Memorializing Major David Mackey
David R. Mackey was born and raised in Calhoun, Kentucky. He attended Calhoun County High School where he graduated in 1958. He was active in the Future Farmers of America, the National Honor Society, and played on the school basketball team. He loved outdoor activities and animals. His mother often said, “Davie talked with his hands and sang off key but as a boy and as a man he was full of laughter.” He never worried about things that he couldn’t do anything about and just lived life to the fullest.
In the fall of 1958, he entered Western Kentucky State College to major in biology and earn a teacher’s certificate. He entered into the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps at the beginning of his freshman year and found that his true calling was to become an officer in the U.S. Army. He immersed himself totally into the program by becoming a Pershing Rifleman where he developed friends who became like brothers to him. He served on the Advisory board of P/R Company B-3 directing the business and administration of the unit. David was an expert in drill and ceremonies, like most P/Rs, and he competed in drill meets in the Ohio Valley area. He was later elected to the Scabbard and Blade Honor Society serving as the executive officer of the chapter at Western. In the Cadet Corps as a senior, he was a Captain and commanded HHC. Later in the year, he was promoted to Major and became the Battle Group Adjutant (S-1). Because of his academic record and excellence in ROTC, David was designated a Distinguished Military Student and ultimately became a Distinguished Military Graduate upon graduation in June 1963.
Prior to entering Active Duty with the U.S. Army, he taught school for one year and discovered this was not his calling. His Active Duty began in 1964 with the Infantry Officers’ Basic Course at Fort Benning Georgia, along with Airborne and Ranger Schools. This training assured the Captain Mackey was prepared to lead from the front and win his country’s battles.
David’s first assignment after his basic military schooling was at Fort Hood, Texas, where he served initially as the Battalion Mortar/Davy Crockett Platoon Leader. During this time, the unrest in Southeast Asia was escalating and America’s concern and involvement was growing. When he received his orders, he called his Mother to tell her he was going overseas and said, “now don’t you and Dad start worrying." He was confident in his abilities and knew he was well prepared for any mission. David was sent to Vietnam in December 1966, with Advisor Team 99 of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) to serve as an advisor to a Vietnamese infantry unit. He distinguished himself on the battlefield as both a bold leader and skilled trainer and earned a reputation for having a true warrior ethos.
Upon completion of a one-year tour David returned to the U.S. in November 1967. In 1969, he volunteered for a second tour in Vietnam so that his brother would not have to go. This time he was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, “The Old Reliables” at their base camp in Rach Kien. He was assigned as an Operations Officer (S-3) in the 5th Battalion.
Captain Mackey excelled in the Army just as he did in ROTC at Western as witnessed by the fact that he earned two Silver Star Medals, seven Bronze Star Medals with V Device, nine Air Medals, the Army Commendation Medal with V Device, and two Purple Hearts. Other awards and decorations included the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Ranger Tab, and the Airborne Badge. Additionally, he was recognized by the government of the Republic of Vietnam with the awarding of the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Armed Forces Honor Medal–First Class, and the Vietnamese National Order–Knight for his bravery in action and superb efforts in training Vietnamese troops. Hero is a word that David Mackey would have shied away from but his array of medals and badges say differently. As with most heroes, he never mentioned his valor and just continued to serve to the utmost of his ability.
Always where the action was, on 17 September 1969, in Long An Province part of the Mekong Delta and south west of Saigon, Captain David R. Mackey was riding in a Huey Helicopter command and control aircraft along with the commander of the Third Brigade, commander of the 5th Battalion and other key brigade and battalion staff members. As they directed the battle on the ground, a hunter killer team from B Troop, 3d Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry provided tree top-level support to the ground element in contact. The OH-6 Cayuse was leaving the area as the AH-1 Cobra was preparing to set up the make the rocket run on the enemy position. The Command and Control Huey was below the incoming Cobra, both using the same left hand orbiting pattern. While climbing the Command and Control ship came inside the orbit of the Cobra striking the Cobra underneath the left side with its main rotor blade. Both aircrafts crashed and killed all ten onboard the Huey and two in the Cobra.
Because he had already been selected for promotion by a Department of the Army Selection Board, CPT David R. Mackey was posthumously promoted to the rank of Major.
Major David R. Mackey gave the last full measure of devotion and dedication to duty during his six years of military service. This dedicated service was the hallmark of an exceptional young officer who was developed and honed while at Western Kentucky State College. His quiet efficiency coupled with a smile that could light up a room earned him respect and admiration from all. His spirit truly was his master and an inspiration to all with whom he came in contact. This fund serves to honor and memorialize all that Mackey was.
Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view,
download Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Note: documents in Excel format (XLS) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,