FORT POLK, La. — On Nov. 11, 1968, I was an eighth grade student at Woodlawn Junior High School in West Monroe, Louisiana. As a 13 year old, I knew about the Vietnam War, although it had not touched me personally. Yes, I watched Walter Cronkite on the nightly news where it listed the number of Soldiers — both U.S. and North Viet- namese — who were killed daily. It seemed as if every night a handful of “the good guys” were listed killed or missing in action, while sometimes thou- sands of the enemy received the same listing. To my naïve mind, I fig- ured it was just a matter of time be- fore the war was over because there would be no bad guys left. Plus, it didn’t affect me. I didn’t know anyone who had been killed. Sure, there were a couple of young men from my area who were serving “overseas” and we prayed for their safety every Sunday at church, but I was insulated; I knew no one who had paid the ultimate price. That changed Nov. 11, 1968. I can recall the events of that day as if they happened this morning. We were in math class; it was shortly after 10 a.m. My teacher, Coach Clement, looked to- ward the door, got up and left the room. When he opened the door I saw the pastor of the church I at- tended standing in the hallway. A couple of minutes later, Coach Clement reentered the room and said, “Terry, the preacher wants to see you.” Terry Bratton was a friend from church. We played on the same track, football, basketball and soft- ball teams since my family moved to the country five years earlier. To say we were friends is an understate- ment. When Terry did not return to the classroom, we all sat in silence, won- dering what could have happened. Coach Clement sat silently for mo- ment, then said, “Terry’s brother, Leslie, has been killed.” John Leslie Bratton was one of those people that the word “nice” couldn’t adequately describe. Ten years older than Terry, me and the rest our running buddies, he was a person we looked up to. He became a preacher shortly after he turned 18 and lived the kind of life you would expect of a pastor. He could have received an exemp- tion when his draft number came up because of his preacher status, but said that wouldn’t be fair to those who had to serve. He enlisted, attend- ed infantry school and headed to Viet- nam on June 15, 1968, a member of Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Divi- sion. On the morning of Nov. 11, 1968, Pfc. John Leslie Bratton, nicknamed “Preacher” by his fellow Soldiers, was walking point for his unit in Pleiku Province, South Vietnam, when it came under hostile fire. Brat- ton, along with Sgt. James Humphrey and Spc. Gary Rust, were killed in the ensuing firefight. Brat- ton was 23. Bratton was not the only casualty suffered by our small community. Shortly after his death, Bratton’s best friend, Charles Beard, committed suicide, unable to handle the loss of a person he considered closer than a brother. It took Terry a long time to accept that Leslie was gone. For me, the war became real. It now had a face. If Leslie could be killed, anyone over there could be killed — and I knew others who were there, some of whom were fam- ily members. Viewpoint 2/ The Guardian , a civilian enter- prise newspaper, is an authorized publication for members of the U.S. Army. Contents of the Guardian are not necessarily official views of, or en- dorsed by, the U.S. Government, De- partment of Defense, Department of the Army or Fort Polk. The Guardian is published weekly by the Public Affairs Office, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk. Printed circulation is 13,000. 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The appearance of advertising in this publication, including inserts and supplements, does not constitute en- dorsement by the Department of the Army or the Natchitoches Times of the products or services advertised. Guardian Editorial Staff Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general Col. Jarrett Thomas II Garrison commander Kim Reischling Information strategies officer Chuck Cannon Editor Jean Dubiel Angie Thorne Staff writers Editorial Offices Building 4919, Magnolia Street Fort Polk, LA 71459-5060 Voice (337) 531-4033 Fax (337) 531-1401 Email: Kimberly.Reischling@us.army.mil Trading post ads: firstname.lastname@example.org Fort Polk Homepage http://www.jrtc-polk.army.mil Advertising For advertising contact (337) 404-7242 Email: email@example.com In our view Guardian staff asked Fort Polk residents, "What is one of the things you would put on your bucket list? " Here are their responses: Heather Keeler: "I would like to sail the world." Anne Bollinger: "I want to experience parachuting and do all the things that ter- rify me but make me feel alive." Amelia Connor: "Sky- diving." Guardian Nov. 2, 2018 Tai McIntyre: "Fill up my passport.The places to see at the top of my list include Ghana, Dubai and Thailand." Commentary Bratton personified ‘hero’ to group of teens in ‘68 Cannon Please see Hero page 9 By CHUCK CANNON Guardian editor rti i For advertising contact Theresa Larue ( ) il: l l i .