely, but then you have to worry
about what’s on the ground,” he said. The men
were picked up safely and the bird was picked up
by a big crane device called a grasshopper.
When he wasn’t flying helicopters, Morales
served with the ground infantry, where he said the
“terrain was more against you than the enemy,”
he said, especially when it was pouring rain, and

Jose A. Morales, 75, served in
the U.S. Army as a helicopter
gunner.

Photo by Mary Drennon

the men were knee-deep in mud, soaking wet and
dirty.
Morales went again to Vietnam in 1965 with the
25th Division ground troops. In September 1966,
coming back from patrol in the middle of the night,
the men hit a Claymore mine, and Morales was
injured by a piece of metal that went through the
back of his leg and out the right front of his knee.
He was hospitalized in the mainland and went from
crutches to a cane before he came back to Vietnam.
Since Morales had only three months left in
Vietnam, they sent him to Germany in 1967 with the
14th Armored Calvary Regiment where he patrolled
the Czechoslovakian border. He then went back
to Vietnam with the 4th Infantry Division to the
Central Highland regions at Camp Enari. There, he
volunteered for the long range reconnaissance patrol,
some of his favorite duty.
Their job was not to fight, but to report troop
movement and the like. “It’s risky, but it’s safe
because you’re working with professionals,” he said.
“You never know if someone is watching you go in.”
Probably his worst time in Vietnam was with the
3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry (part of the 4th Infantry)
near the Cambodian border at Landing Zone
Incoming. There was a constant barrage of incoming
fire and the zone was overrun with 500 North

574 Youngblood Road, Waco, Texas, 76706 • 254.662.5571 • JRoof.com

Vietnamese Soldiers. There was mass confusion,
Morales said, with people fighting in hand-to-hand
combat. Morales was injured when someone cut him
with a knife. He also received superficial burns from
a flamethrower, earning a second Purple Heart.
Morales would continue with the Army –
including as a drill instructor and recruiter – for
a total of 20 years and 24 days, retiring in March
1981 as a sergeant first class. For a time, he suffered
from severe post traumatic stress disorder – he
was hospitalized twice – from the many things
he witnessed in Vietnam – including the death of
a friend whose helicopter was blown completely
apart.
Morales met his wife, Dorothy Lopez, while he
was stationed at Fort Hood. They married in January
1974. She passed away in 2012. In 2017, Morales
remarried to Jimmy Martinez. He has one son and
two grandchildren.
Despite the trauma he experienced in Vietnam,
Morales, 75, would do it again. “It was destined for
me to do. I’d do it all again, suffering and all.”
“Veterans’ Voices,” featuring stories about Central
Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday. To suggest
a story about a Central Texas veteran, please email
veteransvoices@wacotrib.com. “Veterans’ Voices” is
proudly sponsored by Johnson Roofing.

At Johnson Roofing, we believe in America and proudly stand behind the men and women of our armed forces.

OFFICE, WACO, TX 76701

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