D CO, 5TH BN, 12TH INF RGT, 199 INF BDE
From Akron, OH
30 May 1942 - 18 June 1968
Donald R. Hoffman will forever be one who stands out in my memories of the Army, and Vietnam. So will his very thoughtful widow. A woman I don't even know, and only heard from one time after he was lost in combat. I don't know if she or Donald's parents are still living, but if they are I hope they will see this someday and know that I still care. Not only for Donald, but for them, and their loss. Perhaps someday we will be able to visit, and I can tell them how I feel, in person.
Donald and I trained in the same unit at Fort Carson, CO, but not in the same platoon. He was in the barracks next to mine, and for well over a year I only recognized him as one of the men in our training company. Then shortly before we were shipped out to Vietnam, he and another man named Thomas Seifert were moved to our platoon, which was the Heavy Weapons platoon for B Co., 2-61st, 5th Inf Div (M).
I don't know why Donald and his friend approached me when they came to our platoon, perhaps because we were close to the same age (older than most) and the same rank (Sgt. E-5), but they did, and the conversation was a serious one of our concerns that we would soon come down on a levy for Vietnam. There must have been an instant bonding beyond the usual for Army buddies. Soon afterward my orders came down, and I left the unit before they did. I went on leave and then straight to Vietnam, arriving in very early February 1968. Donald, I would later learn, didn't come until April.
As I returned from R&R in late May 1968, Donald and I had a chance meeting in an NCO club at the airbase near Saigon where I had flown out of and back into Vietnam. He recognized me in a crowded room full of men, and we had a short reunion in which we exchanged addresses and information about others we knew were in country, including our friend Tom, who was in the same unit as he was. Donald had already been wounded in the thigh area of one leg, and was on his way back to his unit from the "in country" rehab at Cam Ranh Bay. We agreed to stay in touch by mail, and were looking forward to the day we would all be going home. But it was not to be.
Shortly after I returned to my unit I received a letter from Donald. It was a very short, sad letter advising me that Tom had been killed during his absence. His grief was obvious and I felt compelled to write him a letter of encouragement, and urged him to be safe and that I would see him for the flight home in October. Weeks passed with no reply, then one day a letter came from the States with his last name on the return address. It was a short letter from his widow telling me that Don never got my letter. It came to her in his personal effects, unopened. This lady was so kind, during a time of great personal loss, to write to let me know Don's fate. I was deeply touched by her thoughtfulness. I replied to her letter, but didn't keep her address, and therefore no hope of later contact. I have always regretted not maintaining a relationship with her and Don's family, simply because I would have liked to have had the opportunity to tell them all what a good person he really was, something, I am sure, that they already knew.
Though I only knew Don Hoffman for a short period of time, it was obvious to me and others, that Don was a natural leader, one who quickly earned the respect of all who knew him. His loss is America's loss because it is men of integrity and leadership capabilities, like Don, who make this country what it is today. Our country is diminished by his tragic loss.
God bless you Don, and God bless your family and widow, who were robbed of your value as a son and husband, and possibly a father who could pass on those values.
You will remain forever in my memory.
A memorial from a friend,|
8 Dec 2001