L. E. McCartney: My Recollections of LZ Margo (continued)

Lessons in Leadership Learned on LZ Margo

While speaking with Staff Sergeant Sanchez on LZ Margo as I was waiting for the evacuation helicopter I learned one of the two most powerful, enduring lessons in leadership I ever had, one I will never forget to my dying day, and one I will pass on to everyone I can at every opportunity I have.

 

Staff Sergeant Juan Oscar Sanchez had arrived in-country approximately one month after me and to say our relationship over the eight months we served together was 'difficult' would be an under-statement at best.

 

No one ever said staff sergeants have to like PFCs, or visa versa, and my relationship with SSgt Sanchez was no different.

On a number of occasions Sanchez had clearly stated for all to hear that I was a 'shitbird' and that he was going to 'unfuck' me.

 

However, as we were talking at LZ Margo after the first barrage, he told me he had seen what happened and that he was wrong about me, that I wasn't a shitbird after all.

I thanked him and told him I would see him when I got back from the hospital. He offered me his hand and told me he was looking forward to my return. We shook hands and shortly thereafter I was evacuated.

 

He didn't have to shake my hand, nor did he have to admit that he had misjudged me.

 

He did it because that's what a leader, a true leader, does. That's how a leader leads. By example.

27-year old SSgt Juan Sanchez died in an intense mortar barrage on LZ Margo on September 17, 1968, the second day BLT 2/26 was raked by enemy mortar fire. Photo courtesy of Larry McCartney.

Sadly the next day  SSgt Sanchez sustained mortal wounds in another mortar attack on LZ Margo.

The other enduring lesson in leadership I learned at LZ Margo was taught to me by Lance Corporal Gary Daffin. After he was killed, while awaiting the evacuation helicopter, LCpl Reed brought Daffin's pack to me and told me to be sure his personal effects were turned over to the First Sergeant. I said I would do that and put the pack beside me.

Reed told me to confirm his inventory of the contents. I opened the pack and all I found were spoons and heat tabs -- the spoons and heat tabs Daffin said he didn't have so we wouldn't feel guilty when he shared his last can of food, a can of C-Ration spaghetti, with us. The last meal he ever ate.

 

That lesson in leadership, that a leader looks after the welfare of his men and never asks a subordinate to do that which he will not or cannot do, became so much a part of my personality that some have told me I'm anal about it. Good! I'm glad they noticed. That's the way it should be.

(c) 2019, DMZ Rats of Battalion Landing Team 2/26. All rights reserved.