I finished my letter home, the light of dawn sufficient to allow me to see the paper almost as well as the lousy black ink from my cheap government ballpoint. I had already decided earlier, if I lived, that I would be buying a watch that didn’t have a plastic crystal, in case I ran into Agent Orange back in the world. I added a quality pen to my imaginary collection. The moisture always present, even up in the highlands, made every other letter of my writing almost indistinguishable. I called Fusner over, as he returned from dividing up the ‘spoils of war’ he’d likely be sharing with the others.
“Rittenhouse won’t send the papers,” he complained, before handing me the artillery net handset.
“Why not?” I asked, in surprise, before accepting the mic.
“Because everyone says that the guy on the chopper with the Thompson shot those women.”
“What?” was all I could say, my face no doubt a study in consternation.
“They said you could never have made those shots with a .45 automatic,” Fusner said. “The range was too great and each woman took a hit in almost exactly the same spot. The Thompson would have made that pretty easy, since it fires so many rounds, and it’s got a lot more range.”
“Ah, you were right there Fusner, and you saw it all,” I said, raising my voice a little.
“Yeah, I know, but there was a lot of noise and the guy from the chopper might have been firing from the back side of the Huey. He’d just lost one of his crew and all.”
The Gunny came walking out of the brush nearby. I presumed he’d arrived to announce our coming move.
“Who told you Macho Man shot them?” I asked Fusner, still in shocked wonder.
“I did,” the Gunny said, hunkering down to make another of the instant coffee preparations he was obviously addicted to.
I just looked at him in disbelief, unable to say anything.
“They were women,” he said, getting his canteen out. “The men hate the female NVA worst of all because if one of us gets captured the women do the torturing, and they seem to enjoy it a whole lot. But they’re women, so you’d eventually look bad for shooting them, in the unit’s way of looking at things. Don’t forget to reload your .45, since you seem to know how to handle the thing.”
My hand slid down to the comforting butt of the Colt. The Gunny was right. I’d forgotten to reload, and that failure shook me more than the strangeness of once again giving whatever credit I got for anything to someone else. I pulled open one of the dual magazine carrier covers I had snapped to my belt, took out a spare magazine and exchanged it carefully with the half expended one. I’d left the single round in the chamber so I was loaded with that, and five more in the fresh magazine. I clicked the safety on and re-inserted the gun back into my holster.
The Gunny watched my every move, while sipping away from his canteen holder.
“Had to be sixty, maybe seventy yards,” he said, as if he was talking to himself instead of me. “Didn’t think a .45 would shoot that far, not accurately at least,” he went on. “You got one of those expert badges in training, I’ll bet.”
“Yeah,” I replied, taking my own canteen out. “I had enough points to make master though, when I was going to Camp Perry, but I was too young to be awarded any. Slow fire was my favorite. Ten minutes to fire ten rounds. With a good Colt I could put every round in the black, and quite a few in the X ring, at fifty yards.”
“I guess calling artillery and map reading aren’t your only skills,” the Gunny said, after a moment, while he extinguished the little fire he’d built. The Gunny got up and headed for his hooch, not far away.
“Let’s get ready to move out,” he said, with Pilson running to catch up to him, after slinging his radio onto his back.
I leaned back onto my dry poncho cover, the microphone Fusner had passed to me still in my hand. I looked down at it, thinking. The only three guns I’d fired in my life were my Dad’s .45, his accurized .22 Ruger and the M14 rifle I’d qualified with in training. The crummy worn .45 I’d been loaned at the Basic School I’d left in my locker until the shooting qualifications were over. I’d taken my Dad’s worked over professional piece and shot the course to not only get my Expert Badge in pistol but clean the course with all bullseyes. My instructor there had been very surprised. I was sure he would have been equally surprised at my success in shooting the two women. I tried to feel something. I felt nothing. Shooting the women had been just like shooting the course. Breathe and squeeze. The horrid bunched together bloody blouse of the women’s belongings hadn’t been so easy, but I was dead set on forgetting that, just like the girl’s faces.
