The flight was nothing more or less than a disjointed series of buzzing noises, vibrations, and brief bouncing bouts where my plastic cocoon swayed out a few inches from the metal bulkhead, and then gently smacked back into it.
I was aware, but unaware, both at the same time. I knew I was on, off, and then above the planet, but not really where I was, or how far or near from anywhere. Morphine-induced thoughts cascaded through my mind the few times I nearly surfaced enough to escape the light swimming current of the drug’s seductive power.
The real senses I had seeped slowly on through the clouds I’d been biting since I’d left Japan. I knew the plane had landed and stopped when all was finally still, and mostly silent. There were no shivering vibrations transmitted through the hull of the aircraft. I realized that I was being allowed to surface from the near torpor of the morphine’s hold.
My cocoon was removed from the bulkhead by talking humans nearby. I could sense and hear them but not see much of them through the eerie, weird, and misshapen images the plastic allowed for. The material had been almost clear, like milky yellow glass when it was still, but when in motion it didn’t allow for either clarity of direct vision or almost anything else. My body moved. I was shifted onto a soft surface, and then the plastic was cut away from me by two people using big sets of scissors. I watched the process with my head still, observing all I could observe by moving only my eyes, feeling like that if I moved my head the whole scene would dissolve back into the near hibernation state I’d seemed relieved by but trapped in for so long.
Whatever I was on moved and, as was becoming normal for me, I was able only to stare up and watch the ‘ceiling’ of the inside of the plane’s bulkhead pass by. I knew I was moving and not the plane, the thought of which relieved me. I was becoming fully conscious and cogent again. I knew I was being taken somewhere to see my wife, and I wanted to be able to be as clear as possible, as well as minimize the amount of damage visible to her on my body.
It was daytime I realized, as my gurney came down a ramp and out onto the tarmac of the airport. The sun was behind the building I was headed for, but I couldn’t make out whether it was going down or just coming up.
Two big doors were open. I saw other gurneys in front of me and knew that a veritable parade of gurneys likely followed me from the plane, as well. I was covered by a blanket, under which I was wearing my hospital pajamas. I lifted my head to see that my feet were bare, which seemed strange. It wasn’t too cold out nor was it too warm so being barefooted didn’t really bother me. I was in California and back in the USA, at last. I let my head fall back to the pad of my gurney in relief, as I was wheeled across the threshold of the building’s opening and on into a long hall, a hall much larger than the halls I traveled through back at Yokosuka.
I noted the other gurneys being wheeled all around me, some with their pads angled up so the men in them, those capable of it, could look around. I wasn’t capable in my drugged state, and, in fact, I could only take in the information that we were all there, being set into places against the walls. I looked to my right where there was an open area forming, running the longitudinal distance of the hall, or so I presumed since I couldn’t see that far. The open area began to fill. I realized it was filling with wives and children.
She would be there, I knew. I breathed in and out deeply, wishing the drugs were less pervasive on my consciousness. I wanted to be at my best, my most cogent for her when she arrived.
In only minutes she was there. The same radiant, beautiful, and so very open and friendly woman I’d married earlier in the year. She stopped by the side of my gurney, looked down into my eyes with a fixed smile, and then moved on down the open area of the hall. I watched her short hair bounce as she departed.
I exhaled sharply, wanting to say something to stop her, and bring her back. I watched her retreating figure, however, without saying anything. I was beyond confused, and beginning to wonder if the drugs hadn’t driven me over the deep end of any awareness about what was happening around me.
There was nothing to be done except to wait, hoping that she would return.
In minutes, she was back, accompanied by one of the flight nurses.
“That’s him,” the nurse said, pointing down at me, “that’s your husband, his name is on the chart tucked into the bottom of his gurney.”
My wife looked skeptically down at me.
“It’s me, really,” I got out, only starting to realize that everything about me must have changed.
I weighed a little more than a hundred pounds now, as opposed to the hundred and fifty I’d been when I left her. I was also almost certain my expressions and facial features were probably a bit different, given the stress and agony of my journey since leaving her.
My wife started to cry, the short inches of distance between her and the gurney I was on seemed like the Grand Canyon.
“What have they done to you?” she asked, finally reaching across the distance to put her right hand on my right upper arm.
She finally leaned down and clutched me as close as she could. We hugged there more than we talked. We both knew there was no time. She was living in Daly City, across the bridge from Oakland where the hospital was located. I’d left her only the GTO I’d purchased three days before I’d found out she was pregnant. The car was a four-speed, and my wife was five feet tall and thin. The clutch alone was a monster to operate on any of San Francisco’s hills. Visiting me at the hospital was going to be problematic, I knew, but there was nothing to be said about it until things could be discussed and talked over at a later time.
