Remember Manuel Levi Dick, who died in the Vietnam War
Special to First Nation’s Focus
Manuel Levi was born on June 18, 1947, in Coleville, California, to Leona Cluette and George Dick both of Coleville. He had 6 siblings, 5 sisters and 1 brother. He was raised on our family farm and attended Mono County schools, graduating in 1965 from Coleville High School.
In July 1969, he was drafted by the United States Army and ordered to go to the Vietnam War. He was immediately sent to basic training at Fort Ord, California. Upon finishing basic training, he was allowed to leave to come home and be with family.
Our family gave him a going away dinner with numerous relatives attending and to see him off to a foreign land we knew nothing about. We siblings, along with our parents, recall taking him to the Greyhound bus depot in Reno, Nevada, which took him to Fort Ord where he and other soldiers were loaded into a military cargo plane.
He arrived in Chu Lai, Vietnam, on Nov. 24, 1969, and he later wrote home and said they made it all right and their plane had made fuel stops in Anchorage, Alaska, and Japan.
Upon their arrival in Chu Lai, they were given orientation prior to being sent out to the field. He was in Infantry and was a machine gunner for his platoon. He said the day his platoon left the LZ (Landing Zone), he had 100 pounds on his back, counting the machine gun, gun rounds, regular ammo for his Army gun and other equipment.
In April 1970, he was wounded by shrapnel. He was treated and sent back out to the front lines. He was due to go on R&R (Rest and Recreation) to Taipei — however, on August 5, 1970, his platoon was caught in an ambush and we are told he (and every soldier with a machine gun) were the first to be shot by the Vietcong.
One of his friends who was with him told us Manuel died on the spot and was helicoptered to a base to be flown home to Dover, Delaware, and on to his hometown, Coleville, via the Reno airport.
Manuel is one of six young American Indian men from Mono and Inyo (Bishop, Big Pine, Lone Pine area) counties who were killed in the Vietnam War. Our family last received a letter from him on July 23, 1970. He was in Hau Duc; any subsequent letters we had mailed to him came back from the Army in a manila envelope marked “killed in action.”
Manuel’s older brother, Stanley, was in the U.S. Marine Corps and was discharged in 1964 just as the Vietnam War was beginning.
The logistics of getting Manuel home were very stressful and took a toll on our parents. After numerous Western Union telegrams that came from the Army, his body was finally flown home and we had a military funeral.
Our family did not see his body as the Army would not open the casket. We believe there was no body in there. As a result, our mother while at the gravesite clawed at the casket prior to it being lowered into the grave. For years later, since we did not see his body, we would almost expect him to walk in at any moment at family functions.
Even to this day, thinking back on the day we received the worst news a family could expect, the shock and nightmare of the casualty of our brother dying in a foreign country brings back a lot of emotions.
His monthly pay as a PVT for boot camp training was $90 a month. To fight in Vietnam as an E-3 PFC, his pay was $65 overseas pay, $30 combat pay, and basic rank pay of $200. Total monthly pay approximately $300.
Our family is very proud of Manuel’s service to our country and like to think that he did not die in vain. The medals he received are: National Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Purple Heart, Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal.
We thank all veterans and current military personnel who lay their lives on the line for us daily, so that we can be free to live, travel wherever we want and speak our minds. And thank all the families that have sacrificed and continue to make the ultimate sacrifice of their loved ones as we did so many years ago. O