Monday, February 5, 2018

As a Young Boy, My Neighbors and I Would Play Army by Clyde Hoch




As a Young Boy, My Neighbors and I Would Play Army 
by Clyde Hoch

It was my intention to join the Army after high school just like my big brother. I played Army with my neighbors since I was a young boy, and I felt it was my duty to serve the people of my country.

I heard about the Marines from a neighbor and read as much about them as possible. I was hooked. Three months before I graduated high school, I joined knowing I would be sent to Vietnam. Three days after graduating, I was on my way to Parris Island South Carolina, Marine Corps boot camp.

After boot camp and infantry training I was sent to second tank battalion in Camp Lejeune North Carolina where I was made a tank driver.

We were told we were going on a Med cruise. The US has a fleet of ships and a battalion landing team of Marines at all times in the Mediterranean Sea to do a speedy recovery if an embassy had to be evacuated or American civilians needed protection. What a great time in the Med for a 19-year-old.

I spent six months on the Mediterranean Sea with our tanks. We came back for six months and I was again sent on a Med cruise for six months. Soon after that I was sent to Vietnam. I arrived in the middle of Tet of 1968 and left after Tet of 1969. These were the years of the heaviest fighting of the whole war.  As soon as I arrived in Vietnam I was made a tank commander.

While I was in Vietnam I found out my best friend growing up was killed in Vietnam. He was wounded trying to save another.

I would never be able to count the amount of “close calls” I had. Being hit by our own artillery, having creases in my flak jacket from rounds hitting it, shrapnel in my arm, and sniper fire was common. I remember a rocket propelled grenade fired at me. I saw it coming in slow motion and I thought for sure it would hit me in the head. I never thought I would live to come home. I believe now God had a purpose for me and that is why I was spared.

I was at the pinnacle of my life having received so many promotions I didn’t even want them anymore. The guys would come to me for everything. At times I felt like a priest. I was very proud I was leading men into battle while barely old enough to drink in my country. It was a great responsibility to oversee two to three tanks and the lives of the people in them in combat. 

Sergeant Clyde Hoch Vietnam 1968


The event that changed my life was when we were on an operation with two tanks and a company of Marines. We were sent out as a blocking force for a much larger operation. We had a lieutenant with, but he was new in country, so he let me run the show. After sitting there for hours, we were told by radio to return to company headquarters. Having expected to sleep on the ground beside the tank and eat cold C-rations, happily we were heading back to cots and a warm meal as an unexpected surprise.

I was sitting on the tank commanders hatch feeling very relaxed. The infantry was riding back on the tanks. Suddenly, I took a deep breath of air and it was very hot air, things started to get fuzzy and I remember thinking to myself, “oh, oh, this is it!”

The next thing I remember my life was like a brown blob. I remember talking to myself saying “you can’t let this happen, you have to come back, you can’t let go!” It seemed I repeated this for about 20 minutes, I really don’t know how long it actually was. I started to see a light and it reminded me of drinking water from a glass and looking through the bottom everything was all distorted.

I’ve heard many accounts of people having near death experiences meeting some supreme being, but to this day, I wonder what it means that no one was there to meet me in the state I was in.

I didn’t understand what happened when I slowly began to function again. It was eerily quiet. One minute I was riding on a noisy tank the next minute everything was still, and deathly quiet.

People’s mouths were moving but I couldn’t hear a word. There was wounded infantry that were riding on the tank, some had to die, and others lost legs. I should have jumped down and helped them, but I just stood there. For weeks following, I was in a daze. Never hearing an explosion, I wasn’t aware in that moment, that we hit a large anti-tank mine.

The first three road wheels were blown off, along with the track. The tank was lying in a hole about five feet round and three feet deep. The mine was estimated to be between 30 and 50 pounds of explosives. I was 11 feet away, on top of the tank on the same side as the explosion.

When my company commander came to see what was going on, unfortunately, my hearing had improved enough to get a good tongue lashing from our captain. He felt this was all my fault and the lieutenant’s. I live every day with the fact that some of these guys lost legs and their lives because of a decision I made.

This incident changed my life, I was never the same person after the mine. I became very distrustful of people, I was in a hurry to do everything and I didn’t know why. I had a hard time making decisions and I couldn’t remember things. I got very angry at almost nothing, I couldn’t help it. At times I couldn’t remember how to do the simplest of things.

I received orders for Drill Instructor School. I knew with my memory failing and my inability to make decisions I would never be able to complete the program, so I opted to get out of the military.

Coming home was the worst time in my life. I was more comfortable in the war in Vietnam than I was my own country. I wanted to isolate myself from everyone, I could not stand to be in large crowds or loud music or loud noise. I had a very hard time with conversations. I had to think to myself what do I say next. I avoided people because of this. At times when people asked me things my mind just went blank, like once someone asked me about Michael Jackson. I just couldn’t think of who he was at the time. The person just stared at me as he walked away. I became angry very quickly. When people joked with me I took it personal and got angry.

