Meet SDIT member Terry McGregor of
La Palma, California. Terry is the son of Capt. Donald McGregor,
a military adviser assigned to the 1st Battalion, 51st ARVN.
Donald McGregor was 29 when he was killed by a sniper on August
13, 1963, near the village of An Hoa. He'd only been in country
six weeks and was on his first operation at the time of his
death. Besides Terry, then 6, McGregor left behind two other
sons, Jerry, 9, and Charles, 3, and his young bride, Leola
McGregor was a career soldier. He
began his military career by joining the National Guard as a
high school student in Rupert, Idaho. Today, Rupert's community
center, formerly the National Guard Armory, is named in his
honor. The effervescent McGregor was captain of his high school
football team and senior class president in 1952. He married his
high school sweetheart shortly after graduation. She worked to
put him through the University of Utah.
received a degree in history while he continued his military
interests through the college's ROTC program. After he
graduated, McGregor began his military career at OCS at Ft.
Benning, Georgia. In 1957, ten days after Terry McGregor was
born, the family moved to Ft. Ord, California.
later, Donald McGregor was transferred to Oahu's Schofield
Barracks, home of the 27th Infantry Wolfhounds. They remained on
the island until 1962. Then McGregor was transferred back to Ft.
Benning. It would be the last post on which the McGregors would
live as a family. In December 1962, McGregor made a short trip
to Washington, D.C. He did not discuss the details with his
bride, but a short time later he received his orders for
Vietnam. "He volunteered to go,'' Terry said.
preparation for that order, his wife and kids moved back to the
couple's native state, Idaho. Terry can't recall being concerned
about his father leaving.
"I have a
vision of the little two-bedroom home where we lived in Paul,
Idaho. We had a ton of people coming by to say goodbye to my
dad. But I didn't have any worries. He'd been away from home
before,'' Terry recalled.
before he volunteered for Vietnam, Donald McGregor had written
his parents a letter, questioning his military service."Dad said
he was thinking about getting out of the Army and taking up a
teaching job in Southern Idaho,'' Terry said, recalling the
letter he didn't read until decades later.
memory of his father is not of a sober father-to-young-son talk
of war or communism. He does not recall a lingering hug or
tearful goodbyes. What he remembers is the timber of his
father's laughter and the buzzing motor of hair clippers.
him standing on the sidewalk outside our little house and
someone was shearing his hair. I don't remember who it was, but
they were shaving his head, and the two of them were laughing,
having a good time. That's my last memory of Dad,'' Terry said.
McGregor wrote letters to his family from Vietnam. He told them
of his weeks in Saigon, of his move to Quang Ngai, and then, the
place he named "home'' - An Hoa. He wrote about being in country
with relatively little to do. He made comments about the Army's
lack of organization. And, then, on August 3, he wrote home
about his first assignment as a military adviser to the 51st
"He said he
finally got himself a job with a good bunch of fellows,'' Terry
McGregor also told his loving wife not to worry.
"He said he
was mostly acting as an umpire for the ARVN and that he wouldn't
be in harm's way,'' Terry said.
August 13, while on his first operation, Donald McGregor,
without regard for his own safety, rushed to the front lines and
urged the South Vietnamese to increase their fire power during
an ambush. They did that successfully. But as Donald McGregor
and three other officers - the Captain he was supposed to
replace and two South Vietnamese officers - prepared to return
to An Hoa at 2:15 that afternoon, snipers shot at them from
three directions. McGregor was shot in the head. The other
officers were wounded, none critically.
McGregor got a phone call from the Western Union office. Terry
was the only son at home that day. "Mom said she needed to go
pick up a telegram. She was crying all the way to the train
station where the Western Union office was located,'' Terry
recalled. "I remember walking into the train station and the guy
behind the counter handing Mom the telegram. He said, ' I'm
sorry, ma'am.' That was it.''
troubling thing about growing up an orphan of Vietnam was the
silence that shrouded his father's death, Terry said. "For many
years I didn't know how he was killed or where he was killed,
except in Vietnam. Vietnam was a sore point for this country. We
didn't talk about it.''
until he joined Sons and Daughters in Touch that Terry learned
more about his soldier father.
taught me how to find this stuff out. Some of it was as simple
as going back and reading the letters he wrote to my mom. I
never read those until a year ago. With the help of SDIT, I was
able to get his military records and read how he was killed.''
Terry will join dozens of other SDIT members as they journey to
Vietnam. "I hope to go there and pay my respects to my father. I
want to feel the ground where he fought his last battle. And I
want to go meet the people he wrote so fondly about. I want to
see An Hoa, the place he called home.''
would like more information about SDIT, contact Karen Spears
or by phone at 541-379-8572.