It was May, 1963. Bosco Baracus had just graduated from high school and faced a dismal future. He had had plans for college, figuring his election to captain of the football team last fall had clinched his chances for a scholarship. Somehow, it had all disappeared. Neither he nor his parents could figure that out.
In the meantime, he had to figure out how to deal with his future. Or if he even had one.
Deciding that a little education was better than none, he signed up for fall classes at the local vocational training center, part time, and started looking for a job to pay for it. Unfortunately, it wasn't a good time to be young and black, with no real job skills. His father even tried to get him a job where he worked, to no avail. After two months of looking, getting more and more desperate, and tired of "living off" his parents, he decided there was only one avenue left to him if he wanted any kind of education. Bosco was no fool. He knew what his decision could mean, but he wanted, more than anything, to move out of the crime-ridden neighborhood he'd grown up in, and to be able to take his parents with him. So there really was no other choice.
He enlisted in the Army, and completed his initial training in January of 1964, almost two months to the day after President Kennedy was assassinated. He was assigned to the First Air Cavalry Division, and with some pride at the way he'd swept through training, went home to Chicago on leave. It was then he found out, through a mutual friend, about T.J. Bryant and his scholarship.
Something in BA changed.
He returned to base, worked hard, and tried to act as he had before - do what he was told and do it better than anyone else. He would admit to friends that it was harder than before, harder to accept "stupid orders from stupid officers" - people who were there only because they had gone to college, where BA should have been instead of an Army base. But his mother had been so proud of him in his sharp uniform, and so he held his anger in check as much as he could. He was promoted to PFC in August.
Three months prior, Murdock had graduated from high school. Unlike BA, he knew exactly what he was going to do. He had it all planned. He would stay on the family farm through the end of the harvest season, and then he was going to be a pilot. His grandfather had assumed he would be enlisting in the Air Force, but Murdock had been keeping track of all things connected with flying. He had seen the buildup of the Army's aviation branch, and after seeing that helicopter at the state fair last year, he had decided what he wanted to fly.
In October, 1964, he said goodbye to his grandparents and reported for basic training in the Army. He had plans to join the Warrant Officer flight training, until he got a letter from his grandfather. Apparently, his grandmother was telling al the neighbors how "her boy" was going to be a general one day, a "real officer", flying all over the world. Murdock doubted his grandmother would know the difference between a warrant officer and a so-called "real one", but one of those neighbors might. He swallowed his impatience - and his nervousness - and applied for OCS. He called his grandparents - long distance - to tell them he'd been accepted.
A month after Murdock started his officer training, Richard graduated from St Mary's High School, and to celebrate, he changed his name from the orphanage's Alvin Brenner to a more 'sophisticated' Templeton Peck. He would soon bid farewell to Angel Guardians, the only home he remembered, and go off to college.
While he would miss the priests and the nuns, he wasn't unhappy about leaving. While he understood there were probably very logical reasons for his never being adopted, he'd never really accepted that. And having "siblings" that were constantly changing had not exactly tightened his bonding to the place. He had no idea that he had a six-year-old half-sister a mere 3000 miles away.
Templeton was thankful the nuns had pushed him hard to keep his grades up, and in general had just pushed him to do his best in whatever he tried. That had paid off with the addition of a small football scholarship, kind of the icing on the cake. He had enough money in scholarships and grants to safely take him through to a college degree. He would even have enough left over to indulge in a favorite past-time - girls. Something he had discovered, to his wonderment, when he played in the orphanage's softball championship, at age thirteen.
St. Theresa's had never gotten over him.
Of the seven other boys his age, five were enlisting, but Templeton had never considered that route. That was definitely not in Templeton's plans. He'd had more than enough regimentation in his life already. Not to mention that he'd been watching the news of Vietnam. That was also not in his plans.
The month after Templeton entered college, BA was living his worst nightmare. The First Air Cavalry Division had deployed to Vietnam, and on November 14, the Seventh Cavalry Regiment, to which new Corporal Baracus was assigned, was ordered to move into the Ia Drang Valley, to start what was to be called the Pleiku Campaign. Their mission - find and kill the enemy, which had been repulsed from a Special Forces camp at Plei Me in early November.
The 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, landed at LZ-Xray and was almost immediately engaged by the NVA, who outnumbered them seven to one. The 2d Battalions of both the Fifth and 7th Cavalry regiments, arrived the next morning after a four hour march. After beating back the enemy enough to rescue the survivors, air strikes were called for, and what was left of the first battalion was evacuated. BA's group along with the Fifth Cavalry moved out of the bombing area, headed for two other landing zones.
On the way to LZ Albany, BA's battalion was again attacked by NVA. The elephant grass was so tall and thick, no one could see who they were firing at. The battle went on for hours, with everyone firing at anything that moved. Friend and foe alike were shot. During the night, Americans were hunted and killed in the tall grass.
The next morning, BA joined the rest of the survivors in the grim task of gathering the nearly three hundred dead and wounded.
He was twenty years old, and had eleven months left on this tour.