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Rick Scott ’71

Below, you can view the original newspaper article containing the story of Rick Scott ’71. Because the newspaper is difficult to read, we’ve included a full transcription and a full article written by his friend beneath it.

Newspaper Transcription

Reprint of an article about the death of Rick Scott ’71, published Nov. 6, 1999 in The Post & Mail newspaper, Whitley County, Indiana

 

Veterans Day: A soldier’s story

By Jeff Wilcox

 

Editor’s Note: Jeff Wilcox, the author of this story, grew up and graduated from high school in Gary. He is a 1968 graduate of West Point and a former JBM marketing representative with experience in small business. He spent about six years working full-time on Vietnam veterans’ issues in California and Washington. In addition, he served on the ·national board of directors of Vietnam Veterans of America.

 

Wilcox has been self-employed in the real estate business for the past 13 years. He and his wife, Katherine, have been married for 31 years. He credits her love and assistance for where he is at today. They live in Saugatuck, Michigan.

 

Every Veterans Day I take the opportunity to consider the meaning of service and to remember those with whom I personally served.

 

I've always been adamant that Memorial Day should be a healthy occasion for assessing the sadness and grief brought about by death in service to country, while Veterans Day should be the occasion to focus on celebrating those who served and survived.

 

It is nonetheless true that reflection on those who died provides a window on the soldier's experience and is, in its own way, an acknowledgment of all who served.

 

During the period of March through July 1970, the 3rd Brigade of the IOIst Airborne Division confronted a full division of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars in a campaign surrounding Firebase Ripcord.

 

Ripcord was dug into a mountain peak on the edge of the A Shau Valley in extreme northwestern South Vietnam, near the border with Laos and directly in the way of the NVA.

 

The principal unit involved in the Ripcord campaign was the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Infantry.

 

Casualties were numerous and the four rifle companies were ground down well below normal troop strength. Ultimately, we were driven from Ripcord and the surrounding area by the overwhelming NVA force.

 

We were all young. I was a captain and, at 23, among the very oldest in C Co. 2/506. We were nonetheless highly trained soldiers and all experienced in the ways of our war; combat veterans.

 

During the week before Rick Scott of Columbia City arrived, there was a series of encounters with the enemy, including a vicious night attack in which the company was overrun, suffering numerous casualties.

 

In 1970 the U.S. adopted the policy called "Vietnamization," which was supposed to turn over more of the conduct and fighting of the war to the South Vietnamese army. This policy perversely trickled down to a decision to not reinforce our understrength brigade with additional American troops, thus leaving us exposed to the vastly superior enemy force. Just another of the ironies of Vietnam.

 

Nevertheless, the attitude of the men was fine. The 2/506 had been in the combat zone for about 30 straight days — about a month since the last bath, since the last period of rest and comfort in shelter and relative safety. We were all bone weary but ready to tackle the next obstacle. There was no dope smoking, insubordination or other shirking in our unit. As in all such small units in history, there was a palpable sense of duty and loyalty, not to some geopolitical aim but to one another. It was a tiny world and we were all we had.

 

Late in the first week of July 1970, as company commander of C Co. 2/506, I found our depleted unit down to one other officer, a handful of NCOs and, alarmingly, no medics. At the end of a day in which we had taken additional casualties, both dead and wounded, Rick Scott was delivered to us by helicopter to take up the duty as our new medic.

 

Any soldier new to a combat unit would typically require a period of time to become acclimated. In addition to adjusting to forced marching through mountainous jungle terrain in searing heat with a 60-pound pack on his back and sleeping on the ground in a foreign country with people stalking and shooting at him, the "newbie"' doesn’t have survival instincts yet.

 

He doesn’t know to keep his head down. He doesn’t know how to interpret sounds in the night. He doesn’t have a sense of place and role in the group. He isn’t attuned to “the way it is.” He hasn’t learned how to work within the team or to know the guys around him.