Only moments passed before the medical people swept through the hall, taking all the wives and children with them. I promised my wife that I would call when I was situated at the hospital across the water.
The loading and trip across the Bay Bridge were uneventful.
My arrival at the facility of Oakland Naval Hospital was not without some drama, however, even though the quick separation of me from my wife in short order, and injecting me with another morphine shot, might have seemed dramatic enough.
The Navy ambulance I’d been loaded into, with five other gurney-bound patients, had been fully enclosed, without windows. When I was finally pulled from the double door opening in the back of the big blue truck, I saw the hospital building and was shocked. It was a huge brand-new modern structure rising up many stories in front of me. It was as different from the dingy strung out low building Yokosuka had been as could possibly be. The place had to be a much more wonderful facility to be secreted away in, and treated, than what I’d so far experienced. The treatment I’d had at the First Medical Facility and then Yokosuka had been wonderful, but most of that had been because of the personnel. It gave me a relieved sense of well-being to realized that I’d probably have the same class of people caring for me, but with the additional benefit of the latest technical equipment, as well.
I found out very quickly that, once again, I’d be assigned to a room in the ‘dirty surgery’ portion of the hospital located on the 6th floor. Why any medical operation would use such a negative sounding title for a part of the hospital was beyond me, but at least the drugs were wearing off to the point where I could finally think such thoughts.
Through the opiate haze, I felt myself being wheeled down halls and up a very spacious elevator. In spite of the hospital being brand new, I noted that the ceilings were just like the others in hospitals I’d been in. They were there to protect everyone from what was above and to provide fixtures for light. They weren’t there for informing or entertaining patients being wheeled around on their backs who couldn’t see anything else.
My room turned out to be a double room with a man half-elevated laying in the bed closest to the outside wall window. My gurney was pushed to the side of the bed nearer the door, but not before I noticed a large sign posted on the wall above the head of the bed. It said; “Junior.” My heart thudded and my breathing increased in speed.
Who would have done such a thing, I wondered, until I saw the next bed feature. A baby’s mobile was suspended over the bed, swinging slightly down from two rails that ran farther up from the bed’s frame, no doubt their true intent to be available to suspend I.V. bags and other medical equipment. The two attendants who’d accompanied me, part of the plane’s medical and transport team, seemed to not take note of any of the odd additions. I was moved gently across the space to lay flat on the bed’s surface. I stared up at the mobile, having no doubt about the name taped to the wall but not understanding the mobile at all.
“You’re one of those Marines from Vietnam, wounded I would suppose,” the patient in the bed across from me said.
“That’s right,” I replied, trying to ignore the hostility in his voice, as well as, tamp down the anger I felt about having my nickname from Vietnam following me, as well as the potential negative meaning of the baby mobile mounted over the top of my bed.
“It’s sir, to you,” the man said. “I’m a full Commander, black shoe, and I’ll expect the proper use of my title from junior officers like you. I don’t know why they let Marines in here with Navy personnel. You people just don’t work out well when it comes to accommodating the human condition.”
I shrugged to myself. The play on words, his using the junior in junior officers when the word was plastered for him to see above the head of my bed, might have been cause for humor in days past, but not anymore. I was quickly coming to find that the facility I’d been shipped into was world-class in equipment, as I’d suspected before I entered, but woefully backward when it came to staffing, at nearly all levels. The Commander was like the Navy Lieutenant at Yokosuka, before, of course, I was able to get Barbara to have him transferred to be close to his wife.
“I have stomach cancer, not some easily operable and temporary injury like yourself,” the Commander said, the tone of his voice going from testy to acridly acidic. “I didn’t get wounded as easy as you. I have to live with the fear of getting it back for the rest of my life.”
I began to realize why I’d been given the room I’d been given. The Junior sign was the first warning, the mobile the second, and now the Commander who could not be counseled or given any kind of therapy was the third. Someone at the hospital knew me or about me, and what they knew wasn’t good.
“You’re a second lieutenant in dirty surgery,” the Commander said. “You don’t rate a double room, while I rate a private room. I’m having you shipped out of here.”
I wanted to say something cutting and hurtful, but I withheld myself. I was in no condition to threaten anyone, least of all someone who outranked by so much. I remained silent, wondering about when I would get another pain injection. There was no clock in the room, and certainly nothing like the giant clocks that had been in every room on every ward back in Yokosuka. Why would a Navy Officer think he was ‘wounded’ by getting cancer? How did one ‘accommodate the human condition?’ I hadn’t heard such arcane use of language since attending philosophy courses in college.
The Commander picked up his phone and called someone. I didn’t follow what he said, thinking of how to access an outside line so I could call my own wife. But there was no time. Before the Commander was off the phone an attendant appeared to move me.
