Wes Sidener 

PFC - E2 - United States Marine Corps
0311 - Infantry Rifleman
Combined Action Program

CAP Logo

Tour began on August 5, 1969
21 Years Old
Burns, Kansas
November 11, 1948 to November 22, 1969

 

Larry Sidener remembers Wes...

Wes, I first visited you at the wall in the 80's.  I still remember you and what you
did for all of us.  I'm proud of you.  May God be with you.  I will see you face to
face some day.

 

These pictures were taken at the Chase County Courthouse in
Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.

Chase County Memorial 

Panel 1 

Panel 2 

Panel 3 

 

These pictures were taken at Swope Park in
Cottonwood Falls, Kansas

Chase County Memorial 

 

 

 

 

Skip Freeman remembers Wesley...

I was in close proximity to his unit when they were overrun.  He was in Cap 1-1-4 I
believe and I was in 1-1-1.  I was on the radio when they were fighting.  Nice post
for Wes!!!!!!  Thank You.

 

Wes and his father 

Wesley and his proud father, Lee.

 

 

 

Some of Wes's early work as a poet!

Poem 

 

Poem 

 

High School Basketball 

Wes is  fifth from the left holding the trophy.

 

Sidener Basketball 

Wes is third from the left.

 

High School Letter 

The letter Wes earned at Chase County High School
in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas

 

Basic Training 

Wes is sixth from the left on the top row.

 

A description of the Combined Action Program of which
Wesley was a part of, provided by his parents...

The Combined Action Program (CAP) was conceived and operated by the United States
Marine Corps from 1965 to 1971.  It was designed as a pacification program.  In
it's six year history, the program was rarely known outside of its own members and a
few Marines fortunate enough to have had some contact with it.  Following the end of
the war, the program was all but forgotten except, of course, by its survivors.

The reason for this lack of recognition was varied; however, the major reason lies within
the nature of the unit itself.  At the height of the CAP there were 114 units, each
comprised of 10 to 14 Marines, one Corpsman and approximately 20 to 25 Vietnamese
Popular Force troops.  These units were strategically scattered from Chu Lai to the
DMZ.  Each unit was located within a village or hamlet and was, in essence,
completely on its own with regard to its pacification activities and, more importantly,
its security and defense.  There existed virtually no artillery or air support for these
units.  Medivacs frequently waited 6 to 8 hours after enemy contact before evacuating
wounded.  Indeed, so remote and isolated were some CAP Units that often Marines
would go six months without seeing an officer or returning to a rear area.

Combined Action Force Marines were usually volunteers and each received
rudimentary training in the Vietnamese language, history, customs and military and
government organization.,  Armed with this limited knowledge and an overpowering belief
that their individual participation in this program might shorten the war and ultimately
save lives, these men, these heroic young men, risked their lives and never lost their
humanness.

Of the approximately 5,000 Marines who went into this program, less than half survived.
Of the survivors, it has been estimated that 70% were wounded once, 40% were
wounded twice and approximately 65% received decoration for heroism.  In 1968
the CAP comprised less than 3% of all U.S. personnel in the I Corps area; yet they
accounted for 43% of the enemy KIA's.  This program was the smallest combat unit
existing in Vietnam, but it was also the most highly decorated.

The CAP Unit veterans do not identify with other Vietnam veterans, especially around
the issues of experiences with and attitudes toward the Vietnamese people.  The
CAP volunteers lived intimately with the villagers and formed powerful relationships
which were traumatically severed upon their return to the States.  This has resulted in
feelings of loss equally as strong as those feelings of loss concerning their fellow Marines.
Often these feelings are compounded by a sense of having abandoned the villagers
who depended on them.

