|Here is a guest article written by Bob Schneider on 25 Sep 1999…
On Aug 24, 1968, at about 1:30 A.M. my buddy Ray Spinler from Medford, Minnesota, got killed in Vietnam near the Ben Cui Rubber Plantation.
Around 1974, I was living in a townhouse style apartment and I asked my neighbor if she knew of a Ray Spinler. She said she did and told me he had a twin sister and they actually lived in Medford and not Owatonna (I thought Ray lived in Owatonna).
In 1977, I was working at John Deere’s in Waterloo, Iowa. It was a contract temporary job that paid per diem pay for working out of town. I had an apartment in Bloomington, MN, an efficiency apartment in Waterloo, and a girlfriend in Mason City, Iowa. (How I met her is another LONG story).
Every weekend I would drive to Bloomington and back to Waterloo. I would take highway 218 in Iowa to the Interstate 35. Every weekend I drove by Medford two times for about 1-1/2 years that I worked at Deere’s. I always thought of Ray. To this day when I drive by Medford, I think of my buddy Ray.
I was in country about 3 months when Ray arrived. He was an FNG as we all were when we first got in country. Ray was different. He was from Minnesota, he was an innocent farm boy who went to church on Sunday if he could. Ray wouldn’t hurt a fly, he was always kind and cheerful. I decided I had to get him off the Armor Personnel Carriers onto a tank as APC’s, in my opinion, were “death traps”.
I went through battles with Ray, we went to the E.M. club together, we got assigned to the ambassador’s residence (a volunteer job that was really good after Tan Son Nhut and Tet of 68) immediately after Tet of 68. We played chess with each other. We drank beer together. Ray would tell me about his hot 62 Chevy with a 327 four barrel and how well it went. Our society LOST one very SOLID caring individual. I am convinced that when we all die, that GOD will JUDGE these “World Leaders” who are of equal status to HITLER.
On Aug 24th, 1968, the 3/4 Cav got the shit beat out of them. We were in shit from Aug 19th continuously through the 24th. We were engaged with one regiment of NVA. We had what was approximately equal to one platoon of armored cavalry which was what was made up from the 3 platoons of the Cav because of casualties. We had one company of Wolfhound Infantrymen with us. The Wolfhounds are “the best straight leg grunts that there are”.
We also had one battery of artillery with us, that is a quantity of 5-105mm cannons. This was our NDP (night defensive perimeter). Our “platoon” was supposed to be relieved that day. We weren’t. We were struggling to get re-supplied because of the previous week. We only got about 20 rounds for each tank instead of the full combat load of 61 rounds.
image by Jerzy Krzeminski
On Aug 24th, I got hit in the eye by shrapnel and stayed on that tank alone for what seemed an eternity, shooting, reloading it by myself until Suddeth came back to my aid. The tank got hit again by another RPG. This time, it almost took off my left leg. Suddeth also lost an eye and had years of plastic surgery. I spent 1-1/4 years in hospitals.
Ray was KILLED!!!! He got killed immediately after that first RPG hit the searchlight on my tank. (I was on White’s tank, my tank got blown away on Aug 19th, which is “another story”). An RPG hit the cupola of the track behind Ray’s head. Ray had a closed casket funeral!!!
Almost nine years later, around Aug or Sept of 1977, I was driving by Owatonna and I was thinking of Ray. I talked with my girlfriend about seeing Ray’s folks. To tell them that Ray never knew what happened and that he did not “suffer”. To tell them that Ray was a GOOD man, he was KIND and CARED about people. To tell them he went to CHURCH when possible. To tell them that I’m sure he was in heaven!!! To tell them that Ray was my best friend!!!
I stopped near a gas station and looked in the phone book. I saw a Spinler and it was Rural Route something or other. I went into the gas station and asked where this was. The attendant said to me “Go up the interstate to the next exit which is Medford, take a right, go one mile to the first road, it is the house on the right corner”.
I drove down the road, thinking to myself, what do I say?? What can I say to somebody’s folks about their dead son? Somebody who lost the BEST guy in the world? I started to “rehearse” because I knew I would have to memorize what I was going to say because I loved Ray with all my heart and I knew it would be emotional if I got off the track. The tears are flowing as I write this!
“Hello, my name is Bob Schneider. I was with A troop, 3rd squadron 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division. I was with your son Ray on Aug 24th, 1968, when he was killed. I am here to tell you that he did not know what happened and that he did not suffer. I am here to tell you that Ray was a good kid”. That was it. I’ll have to memorize this.