I could use Russ and the battery fire, at maximum charge and elevation, to safely clear the way, or terrify the way, for the company to force march up the side of the mountain. It was a nothing mountain with no name, or even elevation listing on my map, so it wasn’t likely to be defended. And for the first time in days we would not be on the gun target line.
I had Russ give me a couple of zone fires along the way on up to the summit, but I didn’t complete the fire mission. I motioned for Stevens to approach, and then instructed him to go to the Gunny and the platoon commanders to let them know arty was going to be coming in.
I waited for Stevens to return from his mission, packing my stuff together and dumping what I could from what little pack material I had. The mountain was steep and the company was going to go up the slope hard and fast. There was no other way, and I and every Marine there was supposedly in shape and trained for just that kind of a challenge.
Fusner’s little transistor radio suddenly blossomed alive. Brother John and his soothing voice from Nha Trang came out of the tinny little speaker like poured molasses. The first song of the day was by a group fittingly called Truth. And then the song began. “In the year twenty-five twenty-five, if man is still alive, if woman can survive…”
The song’s lyrics had some strange bite to it and it was a bite from an unlikely glum future. I didn’t care. Any future was fine by me.
When Stevens and Nguyen didn’t return, and after waiting for what I thought was long enough, I executed the fire command with the battery, figuring anyone who hadn’t got the word would figure it out when the shells screamed in so close to the ground. Less than two minutes later the usual “Shot, over,” radio message came in, and in seconds the “Splash, over.”
There was no screaming of shells overhead because the company was no longer under the gun target line. A crumping series of explosions indicated that the shells had landed. It took me a few seconds to figure out that Russ had decided to hit the peak before rolling another zone or two down the slope in our direction.
The Gunny and Stevens came back, Nguyen hanging back in the jungle growth, visible but not really. He reminded me sometimes of one of the jungle apes stalking Tarzan in the movies.
“Let’s head out,” the Gunny said, tossing some of what he was leaving behind into a small hole he’d dug with his E-tool folding shovel.
I shook my head, when he looked over in my direction. “Let’s wait a few minutes.”
The Gunny finished his work, threw his pack up and strapped himself in, before walking over to where I and my scout team stood waiting. His look was one of impatience and question.
“They’re walking the shells down the slope toward us in a few minutes,” I said.
Just as I mouthed the last word the first of the descending shells went off, and then the others, with the sound of explosions growing stronger as they came down the slope toward where we were. We all ducked down, including me, although I thought it unlikely that Russ would fire outside the safe distance I’d given him from the company’s position. When it seemed like the last of the patterns was done I called in to Russ to make sure.
“See you on the flip side,” Russ replied to my inquiry. No matter how good Americal was, I knew I was going to miss the rather sad care and concern Russ and the battery back in An Hoa had showered us with, even when the rules had to be stretched.
“What did you do with the stuff?” I asked Fusner, as I handed the microphone back to him.
“Stuff?” he replied, looking genuinely surprised.
“The girls’ stuff,” I whispered.
“Oh, we’re dividing it up and sending it home, anyway. Screw Rittenhouse. There’s some neat things in there. Wanna see?”
I shook my head; a shudder I was unable to conceal running through my whole body. Fusner looked at me funny, but said nothing further. I didn’t tell him that everything we sent out of a combat zone was searched, and anything like those girls’ effects would be tossed or confiscated, and likely sent somewhere else. I’d learned that fact aboard the airliner I’d come in on, although I wasn’t sure whether there was any truth to it. Combat zones had their own rules, I was rapidly experiencing, and there was no training manual. Marines coming out of combat zones were so happy to leave they said nothing to the guys replacing them. My mind went back to that first night, when nobody would talk to me. I knew that if I got to the rear I would be the same way. What was the point in telling anybody coming into hell that he was coming into hell? No new person from the States would believe a word about what it was really like, and anybody who’d been there for a while wouldn’t be asking any questions.
“Any more death from above coming in?” the Gunny asked, sticking his thumbs into his suspender straps and leaning forward.