 

Although I was a highly trained West Point officer, I remember the first time I was shot at I asked, “What was that?”

 

I looked at Rick in his fresh new uniform with his wide-eyed look and thought, “This is a fish out of water.” He wasn’t particularly fearful. In fact, he was clearly willing and eager to serve and please; he just seemed particularly out of place.

 

I looked a little closer and found myself saying, “Where is your weapon?”

 

While medics’ prime responsibility was not to shoot, most were fully armed and available as riflemen. They at least carried weapons for self-defense. Occasionally every hand is needed to defend the group. A normal rifle company has about 100 troops. We had about 30 when Rick arrived. We needed men who would shoot.

 

“I’m a conscientious objector,” said Rick.

 

Reality dawned. There was serious business at hand. I told Rick to stay close by me and my radio operators so that I could keep an eye on him and train him. He busied himself dispensing malaria pills, checking feet for blisters and administering to the general well-being of the troops.

 

 

Within 48 hours of Rick’s arrival, C Co. was given a mission to assault a heavily fortified hilltop near Ripcord. We were to go up one side of the hill and D Co. the opposite. Starting in the pre-dawn hours, the enemy emplacements were bombarded by artillery, mortars, jet airstrikes, helicopter gunships and gas.

 

We left our heavy packs at the bottom of the hill and set out for our jumping-off point. As we skirted the base of the hill, one of our young sergeants, a fellow who had been studying to become a priest in civilian life, began loudly reciting The Lord's Prayer.

 

Rick's stepmother, Pauline Scott, told me that Rick was a religious person. I can only imagine his thoughts at the time. Everyone knew the jeopardy we were in and sensed the drama of the moment.

 

The hill had been so heavily bombarded over a period of days that the top half, about 500 feet, was basically denuded. We made our way up the open area by fire and maneuver — one element moving, while the other provided covering fire — and were under fire ourselves as we moved. By the time we reached the summit, we were under withering enemy machine gun and small arms fire and found ourselves hunkered down behind deadfall and in a bomb crater.

 

It soon became clear that D Co. had been unable to reach their objective and we were alone atop the hill. We made every effort to determine the enemy location among the debris on the far side of the hilltop. Our efforts were comical times, actually using a helmet on a stick to draw fire in hopes of identifying the enemy positions. We then received the order to assault across the wide, open space that separated us from the enemy.

 

Immediately upon beginning our advance, we received such heavy fire we were beaten back to cover. A number of men were wounded and one lay motionless in the open area.

 

Chaos reigned and before we knew it Rick was moving forward. In a heartbeat, without thought for his own safety, Rick Scott did his duty as he knew it and went to aid a comrade. He did not hesitate. Rick advanced into a hail of enemy fire to aid an already dead trooper and was himself killed.

 

Out of the hundreds of people I encountered during my time in Vietnam, Rick has always stood out. I only knew him for a few days, but I remembered his name, his principled stand as a conscientious objector, where he came from, and how he reacted to being in the field of combat. His memory is still vivid.

 

Over the years I’ve reflected on the unresolved conflicts of my Vietnam experience and attempted to sort out what happened and why.

 

I’ve often replayed my brief association with Rick in my mind. With almost constant protests at home, I have always believed that Rick Scott was sent into combat because of politics — ‘How dare you say you won’t kill for the cause?”

 

I was aggravated at the “system” that would on one hand put a guy who I could tell was a deep-down, real-life pacifist in harm’s way; and on the other hand send an undermanned combat unit an unarmed man. Somehow this has always exemplified the strangeness of the Vietnam War for me.

 

I have rerun the events leading to Rick’s death over and over again. I found myself drifting off in business meetings to rethink the day Rick died and other scenes from Vietnam.

 

“What could I have done differently?” “What if?”

 

In July 1970 my goal was not some grand military objective. It was to keep the men in my command alive. Years later, no matter how I replayed the scenario, Rick would still be dead and I felt I had let him down.

