Veterans Voice: Weston Scott
United States Army Chaplain Dr. Weston Scott, currently of Cameron, served two tours in Vietnam.
Weston felt a strong calling to be a military chaplain during his last semester at Lincoln (IL) Christian Seminary. Although he feared he was too young for commission as a Chaplain, he had completed the educational requirements necessary, but he was still young and inexperienced. He applied for a First Lieutenant commission in the United States Army, and was surprised that he was one of only six Protestant chaplains selected for training that year.
He was ordered to Fort Hamilton (Brooklyn) New York, “in uniform”. In the course of completing his in-process, it was called to his attention that he was wearing his ranking insignias in the wrong location. He jokes that his only prior experience with military uniforms came from watching TV show, “McHale's Navy”.
Basic training for chaplains is different than regular enlisted. The 8-week program deals with working with enlisted men and their particular spiritual needs. At graduation, Weston was selected to preach at the Protestant service. In attendance at the service, at Weston's invitation, was Major General Brown.
Just prior to graduation, Weston learned that the unit to which he was assigned, the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley (KS) was being deployed to Vietnam. That is where he thought he would be going, but instead he was sent to Fort Leonard Wood (MO).
At Fort Leonard Wood he was assigned to the 2nd Basic Combat Training Brigade. He was chaplain to the 4th Battalion. He had 53 troops at service that Sunday, and was told that they were thinking about closing the chapel due to poor attendance. Weston set about to change that, meeting with men in the barracks and building a relationship with the men. On the next Sunday there were over 100 in attendance. In the ensuing weeks attendance grew to over 300.
One Sunday an elderly gentleman and his wife attended. After service the elderly gentleman came up to him and said, “Nice talk, Sonny”. That man, it turned out, was Major General David Lipscomb, the Post Commanding General. Not only was the chapel kept open, it was upgraded, including a $2,700 Carillion, which played hymns on the hour and half-hour.
Sometime later Weston was called into the Brigade Executive Officer's office. Weston was wearing World War l rank insignias given him by his grandfather. He was told “this is not World War l”, and was ordered to remove them.
Two weeks later he received orders to go to Vietnam. He was then ordered to the rifle range and qualified as “expert”. “Not bad for a chaplain”, he quipped.
He and his wife, Loretta, were married, and 17 days later he was standing in Vietnam. He went first to Saigon. A helicopter pilot told him that you can smell Saigon from 6000 feet up. The smell was due to the fermented fish juice called “nukmom”. The smell permeated the air around the capital.
He was assigned to the 24th Evacuation Hospital in Saigon, only to learn that the hospital had not yet been built. He had to hitchhike 14 miles to Long Binh and work at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital located there. He was unprepared for what he was to encounter. On the first day he came across a young soldier missing both legs and both arms. That night he prayed earnestly for the Lord's guidance in helping these wounded men.
He learned that it was important to try and get their minds off their injuries. He had 3x5 cards with information about each patient. If they listed no religion, he would tell them of God's salvation, and that year baptized 25 men. He said that there were 3 men whose lives were saved by the small Bible they carried. Each time the bullet penetrated to the book of Revelation. He joked the bullet must have become “confused”.
One day, only half an hour before services, a young man was brought in with most of his brain exposed. His sermon that day was “love your enemy” and it was a difficult sermon to preach.
A rewarding incident was delivering several truckloads of food and presents to several orphanages ran by the Church of Christ.
Not only was Weston the youngest chaplain sent to Vietnam, he was the first to be sent back for a second tour. This time he was assigned to an infantry battalion, the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11thInfantry Brigade, Americal Division.
This battalion was engaged in heavy combat. The chaplain Weston replaced had been awarded the Silver Star for calling in an artillery strike on their overran position. After the battle, only he, a staff Sergeant, and a handful of men survived.
Chaplain Scott spent time in the field with the men, even taking the Point position on some patrols. He got to know the men well and ministered to them. Chaplains were not to be armed, but a Sergeant gave him 3 grenades to use for protection if needed. One soldier traveled 120 miles to be baptized. He was in a Jeep with 3 colleagues and a .50 caliber machine gun.
Dr. Scott and his wife of 52 years, Loretta, served at a number of churches over the years before retiring to a small farm southeast of Cameron. Another story will recount many additional experiences.