I shook my head. In seconds everyone was moving, as if by a silent radio command I had no receiver for. We started in, the sun no doubt above the horizon but invisible to us because of our position behind the mountain. We slogged into the jungle growth between bamboo stands, every Marine aware of the vipers now known to inhabit them. The going was faster than I thought and it got faster still when the heavier trees overhead sheltered the jungle floor to the extent that little could grow under their sun-blocking umbrellas. I’d never humped a load as heavy as the load I carried, and the pace was starting to take its toll on me, even though I knew I was in tip top shape. I looked back and forth from Fusner on my left to Stevens and Zippo on my right. They were all chewing gum which didn’t make any sense. There was Wrigley gum in the sundry packs but I’d not seen anybody chewing it since I’d been in country.
“What are you chewing?” I finally asked Fusner.
“Betel Nuts,” he said, smiling and showing teeth that seemed stained a bit red, as if he’d been drinking some Kool Aid that was too strong. “Helps with the humping.” He pushed a little folded packet of brown paper over toward me. I took it and opened the flaps. There were no nuts, just some twisted black vines.
“Try it. The mountain people use it all the time when they have to move fast with heavy loads,” Stevens said.
I took a few strands and started chewing. I didn’t like the idea of chewing something I knew nothing about, but the brutal forced march was beginning to exhaust me, and I didn’t want to call a halt or show weakness. I refolded the package and handed it back. I chewed for a while and then swallowed what was left, but felt nothing.
“You didn’t swallow them, did you?” Stevens said, stopping for the first time since we’d started the hike an hour earlier.
Before I could answer I threw up down my front. I didn’t even know I’d thrown up until it was over, and I was a bit of a mess. Fusner moved to wipe me down with C-Ration toilet paper.
“What the hell?” I exclaimed, surprised that I felt no nausea.
“Your system overloaded and you had to get rid of that stuff,” Zippo said. “Happens to me all the time. You get used to it.”
We began the march again. I tried to clear my head but to no effect. It was like I was a bit detached from myself. Then I noticed that in my detachment I felt no pain and no exhaustion. In fact, I felt great, except for the fact that when I turned my head to look at anything or anybody it took about a half second for my eyes to catch up. I smiled over at Fusner, which I must not have done before, because his brows knitted into a deep frown.
“It’ll wear off pretty quick,” he said. “It’s just the narcotics that help.”
Narcotics? My brain spun for a second. I was on a death patrol in a combat zone surrounded by the enemy, and Marines that didn’t particularly like me, and I was high as a kite. “Shit,” was all I could think to say, striding ahead, hoping that I could wear the drug off by moving faster up the hill.
We reached the peak just before noon. There had not been one weapon fired, explosive ignited or booby trap tripped during our whole journey up the side of the hill. The company had already formed a perimeter roughly around the open ground on the very top. I looked at the torn open space. There was debris everywhere. The zone fire on the mountain top had created the open area.
I threw my pack down, opened it and pulled my poncho cover and liner out. Without saying anything to anyone I laid down on my stomach and passed out.
I came to with the sound of a huge nasty fly buzzing in my ears. I turned over and looked at my melted watch. I could make out the little hand and saw that it was nearing mid-afternoon. Apparently, we’d been on top of the mountain for two hours. I sat up and then looked up. There was no fly. Rotating around and around our position was a big piston-powered aircraft. I couldn’t believe my eyes, as I got to my feet. The plane was mostly white with blue or black lettering on the side that read NAVY. I followed the plane around one full circuit, like I was standing at an aircraft show watching a WWII plane orbit the crowd.
“Flying dump truck,” the Gunny said, who’d somehow come from somewhere I hadn’t noticed. Fusner joined him, watching the plane too. My head was fuzzy. The Betel Nut still had a hold of me but not so badly.
“A-1 Skyraider,” the Gunny said. He can stay up there all day and look at that payload. Sixteen five hundred pound bombs on those pylons, just waiting for some gooks to land on. That thing carries more ordnance than a B-17 did during the real war.”
