Flag Day was an appropriate time to hear from a Vietnam War veteran about his service to his country, which demonstrated the sacrifices made by all military personnel so Old Glory can be honored each year by Americans.
During the monthly Brown Bag Lecture Series at the Fenton History Center, Steve Trask, a Vietnam War veteran who was enlisted in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1969, talked about his experiences during the Vietnam War. Trask was a sergeant who completed Special Forces training in Ft. Devens, Mass.; airborne training in Ft. Bragg, Texas; Ranger Training in Az.; winter survival training in Klondike, Alaska; and jungle training in Panama before he started serving in Vietnam in 1968, three days before the Tet Offensive.
Trask said his journey to Vietnam wasn’t a smooth trip, which started with him traveling to Buffalo during an ice storm. From there he faced delays, which included him traveling across state by train to finally take a flight to Seattle. He arrived at the bus to the base at 11:45 p.m., which was barely before his midnight deadline to report for duty.
Once in Vietnam, Trask said he was promoted to sniper and went to sniper training school. He talked about his experiences as a sniper, which included spending days in towers with his riffle aimed at the enemy or months at a time hiding in the jungles of Vietnam. He discussed how one piece of advice he received was not to look at the enemy’s face nor to count the number of enemy soldiers he shot.
“I don’t know how many people I shot,” he said. “I don’t remember a face.”
During his discussion, Trask talked about an up close encounter with a tiger, enjoying a special Thanksgiving dinner on a ship with three of his cousins who were also serving in the U.S. military in Vietnam and how a pilot gave him his survival knife after Trask saved him after he parachuted into the jungle.
Trask said after his first year in Vietnam he re-enlisted for five more years. He said he was almost through his second tour when he was badly injured.
Trask sustained his injury following a blast from a satchel charge that was thrown into a bunker he was protecting. He was blown 100 feet behind the bunker after the blast. He added that he was covered by palm tree branches that had been cut down by enemy machine gun fire.
Trask remained covered by the palm tree branches for two days while in a coma before his body was discovered.
He then spent two-and-a-half weeks in a China Beach hospital, which he said was unlike the television show that aired in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Trask talked about how the doctors kept pestering him about going to Japan, which he refused. He then finally asked the doctors why they wanted to send him to Japan.
The doctors replied that he could be evaluated there so he could be sent back to the United States. Trask joked that he wishes the doctors would have told him that from the start.
Once back in the United States, Trask said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which led him into therapy for two-and-a-half years at the VA Medical Center in Erie, Pa.
Trask also said he spent 13 years in college at Jamestown Community College and Buffalo State following his service in Vietnam.