“Why am I being moved, really, and where to?” I asked of the attendant standing by the side of my bed. I wasn’t totally opposed to the idea of moving from a room where my roommate was about as agreeable as a poisonous Tarantula spider loaded with speed, but still unsettled by the idea that I had just gotten into the room when another change was being foisted upon me. I wasn’t certain, but it seemed unlikely that the Commander could summon up the powers that be to get another badly wounded critical patient dumped from his room merely so he could have a measure of privacy.
There was no answer to my questions. At Oak Knoll, the nickname for the hospital, I was astounded to find that there were no corpsmen, either assigned or working the halls, rooms, or anywhere else. The attendants were private contracted medical personnel of unknown backgrounds and credentials. Without the corpsmen, the personal part of the care they’d so wonderfully provided was completely gone. The attendant merely called out the open door for a cohort who hauled in a gurney.
The commander, the Naval Officer, of seeming worst repute and with cancer, in the next bed, simply stared at me as I was wheeled out.
I wondered as we moved down the hall toward the southern end of the building wing, whether the Junior sign and child’s mobile would follow me to my new room.
The end of the hall came abruptly. The attendants pushed my gurney to one side, while the female attendant pulled out a ring of keys and promptly went to work on a large deadbolt lock securing the door just under its entrance and exit lever.
I stared, my eyes going larger in wonder. Why was the room I was being moved to locked? What did they keep in there that had to be secured?
The double doors swung open, and my gurney was retrieved and quickly pushed into the opening. I realized immediately that it wasn’t a room at all, but a ward. I was being moved into a six-bed ward, of which five of the beds were occupied. The men in the beds were all conscious and all staring at me.
There was no ‘Junior’ on the wall above the front of the bed I was quickly carried across to, nor a mobile mounted above it. The expressions on the face of the attendants were grim as if I had done something to deserve their ire or bad feelings. I didn’t know what to ask or say, so I remained silent.
The attendants swept the curtain around the bed closed, but not before a young man with a stethoscope around his neck slipped through and in close to the left side.
“You’ll have the head surgeon assigned to your case, for your next surgery,” the young man said. “I’m doctor Kent, your doctor for everything not surgically related.”
“Oh, thanks for coming,” I replied, trying to sound sincere, but in reality, completely lost in this new system of medical care so entirely different from anything else I’d experienced. “I don’t have a clock or watch, when is my next pain shot scheduled for?” I asked.
“You aren’t getting pain shots anymore,” Dr. Kent replied, looking down at the chart in his hands, or making believing he was doing so.
“No pain shots?” I asked, shock and instant deep worry coming into my voice. “What about the pain?”
“You’re an addict,” Dr. Kent said, checking off something on the chart, still not looking at me. “You’ve been on morphine every three or four hours for months. You’re done with that. That’s why you’re in here, to detox. You can have visitors once you get through.”
“What about the pain?” I said, my voice becoming anguished, as I knew another wave of pain was growing deep down inside me.
“You’re a Marine, you can hack it,” he replied, not looking at me directly, “You get some more medication after your next surgery, but nothing before.”
With that he reached back, whipped away the hanging curtain, and disappeared through the opening.
I couldn’t think of anything to say in time to stop him, my mind was in too much shock. My wife wouldn’t be visiting. I’d seen her for a few brief moments at Travis and that had been it. My daughter’s existence was still physically unknown to me.
I heard the key operate in the lock, and laid still for a few moments. I had a call button but no control of a television, but then there was no television visible to control, either.
I leaned as far out as my body would allow, grabbed the curtain, and began working it back around my bed. After five full minutes, much of it in pain, I had it pulled far enough back so I could see the other men in the room.
“Where am I?” I whispered out. “Are you all detoxing?”
All five men laughed at once.
“No,” the man right next to me replied. “We’re all patients from the brig. We’re not surgical patients, but this ward is the only one they have that locks, so they can keep us in.”
I realized I was locked up for the first time in my life.
“What you detoxing from?” the man asked, after introducing himself as Walter Peterman.
“I’ve been on morphine for a long time,” I said. “I was shot in Vietnam, back on the 1st of October, and have had to have it all the time since.”
“You better call for some ice, towels, and water,” Peterman advised. “Looks like you’re going to have a pretty rough trip.”
I pushed my call button.
The lock on the door operated a few minutes later, the door opened, and then an attendant came in accompanied by a Marine Corps Second Lieutenant in Dress A Greens, with a full blouse, tie and piss cutter cover folded over the left portion of his belt.
The attendant came up to the bed, with the Marine following right behind her.
“This is your Marine Liaison Officer,” she stated. “What is it you want,” she went on when I didn’t respond.