“How does he tell us from the enemy?” I said, shading my eyes, as the big noisy plane came low out of the sun.
“Like this,” the Gunny said, with a laugh. He waved at the plane. An arm stuck out of the side of the Skyraider and waved back.
I couldn’t believe it. It really was a like an air show back in the States.
“What about placing the bombs?” I asked. If we had air power, and it was there and accurate, only a few hundred yards up in the air, then the limited capability of Firebase Cunningham’s artillery might be held in reserve instead of used up.
Pilson walked around the gunny and handed Fusner a black box, mostly concealed in a brown canvas rucksack. “AN 323,” he said. “Frequency for support is on it. Frequency for fighters is on it. Frequency for B-52s, forget it.”
Fusner took the new radio. I wondered about my training again. Nobody, not one soul, back at the Basic School had mentioned that air support could not be reached on the radios we had for just about everything else. I wondered what radio was necessary for Naval Gun Fire.
“Ask him how long he’s going to be on station overhead, because we’ve already been here too long,” I said, my head beginning to clear. Fear was rapidly replacing my earlier euphoria. We had to get along the ridge and head toward the A Shau immediately. The NVA had been fooled by our change in direction but they’d figure out what we were doing and make their own interdicting moves pretty quickly, I knew. Or I thought I knew. I shook my head again.
Fusner fiddled with the new radio. He spoke into the handset and then handed it to me. As opposed to the Prick 25 microphone, it was a small round black disk with a little white button on one side.
“His name is Cowboy,” Fusner said.
“He told you his name?” I asked, taking the dainty little thing handset.
The Gunny pointed up, as the A-1 Skyraider was passing close overhead with its fat fuselage banking into a turn. Just under the big raised cockpit side window the letters “COWBOY” were written in bold black paint.
“How fitting,” I said, before keying the mic button.
“Cowboy, do you copy, over?” I asked.
“Five by five, Flash, over” a southern male voice said back. The 323 had a better speaker, I realized, because the pilot sounded almost human.
“Who’s Flash?” I asked Fusner, before continuing.
“He’s into Flash Gordon,” Fusner whispered. “This is all Planet Mongo down here and the bad guys all work for Ming. You’re Flash.”
My shoulders slumped a slight bit. Was nothing real? Yet, I knew, it was all real. Deadly real. I didn’t bother to ask how Cowboy had become Cowboy in a science fiction series that had no cowboys. Like it mattered.
“You can see us down here?” I asked, pushing the button and holding it so I could go on. “We’re heading due east down the ridge until we get to the A Shau. Charlie’s going to be coming up on our left flank, or he’s already set up ahead of us. You can see us good enough to tell the difference from up there I presume.”
“Roger that, Flash,” Cowboy radioed back, dropping the ‘over.’ “You would be the little white apes wearing those funny green outfits sometimes referred to as Marines.”
“Roger that, Cowboy,” I replied, thinking fast, not caring what he called us as long as he stayed up above us so that the NVA would know he was there. His presence might give away our position but it didn’t matter. It was going to be a race to the A Shau ridge I’d pinpointed on the map, and the loser was going to take some serious casualties.
“We’re shoving off in a second down here,” I said, tossing the little Oreo cookie of a microphone back to Fusner. I turned to Stevens.
“Got any more of that Betel Nut shit?”
In the Year 2525
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Very good read. Was in IV Corps 69-70. No mountains there just water water everywhere.
Thank you Dave. I heard III and IV Corps were like that. Almost all riverine warfare
which was a bit sketchy too. Thanks for writing and reading.
