During my time in combat in Vietnam and in other places after 1975 that are still classified, I was a civilian. Granted, I was under cover as an enlisted man in whatever unit, army or Marine Corps, I was supporting. But my actual military service (army) was completed well before I ever saw combat.
My job on the battlefield was using signals intelligence (SIGINT—the intercept and exploitation of the radio communications of the enemy) to tip off friendly forces as to where the enemy was, what his plans were, and the size of his units. The U.S. Marines always exploited my info to the hilt and had some historic victories as a result. The U.S. army sometimes refused to believe the intelligence I supplied them with and didn’t act on it. Their officers were not trained to exploit SIGINT. Many of them didn’t even know what it was or that it even existed. Hence the loss of almost a whole battalion at the start of the 1967 battle of Dak To because the U.S. army 4th Infantry Division ignored my warnings about enemy forces hidden close by.
All that said, I was indistinguishable from the GIs and Marines I was serving with. I have always looked young for my age, and I saw to it that my hair was cut like the combatants I was on the battlefield with, and I dressed in their uniforms, even down to the boots they wore—I still have and occasionally wear one pair of my jungle combat boots from Vietnam.
I take well-deserved pride in my time in combat. Because of my unique ability and training (among other things, I was comfortable in seven languages other than English), I was one-of-a-kind.
I served my country well.