Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Second Chances by Clyde Hoch


Vietnam 1969. (Standing left) S/Sgt. Clyde Hoch Tank Commander - (Standing right) Corporal Richard Gerszewski (Ski), Gunner - (Kneeling left) Lance Corporal Jerry Holly, Tank Driver - (Kneeling right) Private Todd Phillips, Loader

Second Chances 

by Clyde Hoch 

I sold my last motorcycle when I turned 70. It was a Kawasaki Concourse 1400. It was fast as hell and very reliable. I had a chance to buy some land. I wasn’t using the bike often and I thought bike or land? It was a hard choice. I took that bike to the Rolling Thunder meet in DC once. That was a great time.

When I first got out of the military, I went to a friend's house. He had a little 90 CC Suzuki laying in his yard. It was covered with snow. We brushed it off, put new gas in it and it cranked right over. We beat that thing unleavable. Near the end of summer, the handlebars were broken off, it had nubs we used to steer it, the fenders were torn off, and the tires were egg shaped but it still kept going. I was impressed with Japanese bikes from then on.

I had bikes most of my life. I started riding on a DKW. A friend stopped by with it. I asked him if I could ride it. He asked, “Do you know how to ride?” I said, “Sure.” After a disastrous start where I went in circles a few times with the motor racing and the back tire spinning, it turned out ok. 

Three days after graduating high school I was on my way to Parris Island. Almost three years later I was a tank commander in Vietnam. Everything was going very well for me. I was moving up in rank far faster than I ever expected to or wanted to. Late in my tour we were on an operation with a company of infantry (grunts). We were a blocking force for a much larger operation. We expected to spend the night sleeping on the ground next to the tank and eating cold C-rations. It was too hot of an area to have any kind of fire or flame.

My last tank and crew in Vietnam 1969 

We got a call on the radio telling us to come back in. This was great news. We would be spending the night at company headquarters. They had an airplane fuel tank that warmed in the sun during the day, warm showers. They had a refrigeration unit in the club, cold beer. We were all very happy.

On the way back I remember taking a breath of air and it was all very hot air, then things started to get blurry. I remember thinking to myself’ uh-oh, this is it. The next thing I remembered, my life was like a brown blob. I started talking to myself saying you can’t let go, you have to come back. I remember saying this to myself over and over. I was teetering back and forth between life and death. It seemed to me this went on for twenty minutes. I do not know how long it actually was, but it seemed like a very long time.

Soon I remember seeing a light. It reminded me of drinking a glass of water and looking down through the bottom of the glass, everything was distorted. I had no idea what happened. Now everything was super quiet. I saw people’s mouths moving but I didn’t hear any sound. I climbed down off the tank. The tank was lying in a hole that was about five feet round and three feet deep. The track was off, and the first three road wheels were blown off. This was the same side I was sitting on. It was hard for me to comprehend we hit an anti-tank mine. I never heard the explosion.

I was in a daze for weeks after this. Back then if you were not bleeding profusely, you were fine. I didn’t realize it but from this incident I had traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Coming home from Vietnam everyone looked down upon us veterans. This was the worst time in my life. I was more comfortable in the war than my own country.

Over the years I learned to live with my illnesses. They never go away but I learned to live with them. I thought of suicide almost every day. Life just didn’t seem worth the effort. The biggest thing that prevented me from doing it was I feel God put us here for a reason. It would not be right of me to cut that reason short.

After I got out, I bought a BSA. I had that for years. I wound up burning up the engine. I had the opportunity to buy a Suzuki 750 CC. That was a great bike. One time I got tired of everything and took that bike to New Mexico. I went by myself and had a great time. As I was leaving Pennsylvania there were thunderstorms all over. I managed to miss them all. I thought to myself often if I break down, they may find a skeleton sitting beside a motorcycle in the desert. I got caught in a severe thunderstorm in the desert. It got to the point my tires started to hydroplane. I pulled over and sat under an underpass with a bunch of Native Americans. The bike performed flawless. I pushed that thing going out. I did about 90 most of the way after getting away from a lot of traffic.

The end of that bike came when my garage burned. My dad had a big two-story wooden structure. I tried to save the bike but when I opened the door, I could barely see and the heat was unbearable. I thought better of it and closed the door. The overhead doors were plastic and in no time they melted. I watched a very bright blue and white flame come from the lower part of the engine.

Since then, I had a BMW, my friend with the DKW got a Harley Sportster. He let me use it whenever I wanted. That dammed thing leaked oil and at times you had a hell of a time getting it into 4th gear.

I started writing totally by accident. After researching a book, I was alarmed by the amount of veteran's suicides. I wanted to do something about it. I started the Veterans Brotherhood. I wanted an organization to help prevent veteran suicides and I never wanted anyone to live the life I did. I believe I didn’t die in the anti-tank mine explosion because I was given a second chance. Many of us today need a second chance. Many just need to know someone cares and is willing to help us. The Veterans Brotherhood have some outstanding members and is growing rapidly. In 2021 the Veterans Brotherhood helped 115 veterans, many had wives and children. The impact is far more than 115.

So now I turned 75. A friend of mine bought a used 883 Harley. He decided a motorcycle was not for him. I went to look at it. The tires were muddy, a foot peg broken off and it wouldn’t start. It sat in his garage. I felt this bike like me needed a second chance. He offered it to me very cheap. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Now to break this to my wife who hates motorcycles.

My neighbor Ryan Winter has a small shop in his garage. I asked him if he would go over it for me. I decided this would be my show bike. Not for long runs. He pulled the fenders and tank and sent them out for a custom paint job. A long time ago an artist did a painting of my tank in Vietnam. I now have a custom tank painting on the tank of the bike. It is almost too nice to ride. 

About the Author

From Pennsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, welcome today's guest writer Sergeant Clyde HochClyde is an award-winning author, Vietnam War Veteran, public speaker, and much more. In his books, Clyde shares his experiences of wartime, life, and beyond.  

Connect with Clyde…

Read Clyde's Interview Here

Stories by Clyde Hock:

So, You Want a Service Dog

The Chestnut Mare

Spike: A Childhood memory

No comments:

Milliron Monday: Underground Railroad

Jody at the "Negro Den" on Milliron Farm August 3, 1997 The Athens Messenger Photo by Chad Stiles Abbott "Pete" Smith ...