Mr Strauss, Thanks for your writings they are great. I have been searching Viet Nam sites to get a better understanding of what my brother endured from Oct 69 to Oct 70. He was in the 199th Light Infantry and stationed at Fire Base Gladys for Christmas 69. He is my hero and never talked about Nam after returning. I never asked for fear of bringing up bad memories for him. He had been struggling with PTSD for a while and had been working with VA doctors and therapists. Nov 23rd 2015 he committed suicide. The Dr said he had been put in the wrong therepy group with Agent Orange suffers in Oct 2015. My sister in law said her husband (my brother) never returned from that session. His mental capacity went down hill quickly after that day. Tears are running down my face as I write this and our extended family will never be the same with out him. Please keep up your writing and God bless you and all veterans of that terrible war. Thanks, Mac
Richard. Another true and deep-biting tragedy. So many never came home. It was like the Gunny so brilliantly and succinctly stated that day early in my tour.
He never came back from the A Shau. Someone else did who he did not know. I never came back either. I’m just here. My wife could not recognize me when I returned
not mentally and not by my appearance. She had to be re-introduced to me by a nurse, and she’d known me for four years and had a daughter with me. My brother is gone
too. Served at the same time as me. Don’t blame VA group or the Agent Orange stuff. Your brother could never accommodate the reality of not only what we saw but what
we had to do. Those of us who make it live in redemption. Only by doing good works all the time can I live with this new me all the time. I had a great hippy counselor
I found accidentally who showed me a way. I don’t know how or why. Terry Schaumberg. I never saw or heard from him again. It’s hard to get someone to understand who
has not been in the shit him or herself. The counselors at the VA are those who never went. It’s all vicarious to them so it’s hard to assign blame.
Thanks for the comment and come back to the site here. We are adding a forum for those of us who’ve have never healed and never will, but we can sure slap
some tribal bandages on here and there.
Your writing is fantastic. One day I hope to do the same for my experiences. Thank you for all you and your brothers did.
122nd Combat Engineer Bn., SCARNG, 3rd ACR
Operation Iraqi Freedom 2003-2004
Combat engineers are special. Out there you go into the unknown. Unknown enemy presence. Unknown enemy devices and more.
Yes, I do hope to be the motivation for you to write. People want to know about the reality of this stuff and they get so little.
Write what you know, what happened and may still be happening. This site gets seven to then thousand readers a day. Join me.
“Wake up the Echoes” reminding of things long forgotten. Eating green paint with every C-Rat meal, terrible cigarettes and getting any thing but Ham snd MF’s (Limas). Remember the first day in country incredible heat. As the sun went down, so did the incoming rocket attack, only got worse. Had a childhood friend,a screaming eagle, KiA on his last patrol before rotating home, His second Tour. He was the only child of a single mom, my family became his as he had few relatives. I remember when I rotated home and had finished my USMC enlistment.I went to pay my respects to his mother. She looked at me and said “why id God take my Joey And not you? your mother has eight kids and I only had Joey!” That’s been a heavy load to carry for fifty years.I don’t have an answer to this day. Thanks for lifting the fog. “Scares have strange powers to remind us that our past is real.” Press on, Sir.
Thank you Clif. You were there. You are here. Sounds silly, but sometimes that’s all the elemental truth some of us need, because there’s not much truth out here.
There was truth in Vietnam. Hard, bitter and killing truth. I went home to my radio operator’s parents. I told them the truth about what happened to their son.
I was thrown physically from the home by an irate father. I lay on the grass next to the steps with my wounds from Vietnam still covered with 4X4s. I was one medical
leave from Oaknoll in Northern California. I was hurt and outraged….but over time I came to understand. You had come through so much pain to stand at that woman’s door.
Pain she had no idea of. You’d lost son’s like her son many times in short order and you grieved, and still grieve for every one. The injustice you suffered that stays
with you is also a badge of honor. You took the heat, once again, because there was nobody else….just like you did in the Nam. You measured up. Once again. Few
men today get the opportunity to measure up. I’m proud of you and I don’t even know you. You have the right stuff, as the screenwriter wrote about the astronauts in that movie.
Thank you brother.
Keep writing your stories Me. Strauss! I guess most would call me a REMF as I did Telephone work in the USAF on Tan Son Nhut AB 67-68, yes I survived TET! Some called us “Armchair Commandoes” but our work saved the rear ends of many of you grunts. Then again the work of you Grunts saved our asses more times than one. Never ever say anything bad to me about the 25th Inf Div as without them I most likely wouldn’t be here.