A questionnaire of 54 CAP Marines indicated the following statistics:

Total responses - 54
Officers - 1
Corpsman - 4
Wounded - 29
Survivors of units overrun - 13
Stationary CAP Units - 26
Mobile CAP Units - 19
Both stationary and mobile units - 9

What all this indicated is that those estimates previously mentioned are again reflected
in the questionnaire.  The above numbers indicate that more than 50% of the respondents
were wounded, more than 20% were in units that were overrun by the NVA or VC
forces, and interestingly, the ration of officers to corpsman is precisely of that of the Unit
ratio in Vietnam.

So what does this all mean?  It means that you, as professionals, should be on the lookout
for these CAP Unit survivors and recognize that these are not typical of Vietnam
combat veterans.  These men volunteered above and beyond the call of duty for the
most righteous of reasons - to save lives.  These men were "Peace Corps Volunteers"
with guns.  They gave everything they had and yet they are totally alone.  They cannot
share their experiences with those who understand because there just aren't that many
still alive (maybe 2,000 spread throughout the nation).

All of the survivors should do each other a favor and that is put us in touch with each other.
If you know of someone who was a CAP Unit Marine, then please encourage him to
contact the CAP Unit Veterans Association.  We know what it means to be a CAP Unit
Veteran and we are learning to be survivors with history.

The CAP Unit Veterans Association's address is as follows:
CUVA Vietnam 1965-1971
Rt 1 Box 53-B
Millboro, Va 24460

 

 

 

A letter to Lee and Evelyn Sidener, Wes's parents.

Letter 

 

A memorial left at The Moving Wall.

 

 

A letter to the editor from Ray McGeorge circa 1988...

On Friday, November 18, 1988, I visited with a friend at his place in Washington D.C.
Twice before in 1985 and 1986 I had visited with him and on both occasions we discussed
politics and war.  We discussed what life has become.

This friend of mine is Wesley Sidener.  His place is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
in The Wall along Constitution Avenue near monuments to Presidents Lincoln and
Washington.  Wes shares his place with others but that has never stopped us from visiting.
Those who are there with him seem to share our thoughts and concerns.  This time
they share with us what life has become.

On the visit, Wesley and I talked about our jobs, activities and families.  He wanted
to know all about Judy and our sons, Andrew, Kevin and Ryan, because we were all
there to visit him in May, 1986.  Again, he told me that I'm starting to show my age, while
I have to admit that Wes looks as he always has in my mind. We discussed CCHS sports
and I told him that the Bulldogs have just completed a great football season.  He was
amazed to learn that a Bulldog now plays basketball for the K-State Wildcats.  Wes
still loves those 'Cats.

Wes told me about some of his family.  They live near Cedar Point in Chase County,
Kansas, Missouri and all across America.  They are his parents, siblings, and classmates
(CCHS class of 1966).  He tells me that they think of him constantly and frequently come to
the District to visit.  He says they stop by and tell him about their mortgage, spouse and
problems.  He enjoys it although sometimes a friend stops by with problems beyond
comprehension.  Wes says that the welcome mat is always out.

Wes told me about his job representing the best of America.  He continues to play
a role in our nation's history as a member of the United States Marine Corps.  Just
the other day, he tells me, President and Mrs. Reagan visited him and those who
share his place.  Wes was quite proud to have the President visit his home.  I can see why.

Wes and I did become serious for a while during our visit.  We recognized that on
November 22, 1969 he had died while serving our nation in Vietnam.  Although Wes
didn't want to hear it, I told him that I have thought of his death everyday of
the last 19 years.  He was amazed to learn that I feel guilty for not being with him
for comfort during the final time.

Although I didn't want to hear it, Wes told me that his death stood for valor,
patriotism and the principles of American government.  I was amazed to learn that
Wes didn't need me during the final time.  He had God, courage and warm thoughts
of his mother, I was not needed.

As we concluded our visit, Wesley and I agreed to get together a few more times.
Our visits are always honest and emotional.  This time, as I walked away from his
place, his final words were, "Tell everyone what my life has become."

I will Wesley.

P.S.  Wes may be visited at Panel 16W, Row 110.

 

If you would like to post your remembrance
about Wesley, please
click here.

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