“These guys in here say I’m going to need water, ice, and towels to detox, is that true?” I asked.
“You’ll need some pans too,” she replied, “for the vomiting, and maybe some extra covers for later on when it’s mostly run its course.”
I couldn’t get over the fact that my coming time of total misery was talked about like it was no big deal, which to them apparently was no big deal.
“What’s wrong with that doctor?” I asked, unable to stop myself. “He doesn’t seem old enough to have proper credentials and he seems like he’s mean-spirited down to his core.” I turned to look at the Marine Officer, his name tag on his right breast reading Johannson. “Can you get me another doctor?” I asked him, directly.
“Fraid not,” Johannson replied, a big smile on his face. I noted from his single National Defense ribbon that he’d not been to Vietnam. “I’m here for sundries and outside contacts. I can call your wife for you since you have to stay in this ward, and there’s no phone.
I looked around the room once again. No phone. I hadn’t noticed that and it was a big deal. I was about to be in a lot of trouble and I was going to be in trouble all alone.
I gave Johannson my wife’s phone number and told him to call and tell her that I was in for an initial evaluation and she wouldn’t be allowed to visit for three more days. I knew there was no point in complaining about anything or appealing. I was stuck inside a process driven by forces I couldn’t understand. I didn’t know who knew about me as Junior from Vietnam but I’d seen enough, from the sign, the mobile and now my lock up with prisoners, having to detox all on my own. I knew some force was at work. I would first have to survive the ‘pretty rough trip’ in this room and I also knew it was going to a rough trip, indeed.
I resented being locked up with prisoners from the brig, but my resentment didn’t last long. Only Peterman had spoken to me until a guy from over near one of the windows on the far side of the room approached my bed.
“You’re going to need these to get to the other side,” he said, opening the single metal drawer in the little bureau next to my bed on the right side.
“Can you reach down that far?” he asked.
I reached down to make sure I could.
The man dumped a supply of pills from a bottle, then sealed it back up. He turned to go but stopped briefly.
“Codeine #3,” he whispered. “Much weaker than morphine or Demerol but it’ll get you through the tough spots of pain, and also push back the hallucinations and nightmares from the detox. Got more if you need them, but take them sparingly. If I get caught stealing them then I’ll have to tell them where the pills went. Take no more than three at a time and space them out as much as you can.”
I thanked the man, as he walked away. He didn’t respond further, merely returning to his own bed.
“It’s bad enough being in here, but it’s worse being in here with someone crying, sweating, and puking all night long,” Peterman whispered over to me.
I got what he was saying. The man wasn’t being kind to me. He was being kind to himself, and his friends in the other beds. There had been some immediate wonder in my mind about why he hadn’t asked for compensation of any kind until I understood the rest of the story.
“What are you in the brig for?” I asked Peterman.
“Oh, I had a disagreement with a senior NCO and we fought it out,” Peterman replied, with a big smile on his face.
“What happened to the NCO?” I asked.
“He died,” Peterman said, no emotion in his voice at all.
“So, they hit you with a charge of murder?” I inquired, surprise pushing back the pain that was rising up from the center of my torso.
“Yeah,” he replied, and then asked, after a few seconds: “What are you in for?”
I looked all around about me, thinking about the Junior sign that had been prepared for me, before replying.
“Same thing,” I said.
Dear Uncle Jim,
Wonderful writing as always, here are my humbly submitted edit notes:
It gave me a relieved sense of well-being to (realized) that I’d probably have the same class of people caring for me, but with the additional benefit of the latest technical equipment, as well. Should this be (realize)?
I wanted to say something cutting and hurtful, but I withheld myself. I was in no condition to threaten anyone, least of all someone who outranked( )by so much. Should the word (me) be added here?<—this one has already been addressed.
I would first have to survive the ‘pretty rough trip’ in this room and I also knew it was going to( )a rough trip, indeed. Should there be the word (be) here?
“It’s bad enough being in here, but it’s worse being in here with someone crying, sweating, and puking all night long,” Peterman whispered over to me. Maybe adding a reference here of Juniors very brief stay at the An Hoa Hilton and the man that offered him the insect repellent so he wouldn’t have to listen to him slapping mosquitoes would be an excellent tie-in to the first book. Just a thought.
As always I appreciate your comments sharing experiences.
Sorry so late in answering this.
Much different narrative – same compelling writing.
As to Oak Knoll: my wife worked there as a civilian not a contract employee. It was nick named “Croak Knoll”. Your trip from Travis to there would have traversed the San Rafael – Richmond bride. Your wife would cross the San Francisco Bay Bridge to get to Oak Knoll.
