SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Cacti Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, welcomed one of their brethren during Tropic Lightning Week on Oct. 6, 2015.
Robert “Bob” Maves, a former sergeant and infantryman, watched the Cacti team during the softball tournament.
Robert “Bob” Maves, right, stands with Lt. Col. Ryan O'Connor, commander, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, during the Tropic Lightning Week softball tournament at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, on Oct. 6, 2015. Maves was a former sergeant and infantry assigned to 2-35 Inf. Regt., during the Vietnam War June 1969-June 1970. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)
“This is great,” Maves said, as he watched them play. “It's good camaraderie for the guys.”
Maves said he found out about TLW while at the 17th Annual Cacti 35th Inf. Regt. Reunion in San Diego, Sept. 24-27, 2015.
“So I said to my wife, Joan, we're half way there, so we might as well keep going,” he said.
While at the softball tournament, he recalled his time in the Army and with 2-35th Inf. Regt.
“I was drafted in January 1969 as a two-year draftee,” he said. “I was not prepared to be a Soldier.”
Maves was married at the time with a baby daughter, but continued on regardless of the hardship on him and his family.
After induction, the 20-year-old family man headed to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for basic training and then infantry school at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
“I know down in Fort Polk, I grew up in that nine weeks more than any other nine weeks of my life,” he said. “I realized this isn't like playing cowboys and Indians back home. This is the real deal. We're going to war pal.”
He immediately shipped out of Fort Polk to Vietnam and was assigned to 1st Platoon, Company B, 2-35th Inf. Regt., in June 1969, he continued.
It wasn't long before he was in the thick of the jungle in the central highlands of South Vietnam at Camp Enari near Pleiku, Gia Lai province.
“I was walking point and flank, and did the listening posts, observation posts, whatever they asked,” he said.
One of the things asked of him, when he was with a line platoon, was if anyone in his platoon had mortar experience.
“Well, I was at 6-feet 5-inches and 230 pounds,” he said, “so I could carry anything the mortars had, and I said I'd go. They came back an hour later and told me to go to mortars. I wound up in the mortar platoon for about eight months.”
He recalled that his experiences didn't keep him in one place in the central highlands. He was sent to Camp Radcliff in the An Kh� District of Gia Lai, and even out of the province.
“I know we were far up into a place called Buon Ma Thuot, which was quite a ways south of Pleiku,” he said, “so there was a big area of operations for us.”
He described his combat experience as nothing heavy against the Communist Viet Cong.
“I got shot at and mortared,” he said. “No major firefights. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Near the end of time in Vietnam, Maves returned to his original infantry platoon.
“So I finished my last six weeks with the infantry, and that was a tough six weeks,” he said.
The anxious husband and father was ready to return stateside in June 1970, especially after his second daughter had been born while he was deployed.
“I was really happy to get out of there,” he said. “Overly happy to get out of Vietnam.”
Even after he had gone home and finished his two years in the Army, the memories of the friends he made in 2-35th Inf. Regt. never left his mind.
“I missed the guys I was with,” he said. “I think everybody did that. I wouldn't say attached, but you became pretty good friends with some of these guys.”
During the years and decades that passed, contact was lost with them until he heard about the first Cacti 35th Inf. Regt. Reunion in 1999.
“I couldn't make that one,” he said. “I have gone to 16 in a row since 2000.”
The Cacti reunions allowed old friends and comrades in arms to meet up once a year.
“We have 15 of us that were in the '69-'70 range,” he said. “I feel like I have friends all across the country.”
Maves has faced questions about his service in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War over the years.
“I've been asked if I regret going to Vietnam,” he said. “No way. I'm proud of my service.”
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Armando Limon
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
Provided through DVIDS
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