|Gentlemen, my name is Michael Herber. I served in the 1st
Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment with Captain Charles S.
Seketa, and was accorded the honor and privilege of delivering the eulogy
for this great man.
Lt. Charles Davis, who was a platoon leader under Chuck’s command of
Delta Company, preceded the eulogy with his recollections concerning his
Commanding Officer. One anecdote was so "Seketaish" it made me smile.
Charles shared the story regarding his arrival in a Huey, under
heavy enemy fire, into Delta’s location at LZ CENTER. He jumped out of the
helicopter (the ship’s commander wouldn’t land), and hit the deck in a
prone position. In moments a soldier (wearing no rank or insignia on his
fatigue jacket) low crawled over, extended a hand and said: "Welcome to
Vietnam, Lieutenant." They shook hands, then Captain Seketa said: "It only
One note before I proceed: The minister was wonderful. A kind gentle
man who reminded me of Spencer Tracy in the movie Boy’s Town. He
did a commendable job of following Chuck’s wish to keep the services short
and informal. After he finished, he (dressed in full minister’s apparel,
with white collar), came to attention and executed a perfect Army salute.
I looked at Charles Davis, he looked at me, and both our jaws dropped a
bit. I’d never seen this before from a civilian. This anecdote becomes
important later. Just know this: I whispered to Charles that after he
spoke, I wanted him to stand next to the minister, and stay there. He gave
me a why? look. I said, "No time to explain." Charles nodded and
When it was my turn I spoke of my first encounter with the Captain,
at LZ ROSS. It was testy, to say the least. As those of you who knew Chuck
personally will probably agree, he could be a bit intimidating. I am proud
to say that, somehow, (probably out of brand new 2LT idiocy) I was able to
"stand up to him." That event was followed shortly thereafter by a
landline conversation at 0200 hrs. where we really went toe-to-toe. Again,
I hung-in-there. Without going into detail; we were both simply looking
out for our respective men.
My personal recollections included the fact that Captain Seketa
ended up "taking this smart-mouthed Second Lieutenant under his wing—I
think I reminded him of someone he knew—and gave me what I call Seketa’s
Leadership Class 101A and 101B." He shared his vast experiential knowledge
of the Army with me, tutored me on Vietnam Infantry tactics, and explained
the Real Army World—very different from my meager Infantry OCS
introduction. I then stated that in short order, I began to think of him
as the big brother I’d never had.
I recalled how emaciated and sick Chuck had become during the eight
months he spent in the field. And how, when I attempted to get him to go
to Chu Lai for medical care, he refused. Eventually, he had no choice. I
found out while I was at LZ CHEVY, east of Ha Thanh, that Chuck had been
medivaced to Japan. Then, the news came that he had passed away. My big
brother was gone. THEN, I received a letter from him—checked the date—and
determined that he was, in fact, still with us. I was overjoyed. We
corresponded briefly, he was medically discharged, I finished my tour, and
we lost contact.
Forward thirty years: Captain Bill Adams called Captain Michael T.
Mooney (my best friend from Vietnam) and informed him that Captain Seketa
was looking for me. Mooney called me. Two minutes later, Chuck and I were
speaking on the phone. The experience was electric for me. We reunited in
Washington, D.C., where I assisted him in his vast research project at the
National Archives concerning the history of the 1/20. I spoke of the
enormity of his project (time, travel, and expense) that had begun when he
initially looked into the official documentation of his men who did not
make it back to the World. He was greatly disturbed to discover that there
were inaccuracies, and he took on a mission that has become his legacy:
The correction of the records (acknowledged by official sources) and the
history of Sykes Regulars.
Before closing I stated that Chuck had been a brave, great officer,
but perhaps his most striking personal attribute had become evident during
the last several years with his debilitating medical issues: his
strength-of-character. He never complained or expressed sorrow for
himself. Given the severity of his suffering . . . remarkable.
I then asked the minister and Lt. Davis to stand beside me. I had
them come to attention, we saluted and held our salutes as I said:
"Captain Charles Seketa, the officers, non-commissioned officers, and
enlisted men of the 1/20th, Sykes Regulars, 11th
Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, Republic of South Vietnam,
We dropped our salutes and I said, "I love you my big brother."
© 2010 - Michael Herber - All Rights Reserved