OBTW: hope you’re not too snowed in there in Lake Geneva. NB.
James, thanks for another great chapter.
James: this is as gripping as Thirty Days.
CYour ride from Travis to Oak Knoll traversed the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. Not the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Your wife would have crossed the latter in going from Daly City to Oakland.
Wife wife used to work at Oak Knoll. She was a government employee not contract. It’s’ nickname was “Croak Knoll”. Was way inferior to the Letterman Army Hospital in the Presidio of San Francisco.
Looking forward to more installments. NB.
On morphine for months? One hell of a doctor there. Always great writing as you take us thru the story.
Not nearly as grievously wounded as you. Wounded just the same, I was transported to the deck of a carrier.
As promised, by the nurse, who gave me the shot, I was feeling nothing.
My mind seemed sharp but I was looking out of this, foggy lightbulb.
When they tilted my stokes to get it out of the chopper, I saw a couple rows of stokes. Just like mine. Bodies, not moving and for reasons not clear to me, every one of us wrapped in a wool blanket from the neck down.
There was a sailor there with a pack of cigarettes and a Zippo, putting cigarettes in the mouths of the wounded.
When he got to me, I tried to tell him I didn’t smoke but nothing came out of my mouth you could understand. Mostly sounded like, mmmph mmmph.
The sailor, was crying. He kept saying over and over. “That’s O.K. Buddy. It’s O.K.
Then I laid there with the cigarette in my mouth watching it burn toward my lips. I remember my only thought.
How was I gonna date women with my lips all burned off?”
No worry, he was there to remove it. With “It’s O.K. Buddy. It’s O.K
Writing this has got to stir your gut. Just like telling this story, always makes me smile.
Hope it makes you smile.
There’s a cold one in the icebox with your name on it.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Bud
And happy to see you are here.
Once again, I am left without words sufficient to express my emotions…Thank you.
Thanks Charles, your words make me smile and feel a bit satisfied.
I am doing my best, sir.
Once again, I feel that I’m a bit different after reading these chapters…
Thanks Jim, how different and in what way must probably wait until a later date. I hope the awakened feelings are good ones.
James, your writing, from the first time you posted in FB, unlocked things in my memories that I thought were gone forever. Not a bad thing – your writing has enabled me to realize why “I yam what I yam”, as Popeye would have said.
As I have said before, your writing style touches men’s souls.
Having been in a few Naval hospitals, I was astounded that they locked you in with brig rats. But it appears that, in taking care of themselves, they are taking care of you.
Eagerly awaiting this next chapter, and the ones after that. Thanks for your “fictional” stories. Semper Fi, my friend.
There were places that weren’t kind to veterans back in the day, and Oak Knoll turned
out to be classic descriptive of that. Many more times would I run into abrupt, nasty and awful
indications that my service in the Nam ws something I should be ashamed of. I pride myself and thank
myself that I hurt none of those people…although I have all of their names to this day in my
journals. Like with the story, I needed to write down things for therapy. I had not truly conceived
of the Cowardly Lion concept at that time…I was just living it.
Your writing is so exceptional that the chapters don’t come fast enough.
It riveting and invokes so much emotion in all who reads.
We are right there, experiencing this with you.
Thanks Steve, means a whole lot to me to read those words…
Hi James, I burned through the Thirty Days series in a few days. Respectfully sir, I have a question. The book clearly states that it is a work of fiction and none of the characters, events or places are real. The comments have always seemed to suggest that your story is truthfully told. I can’t imagine being able to create a work of fiction with this detail and emotion. I’m just curious if this is fiction or a true story. Not that it would matter to me. Your skill as a writer is exceptional. I truly enjoyed the books and this one as well. Just curious. Thanks for the great work and your service.
1. I do not believe a fictional writer of almost any caliber could write a war-driven work of such involved complexity and detail by doing so from research, interview of even collaboration.
2. There were acts committed, fictional of course, that would and could have real legal recourse back in this phenomenal world. There’s no statute of limitations on some actions here.
3. The Cowardly Lion will also be labeled a work of fiction. You must make up your own mind. I’m old but I do not want to spend my remaining years in a prison cell. This is not a real forgiving culture.
There, that’s about the best I can do.
Thanks for that, Jim. I completely understand. My son and I had the exact same question as that posed byMr. Bell.
30 Days and The Cowardly Lion, have credibility issues and I have understood that from the beginning, when I decided to proceed.
The mythology of conduct in war is pervasive, and it is pervasive for a reason. It is hard enough to get men to go and do these things,
so the best way to get them to do that is to convincingly lie to them. Just the way it is.
Thanks James. I understand and that’s what I thought. If you keep writing, I’ll keep reading. Think I’ll burn through the 30 days again. Love your work!!