 

Over the years I sought help dealing with my unresolved conflicts from Vietnam through therapy and sharing with other vets. A couple years ago I was reunited with a group from C Co. and the Ripcord campaign. By then I had healed much of my psychic injury due to our war. It was a very comforting experience to be with my mates again. Rick was remembered and present in spirit.

 

Last month at another Ripcord reunion, one of the vets talked about visiting with the family of another fallen vet. While I had often thought of contacting Rick’s family, I feared that I might needlessly bring up pain again and my presence might be an intrusion and an unhappy reminder of a family’s loss.

 

But I was reassured that it might likely be good for the family. I see my showing up now as an extension of the soldier’s promise to go back for the dead and wounded; to leave no one on the battlefield.

 

Pauline had been close to Rick and she was gracious and glad to hear from me. His family, friends and community deserve to know how (honorably) Rick served.

 

“I want you all to know that Rick's final act was a selfless, valorous act.”

 

In dealing with the memories of Vietnam, my personal healing process made a dramatic and positive turn when I determined that I could make a living memorial to Rick Scott and all the other men I fought with by living the life I would have wished for them — a life of happiness, love, friendship, prosperity, sufficiency and peace of mind.

 

“I salute Rick Scott’s bravery and pureness of heart. I will be inspired by him and keep him in my heart forever.”

 

Pauline Scott, stepmother of Rick Scott, remembers him as a doting stepbrother to his baby sisters.

 

In high school Rick was involved in debate and drama, his two great loves.

 

Rick enlisted to serve in the Vietnam War even though he did not want to kill anyone.

 

"He told his dad, (the late Adrian Scott) he wouldn't kill anybody with a gun," said

Pauline.

 

Even so, Rick enlisted to serve his country.

 

"We couldn't understand why they assigned him to the medics after boot camp," she said. "He had no prior medical training, but was trained and assigned to the 'Screaming Eagles' Unit.

 

According. to Pauline and his commander Rick was a religious person.

 

"He would read the Bible and he knew It," said Pauline. "He thought highly of the Rev.

Wolf who was at the First Presbyterian Church.

 

“I do wonder what Rick would have been like after he came home from the war," she

said. "I know he wanted to go back to Ripon College In Wisconsin and major In drama

and elementary education.

 

''Would Rick have a home, marriage and a family?'' asked Pauline. "How would he have turned out?''

 

Five months and three weeks after Rick enlisted, U.S. Army personnel came to

Columbia City looking for his father.

 

They missed him at the Post Office. Adrian had the day off. In his comings and goings,

he met a couple of his friends and they told him about the army officers.

 

“Army officers only come to Columbia City for one thing,” said Pauline. “Adrian came home to tell me and that’s the first time I ever saw him cry.”

 

Scott was awarded the Purple Heart, a medic’s medal and five other medals.

Marcus Disbrow ’71 remembers Rick Scott ’71 (Full Article)

Rick and I met as freshmen and quickly became friends. In the fall of 1967, Ripon was experimenting with new approach to their educational experience — the professors came to us at Scott Hall to do the lectures.  Rick would load his short stem pipe (yes, smoking in the dorms) and take notes. I do not think that Ripon repeated that experiment as dorm lounge was too casual and promoted sleeping.

 

Rick was actively involved in the presidential campaign for Eugene McCarthy and was trying to balance class work, campaigning and involvement with anti-Vietnam protests as well as being a part of the college theatre community. At that time, Ripon required all freshmen and sophomore men to take ROTC. Rick was vigorously against the war and I don’t think that he ever polished his brass or spit-shined his boots.

Rick was among the original members of what we originated as The Traveling Ripon College Children’s Theatre. We would take these children’s plays “on the road” to various community schools.

He was in several of the college plays including a major role in “Uncle Vanya.” He liked the makeup so much that he often would wear it to class.  And then try to pass it off as being his natural complexion and color. And occasionally he would come to class in full costume with frock coat and knee length jacket.

