Ordered to Germany, Pvt. Hagel ended up in Vietnam
WASHINGTON — Chuck Hagel says a funny thing happened on his way to the Vietnam War as an Army private 45 years ago.
He almost went, instead, to Germany as one of nine soldiers entrusted with a top-secret shoulder-fired missile designed to shoot down Soviet MiG fighters in the event the Soviets began an invasion of Western Europe.
After two months of training on the weapon in New Mexico, and while packing up for his flight to Germany, Hagel decided he'd rather go to an actual war — Vietnam. His Army superiors, however, seemed to doubt the sanity of that choice and decided it better take a closer look at his motives for volunteering for combat.
It was November 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War, and not a lot of enlisted men were begging to get there.
“They brought priests, rabbis, ministers, psychiatrists — all came in to examine me, thinking something was wrong, (thinking) I was running away from something or I'd killed somebody,” Hagel recalled in testimony Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is considering his nomination to be secretary of Defense.
He said he underwent two days of tests, was deemed fit of mind and body, got his orders for Vietnam and soon headed for the war front, arriving in December. He was wounded twice in combat and returned home in 1968.
If confirmed by the Senate, as expected, Hagel, 66, would be the first former enlisted soldier and first Vietnam veteran to serve as Defense secretary.
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.
- Alaska-bound, Obama makes waves by renaming Mount McKinley
- CDC lauds schools for better nutrition
- Postal Service falls short of slower mail delivery standards
- Pope Francis’ lack of familiarity with United States unusual
- Memorial service for slain Virginia journalists brings call for action
- New Orleans slow to heal 10 years after Hurricane Katrina
- Erika wanes as Tropical Storm Fred forms in Atlantic
- Obama inches closer to veto-proof support for Iran nuclear deal
- Supreme Court can resolve Kentucky county clerk’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to gays
- Obama administration developing sanctions against China over cyberespionage
- Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Fischer open to interest rate hike