Thank you, Allen.
James. Another great read. I wish I could put my thoughts into words like you!
We all have different talents and I’m sure you have some I lack. My wife, if interviewed, could spend hours
letting you know the talents I lack…
Wow, talk about culture shock. I would assume you still had significant abdominal wounds, I don’t know why they would put you through that. Another time and place, I guess. Been enjoying the updates. Thinking about starting 30 days all over again, since it’s been so long since I started reading it. Hope you are staying healthy and safe!
thanks Joe, much appreciate the care, concern and the encouragement…
Pretty wiled treatment for an injured vet. Inhumane is the word that comes to mind. Hope the procedures at the Oakland Naval Hospital have been looked at and policies and communication guidelines have been looked at and rectified. What a horror show.
Oak Knoll was built and finished damn near the time in 1968 when I was shipped there.
It was torn down in 1996 to make way for a development of condos so no retraining or changes need
to be made. What Oak Knoll became after I left I have no idea as I never went back.
Had a couple run ins with flag officers….They can be a royal pain in the ass, but in your state of existence to be treated like that must have been hell,,,which words can’t even come close to explaining, altough your doing a bangup job…been with you since you landed in the nam…great reading.
Getting through the eye of the needle was what I was doing, without being aware that the needle eye was as small as it was!
Thanks for the great comment and the encouragement.
I think you know me well enough to realize that what I write, I mean.
You wrote so vividly of your time in recovery that I felt as though I was present at least part of the time.
Getting off of injections of Morphine is akin to being in hell, You should thank God for His help. He is using you to become the recovered Vet of Viet Nam and become the man you are today. Helping others and being a strong voice in communities around you to do what is right for the good of the citizens is admirable. God Bless you and Mary
Thanks for the genuine care and the God observation. I have come to understand that He was there at every turn, because so much
of what I went through was not truly survivable…but I got through. It was like the poem ‘Footsteps in the Sand,’ where he carried me
when I could make it myself. Wonderful comment and you are quite the man yourself.
James, I cried tears of joy and sorrow at the airport with your wife. Your initial experiences at the hospital left me sad and confused as I’m sure you were. Hope the next few chapters resolve some the issues this chapter raises. I can only hope that the seemingly total lack of compassion by the staff had its purpose even if it appeared self serving on their part.
Her not recognizing me went straight through my heart, as you can imagine. I never would have dreamed.
I was the same guy, I thouht, but my changed looks were a lot more determinant of how that other guy was dead and gone than I would account for
until many years had passed.
Was so excited to see you had penned another chapter.
While reading it…so many kicks in the groin for you to have experienced.
Not at all what I was expecting to read.
So sorry you had to endure all this…God bless you, LT.
The Walter Duke. How are you my friend. Yes, it was a tough time coming home.
I wasn’t sure I’d write about it because I wasn’t sure at all that anyone would be interested.
But, the writer can be a pretty poor judge of such things, as the popularity of this developing book is proving.
Thanks for the compliments and the care, and the encouragement.
James – I’ve enjoyed reading your commentary for sometime. I missed the draft due to a football injury in school. I was in ROTC hoping to become an air force pilot but was turned down. My dad had three tours in Vietnam. He was involved with allocating Agent Orange to the different military branch’s for disbursement. Ended up with bad skin cancer before he passed away. No one knew at the time that the herbicide/defoliant was so dangerous. Keep up the great writing. Are your “30 Days in Sept” books on audio? Thank you.
Yes, they are on audio, check on my website and if you have a problem get hold of me 2625815300 and I will call Chuck Bartok.
Thanks for the comment and the compliment.
Wow, medically I guess they can say the treatment was appropriate in that ward but why couldn’t they show a little more empathy. Sticking with you, I can see this journey is far from over!
I did need to come off that stuff, but I did not need to come off it that way or without any kind of preparation physically or mentally.
The jailbirds were the ones to help and get me through and I’ve never forgotten that.
Your writing always hits the nail on the head. I don’t know how you remember it all . As I get older I am forgetting my time in the various hospitals in Nam and Japan . I liked the part about the REMPF’s , it is sad people have to make themselves more than they are . You bring back memories some good and not so good . I get to emotional to talk about it so thank you for your story . Bill
The public back here and even the VA staff, treat all vets like they are combat vets, but very
few really are. In the Nam 1.6 million served, 375,000 saw ground combat, and 362,000 of those were killed or wounded.
