In Memory of David Ives Mixter

By: George "Sonny" Hoffman

Name: David Ives Mixter

Rank: E5/US Army Special Forces

Hometown of Record: Darien CT

Date of Birth: 22 January 1949 (New York NY)

MIA: 29 January 1971

David Ives Mixter (Mix) stood tall in the ranks as a Green Beret should. He had a rough complexion, a bit pocked. With a little more meat on his bones he'd have been a bad-looking dude. Though he was tall, Mix wasn't bad. He was a soft-spoken gentle giant who laughed easily but rarely made anyone else laugh. Practical jokes, rubber barf, and gags were more his style. His virtue was generosity. He would give you the shirt off his back. Mix would share his last buck with you and was always good for a short-term loan.

I liked having Mix in our group. He looked like a Green Beret, even in civvies, and made bad guys think twice before messing with us. In a fight, however, he'd be a liability. Mix was gangly and a fast opponent could slap him silly before Mix could land a blow. That's just conjecture, because we never had to fight. I often called him "Dumb Shit." I did so, not because he was dumb, but because I could. Calling a big man a dumb shit was like yanking a lion's tail when only you know he's just a big pussy cat.

I ran into Mix at the beginning of my second tour. We were both in the same Recon outfit at CCC and didn't know it. For two months, his team and mine were never in the camp at the same time. We crossed paths while crossing the compound in opposite directions. We just stopped and stared. "Mix?" "Sonny?" You get the picture.

We talked for hours. We had so much to catch up on, so many friends we had to exchange information about. Mix had been running recon longer than I had and was full of useful tips. He was dismayed that I hadn't found time to have a recon shirt made. "You have to have a good recon shirt, man."

A recon shirt is a jungle fatigue jacket with the bottom pockets removed and sewn on the sleeves. This made the blouse easier to tuck in. The bottom pockets are useless when web gear is worn, and recon men can't get enough pockets. You keep as much on your person as possible. His was a lucky recon shirt, he explained. The Yards put some magic on it. We all had lucky something-or-others. Mix had a lucky recon shirt.

Mix's team was on stand down--no missions for the foreseeable future, a time to train, heal, replace lost men. RT Montana, my team, was on our way to Long Thanh for a week of training in preparation for a POW snatch mission. The mission was to launch from there, and we were due to leave that day--no time for a recon shirt, or a Yard magic potion. Mix insisted I take his.

That's one thing you don't do--take a guy's lucky something-or-other. You don't hide it, mess with it, steal it, or borrow it. The luck is his, anyway. If he hadn't told me it was his lucky thing, I'd have accepted the shirt without much thought. Borrowing from Mix was an old habit. My credit was good with him. He was relentless about my taking his shirt. The mission we drew was a tough one. I'd be going on it with no recon shirt, and a good recon shirt was something you had to have, he repeated. I took the shirt.

I was wearing that recon shirt when I met Frank Celano at Long Thanh, when I suddenly felt the need to take a nap. Our POW mission was a dry hole. We got hauled out and returned to Kontum. I was not looking forward to my return. I'd have to tell Mix about Frank. He'd be happy that the luck in his shirt saved one friend. Mix would look on the bright side, and he'd find the luck working on his behalf.

I went in search of Mix with his cleaned shirt in hand. My first query left me cold. Mix took a B-40 rocket in the chest. The team had to leave his body. Mix was an MIA, but absolutely dead.

Here's what happened:

His team had to pull reaction duty because there were no operational teams that weren't already deployed. Normally, the reaction team, like the fire department, just hangs out at the ready. The NVA shot down a fast mover (a jet) over southern Laos where Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam come together. The area was always hot. They went in to look for the pilot and ran into bad guys right away. A brief, intense firefight broke out between the team and a very large NVA unit that was maneuvering to encircle them.

Mix was hit in the chest by a shoulder-fired B-40 rocket. Some said the rocket hit him in the chest, others said it hit right in front of him while he laid prone on the ground. In either case, his chest was a mess and he was unresponsive. His team leader took one look and knew he was dead. Every Yard that saw him said likewise. Mix was too big to carry and staying would doom the entire team. Since he was the only loss, the team leader made the decision to leave his body and try to get the team out.

Ordinarily, a team leader that leaves a man is ostracized, even if he saves lives doing so. I don't think anyone faulted him under those circumstances. He got his team out under extremely difficult conditions, and leaving Mixter made that possible. Mix would have made them go if he were conscious. I know he would. He couldn't, because he was dead.

He was dead because an NVA soldier fired a B-40 rocket at him. You couldn't convince me of that until recently. He died because I had his lucky recon shirt. I survived the war because I stole it from his family.

The proper thing for me to do at that time was to turn in his shirt so that it could be returned to his family with his other personal effects. I let the picture of Frank's girl go, and regretted doing so. I kept the shirt. The shirt was, indeed, lucky.

When I stood before Mixter's name on The Wall, we talked about the shirt. No, I didn't talk out loud. People would think I was nuts, but we talked. He laughed when I apologized for taking his lucky shirt. He said he had three of them, and that all that bullshit about being lucky was for my benefit. I told him I kept it when I should have turned it in for shipment home to his family. He said they didn't send any field uniforms home. I told him I wore that shirt for years after the war. I wore it until the material would not hold together. He thought that was pretty funny.

I don't care what that dumb shit Mixter says; that was a lucky shirt.