By TYLER MASK
The day Wayne Parham's helmet was blown from his head, he was promoted to Radio Telephone Operator, a position that stuck with him long after.
“I was now the RTO for that Captain, who was severely injured,” Parham said. “The next day, we were able to get him out, and I was the RTO for the new commander, which didn't end up very well.”
The new commander was a first lieutenant straight from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program and Officer Candidate School.
“I had hoped that he would listen to some of the hardcore veterans' opinions and what I might say to him,” Parham said. “It didn't work out. He went straight by the book, and anytime something happened, he would even get his book out and read what he was supposed to do.”
In May, the second Tet Offensive began, and Parham's unit was stationed between Saigon and Cambodia.
“We got hit so hard that [the commander] didn't know how to react,” Parham said. “He froze. He panicked, and I even had to go so far as to pull him down. He would keep popping up.”
During this particular battle, Parham recalls the event that put the commander over the edge.
“We had reporters in the field that would take our pictures and do their filming,” Parham said. “He stayed at our command post, which now – since I was the radio man – I got to stay with the elite group of commanders. During this particular firefight when they hit us, the reporter did not understand what could happen – he hadn't been in a firefight before. He didn't know to stay down. I kept trying to get him to come down, and he wouldn't wear his steel pot. He took it off and put his little jungle hat on. I was trying to direct fire with the orders of the commander. The reporter took one – blew the top of his head off. I had just pulled him and told him to stay down, and he wouldn't. Then the commander went crazy, you might say.“