I got to the house and drove up the driveway. I apprehensively went up to the front door of this modest two-story farmhouse with a wooden screen door. I knocked on the door and a man answered. He looked to be about 55 years old, I was 31 at the time. I said, “Hello, my name is Bob Schneider and I was with A troop, 3rd squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division. I was with your son Ray on Aug 24th, 1968, when he was killed. I am here to tell you that Ray never knew what happened and did not suffer. I am here to tell you that Ray was a good kid”.
The man said, “You have the wrong house, go up the road to the next crossroad, about 1 mile, turn left, and it is the 2nd house on your left.” I said thank you and got in my car. I was beginning to wonder if maybe I should not be doing this. I was nervous and worried. It was a relatively hot autumn day. It was around 85 degrees above and somewhat humid.
When driving to the next house, I practiced my speech.
It was already dark when I arrived at the house, it was much more modest than the first. The front door was open to let in the breeze through the wooden screen door with “clacker-type” door closer hardware. I knocked on the door and a man who appeared to be about 66 years old or so answered. I immediately went into my rehearsed spiel, “Hello, I’m Bob Schneider, and was with A troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division. I was with your son Ray on Aug 24th, 1968 when he was killed. He never knew what happened and suffered no pain. I am here to tell you that he was a good kid”.
The man remained standing in place and not saying a word. The silence, “deafening”. I heard my heart beating, and heard crickets chirping in the fields. The mosquitoes were buzzing around my ears. I started to think, ‘Oh no, is this another wrong house? Did he hear me? Am I going nuts? What is happening? He must not have heard me. I ‘ll tell him again’.
It was like I had already stood there for an eternity, and nervously starting over again, “Hello…”
There was another moment of silence after repeating my spiel for the second time. Finally, the man camee out of his trance and pointed to a pole barn about 100 yards from his house. He said, “See my bug zapper on the barn? Would you like to go look at it?” I thought, ‘What is this? Is he crazy? Am I crazy? What is happening?‘
I said,”Sure”, then thought once again, ‘What the heck is going to happen now?’ We walked slowly to the bug zapper while the old man talked, “it’s best to hang them far away from your house as they actually attracted bugs. Most people make the mistake of hanging them close by, some even on the porch. Hanging out there, it draws the bugs away from the house and makes it somewhat comfortable for me and the misses when we’re on the porch. Once I saw the bug zapper in action, the man said, “Son, would you mind coming into my house and telling my wife what you just told me?” I said, “Yes sir, that would not be a problem.”
We went into the house and immediately behind the front door, I saw a framed picture of Ray in uniform with all his medals hanging on the wall. While I stared at the photo, the old man called out, “Honey, put on your bathrobe and make a pot of coffee, we have a young man here who wants to tell you something”. She came out of a bedroom wearing a cream-colored bathrobe and slippers, eyeing the two of us standing patiently in the living room while she walked to the kitchen. Once there, she filled one of those Pyrex glass coffee percolators with water and coffee grinds and then put in on top of the gas stove burner. After drying her hands in a small towel, she draped it over the side of the sink and sat down at the kitchen table.
We joined her and I immediately recited my rehearsed lines, which by the way, I still have memorized to this very day (21 years now – as this story takes place in 1998). They remained quiet and allowed me to continue. I told them what happened on that eventful day, where we were, and how many men we had when hit. I don’t remember if I told them about the gore, and hope I didn’t. I felt extremely comfortable in retelling our story and the details, were clean as ever – like it happened yesterday. I do remember telling Ray’s parents that we got more of them then they got of us – which amazingly was true. You know you have really been in a battle when you won the fight, but still got the shit kicked out of you.
We talked about Ray for over an hour. At the end of the evening, She asked if I’d be willing to tell Ray’s twin sister the same story. I told them that I’d be glad to do it. We then made arrangements to return for a Sunday afternoon picnic the next time I was on my way back to Waterloo from Bloomington.
I told them I would also bring my photo album. A flash lit her eye and Ray’s mother said, “Please wait, I have something to show you.” She disappeared into another room and returned with an 8-1/2 X 11 black and white photo of Ray and I sitting in the EM club at Cu Chi drinking beer; the kind that the Vietnamese sell for 1 dollar. I looked at this photo and suddenly remembered what Ray and I were talking about at the time. While basking in the fond remembrance of my buddy Ray, Ray’s mother said, “Turn the photo over”. In the photo, three of us were sitting around a small round table, I don’t remember who the third guy was. Ray sat in the middle, I was to his left, and the other guy was on his right. When I flipped over the picture, there was a notation in Ray’s handwriting: “The guy on my left is my best friend and his name is Bob”. My heart skipped a couple beats, and I struggled to keep my composure. It felt like forever, and that my heart was just ripped out of me. After returning the photo, I left for Bloomington. I felt like I’d been richly rewarded and just received a million bucks. It was great to share my remembrances of Ray with his parents…I am extremely grateful for having known him. Rest in Peace, hero!
