Editor’s note: The following is a first-hand account written by Vietnam veteran Ed Helm.
In 1971, I was on my fourth and final tour of Vietnam. It is also the same year that Brig. Gen. Sid Berry thought there was a need to have a platoon on standby for combat emergency. In February, a call went out for volunteers, and the 2nd Brigade Aero Rifle Platoon was born.
With half its members being Sergeant E5 and above, Arthur Roberson was one of those to volunteer.
He was kind of quiet and stayed to himself, but you could depend on him. One evening, he was sitting out back in our compound.
He was writing a letter, drinking a beer and listening to Motown. I walked up, and he gave me a beer, and we sat there and shot the bull with one another. He told me about his pregnant girlfriend and his job back home.
One of the things he jokingly said was, “This time next week, I’ll be a man fighting in this war.”
The next morning, while on a mission, six days before his 21st birthday, Arthur Roberson was killed.
Soon after his death, all the line companies would start to complain about a shortage of sergeants, and the Aero Rifle Platoon would disband, and we would all go back to our original companies.
There, I would take over platoon sergeant of the of the 3rd Platoon Co. B. 1/502 Infantry.
The Aero Rifle Platoon would only last six months, and Arthur Roberson would be the only member killed in Vietnam, making him a part of military history.
Of all the soldiers I knew that got killed in Vietnam, Arthur Roberson would be last. He was my gunner.
I believe he was killed on Juneteenth for a reason. That was his way of saying “Don’t ever forget me.”