With 58,000 dead, that leaves 318,000 of us, mostly badly hurt, most badly psychologically messed up. We are rare birds, those
of us who were able to somehow fly above the carnage we faced back home, fueling our flights with PTSD and pure gumption. Think about Wisconsin alone having 5 million citizens, with mathematically less than
500 combat vets. We are truly rare, especially those of us who can and will talk and write…
This is unbelievable, they lock you up like a rabid dog and you are showed more kindness by people awaiting trail for God knows what than you are from the medical staff. Stay strong James.
The staff had issues, plus one unexplained and only hinted at mystery. Hang in there for the next installment…
Semper fi, and God and I love you my friend…
I’ve been riding this train since the beginning of your September in the Valley of Death. Your odyssey allows a view of war and its after effects not known — or appreciated — by civilians. One suggested edit for the current chapter. Your flight from Japan to California landed at Travis AFB. Your subsequent medical transport to Oakland Naval Hospital would not have crossed the Bay Bridge. Take care of the demons, my friend.
My presumption of travel from Travis to Oak Knoll was conjectural, as I was in a totally enclosed truck, on morphine and unable to see anything
until the doors opened at the hospital. Thanks for that observation though. You certainly did your homework. I looked on Google Earth and you are absolutely correct!
This is the sentence you may want to re-write:
“The loading and trip across the Bay Bridge were uneventful.”
Maybe: “The loading and trip to Oakland Naval Hospital were uneventful.”
Thanks for the editing help Captain!
Jim, Wow – From frying pan to frying pan. You explain things well, but I feel the level of pain, stress, etc was much higher than you’re able to pass on to us. Regards, Doug
Thanks Doug, it was a tough time, indeed, but having my family closely was everything and that perspective has yet to
be fully translated and presented in the story. You can endure amazing things if you have a solid foundation…even if it really isn’t
yours at all…
Bringing back memories I thought gone forever! Your injuries were a hell of a lot worse than mine. Five weeks in Tachikawa on morphine. DC was the closest installation to my PA home. As soon as I arrived morphine was gone, Demerol and others rotated and reduced. More than half the nurses were civilians. If not all the attendents were corpsmen, they were a majority.. Yes, TV in semiprivate and a payphone could be wheeled in certain times. Four months there and sent home on convo leave. No more contact until 6 weeks later when my discharge papers came by mail. Promotion too, what BS. Cold turkey detox sounds painful and stupid. Dangerous to others doing that to those fresh from the bush. Locked with prisoners ~~ surely they had others coming home dependent. I had great care and wonderful staff at all levels. Wish you were treated better.
Yokosuka was world class in personnel and treatment. Not all facilities were like that.
A lot of the treatment there was anti-combat vet stuff. The personnel were all protesting the war
in their spare time. I was a target to them for their anger and frustration. I did not know that, for awhile…
After reading this twice and thinking it through the only rational conclusion I can come up with is that someone has you targeted for harassment and abuse. What a terrible shame. I hope it improves soon.
Yes, as Madonna so aptly said in the lyrics of her song “Like a Prayer.’ Life is a mystery, and there’s a mystery going on that sixth floor of Oak Knoll.
More to follow…
I was told by another REMF that you probably mad up up this whole thing to make money or something.
Me I was a grunt but never saw any thing like yourself. The minority of combat guys in that intense life changing environment can not be under estimated. I’m not very good with the words that express my frustration with what you went through. But I know in my heart and from other comments the truth of your writing. Drive on sir(junior).
To say it would be hard to make up this whole thing is a wild understatement. I don’t see how anyone could, but I can understand why other men say so upon occasion.
I make no money on the books I publish and sell, even the ones higher priced because they are inscribed or autographed. I don’t have a real publisher to edit, to
print or to get the novels out to a larger audience. I only have Facebook and Amazon, really. My wife wants me to make money doing this because she thinks I am that
good, but being good isn’t it. The regular publishing business does not want my work. They do not find it culturally acceptable, militarily believable, or socially acceptable.
I know, I’ve interviewed with some of them. So, you get it all ‘naked’ and unchanged, to do with or believe what you might want. I’m too old to do much about it!
Damn, you’re a good writer. I marvel every new chapter at the details you remembered and how you subscribe them. I just read the WWII memoir by Marine Eugene Sledge, “With the Old Breed,” and you two guys are riveting.
I will look up Sledge, as I have never heard of him or his writing.
Thanks for the referral and the compliment.
When I started the First Ten Days little did I know that I volunteered for an extraordinary journey. I entered into your world of abject fear, heroism, and a minute by minute fight for survival. I smelled and felt the rotting decay of the jungle, and the stench of death while listening to a transistor playing music I know so well.
I find myself repeating” riveting” at the end of every chapter but its actually more than that. You have taken me on a journey into a world I could never of imagined. Thank you Lt.
I cannot thank you enough for that compliment Andrew. I am going to cut and paste it to my Facebook pages…as it is so well written and so well intended.
