Reader's Comments

Ed Hood     Oxford, Ms.
I served a tour in Viet Nam I was placed in the same situation as PFC Armstrong. I reside not far from where PFC Armstrong is laid to rest. I cannot understand and will not accept the fact that this soldier who proudly served his country cannot be granted a Purple Heart at least. I know and have known soldiers to receive a purple heart from actually falling out of their bunks after receiving and responding to incoming motar rounds. It does not say on the Purple Heart Citation that this soldier who was performing the duties required by the orders of the command or who ever I'm sure he could have yelled or even screamed out, given him and his patrol unit their whereabouts to the Cong. I hope the recipients of the Purple Heart Medal that didn't deserve such citations enjoy them. Because there are families that have lost their sons, husbands, and fathers that have given their all and even ultimate sacrificee who has not received such Merit or Citation THINK ABOUT WILL U

Pat Hazel    Tupelo MS
I have received several phone calls and comments from friends since the story ran, which was only yesterday July 6th. Terry was my much beloved brother.

Merrill Scott    Tupelo MS
I remember Terry and when he was killed, also the pain and agony his family suffered. Again thanks to our military and their families for keeping us safe.

Pat Gray     Booneville,  MS
Terry was my young cousin. His sister Pat Hazel, and her husband Don, had provided a loving, supportive home for Terry, even though they were only a few years older than he was. He always knew how important he was to them, and that they loved him deeply. He was such a sweet boy who grew into a fine young man from following their guidance and that of my mother and dad,  with whom he lived for a time. They and all his aunts, uncles and cousins loved him dearly.Terry's death and the terrible circumstances surrounding it have been the worst tragedy in Pat's,  Don's,  and all our lives. If there is anything positive that could possibly have ever come from all this is in knowing that he was willing to fight and die for his country if that was what what he had to do. The worst part of all this,  though,  is that he had to give his life for a worthless war that we should never have been engaged in. Because of that,  he and so many other fine young men never got to have a future. His sister,  Pat,  and all his family willl always be devastated by the untimely, needless death of this precious young man.

Private First Class Terry Lee Armstrong
Died November 2, 1968 in South Vietnam
Sherman, MS

Due to the senstive nature of this story, last names are not included except for that of PFC Terry Lee Armstrong.

Combat in Vietnam was confusing and chaotic. The fighting tactics of the Viet Cong were based on shock and surprise. Their strategy often inflicted a psychological toll before their weapons inflicted a physical one. Every soldier who served in the Vietnam jungles knew they had to be on guard every second, day and night. Private First Class Terry Lee Armstrong of Sherman, MS knew this from the moment he arrived in Vietnam in September 1968. As a part of a 3-man reconnaissance team, the primary focus of his job was to be alert at all times. Terry worked with two other men going out alone into the stretches of the jungle to listen for and find the enemy.

In late October 1968, PFC Armstrong and two other soldiers named David and John were on patrol alone when they thought they heard the enemy moving in the brush beside their Jeep. When they listened again, the sound was not coming from human movement. What they heard was a tiger that seemed to be stalking their moves. Shaken by the experience, the three men stayed awake all night, sitting in a circle facing outward. It was enough to be alert for the sounds of the Viet Cong, but this was a situation they had received no training for in the Army. They fought the urge to sleep, not knowing if they were being watched.  

On the next night, November 2, 1968, the group of three was on their guard again. As they sat in their circle, the tiger pounced, striking PFC Armstrong and carrying him away. The other two men felt the tiger brush past them. One of them even tried to punch it. But the sheer terror of the moment overwhelmed them. They sat in the dark calling out PFC Armstrong’s name. After two hours of calling out with no reply, they reported PFC Armstrong missing and choppers flew in with search dogs. A 1st Lt. Maddox was in charge of the search mission and was determined to find out what had happened. He had never heard of an incident like the one he was looking into. It took 6 hours to find PFC Armstrong’s remains. This was just the beginning of a truly horrific ordeal.

PFC Terry Lee Armstrong had been in Vietnam barely 6 weeks when the attack occurred. The Army did not know immediately how to handle his death due to the extremely rare nature of it. They sent word to his family in Mississippi that he had gone missing in action. It took one more week for them to be notified that he had in fact been killed. The Army reported to the family that he had been on guard duty and had disappeared from an apparent tiger attack. They also said there were no witnesses to his disappearance. It would take almost 40 years for them to find out the full truth. 

In September 2010, Terry Lee Armstrong’s sister Pat received a phone call from a man in New Mexico purporting to be one of the two men with Terry the night he died. The man’s name was David and he had just lost his own son, and was wrestling with the emotions of what had happened to him. David said after years of angst and nightmares, he wanted to let Terry’s family know exactly what happened to their son the night he died. Reliving the painful moments from over 40 years earlier was hard for Pat as well as her family, but it also brought a sense of resolution being able to hear how he brother’s last few minutes of life happened.

PFC Terry Lee Armstrong was actually the first of several soldiers to be killed by tigers while serving in Vietnam. The Army was very careful about how these deaths were reported because of the gruesome nature of the incidents. PFC Armstrong’s family though still takes great pride in his service and his sacrifice. Regardless of the manner of his death, PFC Armstrong was on duty doing exactly what he had been instructed to do. No one could ever have imagined that there was second enemy lurking in the brush. PFC Armstrong was buried in Union County. Even though he was denied a Purple Heart because his wounds did not take place as a result of combat, to this day he remains a hero to his family. He also remains a hero to the two men who were with him that night. 

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PFC Terry Lee Armstrong had been in Vietnam just six weeks when his life was ended by a tiger attack. He was the first of several soldiers to die this way in Vietnam.

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