McCabe considers service to country the top of his list
Larry James McCabe thought he was set for life.
The former Orange resident graduated high school in 1961, married in 1963, and started working at DuPont Sabine River Works in 1965. Everything was set for him until he was drafted into the Army in 1966 to serve in Vietnam.
“I did one tour of duty in Vietnam from ’67 to ’68,” McCabe said. “I was a truck mechanic in the states, but I didn’t work on trucks in the Army must less ride in one.”
McCabe, by being a citizen-soldier, was one of many soldiers who served their country in a time of need and represent the spirit of Veterans Day which is observed on November 11.
McCabe completed his basic training at Ft. Hood and served in the 4th Infantry Division in the Central Highlands of Vietnam at Camp Enari in Pleiku. It served as a headquarters for the division.
“Our jobs were to secure the roads and bridges on Highway 19. It was a huge area to cover. We were called the Blackhawks. We killed 41 NVAs (North Vietnam Army) who ambushed us.”
In fact, McCabe still has the 4th Division’s newspaper, The Ivy Leaf, in his memorabilia detailing the attack. The article is titled, “Blackhawks Foil NVA Ambush.”He mailed a copy of the article to his wife.
His buddy and fellow Orange County resident, Monte Young, served there as a medic in the 2nd Squadron, 1st Calvary. He bandaged up McCabe who was wounded by shrapnel during the attack. The NVA attacked with a force of over 200. McCabe’s unit helped soldiers who were pinned down by gunfire. They ran out of ammunition and McCabe’s unit brought them more.
“We would be out in the field 60 to 90 days at a time, then we would go to Pleiku for a week,” he said. “We would have a lot of firefights. We were at Bravo Bridge when we were hit.”
McCabe rose to the rank of an E-5 and he led LP patrols- sending out teams of three men in different directions around the base so they wouldn’t be overran by the NVA. “I hated the LPs,” he said. “We couldn’t leave until it was completely dark. I would do them every fourth night. It’s unbelievably scary in the jungle at night.”
He also saved all of his letters he wrote home to his wife and parents. McCabe went back to work at DuPont after his tour of duty was over. He encountered some protesters at the Tacoma-Seattle Airport on the way home. The protesters knew which flights were coming in that were carrying soldiers. McCabe admitted it took him a while to get readjusted to civilian life. “You never get over it. I still dream about it. It took me a very, very long time to get over it,” he said.
It wasn’t until Dec. 8, 1998 until McCabe received the medals he earned serving in Vietnam. However, he still hasn’t received the Purple Heart Medal, the medal he prizes the most.
“I tell people it’s only been 46 years, give the government a chance to work,” he joked.
McCabe is currently a member of the American Legion and VFW posts in Orange and the Vietnam Veterans of America post in Beaumont. He added all veterans who served from 1963 to 1975 are welcome at the VVA.
He also helps with Wounded Warriors. “Our post donated more money to the Vietnam Memorial in Austin than any other chapter,” McCabe said. “We gave $70,000 and the state matched it. The memorial was unveiled in April.” McCabe concluded by saying serving his country was the highlight of his life. “I did what my country asked me to do. I was honored to fight for my country. This is the greatest country in the world. I served proudly,” he said.
Photo – Larry James McCabe of Bridge City served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. He was wounded during an ambush in which he and others held off the enemy. He added he is proud to have served his country.
RECORD PHOTO: David Ball