Peter Falco grew up in a working class family in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his parents and his sister. His father was a laborer who had served as a Seabee during WWII, and his mother worked in a department store. After high school, he chose to attend Seton Hall because commuting from home was the affordable option. A baseball and football athlete in high school and a physical education major in college, he planned on playing baseball at Seton Hall, but was academically ineligible during baseball season. Fraternity brothers encouraged him to try out for soccer and later squash, and he became captain for both of those teams during his senior year. He applied for an ROTC scholarship as a means of staying in school, never realizing that the Army would become a lifelong career, and an airborne demonstration by the 82nd during summer training encouraged him to become a paratrooper. After graduation and his initial training, he reported to C Company, 7th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment in the 2nd Armored Division at Ft. Hood. There he learned an important lesson about mutual respect and teamwork between Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers that formed the basis of his leadership style throughout his military service. In November 1969, he deployed to Vietnam, leaving his pregnant wife in New Jersey close to both sets of parents. At the replacement center, he volunteered for assignment to the 101st and joined the 506th Infantry at Camp Eagle. He formed a tight bond with his Platoon Sergeant, SFC Alexander Freeman, and with his two RTOs, Dewey Barley and Bob “Ragman” Haberle, and began learning how to be a Platoon Leader in combat. He participated in operations around Fire Support Bases Maureen and Catherine as a Platoon Leader, and as the S3 Air for the Battalion, he learned how to do “beacon drops” to bring in Marine aviation to bomb enemy positions. After returning from Vietnam, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division until he transitioned to the Army Reserve. Upon leaving active duty, he returned to his original plan of teaching physical education and coaching sports in middle school and high school. He used the G.I. Bill to earn a master’s degree, and became a school administrator, serving as assistant principal and principal. In 1982, he returned to service, joining the New Jersey National Guard. He is most proud of his time running a simulation group because he was able to prepare units for their deployments overseas. After retiring from being an educator and serving in the military, he began compiling daily reports and incorporating oral histories from his unit’s service in Vietnam from the Battle of Hamburger Hill to Firebase Ripcord. His efforts culminated in a trip to Vietnam to commemorate 44 Soldiers who died during that war.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his experiences in college, and his service as a Soldier and educator. He describes his deployment to Vietnam and several of the missions and operations he participated in. He discusses September 11th, 2001, and how he maintained security as the principal of a school on that day. He explains how his simulation group helped prepare units all across the country for their combat deployments. He highlights the collective efforts of his friends and comrades to accurately record the story of their service in Vietnam. Finally, he reflects on what his service means to him.