Joining the United States Marine Corps in 1967, Butch Teague wanted to make his family proud. His great grandfather was a marine, his grandfather was a marine, and his dad was a marine so it was almost inevitable that he was also going to be a marine.
He grew up on his dad’s grape ranch in Selma and went into the corps on the buddy system with his best friend, Gary A Cox. They had known each other since kindergarten and were able to train together. They also flew to Vietnam together but once they got there they were put into different units. Teague was an infantry man and Cox went into working with mortars; both served in the First Battalion 9th Marines with a group known as The Walking Dead.
“We were called the walking dead because we lost more men than anyone over there,” said Teague. “The commandant of the Marine Corps was out to make a name for him so it was all about let’s go fight.”
Teague did his stint in Vietnam from June 1968 until July of 1969. He was shot twice and stabbed once in hand to hand combat. He was awarded the Silver Star for his participation in the Vietnam War and the Marine Corps Navy Commendation medal.
The Commendation medal was given to Teague for his bravery taking food out to his men while they were under heavy enemy fire.
“I went on R&R and when I came back my guys were pinned down and they didn’t have food,” explained Teague. “There was no way to get them food. A chopper would not land in there because they were pinned down taking too much fire.”
He asked the chopper pilot to get him within 10 feet of the ground so he could push a pallet of rations off the helicopter and then jumped out with it to make sure his men got food.
“There is a lot of sacrifice, I had a few guys die in my arms over there,” stated Teague. “One guy caught a bullet for me; that is where I got shot twice. I got grazed just enough to burn the skin. This guy caught a 50-caliber bullet and it went into his lungs.”
At that time when he was serving as the point in the jungle, he tripped and fell off a cliff so another marine took point. Teague grabbed some jungle vines and climbed back up.
“He caught the round I was supposed to get,” explained Teague. “I guess it was something like God pushed me over the edge to save my life. That is what my grandma said; she was a preacher.”
In one battle, they killed over 3,000 enemy in one day day and had to call air strikes right over their heads while being shot at by two 30 calibers and a 50 caliber.
“You never forget that,” said Teague. “I wake up with cold sweats even still.”
He had survivor’s guilt when he got back stateside. He still suffers from the time he spent in Vietnam but finding Duke Cooper and American Veterans First in Riverbank turned his life around. He now works with veterans on a regular basis and gives back as much as he can.
“They kind of pulled me up by my boot straps and we went out and helped some veterans and it felt so good to be helping and doing something again,” expressed Teague. “I just felt good.”
He also said the camaraderie at the Riverbank location is just what he needed.
“We hit it off right off the bat. It is a place where you can go and sit and you are not pressured into telling them your problems. You can bring them out as you want to. Or you can listen to other people’s problems which is more therapy than going to a therapist,” Teague noted.
The Marine Corps veteran said if you would like to do something to celebrate Veterans’ Day, thank a veteran, stand up, shake their hand, and fly the American flag.