I’m looking forward for the continuation of your writings.
The 25th Infantry Division is one of the finest military units in the world. The “light” is based in Schofield Barracks out in Hawaii and has been there for some time because I was a professor for Chaminade on Oahu and went to the base there to teach anther classes. They were like Marines, if I may say that.
Thank you for the encouragement and also for saving so many of our asses!
Jim: I’d already written you back at “4th nite” but now see you were on staff at Chaminade Univ Honolulu. What/when doing there? I was regular faculty ’84 – 2001, School of Business, also taught on most of the bases. Trying to put the name with a face, we must have crossed paths some time? I’m former Marine also,’55-’61, no shooting wars on at the time. Great reading and harrowing accounts. Semper Fi
Brock. I was on staff from 93-95 teaching sociology and anthro as adjunct. I taught only at the bases and mostly at night. I loved teaching the Marines and the troops because of the world experience so many could bring into the classroom and the discipline and respect they gave me. We had such a great time in the courses that the administration proctored my teach evaluations to make sure that I was not writing them myself. Moved from Hawaii and did not go back to teaching because I was too broke to continue. Unless you are in administration or a long-tenured professor at a major institution you just can’t make it. I had three jobs to teach. Teaching, clerk at Barnes and Noble in Kahala and then Harley mechanic on the weekends for Motion Dynamics. The mechanic job paid the best but I had to be in disguise because they’d have fired me if they knew about the professor shit.
Thanks for writing in. I never got to know any of the other professors because I was never op/con to the regular campus.
I think I did meet you and it was in the parking lot when I was close to leaving. As I recall, you were, and probably remain, a class act.
Incidentally, I wasn’t being fired but the new leader of the school at that time had no use for me at all. The Catholic sister who hired me was a class act though…like you.
Looks like someone exchanged their .45 for a quill. Fair exchange. Keep writing.
Thank you Tracy. Yeah, I was pretty good with a .45. When I came home I didn’t want to shoot a gun again, although I collected thirty of them, or so.
I have not fired a .45 in many years and wonder what it would feel like. The pen is quieter, less immediate but more deadly. IF one who has ability chooses to fire the pen that way. Which mostly I do not. My Facebook friends get too mad when I get too mad!
Thanks for your opinion and your reading of the story.
What was the point in telling anybody coming into hell that he was coming into hell? Because its helpful to grasp “If you know what it is and you want to stay alive you’d better go to overdrive”.
You cannot describe what was really out there to new people coming in who have been taught a pre-conceived idea about it.
And besides, when you get out there you are the FNG and all FNG’s are an immediate threat to everyone else’s life.
So nobody talks about it in the rear area..not to mention the fact that they hate others for being in the rear area.
Thanks for the opinion though and the reading…
Great response. So true, so very true.
Thanks Jd. The commentary by you and the other people taking the time really helps in this endeavor.
A-1s were great. But Puff/Spectre was manna from heaven.
Yes, Puff makes an appearance later in the story. There was nothing like Puff when you were on the ground and needed support.
The song “Puff the Magic Dragon” whenever played takes me right back. I used to request that entertainers play it but not so much
anymore because of the times…nobody knows it!
Thanks for the comment and the reading.
Keep writing sir I’m only 29 yrs old and had family who fought in the Nam and I’ve always been extremely interested in learning about what they went through but it troubles them so badly to talk about it so I don’t ask them any questions that may cause them pain.. I kind of know the feeling cause I had to identify my absolute best friend when we were 16 he hit a deer on a four-wheeler and it tore him up almost beyond recognition and I was far to young to handle the feelings and emotions I’d never thought I could feel and still literally relive the entire scene in nightmares at least once a month but it screws me up for a couple weeks each time and I feel evil and on edge all senses are heightened to the max and I can’t sleep till I absolutely pass out.. anyway I just want you to know that reading your stories really help me in feeling that I’m not alone keep up the good work and I will keep reading
My friends too, living on from when they left me or I left them.
