|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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