A Nice Story about a Non-Crazed Vet

Lieutenant Denny Drewry, “garrison” uniform, Vietnam 1968

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.

Denny, field uniform, Camp A-102, 1968

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.

via Those Who Serve: Green Beret from Westboro says service helped shape a full life.

Denny today. Worcester Telegram photo

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?

11 thoughts on “A Nice Story about a Non-Crazed Vet

  1. Boat Guy

    More than enough, though I fear declaring the gunfight “over” may be premature.

  2. Trone Abeetin

    Man, time sucks. You go from a Greek god to a g@d damn Greek.
    I used to laugh when Joan Rivers talked about her sagging tuchas, now I get to live it with my chin. Not so funny now.

    1. Josey Wales

      “If you live long enough, life will take from you everything it gave”.

      And yeah, it sucks…..”Eventually you’re going to need a hip replacement”……

      :snarl:

  3. Looserounds.com

    We are all very lucky guys like him live among us.

    BTW does a SF officer not have the same kind of specialized roles like the other guys? Like weapons or engineer and what not?

  4. Aesop

    Promoted to lieutenant,

    Um, from what, civilian? Methinks the scribes’ fuzzy knowledge of rank structure kept them from appending 1st in front there. Farking journos.

    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.
    Waitwaitwait. A Massachussetts paper, outright admitting that this was not a glorious struggle of the oppressed South Vietnamese engaged in a civil war, but outright admitting that it was a war of conquest by the scourge of international Communism?!?
    That guy’s getting fired right there for cause, or sent back to obits and society news.
    And the AP will drop that story like a hot potato.

    Denny sounds like the salt of the earth.
    May his tribe increase, and he live long upon the earth.

    Probably a real bummer for the mentally broken homeless guy drug addict myth though.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Pretty sure Denny enlisted and was promoted to 2LT on completion of OCS, and 1LT before going to Veet-nam.

      1. archy

        Troops entering OCS in those days [1960’s] were promoted to the E-5 pay grade if they hadn’t yet reached that happy financial status. There were several reasons for the policy, not the least being the need for two or three sets of crisp starched fatigues daily, and that a fair percentage of the young hopefuls were E-1 or E-2 privates just out of Basic or AIT in those pre-OSUT days.

        Recently out of Armor AIT myself, while stuck as a holdover awaiting my slot as a tanker in Germany, someone at The Armor School decided I’d be useful as a part of the school helping train the mostly-young future Lieutenants in the tanker bizness. Most of the Ell-Tee hopefuls were enthusiastic about their future branch and curious as kittens. and I was actually enjoying being around them when I got pulled away from the Oh-Cees and stuck with
        West Point Cadets getting their Summer Orientation; at least the firepower demonstration we put on for them was fun. Then it was foreign officers at the School getting shown the U.S. Army way of doing things. But those OCS cadets were still around, were about my age, and I liked working with them.

        Point is, those pics of young Lt. Denny remind me an awful lot of those kids from 50 years ago, the eyes as much as anything. You just kind of get to wondering what all those eyes have seen over those last 50 years.

  5. Tennessee Budd

    Thanks, Hognose, for introducing us to Mr. (formerly Major) Drewry. I won’t call him a hero, because I believe the term horribly overused, but he is definitely a man worthy of our respect & gratitude–not just for what he did during his military service, but also for his service to his community & country after his retirement.
    I would buy that man a drink any day, and consider it a privilege.
    It would behoove us to remember that the VFW halls & Legion posts contain many such quiet, unsung, good men.

    1. Hognose Post author

      He’s still a Major, as he’s retired. Had he just walked off short of 20 (or not medically retired, which I believe is his case) he’d be “former Major.” Just a quibble.

  6. James F.

    The reporter says

    “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.”

    You guys may have the personal experience of what “We almost got overrun” means that I do not, but I’m pretty sure it means more than a bad day at the office.

    Here’s how the Wikipedia entry for Tiên Phước Camp describes the same incident:

    “On the night of 22 February 1969 the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) attacked the camp which was defended by the 5th Special Forces Detachment A-102 and CIDG forces. The base was secured the following morning for a loss of 1 U.S. and 54 CIDG killed.”

    And that casualty list is with the good guys winning.

  7. Adam

    I’m happy to have an alma mater in common with Maj Drewry. Thank you for sharing his story. Wooo pig soooie, sir.

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