I see many guys who look a lot like myself on the news and out in the real world. We have a certain look. Many of us have grown beards and wear our hair long (in my case, in protest of war and military action). Many of the veterans of the latest wars seem to keep the shaved head and face. I wonder why? I have had my beard since I got out of the army except for a summer when my daughter got married. At any rate veterans have a look. We tend to have the “thousand yard stare”. We have scars from our experiences inside as well as outside. Many don’t talk about the war. We all think about it though. Some deny there is any problem. Some admit that there is. And some can’t live with what happened. The Veterans administration has made improvements and now recognizes PTS as a real illness. They treat guys for it now. When I got out in November 1969 PTS was not considered an illness. Too many Veterans are homeless, even one is too many. Too many veterans are commiting suicide! My brother’s brother in law did about five years ago. To me it is unacceptable for Veterans to suffer. We spent TRILLIONS of our tax dollars on the wars and we have an obligation to care for all our Veterans.
President Obama has tried to get more money to the Veterans Administration to take care of all our Veterans.
On a personal note, I have type two diabetes from exposure to Agent Orange (the chemical not the speaker). We are hurt inside from the experiences of war.
Guys in Vietnam (I talk from experience about Nam) saw buddies wounded or killed. Many of us helped get them on choppers to get medical help. Most of us had to shoot enemy soldiers. Believe me that is not easy for some of us. I know it haunts me. It goes against human nature to kill other human beings. Oh, there are some people who like killing, no doubt. But I think most folks do not enjoy taking life from another human.
While in Vietnam I had many different kinds of experiences. Upon arrival the day the Tet offensive for 1969 (the second Tet offensive) I was lead to a bunker and told to stay there. I didn’t have a weapon yet. Cu Chi was where I was and the VC came into the base through tunnels. Talk about a long night!
Another experience was in the rubber plantations (the French company Michelin ) Rubber trees planted in straight rows. Those rows made great shooting lanes. You could step into the lane and get shot or shoot at the enemy or step back and have good cover. I was only there about a week.
We spent two weeks on river boats. All day basking in the sun while going up and down the river. At night the boats would drop us along the river bank to set up an ambush. Anything on the river after 10 PM we would open fire. Those two weeks were fairly quiet. We never had to open fire on anyone.
Another two week period we rode on tanks (yes we climbed on and held on for dear life). I may have told this story before. The tank hit a land mine and many of us were thrown off. Lucky nobody was hurt. The tank tread was damaged. We formed a perimeter around the tank and choppers brought mechanics and parts for repairs. A general flew in and gave me a direct order to walk in front of the tank to find any land mines. He didn’t give me any equipment. Just my eyes. Being a good soldier, I did the job and the tank didn’t hit any more mines. That general caused me to lose respect for generals.
Many eagle flights were enjoyed by me. I loved flying on choppers. One time we had a hot LZ (landing zone taking fire). We had a door gunner who was afraid and started pushing us out from thirty feet up. I landed in a rice paddy and pulled a ham string. After the fire fight ended we had to walk back about 10 clicks (6 miles).
There were two missions I hated. Setting an ambush along a known VC trail. Every time we got into fire fights. The other was moving the Fire Base. The good part was flying out to the new FB. A sky crane chopper would fly in with a D9 bulldozer. The dozer would drive around in a circle to loosen the soil so we could dig. The sky crane was a huge chopper that never really landed but dropped the dozer and hovered there until the dozer drove under it and we hitched it up again. Then the long day of filling sand bags and building bunkers. Putting concertina wire out and an RPG screen in front of the bunker. PRG = rocket propelled grenade and the screen was just chainlink fence. We put it out anout fifty feet in front to make the RPG explode before it got to the bunker. We also put out claymore mines in front of each bunker. Then night falls and we still have not finished all our work. Eight of us are sent out on LP (listening post) We have an M60 machine gun and a grenade launcher (dupper) and seven M16 rifles. Also a starlite scope (night vision scope) and a radio. I was on LP four FB’s in a row. Every time we were over run by a ground attack by the NVA (enhanced by Chinese). One of thos LP’s was where a guy was shooting at me and I shot back and saw him die. (this haunts me even today) I know I was justified but it still bothers me.
We went on lots of missions called sweeps. We would walk out to the jungle and try to draw fire. We were susseccful many times. Got ambushed at least a half dozen times.
These memories have a way of festering if I don’t deal with them. My grandson has helped me cope lately. Asking questions and just being a wonderful 11 year old boy. His interest in my life as a draftee has given me purpose. I gave him the collection of medals my father put together in a case. I mailed everything to Dad from Nam.
If you have questions about my experience, please ask. No question is a dumb question. That is what I have told two different high school classes when I spoke with them. Some of their questions were thoughtful and intelligent. You could hear a pin drop when they were listening respectfully. I would go to any school and talk to the kids if asked.
Thanks for reading this story. Everything I have written is true.
Part one of the life of a draftee is below.