Who’s behind and who’s ahead, when your really start to think about it.
Your friend never knew just how deep his impact was and I’ll bet he’d have a smile plastered all over his face in spite of the fact that you carry him with you in pain.
That you carry him is important to your core and demonstrates the power of honor that radiates up and down that core.
The combat friends are no different than the friend you lost…or who lost you.
I share my private moments with them and I don’t bring that up to anyone in the shrink business
because it’s not like I want to lose them.
In a way, they, and your friend, live through me and you.
When I depart this earth I can only hope that some friend sits up at night and thinks such thoughts about what I might have been to him.
And sometimes, just sometimes in life, your friend may be the only real one you have.
I’ve been there too….
Thank you for sending such sensitive stuff to me in a comment.
I cannot tell you how much easier I will get through this night because of your thoughts and this writing.
Thanks for your reply your words meant alot just like you vivid stories of the hell like war you and my family fought I truly appreciate your service I’ll be reading until you quit writing welcome home sir!!
It is my pleasure to be a better L.T. than I was back in the day, or at least I try with a bit more humanity burned in deep.
The years sure help. I know the searing tear in your own family’s heart as I have those tears in my own. Tribalism is a formative
survival force, as you will call. Feels good to call you brother.
I was at Chu Chi, fall winter of 67′. Chris Noel on radio kept us in tunes.
Good morning Vietnam took on this issue without really going into how important these anonymous radio jockeys were to us in the bush.
A touch of home, as were the songs.
Thanks for the comment Jim,
I really enjoy your writing and the mention of the song 2525 brought back a vivid memory. In 1969 I was a 13 year old kid riding around Ft Benning with my brother doing the things needed before leaving for his second tour the radio was playing 2525 I remember him asking what the previous line said.I wasn’t even aware of the song until then. It’s now etched in my memory.he was KIA less than 30 days from completion of his 2nd tour. Keep up the good work. Mike
Your brother, my brother. That song played in Vietnam, and then again when I was getting out of the
hospital in San Francisco and then a final time of import for me when, in 1969, finally released, I went to a showing of 2001 to try to
get past the brutal loss of my own brother. While we waited for the movie to come on that song played again. Whenever I play or hear it now
it’s eternally linked to my brother…and now your own. Thank you for that comment on this particular night, as I write the Third Part of the Eighth Day,
a cathartic but often painful exercise. For you…and my brother….and your brother…
Great job looking forward to next
Thank you Paul. I did not expect so many vets to be reading. I kind of thought I’d reach a very few who understood and wanted to
know another’s story alongside of their own. It’s been amazing to see so many veterans of the war on here, and even others who did not go or were family of the ones
who went, reading and writing about it. I keep on writing into this night.
I am following your writing with great interest and enthusiasm. You certainly know how to tell your story in a way that puts the reader in your boots. I was a radio & nav tech at Pleiku in 1966. We flew (USAF) A1E’s and AC47’s (Puffs) from there providing ground support for everything in the Central Highlands and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. While us maintenance guys intuitively understood the mission, we never heard anything about or from the guys on the receiving end of the support. We knew it was bad out there, but never really just how bad. Keep up the good work. I hope your book gets wide distribution.
We only had A-1 support for brief periods of time in the A Shau but the times we did it was great.
Those guys who flew over us, they had a touch and they knew instinctively so much because
even with the 323 communications were shitty between ground and air.
I write on about what was going down there under those canopies of green and brown
in hopes that people like you will read and smile with comprehension and deeper understanding.
Thank you for the comment and the reading, of course.
If you were there, a person will understand and feel everything you’ve written; if you weren’t, no amount of reading will help..when people tell me they can’t imagine what it was like, I just nod my head anymore
There’s a long and bitter learning process behind that statement Dw. Most of us have been through that fire, time after time.
Not only do regular people seldom understand (women are better than men, incidentally) but they can hold it against you that you
exposed them to awful memories they can’t get rid of even though they don’t believe them. Thanksgivings and Christmas Party stuff.
