Brian Delate and I met for over two hours at Valencia’s Corner Bakery exchanging recollections of our Vietnam War service and we could have easily gone on that whole day. I found Brian’s experiences fascinating, thus I sincerely hope that I have represented them well here.
Volunteered for U.S. Army
Brian was born April 8, 1949 in Trenton, New Jersey, though he grew up in Yardley, Pennsylvania, graduating from Pennsbury High School June 16, 1967.
Following high school, Brian worked in a record store until he was drafted into the U.S. Army in August 1968. Instead, Brian volunteered to enlist in the Army for a three-year stint that first sent him to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for Basic Training.
Next, he was ordered to Fort Lee, Virginia, for Advanced Individual Training (AIT), though he preferred duty at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to learn a trade in Combat Engineering. However, that was not in the cards.
At that time, Brian qualified for Officer Candidate School, but he was more interested in learning a trade.
While at Fort Lee, Brian was ordered for a 2nd AIT and was trained for Helicopter Electronics on Huey and Chinook helicopters until February 1969.
Nighttime Listening Post Duty
In March 1969, Brian’s orders sent him to Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, to serve with the 16th Aviation Group, Americal Division, Chu Lai, in the southern I Corp region near the South China Sea.
At first Brian was a door gunner on Huey & Chinook Helicopters. He was then quickly assigned to be the Company Armorer and Supply Sergeant (Acting).
He held this position for six months supporting a 220-man company of helicopter pilots and crews.
In August 1969, Brian was promoted to Sergeant E-5 (Buck Sergeant).
Inexplicably, Brian volunteered to lead a 12-man squad assigned to night perimeter patrol duty.
The worst part of the patrol duty was the listening posts, where two-man teams would set up approximately 100 yards outside the perimeter to detect enemy insurgent activity.
The Viet Cong owned the night and they knew exactly the locations of each perimeter bunker thus enabling much sniper action.
Brian’s men constantly moved their claymore mines as the VC were tenacious finding their claymores and reversing them towards their bunkers.
Perimeter guard and listening post duty was plenty dangerous and scary.
In October 1969 Brian was infected with ringworms and jungle rot which started at his knees and during the next month spread up to his neck.
It was determined that he became infected due to the herbicide Brian used to eliminate weed growth at their perimeter concertina wire. His condition was untreatable in the field, so he was sent to the Da Nang Hospital for one week where he had a remarkable recovery.
So, it was right back to Chu Lai perimeter/listening post duty. Oddly, this duty gave Brian a sense of calmness.
In January 1970, however, Brian volunteered for a mission with Special Forces (Green Berets) at Cambodia’s border.
This mission was to establish helicopter refueling Landing Zones required for secret incursions into Cambodia to root out Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers who routinely fled US forces to safety there.
On February 2, 1970, the NVA attempted to overrun Brian’s temporary base camp, but thanks to Huey Gunship support, the NVA failed.
During this melee, Brian’s M-60 machine gunner ran low on ammo so Brian, while under intense enemy fire, retrieved boxes of ammo to help save the day.
For this action, Brian was awarded a Bronze Star for Meritorious Service.
Back in the Real World
Brian’s tour of duty ended March 8, 1970 and he finished his Army stint at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey where he was honorably discharged.
He returned to his parent’s Yardley, Pennsylvania home to resume his life and to further his education.
In June 1973, Brian received an Associates Arts degree from Bucks County Community College and then onto Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, for his Bachelor of Arts Degree.
Brian moved to New York City in September 1975 and took up bar tending for the next three years.
During that period, Brian fell into a dark place mentally and even considered taking his own life as he dreamt about the horrors of war he’d known. However, psychoanalyst and Korean War Veteran, Laurence Sterne, PhD, gradually aided Brian back to normalcy.
It was a four year process of which Brian stated, “Larry saved my life.”
Shakespeare in the Park
By 1980, Brian became involved in the entertainment industry appearing in numerous films, TV episodes and over 120 commercials in the years to follow, which provided a very good living.
Brian’s first big break came in the theatre — “Shakespeare in the Park” at NYC’s Central Park.
Significant examples of his work are the films “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Truman Show,” “Buffalo Soldiers” and more.
On TV , he appeared in a variety of episodes on “Law & Order,” all the soap operas in NYC and most recently five episodes with Lisa Kudrow on “The Comeback” for HBO.
On Broadway, Brian shared the stage with Al Pacino in “Salome” by Oscar Wilde. He also appeared in the award-winning Vietnam War Play “Tracers” in New York and London.
In January 1982 Brian met Karen de Balbian Verster while both enjoyed a play in New York with mutual friends.
They dated for the next two years and married on May 19, 1984 at a gorgeous residence overlooking the majestic Hudson River.
Their beautiful daughter, Tirsa, was born February 11, 1994. Tirsa graduated cum laude from Bryn Mawr College last year.
Brian’s wife Karen, however, was diagnosed with cancer in the 1990’s which she at first survived, But, the cancer returned with a vengeance.
Although Karen would see their daughter graduate, she sadly passed away shortly thereafter.
At present Brian shares his life with Harriette Knight, whom he knew from his Rider University days.
In the fall of 2014, Brian moved to Santa Clarita and has stayed busy in the entertainment industry.
Brian also has a screenplay in the works, “Dante’s Obsession,” a story based on tunnel rats at the height of the Vietnam War in 1968.
It’s also noted that Brian was but several blocks away from the Twin Towers when they were hit and taken down on Sept. 11, 2001.
That horrific event triggered dark memories of Brian’s combat experiences, thus leading to his involvement with the Veteran Community and creating plays that depict combat’s gruesomeness and the lingering impact (PTSD) has on many soldiers.
Brian Delate, despite experiencing many dark days from his combat service, achieved his American Dream.
Brian is a proud Vietnam combat Veteran who is dedicated to supporting all Veterans.
“Memorial Day” showtimes:
Saturday, May 27 at 3pm
Sunday, May 28 at 7pm
Monday, May 29 at 3pm