Thanks so much,
hi James, I’ve been following you through 30 days and now the continuing Cowardly Lion story. I have been seriously impressed.
I can’t help being amused by the arrogance of the “Full Commander”. I have full respect for all ranks of the US military but I learned something about the division of ranks when leaving for R&R from Vietnam. We were waiting to board our plane when it was announced officers 0-6 and above would board first. Next it was announced everybody else can board now.
The ‘Commander’ was not the last of his kind whom I would experience in the Corps.
Some men cannot handle leadership or command positions. They are there because they occupy
necessary space and because, usually, the leaders who put them there don’t know.
Wow Jim. I cannot begin to imagine!!!
It was an experience that cannot be imagined from a fictional standpoint, at least I don’t think it can be.
The details are the revelations. How can one know some of those basic truisms unless you went through it…and those who have
not gone through it, the reality of the commentary digs right into them as the obviousness is finally revealed.
“gave me a relieved sense of well-being to realized “
I believe a word is missing here. Perhaps “have”?
Thanks Bob for the editing help. I can use all I can get, as you observe and also know.
Like you, I don’t recall much of the flight from Japan to Travis Air Force base in CA. What I do DISTINCTLY remember were the screams of the burn patients every time their morphine wore off. At Travis the “cargo” was split, with me and my fellow orthopedic WIAs going on to Fitzsimmons Hospital in Denver, CO and the burn patients going to Ft Hood in TX. In many ways the hospitalization was as traumatic as the combat was, though in a completely different way. T
Yes, the ‘air cargo,’ as you put it Thomas. At the time I was shipped back Oak Knoll was being treated as the
orthopedic stabilizing hospital back in the states. We had no burn patients, but God I can imagine their pain and
the screams from that. Morphine was life in getting so many of us through.
James it is no wonder we hear so much about the treatment y’all got stateside. I have a friend who retired from the VA and I wish you could have been taken care of by the likes of her. She would never have treated you like the ones you got. Still amazed you survived.
I too am quite surprised that I made it, not only through the valley but through
the medical and remaining Marine systems I was faced with…and in pretty piss poor condition to face them.
a bit of humor at the end its a great read sir
Thanks Joseph, but will the humor part really turn out to be that as things progress?
Stay tuned, my friend,
Another riveting read. Your writing grabs me and won’t let loose. And I always get to the end too fast. Thanks! And welcome home!
Thanks Evans, another true and hopefully valid compliment.
I much appreciate.
Semper fi, and I never thought that the Lion would be that interesting to other vets….
Back in the valley!!!!!!!!!!
Never that, not then and never since. I’ve been in dire circumstance in places around the world, and even at home, but
never what it was in that cursed evil son-of-a-bitch valley. But Oakland was tough…
Sounds like a dirty trick JAMES !!!!!
The cards were shuffled while I was aboard the Starlifter, and then the hand was
put down when I hit the tarmac at Travis. I had to adapt to the game and then play
the hand as best I could.
Amazing…as usual you end up in ultimate misery and chaos and through the storm comes a brilliant cognitive ability to adapt….the only thing that fails us is civilian life.
Adapt. I have always loved the usage of that word by the Marines in training. We adapt,
and I guess that was burned into me. You cannot change the circumstance rushing at you, not without artillery
and heavy weapons anyway, but you can turn whatever’s coming aside or hide yourself or come up with other solutions
as long as you can think. Thanks for the usual cogent, warm and caring comment.
My wingman, so to speak.
Geez, so like welcome home, NOT, oh and by the way off to detox you go……….
It was a continuing series of shocks, after I arrived in San Francisco, and it was particularly hurtful because of the huge difference in treatment I received in
“Oh Bleep!!” From the kindest care to the worst of care. Well the good news is you survived it. That said, it may have left its own scars. Glad to hear your wife was there for you. I await the continuing unfolding of your saga.
Some minor editing suggestions follow:
that’s your husband, his names on the chart
Maybe “name’s” instead of “names”
that’s your husband, his name’s on the chart
even though the quick separation on me from my wife in short order, and injecting me with another morphine shot
Maybe “of” instead of “on”
“quick” and “short order” seem redundant
Maybe add “then” before “injecting”
even though the quick separation of me from my wife, and then injecting me with another morphine shot
I felt being wheeled down halls
Maybe add “myself” before “being”
I felt myself being wheeled down halls
Whom would have done such a thing
Maybe “who” instead of “whom”
Who would have done such a thing
least of all someone who outranked by so much
Maybe add “me” after “outranked”
least of all someone who outranked me by so much
At Oaknoll, the nickname for the hospital
Maybe Oak Knoll
Hang in there. Blessings & Be Well