Warrior Family Is a DAV Family
By Thom Wilborn
Mark Montgomery, standing, with his grandfather Milton Reckling at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Mike Montgomery knows about service and sacrifice. A longtime member of DAV Chapter 12 in Albemarle, N.C., he’s a Vietnam veteran who saw more than 22 combat operations in the 13 months he served in Southeast Asia.
But Mike isn’t the only DAV member in his family. His late father, Eugene Montgomery, served with the Navy in the Pacific during World War II, participating in the invasions of Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa. His father-in-law, Milton Reckling, served in the Army infantry and invaded Luzon in the Philippines. His son, Mark, was injured by a roadside bomb while serving with the Army’s 101st Airborne during the Gulf War, and another son, Jason, is a Navy Seabee who served two tours in Iraq and is now in Afghanistan.
“There’s been somebody from our family in wartime service since my two uncles during World War I,” said Montgomery. “We’ve all fought for our country, and DAV has been there for us the whole time.”
“The Montgomery family shows the incalculable value of DAV to the men and women who served and sacrificed for our nation,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski. “They all served in combat and came to DAV for help.”
“The Montgomery family is a DAV history in microcosm,” said National Service Director Garry Augustine. “Their stories are a testament to their dedication to service and our mission. Part of the family’s pride in service in the defense of our liberties includes knowing that DAV always had their backs.”
Mike Montgomery served in the U.S. Marine Corps with duty in Vietnam during 1965-66, participating in Operation Harvest Moon, a major offensive against the Viet Cong, and later Operation Utah against North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars.
During Operation Harvest Moon in December 1965, Montgomery was among the Marines ordered into the Que Son Valley to drive out a Viet Cong regiment that had taken over the area and overrun a South Vietnamese regiment. For 11 days, the battle against “Charlie” seesawed until the enemy was driven off. The Marines lost 45 killed and 218 wounded. The toll of the Viet Cong was much greater – 407 killed and 33 captured.
“I saw villages burning and women and children crying and yelling,” said Montgomery. “I saw shooting and people dying. It was the stuff that happened on a daily basis. Once while I was in an ambush, a snake crawled across my arm and I had to be still.
“In Operation Utah in March 1966, my company was flown by helicopter to a place inside the perimeter of the 32nd NVA infantry division,” Montgomery said. The enemy troops had dug an underground fortress of interconnected tunnels, bunkers and spider holes on and around what was called Hill 50. The fight continued nonstop for two days against a well-trained, well-armed enemy. The Marines prevailed but lost 98 dead and 278 wounded.
“We got beat up pretty good,” said Montgomery. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it out of there. We held our positions and fought day and night. When we were re-enforced by two battalions, the NVA pulled out. My company lost probably 15 percent of the people we had. Maybe 20 percent between the wounded and killed.
After his tour in Vietnam, he spent three months in a Navy hospital on Okinawa recovering from malaria. When he was separated from the Marine Corps, he was admitted to a hospital for further care. He also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the effects of Agent Orange exposure.
Back home, he went to DAV almost immediately with his disability claim and joined the organization, just as his father had. “DAV helped me when I first got out,” said Montgomery. “DAV improved the quality of my life. I believe DAV is the best.”
After five years of civilian life, Montgomery joined the Marine Corps Reserves and retires in 1980 as a chief warrant officer after 18 years.
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