Name: Sylvester Nelson Jr
Rank: Corporal / Specialist Four
Pay Grade: E3 Posthumous Promotion
Home of Record: Newton, TX
Birth Date: March 22, 1949
Death Date: August 6, 1969
Cause of Death: ground casualty by an explosive device hostile; wounds
Died in Dinh Tuong at age 20
The body was recovered.
|Comment||[Kenneth Steed - brother in arms - A/6/31 RVN.] |
He was black, from New York and inner city. I am white, from Mississippi and country. But, we got along very well. I like his quiet, laid back and easygoing way and he seemed to get a laugh out of my Mississippi twang when I talked. But I think everyone liked Sylvester Nelson Jr. Some of us tended to call him Joe. I don't know why, we just did. He didn't mind the name he had been given and would readily answer to it.
Our platoon was on a search and destroy operation one day. We had landed in the rice paddy after being picked up by the Hueys. Having been told we would be moving to the north, I headed out in that direction. Somehow things got turned around because we started moving toward the south. Maybe orders had changed at the last minute. I never found out why but I wound up on the tail end of the unit instead of on point where I was supposed to be.
The lead part of the platoon had moved into the jungle. They had to cross a small creek or ditch about 30 yards into the wood line and had then worked their way on in about 100 yards further. Some of us was still in the rice paddy at the time when there was a sudden loud boom. I knew someone had tripped a booby trap even before I heard the screams for Medic. I was off and running toward the front before I even realized what I was doing.
After crossing the small creek, I ran about halfway to the front when I met Sgt. Dean. He had numerous wounds and was bloody from head to toe. As I got to him, Dean sort of collapsed to a sitting position. I tried talking to him but he had a blank stare in his eyes. Dean was in a state of walking shock. I got a hold of him and helped get him to the rice paddy where I told someone to look after Dean.
Running back into the jungle, I met Abe at about the same spot I had met Dean. Abe had been wounded in both legs. He was still trying to walk but the thigh muscles were beginning to get so tight that he was having trouble. I got a hold on Abe and helped get him to the rice paddy.
I then ran back into the jungle for the third time. I found Fisher who had received some minor shrapnel wounds to the chin and neck. He would be okay so I proceeded on where I found the medic working on Joe. I jumped in to help in getting his wounds bandaged. He had been hit in a number of places and was obviously the worst of the four who had been hit by the booby-trapped Chi-com grenade.
As I worked on Joe he looked at me and asked, "How bad is it Steed?" I said the only thing I could think of at the time, "Joe, you're going to be all right. We're going to get you out of here so you can go home." At that, Joe just closed his eyes and said, "That's good man, thanks."
The medic and I then picked Joe up and started carrying him to the rice paddy. We could hear the Medevac helicopters coming in before we got him to the paddy. They were landing as we got there and someone else helped in getting the wounded onboard. I was totally exhausted at that point. From all the running back and forth, carrying the wounded and the extreme heat, I was spent and dizzy. I ended up being Medevac also because I had passed out.
When I came to, I was in the hospital at dong Tam. There was a needle in my arm and they were filling me with fluids. I asked about the guys I had come in with but was only told they were all okay. They wouldn't tell me anymore than that. Later on they had a driver carry me back to our unit where I had to lay around for a day or two until I recovered.
Then came the news that Joe had died. This news hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn't believe it. Why him? Why not me? After all, I was supposed to be on point, not Joe. This I struggle with for many years. It took me a long time to accept the fact that it was just Joe's time to go and not mine. But to this day I still think about that good old buddy of mine.
A few years ago, the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall came to town. I made a special effort to see it. I was moved when I read the names of the guys I had known. But when I saw the name Sylvester Nelson Jr., I cried. That was the first time I had cried about my whole Vietnam experience. I hope and pray that God has been able to give Joe's family some relief since his death. And I hope they also know that he was a nice guy who hasn't been forgotten.
So far as the others, Fisher was back in the field in a few weeks. Dean and Aquilleria I never heard from again. If anyone should know about whatever happened to them I'd appreciate hearing from them.