 

Rick was from Indiana and my home was Waupun, Wisconsin, which was much closer to the college. Often my parents would invite him and other college friends for a weekend getaway for a bratwurst cookout. He was always appreciative of these family-type gatherings with my parents and younger brother.

I never knew his family. I know that he had a stepmother and step-siblings. A few months ago, I located his step-sister and left her two messages. But she never made contact.

 

Rick had an encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespearian quotes. He often would remark something to the effect pg “and this is what Shakespeare would say ,,,” about the weather, the birds flying about, someone coughing, etc.

 

Rick wanted to study religion and philosophy. I think he would have become a minister. He became friends with the pastor of a local church next door to the college theater, which in its previous life had been a church. I think that it has been razed. One Sunday, the pastors invited a group of us to attend his first sermon at the church.

 

I don’t recall much of what he said, but I remember his opening. He thanked the pastor for giving him that opportunity and went to say something like this “as I stand here at this pulpit, it is like steering a great ship …”  Don’t know why I remember that, but as I type I clearly see him behind that dark carved wood pulpit.

 

Orrin Fink was the College’s photographer and worked out of Mr. Ken Lay’s public relations office. I had a work-grant at that office. One day Mr. Fink came to show Mr. Lay dozens of photos he had taken that day. I was looking over their shoulders and identified Rick sitting in front of the stone wall outside the back of the Great Hall and a woman was sitting directly behind him. That photo was produced on the cover of the Ripon College magazine that was sent out to all parents.  

 

Almost from day one at Ripon, Rick started growing a beard. He had the right genes as it was black, thick, lush and grew like crazy. He had that beard in that photo. Several weeks after its publication, Rick laughingly told me that it was only when someone in his family recognized his high school class ring, did they know it was he!

 

Rick was the type of person who made friends easily. He was jovial and enjoyed college life. He liked the socialization opportunities and was a regular at The Spot (it was a bar and restaurant close to the college) on Friday nights. My parents would frequently drive to the college for plays, lectures and concerts. Then they would invite me and friends to dinner at the upstairs restaurant at the Spot. Downstairs was the bar and it was a common college hangout. One evening while dining on the Spot’s Friday Night Fish Fry, Rick walked in and under his long winter coat he was carrying a full pitcher of Spot beer. With a huge smile, he announced to my parents, “This is for you.” My parents really liked Rick and he, likewise, liked them.

 

I think that Rick became too focused on political matters and actions. That caused his grades to really suffer. He dropped out. But he knew that he had friends and decided to stay in Ripon. He found a job as a nursing home care-giver and had a small apartment overlooking Main Street. We would often party up there.

 

Soon he was living with a couple who were expecting a baby. He became the uncle to this newborn child.  

 

Suddenly, he was gone. He had been drafted. Rick was a genuine conscientious objector. He refused to carry a weapon and became a medic – saving lives. The next thing I knew, he had been killed, shot dead in Vietnam on July 7, 1970.

 

Rick was someone who wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. And even in death he did that. He left half of his military death benefit to that couple with the new baby.

Whenever I return to visit family in the Waupun area, I make a trip to Ripon and leave a rose at the College’s memorial to the fallen college students.

 

Last year, we took the grandchildren to Washington, D.C., where we honored Rick at the Vietnam Memorial, panel 9W, row 133. I had forgotten to get flowers and mumbled that to my granddaughters. Sophia walked off and returned placing a sun-warmed yellow dandelion in my hand saying, “This is for your friend, Grandpa.”

 

I am trying to write something for the “The Ripcord Association:  for survivors, family and friends of The Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord, 101st Airborne Division, Vietnam, March 12-July 23, 1970” to be published in 2020. Any suggestions, photos, ideas would be greatly appreciated.

 

Marcus Disbrow ’71

Cumming, Georgia

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