Sergeant E-5 Reginald “Reggie” Horton
Second Generation Americal Division
Like his father and uncle before him, Reginald Horton served in the U.S. Army’s 23rd Infantry Division, more commonly known as the Americal Division. Formed from Task Force 6814 in 1942, it was deactivated in 1945. The 23rd Infantry Division was activated from 1954 to 1956 and took the colors of the Americal Division. It is the only named Division and the only one always activated outside the United States. Its soldiers spent most missions in the tropical bush and were accordingly known as “The Jungle Warriors.” Horton’s assignment was no different.
Entering the Vietnam War in 1969, he served as a private first class in A Co. 1/6 198th Light Infantry Brigade west of Chu Lai. “We patrolled from village to village through jungle, rice paddies, elephant grass and some mountainous terrain,” said Horton, 73. “Encountering mostly Viet Cong, and some North Vietnamese Army regulars, our platoon had several close calls from sniper fire, mine fields, booby traps and occasional fire fights. Caught in an ambush crossing a paddy dike, my assistant gunner right behind me took a bad one in the thigh and we had to call in the gunships. It turned out to be what was called a “million dollar wound” as he was sent home and eventually recovered. On another mission my platoon sergeant, a scout dog and his handler were injured by a “booby trap” suspected to be a hand grenade. My platoon sergeant suffered several leg wounds.”
Horton said patrols through the jungle were often hairy, but felt a little more comfortable with his weapon of choice, an M-60 machine gun. “It is ‘belt fed’, usually with 100 round belts that came in real handy, especially in free-fire zones where we had a mad-minute to rip up anything that moved. The enemy often travelled at night and we’d let loose and clean them up nicely.”
Horton and his fellow soldiers enjoyed some stand-down time that was spent mostly in the clubs and bars, but things got a little shaky as their tours were coming to an end. “We were looking to the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, but even with extra precautions it was nerve racking. Everyone knew and heard about guys who were almost ready to begin packing for home, only to be wounded or killed.”
Horton left Vietnam in 1970 and was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia as an assistant instructor before being discharged and put on inactive reserve. Two years later he retired, was discharged as a Sergeant E-5, and received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Army Commendation with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Vietnam Service with 4 Bronze Stars, Vietnam Campaign with 1960 Device, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm and Good Conduct and National Defense Ribbons.
Following the war Horton worked in the insurance business and then in the power industry. A deep reconnection to the Americal Division began in 2008, when his uncle took him to an Americal Division Veterans Association reunion in Jacksonville, Florida. He had been a member of the ADVA since 1994 and was soon asked to run for the ADVA Executive Council, where he served for several years before becoming Junior Vice Commander and eventually National Commander in 2018. “I enjoy my duties directing and supporting the ADVA, but what I really like is seeing the members I served with and becoming friends with new ones,” Horton said. “In the early reunions I had the pleasure of meeting World War II vets who were then in their 80s and 90s. We’d hear stories of what they went through in both theaters of that war, the hardships and victories. I really admire the Greatest Generation.”
Horton’s two-year run as National Commander ended in June, 2020. He is also committed to service in his hometown of Roxboro, North Carolina, where he is a member of City Council, the Kiwanis Club, Elks Lodge and local chapters of the American Legion and Disabled Americans Veterans Association. “I’m proud to have served my country honorably and it’s a great privilege to be part of the ADVA. I also find it very rewarding to work with my local friends and citizens to accomplish good things for our community.”
Scott McCaskey is a contributing writer for Armed Forces Reunions, Inc., former Account Director at Goldman & Associates Public Relations and a former staff writer for the Virginian Pilot newspaper.