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Sergeant Jerry Coffey

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

"I am often asked, 'Did you kill anyone?' I answer with this, 'If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.'"

My name is Jerry Coffey and I was a Petty Officer 3rd Class for the Navy from 1964-1970, as well as for the Marines in 1966-1968. It was either join or get drafted, so I chose to join of my own free will. My brother was in the army, he chose to join as well. I was a college student; however, one had to be a “crucial” student to avoid the draft: straight A’s and in either a pre-med or electrical engineering program. I on the other hand was not a straight A student.

Adapting to military life wasn’t all that hard; I knew a lot of people that served, so I knew what to expect. The first 6 months were the hardest due to how regimented the training was.

I started in the Bay Area, at Hunter’s Point. I went to boot camp with both the Navy and Marines in San Diego. At that point, I was a recruit, so I was simply obeying orders. Some time later, I went to Vietnam with the Navy, in a less friendly environment to say the least. That was where I started doing work with the Marines. We were there for 10 months, then came back to the U.S to train more and get supplies. I went to Camp Pendleton with the Marines again, then took off back to Vietnam. Dong-Ha was where we went. I was with the 5th Marine Regiment, and we were in Khe-Sanh for a day. When we were there, we saw a lot of combat. The North Vietnamese fired artillery at our camp. Out of our battalion, we lost 18 people to their attacks. My duty was simply to fire at the enemy. Our friendships would have lasted a lifetime, but I was from California, and most of my friends were on the East Coast, so we lost touch.

Overall, my military service was a good experience to say the least. I managed it the best I could, and I got through.

I am often asked, “Did you kill anyone?” I answer with this, “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.” No veteran that has seen combat can say that they were not fearing for their lives at some point. I myself probably committed these actions in my fear for my life, and I hate having to think about it every time someone brings it up. War is a matter of fact; there has not been one year where there has not been any armed conflict. I am proud to have served my country. And I would definitely do it again, but I am too old.


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