Denzil “Denny” Drewry is an old friend and former head of our Special Forces Association chapter (Chapter LIV), who by blindest happenstance lives a few streets over from where Your Humble Blogger was raised.
Like many SF vets, his SF service was just one period in a long life of selfless service.
To our surprise, he was profiled in the Worcester, Massachusetts Telegram & Gazette with the sort of respect that newspapers these days seem to find only for dead vets in their obituaries… so we’re grateful to George Barnes of the Telegram & Gazette for doing such a warm and detailed profile of a deserving SF soldier. (It’s apparently part of a series on local vets that Barnes has been working on. Don’t tell the Pulitzer judges we praised his writing, they’ll retaliate).
Mr. Drewry enlisted in the Army in 1966, about a year after the Tonkin Gulf Resolution allowed President Lyndon Johnson to wage war in Vietnam. He joined with two things in mind: to serve in the Green Berets and to fight in Vietnam.
“Every paper I signed, I put “Green Berets – Vietnam, Green Berets – Vietnam, Green Berets – Vietnam,” he said.
At the University of Arkansas he was in the Reserve Officers Training Corps, but still had nearly two years of extensive training before he was qualified to serve in the Green Berets. He attended basic training, advanced infantry training, airborne school and six months of officer-candidate school, graduating as a newly minted second lieutenant. The final step was Special Forces Qualifying School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Vietnam, by the time he got there in August 1968, was at its height. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong had launched the Tet Offensive in January of that year, which proved to be the largest military campaign of the war. Promoted to lieutenant, he worked first in intelligence and then was assigned to a Special Forces A team at Camp A-102 in the Tien Phouoc in Quang Tin province. The camp was one of a series of Special Forces camps set up to interfere with infiltration of enemy troops and weapons from the north. Located near the Laos and North Vietnam borders, the camp was in direct conflict with the North Vietnamese Army.
When he went to war, Mr. Drewry said, he was brimming with confidence, but admitted being frightened the first time he was shot at. He soon got over that as he gained experience. It was never easy at A-102. During one attack, close air support from Navy and Marine pilots saved the day, stopping the North Vietnamese in their tracks.
“We almost got overrun,” Mr. Drewry said. “It was bad weather and we couldn’t get choppers in to reinforce us. We can thank the Navy and Marine Corps pilots for saving us.”
Mr. Drewry’s luck ran out in March 1969, when he was wounded in the leg during an attack. He and a medic he was working with were evacuated to a hospital. Seven months after he arrived in Vietnam, he was headed home. When he recovered, Mr. Drewry continued to serve with the Green Berets for a total of 12 years. He said he would have stayed in longer, but the pain in his injured leg during parachute jumps convinced him it was time to retire.
He went on, as Barnes records, to some distinction in civilian life, too. He held important jobs in private and in public life. And he remains engaged at an age when most Americans are long since retired.
Denny is the kind of a guy you want for a neighbor, whether it’s on his quiet street in Westboro, Massachusetts, or in a noisy gunfight with altogether too many NVA. (Although he’s probably glad the gunfights are over).
Like his military service, what Denny has done as a civilian is not the sort of thing that gets statues of a guy erected. It’s just the sort of Norman Rockwell stuff, like being a town selectman, that holds the country together.
That’s all. But that’s enough, isn’t it?