First Lt. Jack Wood waited in a day room with other officers from his unit at Fort Benning, Ga., to hear his fate.
It was July 28, 1965. He was 23.
His helicopter unit had spent the weeks before that night's presidential address packing containers for deployment. The soldiers all thought they knew where they were going — Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia that just months earlier few had heard of and even fewer could locate on a map — but they hadn't received official orders.
In his national address broadcast on television and radio, President Lyndon B. Johnson said, "I have today ordered to Vietnam the airmobile division."
Wood and his unit...