War Stories: Robert Keeney reflects on Vietnam, and the return of the Moving Wall
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    Exclamation War Stories: Robert Keeney reflects on Vietnam, and the return of the Moving Wall

    War Stories: Robert Keeney reflects on Vietnam, and the return of the Moving Wall
    By Katharhynn Heidelberg
    Daily Press Senior Writer

    Editor's Note: This interview is the first in a series of talks conducted with local Vietnam vets in conjunction with the Moving Wall Exhibit coming to Montrose May 14.

    MONTROSE — It was 130 degrees in the shade, with 100 percent humidity that day in 1966, when 19-year-old Robert "Bob" Keeney landed in Chu Lai, Vietnam.

    Within two months, the lance corporal's unit — Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment — was overrun by Viet Cong during a mission (Mike Co. was the first regiment to leave the perimeter of Chu Lai). Keeney took shrapnel. Six of his brothers-in-arms took their final journey.

    "We fought them off. I got shot at, mortared," he said.

    "We got sniped at every day."

    Keeney enlisted the year before out of a sense of patriotic duty. He served as a radio operator for 81-mm mortars and went on infantry patrols, where he would call in mortars and adjust them for accuracy. At night, he would call in illumination and could also call in artillery. Sometimes, Keeney served as a forward observer.

    Some of Mike Co.'s duties are immortalized on film — the documentary, "Face of War," was made during five months of Keeney's tour. "I was in it. It was in Hollywood," Keeney said. "Everything that happened was live."

    Keeney tries not to dwell on the dangers he faced. He recounted, fondly, the time he and the company's forward observer decided to track down a sniper.

    They discovered a large tunnel and chucked a few grenades down. He heard scuttling. They threw some more — and out came the rats, followed by bats, which he and the other man shot at for practice.

    "We were making a hell of a noise. The gunny (gunnery sergeant) heard it and got a platoon together. When he showed up, he was a little bit upset."

    It turned out, though, that the sniper had been using the tunnel for his activities.

    While other Vietnam vets drew the ire of protesters, Keeney said he returned stateside before things got so heated. But he was frustrated with the way things went in Vietnam.

    "We could've won that war while I was over there if they would have let us," he said. "I did my duty and I was proud of it."

    When he returned home with about a year of service left, he did not volunteer for a second tour — "Thirteen months was enough."

    Being on base allowed him to readjust. "I really never had any problems. But if a car backfired, you'd hit the deck," Keeney said.

    After leaving the Marines, he went to work for a telephone company and moved to Montrose in 1980 with his wife and two children.

    Though he's seen the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., Keeney said he's eager to see the Moving Wall memorial, which arrives in Montrose May 14 for the exhibit's only stop in Colorado this year.

    "It's a reminder of the guys I was with that died and the guys that served," he said. "There's people out there willing to die and serve their country."


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  2. #2
    Corpsman Free Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    New Port Richey
    ELLIE....GREAT story, that Marine is ALWAYS Welcome HERE!!! We should send him an official invitation!!.....THANKS, Ellie!....DOC

  3. #3
    Marine Free Member txrona's Avatar
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    Nov 2003
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    Thumbs up

    Semper Fi Marine I was in Chu Lai in 1965. Remember it well.

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