I woke up hundreds of times a night. Sometimes from night mares. When I woke all kinds of things went through my mind and I would lay there for hours trying to get back to sleep.

I had a very hard time dealing with people plus I had a very hard time hearing. I was OK one on one but if there was background noise or more than one person talking I couldn’t understand the conversation and just said “yes” to everything. The severe ringing in my ears has never gone away.

I drove a car for a few years, I pulled into some one’s drive and I could not remember how to put the car in reverse. I judged myself as being the stupidest person in the world. Once we were at a bar. Someone spilled a drink and we all moved down one person. I let about eighty cents lay there. Later I said to the woman sitting there “you know that is my change.” She said, “No it’s not” and I got very angry over eighty cents.

I started to drink way too much, that was the only time I didn’t care. I started working way too much. I worked seven days a week for 20 years. It probably made my situation worse. I hated myself and my life.

I just didn’t fit in anywhere, I contemplated suicide almost every day. It seemed it took four times the effort to do something than it took others to do the same thing. I felt life is not worth the effort. I was existing not living, I was never happy. I even thought out how I would commit suicide. The only thing that prevented me from following through with suicide was an innate belief that God put me here for a reason, and it would not be right to cut that reason short.  Life was nothing but one depressing day after another, I saw no end to it. My work suffered because I could not remember the simple things that others easily remembered.

Something about hating yourself and your life for too long gears you up for a real necessary change. I spent hours in quiet time in the woods where I find peace the easiest to come by. I quit hanging out in bars and tried to look at positive things in life.

I didn’t want to retire but I was forced to. My retirement gave me the opportunity to put my military experiences down on the computer as they came to me. Considering the possibility that someday my family may be interested in them, I sent the chapters to my daughter to proof read for me. She suggested I make this into a book. I told her to go for it and she did.

To my surprise I was selected as one of the fifty great writers you should be reading by the author show. I continued to write seven books in all. My fourth book won a bronze medal at an international awards contest in Miami. I donated all my profits to veteran’s organizations.

I produced a documentary on tanks called Tanks a Century of Dominating the Battlefield.

The research I did for my fourth book was alarming. I wanted to do something about the high rate of veteran suicides. I founded an organization called the Veterans Brotherhood whose main purpose is to prevent suicides and help veterans to resettle back into society. I didn’t want anyone to have to go through life like I was.

I was a member of Rolling Thunder and I asked them if I could start up under their umbrella of non-profit status and they agreed. A gold star mother got involved and she wanted to separate the Veterans Brotherhood from Rolling Thunder. She filed for a 501C3 status for the Veterans Brotherhood.

We were off and running. Because of our gold star mothers fundraising, we now had funds to work with. We took 18 veterans off the streets who had absolutely nothing and nowhere to go in our first year.

We put them up in a hotel for a few days and evaluated them as to the best place to place them for their future, long term. One veteran was before a large snow storm and he said, “I was so run down from living on the streets I would not have lived through the snow storm if the Veterans Brotherhood had not stepped in.” We gave grocery gift cards to two families who had no money for food. We got a veteran’s car inspected so he could go to school.

We found an elderly veteran who was in danger of losing his home for back taxes. We took a collection and paid his taxes.

Some of our beneficiaries who we’ve taken off the streets now have apartments, jobs, and cars of their own and are going to school.

We offer veterans mentoring, with four people certified through the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office in mentorship. Because veteran to veteran is sometimes the best way to mentor, we have a member who is a therapist for the Veterans Administration as well.

There are many organizations out there that help veterans, most take several days to process the veteran. We are first responders when it comes to assisting veterans, we get involved immediately, when they are at their lowest. 

We are in the process of making a documentary on Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It is very hard for a veteran to talk to family members about their experiences. We want a film, so family members can somewhat understand what their son, daughter or family member may be going through and look for warning signs of suicide. A gold star mother said had she known of organizations like ours her son would be alive today.

The film will bring awareness of a misunderstood issue to police, EMTs, hospital staff, the public and veterans themselves who don’t fully understand PTSD.  

No one in the organization is paid and our only income is from our generous donors who want to help veterans. We do more with less than any other organization.

I am so very proud of the people who work in the Veterans Brotherhood. They are the greatest people ever. What can bring you more pride than helping those who sacrificed so very much for us.

Our motto is honor, integrity and strength

With honor and integrity comes strength.

If you would like to contribute to an honest organization that really helps veterans, please contact us at:

313 4th St.
Pennsburg, PA. 18073
Phone 267 424 4162

Visit Clyde @ clydehoch.com



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