The following screen shot was taken from the Vietnam War Memorial virtual website:
This is the author’s response to the same question posed on several of my FB group pages: “I never did get to meet Ray’s twin sister. She couldn’t make it down from Northern MN to Owatonna (Medford actually) which is in Southern MN. I don’t know if she could deal with it or something else came up. All I can say is GOD Bless her!”
A Note from The Virtual Wall
A Troop, 3/4th Cavalry, lost five men on 24 Aug 1968:
· SGT David N. Rasmussen, Pleasant Grove, UT;
· SP4 Lewis King, Ocala, FL;
· SP4 Raymond P. Spinler, Medford, MN;
· PFC James T. Griffin, Cameron, TX; and
· PFC Peter F. Kovach, West Orange, NJ.
Thank you, Bob Schneider, for your service and Welcome Home Brother!
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You did good my friend. My home town in Illinois lost 16 brave men in Vietnam, I was able to look up all the circumstances about there deaths. They range from the short shell, sleeping under a vehicle and being running over, the friendly fire he was on guard duty coming back from investigating a noise and his unit thought he was an enemy. There is one frag a grenade was thrown on his barracks roof by another American. I’m friends with a lot of these men’s family members one sister, one wife and just friends who grew up with these guys. The information I was able to give them was godsent they said getting a letter in the mail about your son being killed is just that .what happened where was he at these are never known. You my friend made the parents very grateful. Thank you
I have enjoyed every story you have told. This is heart wrenching to the point I could almost see everything you were telling.
Thank you for sharing it really means a lot to hear from folks that were in that terrible war.
Pamela Morris Siemsen
I want to thank you Bob for your service and being strong to share all of your time with Raymond’s parents. May your journey in life find u peace in your heart greg
Like you and so many others, I too lost a friend over there. His name was Ronald Groff and he was KIA on 6/27/67 when our track hit a large mine. I packed up what few things he had and sent them to his parents in Christiana Pa. along with a letter explaining who I was and that we were friends. I received a very nice letter from his mother thanking me for being his friend and for sending his things home.
I went to his hometown and visited his final resting place, but could not bring myself to contact any of his family. I didn’t want to open up old wounds from all those years ago. After reading your story it got me reconsidering my decision. Although his parents have passed on, his siblings may want to know more about their brothers time in Vietnam.
Thanks for story and welcome home brother. RVN 66/67
A remarkable experience that eill be eith you forever
Bob, This story has touched my heart. (sob) I served in the US Army Honor Guard at Fort Myer Virginia from Dec. 1963 to Aug. 1966 and participated in many Army funerals at Arlington Cemetery during that time. I thought of the sorrow of the family at each of the funerals. When the number of funerals at Arlington increased dramatically in 1965. I was part of the casket team and was assigned the responsibility of presenting the flag to a family member and reciting “On behalf of a grateful nation……” I shed tears on every occasion.
Big John, The Gentle Giant
I really enjoyed your article. My brother was KIA in Vietnam june 24 1969. I was able to connect with one of his friends by leaving posts on sights for veterans of vietnam.30th anniversary of his death was coming up when one of his friends contacted me. I was so excited to hear from him and we kept in touch for a long time. We sadly lost touch , but he was a breath of fresh air talking about my brother, and I might add, I was afraid of bringing up memories that maybe he would rather forget. You never know how someone will react, I guess just go with your gut instinct and heart. I am so glad I had the chance to talk to my brother’s friend.Thank You for your article, Vietnam Vets are all my hero, Welcome Home and Thank You for your Service.
Sincerely , Linda Trissel Porter
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I enjoyed this article , thank you for posting.
Bob, I had a similar experience with some family members of one of my close friends who was killed in Vietnam, but by friendly fire. It made my talk with his sister at his grave site, up on a hilltop in rural Kentucky that much more difficult because the military had not been truthful in reporting his death. The small community had honored him as a hero, which he was not under the specific circumstances. I too, found the family after stopping at a gas station for directions.
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I never did get to meet Ray’s twin sister. She couldn’t make it down from Northern MN to Owatonna (Medford actually) which is in Southern MN.
I don’t know if she could deal with it or something else came up. All I can say, is GOD Bless her!
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Thank you Bob for sharing your journey with Ray’s family. What you did is a gift and treasure for Ray’s family. Did you also talk with Ray’s twin sister? My husband was shot down and KIA on 8 February 1968 and it wasn’t until 2003 that I talked with anyone who served with him, the pilot who recovered his body. I will be forever grateful for his actions and kindness to me. Thank you for your service and I am thankful for men like you. Welcome home.
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WOW, I really did not want to read it for the sadness but like in Bobs case in stopping by pull them boots up and do it.
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