by Air Force 1st Lt. Lou Burton
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
December 27, 2018
This story is an open letter from U.S. Army 1st Sergeant Richard Allen McChesney during an interview, when he was serving in Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates on September 26, 2018.
My name is Richard Allen McChesney, I was born in 1973 to Allan and Mary McChesney who raised me in a small town in northwest Indiana.
As their only son and youngest of four children, I was ornery and always out getting into whatever mischief I could find. Growing up, my friends and I would entertain ourselves with a variety of outside games and sports, but my favorite pastime was pretending to be a Soldier.
My father served in the United States Navy aboard the USS O’Brien during the Vietnam War. The USS O’Brien was a destroyer that served in the U.S. Naval fleet from the 1940s through the 1970s. During that time she and her crew served in World War II, the Korean War, and in the Vietnam War engaging in defensive and offensive operations and rescuing hundreds of aviators from peril.
USS O'Brien saw her first offensive combat action in the Vietnam War when called to the aid of a surrounded outpost at Thach Ten, Quảng Ngãi Province. The ship's impressive barrage of heavy artillery fire helped turn back a North Vietnamese infantry regiment.
In January and early February 1966, she supported carrier operations, conducted search and rescue missions in the Tonkin Gulf and provided gunfire support for the amphibious landing near Cape Batangan known as Operation "Double Eagle." The destroyer got underway again for the Western Pacific on 5 November 1966.
Following antisubmarine warfare exercises in Hawaii and the eastern South China Sea, O’Brien became flagship for Operation "Sea Dragon", the surface action task unit off North Vietnam and was ordered to interdict enemy coastal traffic. More than twenty vessels carrying enemy war supplies to the Viet Cong were sunk or damaged by O'Brien. On 23 December 1966, the ship received three direct hits from coastal batteries north of Đồng Hới; two crewmen were killed and four wounded.
My father’s best friend while growing up went by the name Dickie. I was often told stories about their getting into the same childhood trouble that I did. Perhaps it was because I reminded my mother of my father that I often was told of these stories.
Strangely, it wasn’t my father that would tell me the stories, it was my mother. In fact my father didn’t talk much of Dickie. I remember that I must have been about 10 or 11 years old, when I finally started asking the question ... why I was called “Dickie” when my name was Richard. It probably had something to do with kids who liked to tease me about my name and being called “Dickie”.
Well, it was at this point that my father decided to teach me about the man who was to be my namesake. His name is Richard “Dickie” Allen Cable.
Now, you’ve already been told that he was my father’s best friend, but the rest of what I am about to share is the reason as to “Why I Serve”.
In 1966, Dickie was drafted into the United States Army and served as a rifleman assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division, where he demonstrated bravery and courage during the Vietnam War.
Specialist Cable and his team were on a mission when he spotted several Viet Cong in the jungle. He shouted a warning to his comrades and fired on the Viet Cong. Ignoring the heavy return fire, he engaged the enemy until his comrades reached cover.
As he moved to rejoin his team, he spotted an enemy machine-gun team setting up. Realizing his fellow soldiers would be subject to vicious crossfire, Specialist Cable began a running assault toward the enemy position.
Although he was wounded several times, he overran the position and killed the insurgents before he fell. He was only 20 years old.
For his courage and sacrifice, Dickie was posthumously honored by the military with the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. In addition, Dickie was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Medal with Palm, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960 Device, the Combat Infantry Badge, and the Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar.
Carrying on the most noble of names while serving my country is the least I can do to say thank you ... to my father for naming me after such a valiant hero.
The pride I feel when wearing the Army uniform and living the Army Values while also honoring the man, who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and fellow Soldiers ... is why I serve.