The Duke . . .
. . . John Wayne

By: Carroll Brazzell


Phu Bia - In 1967, I had been in 3rd Shore Party for about 9 months, so I was a veteran of sorts. I had spent most of my time in the north, at Đông Hà, Charlie Company. It was a common thing to get 2 or 3 rocket and mortar attacks a week. I was being transferred to Camp Evans to A Company, so I was in transit at H&S Company in Phu Bia. A rocket attack there was a rare occurrence. One night we were awaken by loud explosions. There wasn't the whistling of rockets, just the explosions. A new Sargent, who had only been in country a couple of days, began screaming that we were being overrun! He screamed for everyone to get to the perimeter. We started getting our stuff together. We put on our flack jackets, helmets, boots and grabbed our rifles. Most of us had been through this many times before (NO BIG DEAL).
      Sgt Stepp was brand new, this was his first attack. When we got to the perimeter Sgt Stepp was there running from hole to hole, screaming that he had been there for TEN MINUTES before anyone else showed up! He said, "I thought I was going to hold this perimeter by myself!" A corporal, who's name I don't remember said, "Who is this guy . . . John Wayne?"
      Sarge was getting all hyper and was all keyed up. A little while later it all quieted down and we started back to our tents. When I got back to my tent, I noticed someone had tripped over Sargent Stepp's stuff and knocked it into the isle. As I started to step over it I saw the name on it---SGT. JOHN WAYNE STEPP. He really was John Wayne!
      When the rest of the guys came in I showed it to them. We had a good Laugh about his name. The next morning we were told it was our own artillery falling short. John Wayne saved us again, and I thought he only was in the movies. I left for Camp Evans a few days later and never saw Sargent Stepp again.

SGT. Stepp, where ever you are, pilgrim, may you live on in infamy!


In 1967Carroll Brazzell began his hiking career as a marine in the jungles of Southeast Asia. He prefers to hike without worrying about getting shot. It might explain why hiking during hunting season makes him nervous When asked about the differences in the gear, then and now, he laughed. Much better now. It was always wet in Vietnam and all of the clothing was cotton.

Carroll is from Rock Hill, S.C. and likes to hike
The Foothills Trail and the Gorges area.
Visit his Carroll Brazzell's homepage.

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