Parker "Chip" Wood '67

 

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%1125%right%Parker "Chip" Wood '67 was on the verge of being drafted when he decided to take some measure of control in shaping his future,he enlisted in the Army to get a guaranteed spot in Officer Candidate School. An administrative science major at Colby, Wood went to work immediately after his four years of Army service. At the same time, he used his veteran's benefits to attend night school and get an M.B.A. from Golden Gate University and advance his business career.

But nearly 40 years after he was dispatched to Vietnam, Wood has seen his war-time experiences vividly revived.

By the time Wood arrived in Vietnam in September 1969 as leader of the 3rd Platoon from Bravo Company, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, he'd been through Basic Training at Fort Dix, Advanced Infantry Training, Officer Candidate School, and a jungle warfare school in Panama. For the first eight months in Vietnam, he and his men patrolled areas between Saigon and the Cambodian border, following up on intelligence reports about North Vietnamese forces entering the region.

Things changed when Wood's company moved into Cambodia in the spring of 1970. "Initially, we didn't encounter much," he recalled, "but gradually the resistance built to the point where we were involved in firefights almost every day."

The most intense fighting took place over several days, as the company slowly advanced up a steep jungle ridgeline. "We had virtually no room to maneuver, so we were really vulnerable to hit-and-run ambushes," he said. "My platoon was relatively lucky, but the ambushes took a heavy toll on the company."

Before the fighting was over, about a quarter of the company had been killed or wounded.

The fighting reached a crescendo as Wood's company staged its final assault to take the top of the ridge. "One of our guys literally tripped over a piece of corrugated metal," Wood recalled. "He turned and yelled that he'd found something, and in almost the same instant he was shot and killed."

After the fighting stopped, the soldiers discovered why they'd endured so much resistance. The corrugated metal covered the entrance to a bunker,part of a huge complex that contained the largest cache of weapons discovered during the entire Vietnam War.

Wood eventually moved to battalion headquarters at a forward-fire base, where he was in charge of intelligence operations and coordinating air strikes and close air support for the units in the field.

More than 30 years later, he saw a brief item in a veterans' newsletter about a film project being put together by CBS combat photographer Norman Lloyd. It was Lloyd who, as a rookie cameraman, followed Bravo Company's 1st Platoon through the Cambodian jungle, exposing himself to the same intense battle conditions. Wood's unit often worked with the 1st Platoon, and Wood appeared here and there in Lloyd's footage, surviving reels of which sat in CBS's vaults for years as Lloyd built a formidable career at 60 Minutes and became Ed Bradley's principal photographer.

"I sent Norman an e-mail telling him I was the Third Platoon leader," he said, "and got a note back from him saying he had enough information for his project."

A couple of months later, Lloyd called and said he'd figured out who Wood was in the footage. Lloyd drove from the San Francisco Bay Area to interview Wood at home in Salinas, California; part of that interview is included in Lloyd's documentary Commitment and Sacrifice, which juxtaposes the vintage Vietnam footage with freshly shot images of the war in Iraq to show the continuity and reality of a soldier's life. "It's his way of showing what a soldier endures and does for his country," Wood explained. "It's his way of paying homage."

When the film was finished last year, Lloyd entered it in various film festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. But perhaps the best reception was from veterans themselves, with whom Wood recently reconnected. Now semi-retired from the athletic-field turf industry, Wood remembers Lloyd's reaction when he learned that the Veterans' Administration had purchased copies of the film for every clinic and organization in the nation treating soldiers for posttraumatic stress disorder.

"Norman told me if nothing else happens with this film," Wood said, "it is more than enough reason for having put it all together."

,Steve Heacock