Rockets over Tay Ninh
Mark Padilla


  Hi Guys Thought you might enjoy this little 'Tay Ninh' story.

As far as the pole incident, Joe, this is the way it happened... We were in the "Bunker" and had been taking on real heavy 122mm rocket barage . After about an hour or so WO Stevenson stuck his head into our bunker and I heard him ask," is Skarda or Padilla in here?" You spoke right up, Joe, and headed outside to see what Stevenson wanted. Hesitantly, I followed behind, wondering all the time why this shit couldn't wait till after this rocket attack was over? As I exited the bunker, simultaneously, 122's were whistling overhead, and lo and behold there you and Stevenson were, just standing there undaunted, having this casual chat. I felt anything but at ease that night And I don't mind saying I was scared shitless. Still get the shakes when I think about it. I was there the night Romero got his head blown off by one of those rockets. It left an indelible impression on me. [Listening to the " Doors" while I'm typing this] Upon approaching you and Stevenson, I heard Stevenson say as he turned to me "go to the Comm Shack grab a ladder and meet me at the company dispensory(Medic's hootch)." You and the Warrant officer went to pick up essential pole climbing gear and headed to the rendezvous. I might add that 2 rockets vaporized it. There was nothing but burning cinders and smoking ashes by the time we got there. When Chauncy (Smokey-doorgunner) and I arrived at the dispensory, you had already geared up and were ready to assend the pole. The great plan, was of course, to cut down the remaining electrical wires that had interrupted our power to the Company. You were to use the ladder as far as you could, then "gaff" your way up the remaining portion of the pole . I estimate that to have been about another eight feet. Armed with cable cutters you scaled to the top of the of the pole. At that point another barage of rockets came raining down on us. I'll never forget what you said at that point as you looked off towards the P.O.L. (fuel supply area), and commented that three rockets had just hit in the P.O.L. "WOW" you said. At this time you had somehow entangled your hooks with the commo wires and began laughing at the situation. Like you said what else could you have done at that point? Well we finally got you down off that pole, and not fast enough for me. The rest of the night I spent chasing down burnt commo lines out by the bunker/P.O.L. Area. We survived that day and also survived the many other rocket attacks that followed. I lived in my bunker for one-hundred and sixty days, and loved it . When I looked back on the scene that night, the burning P.O.L. the dessimated dispensory and us running around out there while all those rockets coming down, I mean to tell you I couldn't even get into the 4th of July for years afterwards. Let me say one thing, Joe, it was really a pleasure to have gotten to know you at such an extreme time in our lives. I've always held you in the highest regards. I know you came out of the 116th to our unit with alot of hair-raising experiences. Looking back on it now, I should have put you in for a commendation medal, being that I was the Comm Sgt in our Plt.  I always thought of you as the guy John Wayne wanted to be in real life.  When relating any of my war stories about you, I always refer to you as "Skarda The Fearless."  When I heard about that WO putting the screws to you after what you did that night it really f------ pissed me off!   Is it any wonder why we didn't stay in the army and become f------ lifers!?  I had about as much love for the army as I did for "Sir Charles".  After coming home I had to ask myself who really was the enemy in Vietnam ?  For now I'm reading much about the VietNam war from a-z.  There is so much I didn't know about. I really find it intriguing and informative and it will also help me out with the VA when I go in for my PTSD evaluation.  I just hope that they can locate my 201 files and flight status records. I just want the truth to be known and if my experience as a 67A1F could have caused me some psychological setbacks.  I often wondered how you fared after the war.  I was afraid it would have gotten the best of you.  You don't know how relieved I was to see your name on the VHFCN chat line.  I'm really happy to have access to the computer.  It has opened up old doors and new doors and enables us to stay in touch.  Forgetting about Vietnam is not an option. It is only a compromise for me.  I hope that the future holds more reunions like this one. And with that I'd like to paraphrase a famous quote from a real good friend, here's one for us, "Remember the Higher you are on "The Pole".................. the better the view".  (Joe Skarda) Amen Brother, Keep the Faith.

Your friend till the end,

Good Luck Stay In Touch

Mark S. Padilla



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