Tony “TK” Kelly is a Marine Vietnam veteran who was part of an extraction team in the combat depicted in the academy award winning film “Born on the Fourth of July”. I was stationed just below the DMZ in 1968, and after gaining some combat experience, rose from PFC to Sergeant & squad leader. Our combat base was the furthest base north (to North Vietnam) along the Gulf of Tonkin and often hit by rockets, and hit by the artillery which had been placed on railroad tracks in the DMZ. Our base shower was in the line of fire and often destroyed, luckily without injury – we award the shower about 10 ‘purple hearts’. Assignments included Ontos crewman, Amtrac crewman and frequent patrol member then patrol leader. We were often assigned even further north to “Oceanview” an remote outpost so close we looked into the DMZ. Major operations were Napoleon, Lam Son 181 and Saline during the 1968 Tet offensive. Recipient of the Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Sharpshooter Badge, while the 1st Amtrac Battalion was awarded various Presidential Unit Citations. Like many combat Veterans who came within inches of being hit I wonder how/why I was the fortunate (or just plain lucky) one. I was even on R & R when my tractor caught on fire after hitting a land mine on the Cua Viet beach, resulting in very serious injuries. I’m a member of the Veteran ementor program, Honor & Remember and work with the Napa Valley community in support of families with Mental Health issues. With 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren I enjoy spending time with my wife and family, and some local acting. It is my privilege to be a member of the R4 team and help Veterans continue in their ability of adding to American life by fulfilling the potential gained through their training in leadership, and their dedication to commitment and teamwork.
Photos are from the Cua Viet base, one in full gear headed out for patrol (in front of our “home” during rocket/artillery attacks), the C4 outpost sign, Amtracs and then some of our crews. Eva – additional photo is of an major explosion of the Cua Viet ammunition facility (another lucky day, I was patrolling across the river) when an RPG hit the fuel tanks. Even from a distance it sounded like someone drove a huge spike into the earth center. The village barely visible on right bank (upper right side of photo) is My Loc where on Jan 20, 1968, the “Born on 4th of July” combat took place – a large NVA force began moving into My Loc around Jan 18, for the beginning of Tet offensive. Note that Tet offensive was openly declared “not necessarily for victory, but to turn the American public against the American military”.