Photos fading, but Vietnam memories stay alive for Fallowfield Township resident
Dave Weygandt looks at an old photo his father took of him and three friends shortly before the four teens headed off to the Army.
The photo, taken nearly 45 years ago, is fading, but the Fallowfield Township resident recalls the day his father snapped it on the family farm in Ginger Hill.
Two of the three in the photo are Paul and Steve Barkey, whom he learned in high school were his cousins. They became close friends and when they graduated in 1967 from Monongahela High School, they enlisted together in the Army Security Agency. They joined under the Army's buddy system, which guaranteed they would go through basic training together. The Army split them up after basic.
Weygandt's father, Thomas, was a colonel and pilot during World War II. So joining the service was the natural thing for Weygandt to do.
Weygandt studied cryptology at Fort Gordon, Ga.
“I worked in worldwide communications radio intercept,” Weygandt said.
A member of the Army Security Agency was the first soldier killed in Vietnam in 1961.
“I guess they let the spies in the country before anyone else,” Weygandt said.
Weygandt was deployed to Udorn, Thailand, located near the Laotian border in late 1968. It was the start of 2 ½ official tours of duty in Vietnam.
A radio interceptor, his unit flew missions over North and South Vietnam. Working in a radio research field station, his job was to insure that all communications intercepted were forwarded to authorities in the United States.
He was next stationed at Herzo Base in Herzogenaurach, Germany, working with the Russians. Asked what that involved, Weygandt smiled and said, “I can't tell you. It's still classified.”
Much of the classified information Weygandt dealt with was forwarded to the White House or the Pentagon, he said.
Stationed in Germany for six months, he had the option to stay there for three years of his four- year enlistment. But Weygandt chose instead to return to the Vietnam Theater.
He was stationed at Phu Bai, Vietnam, 20 miles south of the demilitarized zone, with the 101st Airborne.
“When they told me I was going to Thailand, I never even heard of that country,” Weygandt said.
The men of the 7th and 8th ASA slept in 60-foot trailers. Weygandt worked 12-hour shifts, from midnight to noon.
The base had intelligence personnel from all four branches of the military. Most of Weygandt's work was done in a vault.
The secure base was surrounded by 50,000 road mines around its bunkers. They could not risk being captured because of the highly classified nature of their work. Still they were under mortar attack often. That's how he suffered shrapnel wounds to his back.
“One day, we were under mortar attack,” Weygandt recalled. “I was running – just not fast enough.”
Weygandt spent nearly four weeks in the hospital, located adjacent to his base.
Weygandt looks at another browning photo of a general pinning a Bronze Star on him.
“That was for a mission I can't tell you about,” Weygandt said. “I can just tell you it went up north – it was a rescue mission.”
After four years in the ASA, Weygandt was discharged.
“They asked me to stay in – I probably should have. It was good work.”
After the service, Weygandt graduated from Pittsburgh Institute of Computer Management. He worked for more than 40 years as a software engineer for various firms. He retired in 2011 from Federal Express, where he wrote software for drivers' payroll at the company's Robinson Township headquarters.
During his career, Weygandt wrote the software for hotels and golf courses around the world.
“It was the best job,” Weygandt said. “If young people don't get into it, they're crazy.”
The 7th and 8th ASA have regular reunions. He hopes to attend some now that he is retired.
“I think about the people I served with and think about where they are now,” Weygandt said.
While others may carry with them for decades the horrors of war, Weygandt said his concern is for the current returning veterans. He hopes to volunteer helping returning servicemen and women.
One image remains with him from Vietnam. The 85th Medevac was stationed about a block and a half from his base in Vietnam.
“I'd see the helicopters coming back – all full with body bags,” Weygandt said.
“That stays with you.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Chryst a miserable failure at Pitt
- Pouliot scores in NHL debut as Penguins tame Panthers
- Ex-Penguins defenseman Niskanen still miffed by coaches’ firings
- Pitt players support Rudolph for job
- Jeannette company’s miniature steam engines coveted for decades
- Steelers’ Bell, Chiefs’ Charles elevating running back position in NFL
- Pitt football fights to overcome steppingstone status
- Pair of NYC officers killed in ambush shooting
- Steelers notebook: Bell says he’s prepared to test Chiefs defense
- Energy sector adjusts to global oil plummet
- North Huntingdon residents warned about vehicle break-ins