Gunny - 1Gunny . . .
A Dog in Đông Hà

© Copyright (1997) by, Mark Gerrity
Đông Hà, 3rd Marine Division
, 1967

Đông Hà, 1967 - I served with the 3rd Marine Division, mostly with 3rd Shore Party Bn. in the Northern I Corps from 12/1967 to 7/1969. We at 3rd Shore Party Bn. had befriended a skinny, tan, stray dog . . . or rather, she befriended us, winning even the hardest hearts. She loved us and was always in the rear waiting for us with the happiest of greetings. We named her Gunny.
      Our task this day was as embark team to move the 3rd Shore Party Bn, 3rd Force Recon Co., the 9th Marines, and 11th Engineers out of the Vietnam. Activity was hectic to say the least, loading everything possible and making sure nothing was left for the enemy. Gunny darted yelping and romping about trying to get someone to play with her, but there wasn't time to even throw a stick to fetch. More than once I noticed her setting quietly watching the commotion, shouting, and excitement in keen interest.
      To my knowledge, unless there were clandestine teams behind, I was the last one to board the mike boat to Đà Nẵng and Okinawa. This time, I knew, was different--we would leave Đông Hà forever, and North Vietnamese troops would take over as we departed. Gunny - 2
      I picked up a small rock from near the shore at Đông Hà, as a souvenir from a still-free Đông Hà, and was ready to board the last mike boat. A last glance from the shore, making sure everything was loaded; and then I realized Gunny was still setting quietly waiting for an okay to play. There she sat staring at me with a sad look on her face. As I picked up the souvenir rock she was positive I would throw it and stood alert, tail pointed and ears at attention. I didn't board, and I didn't throw the rock, so Gunny must have thought I wanted to play lick-the-marine, so she trotted toward me gleefully. She then suddenly paused, perhaps noticing the shore and area was too quiet, too empty, and something was somehow wrong. The rapid tail-wagging ceased, as if she understood that this time we were really leaving, and for good.
      Gunny quizzically rolled her head, ears flopping, and added a quiet yelping sound as if asking for me to explain what was happening, and if we would be back for her as we always were. Gunny - 3 I thought of how Gunny had always loyally awaited our return from the big ST, and never failed to make us feel welcome home, and as if there were something worthwhile to look forward to at Đông Hà. And there was. But now, the truth---we were leaving, Gunny was staying, the North was coming.
      I suddenly worried about how I could have forgotten Gunny in all the plans to pull out. I worried about what was going to happen to her. Then it dawned on me---the Navy might be persuaded to take Gunny as a mascot! Maybe the men could hide her from the brass and keep her, somehow, somewhere, on one of the giant ships---after all, she was tiny compared to scout dogs.
      I asked the Sailors (and I capitalize the S) on the mike boat if they would adopt Gunny, and guess what---they took her aboard with us right on the spot! What a relief I felt---Gunny would be free and have new American friends!
      The Sailors told me Gunny would be placed on one of the ships in the Pacific Fleet, as their mascot. I boarded the U.S.S. Colonial at Đà Nẵng and headed for Okinawa. The coast of Vietnam faded, shadowed, and misted silently into the sea.

I never did get to say good-bye to Gunny, and that hurts to this day. I just Gunny - 4. Đông Hà, Hill. hope she didn't feel we just deserted her. I never found out what ship became her new home, but I have faith that she found a home and won her way easily into the hearts of new friends, as she had a bunch of combat hardened Marines. Gunny, such a happy dog, helped keep a little sanity going for us. She gave unconditional love, and no matter how hard-butt we wanted to act, we couldn't help but love that scruffy little pooch named Gunny.

Mark Gerrity - Shamokin, PA

 

We left Đông Hà as part of the governmental order for pulling out our troops. The enemy couldn't throw us out, couldn't defeat us, couldn't chase us out---we withdrew by orders of our President.

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