John Stryker Meyer served two tours of duty (a total of 19 months) in Vietnam as a member of the US Army Special Forces (Green Berets) under the aegis of the top secret Military Assistance Command–Studies and Observation Group. After years of ultra-secrecy, he is finally able to tell his story.
Mr. Meyer grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, and did his basic training right down the road at Fort Dix.
Fast forward to a meeting his sergeant major had with Mr. Meyer and his fellow Green Berets about getting ready for his first mission. “The sergeant major told us straight out…when we went across the fence (into Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam)…no dog tags, diaries, photos, love letters, nothing…if we got killed the United States government would deny having anything to do with us,” he recalled.
How did this set with him? “It was time to go to work…I’m a real Green Beret…this is what we’re getting paid for…this is IT…doing top secret missions where nobody goes but us…I was ready,” he remembered. There was no science in preparing for the next mission: “You shower, shave, grab something to eat, maybe play some cards, go to bed and get ready for tomorrow.”
Because of the severe danger of each mission, Mr. Meyer said, his unit had to be extremely close. ”You tried to prevent casualties…directions had to be specific on extractions (taking troops out) and bombardments…I carried a radio and called in the airstrikes…we’d pop smoke or use mirrors…some airstrikes came extremely close to us,” he recalled.
The intensity and instincts kicked in even during recreational football. “Our quarterback was a Special Ops Green Beret…was set to pass, then saw a defensive player coming from his right side, grabbed the guy hard and drove his head into the sand…thankfully it wasn’t at an angle…you break somebody’s neck when you drive their head into the ground at an angle,” he said.
Mr. Meyer spoke of many RON (Remain Over Night) experiences in the jungle. “There are things you considered and were aware of, at ALL times…we made a circle where you could always reach out and touch another guy…you trust your teammates and sleep when you’re supposed to…I slept light…the morning dew falling from trees would wake me up…we once heard a tiger prowling around but it left us alone,” he remembered.
He continued, “We had a Green Beret officer assigned to us…never should have been a leader…came down from the big brass…no experience in our type of warfare…got two good Vietnamese soldiers on my team killed and we were pissed…he never respected the enemy, which proved fatal.”
Mr. Meyer also shared a moment that would make a person shudder: “One night, the jungle was deadly quiet, except when the wind stirred…my heart began to pound and pound…every time the wind stirred [a North Vietnamese Army] soldier got closer…then, after the wind stirred, I heard a movement very close to me…the NVA soldier touched the tip of my jungle boot…I heard a slight gasp…had a death grip on my CAR-15 [rifle]…had it on single shot…
“It felt like an eternity, then the wind blew softly again…I heard the NVA soldier move back…he was so cool…I couldn’t see him and wondered if he knew I had my gun pointed at him…didn’t dare shoot as I didn’t want to alert the NVA’s buddies that were most likely near…every time the wind blew the tree branches, he moved…followed him to a creek and he moved out with two other NVAs. Every time the wind blew.”
Mr. Meyer shared two final thoughts. “I have the highest level of respect for the South Vietnamese Kingbee Helicopter pilots…they were fearless…put their lives on the line…got shot up…some got killed saving us,” he recalled.
His thoughts on going home? “I was bitterly torn…guys I had to leave…terribly painful…I was alive because of my ‘little people’…that’s a term of the greatest level of respect for my Vietnamese soldiers…I would have done it all over again,” he said.
John Stryker Meyer, thank you for your service to our great country and welcome home.
Contact Wayne Soares at firstname.lastname@example.org