Like the Al Pacino role in Scent of a Woman. Back when I drank and was still thinking that of course others would listen, understand and care.
Thanks for being here and thanks for reading my story and having the writing motivate you to write yourself.
Do you feel that you became dehumanized after a few months in country. I have spent a tremendous amount of time in hospitals but while there I just thought I was crazy because it(was like skydiving) time. Thrilling. Had a lot of heavy duty electrical treatments because they said I had problems being here. Drugs, prison, attempted murder etc. it’s been over 50 years and today my psychiatrist said I can play with sharp objects. I had to throw a joke in. I’m always laughing, telling jokes, but I’m very sick inside. Fuck it
You are here now Warren, and you are here living this story again with me. A story not unlike the one that took you to where you went and cannot come back from today.
Stay here. I can’t save you but you, down there, you know that you, can. But you have to want to, not because it’s worth it but because in the end, you are.
You can’t really know that and the system doesn’t really tell you that in ways that are meaningful (like giving you a high paying job with tons of respect).
I’m here with you and those thoughts you have are thoughts like I, and the men who come here to live with me through this, have but cannot tell anybody.
Thank you for what you wrote and telling me you are my brother in kind without saying it in those words.
Stay. Live with me.
Fantastic. Always eager for next article.
Thank you Choctaw, it’s a pleasure to receive plaudits and approval
such as your laconic communication intended.
I write on, for those of us who fell, for those of us who fell but could still get back up,
and for those out here who think and understand what we went through to get back here to be among you.
The video triggered the connection. Of course you remember the turn tables that used to provide us music. They had three settings: 33 1/3 rpm, 45rpm, and 78rpm. Your Viet Nam story is an album, 33 1/3 setting. You’re living it in 78. You can hear it and feel it, but it doesn’t make sense. It’s all going too fast. You can’t slow it down, your nervous system just has to adapt. Somehow, for you, it did. We, your readers, have the luxury of instant play-back at the right speed. We can hear it clearly, see it clearly, and feel it clearly, but it still doesn’t make sense.
As usual, John, you say something simple, erudite and then smooth the whole thing over
with a thick metaphorical frosting. You are a natural writer, indeed, and I admire you for making me smile
with intellect time after time. I have my reconstituted sixties amps, record player and reel to reel in the basement
with my ancient but wonderful Sansui speakers. Trying to make sense….
Not surprisingly, I have found nothing to smile about in your memory emptying narrative. But your reply today did bring knowing smiles from both Cathy and I as you described your audio arsenal. In my post WestPac days, stateside duty stations, we would visit our peer company grade officer couples from our command units. Like us, they usually called a 24’by 24′ cracker box “home”. And, invariably, one entire wall of this domicile would be taken up with the mammoth reel to reel tape system, speakers the size of bread trucks, and the de riguer high-end turntable. The other “must buy” were the Mikimoto pearls. I doubled up on the pearls and skipped the housing blasters. Thanks again for the kind words, and a more pleasant trip down memory lane.
Thank you John and Cathy, for the smiling thoughts. My wife still has the
Mikimoto pearls, by the way. I could not afford the Rolex, the stereo or the pearls
when I came home but years later accumulated them all…more in memory about not being
able to have them than because of functionality. But I do use the stereo down there (as I also bought
many of the reel to reel tapes used by Armed Forces Radio, Mary has the pearls and wears them very occasionally,
and I gave up the Rolex for a Breguet years back.
As usual, John, your writing is impeccable…
I was at Fort Bragg for 28 of my 3 year tour of duty, 67 to 70. While there, I volunteered for Vietnam and was turned down. My CO said I was essential to the company function. Driving a jeep was essential? No he just didn’t like me. 47 years later I’m thankful that I stayed stateside. What you and your men went throu should never have happened. Thank you for all you endured. I’ve had several customers who are now suffering the effects of Agent Orange, barely surviving. I think the real enemy was the Pentagon.
I hope you stay in contact with Conway Bill because he is way worth it.
Thanks for going back and forth on this site.
Agree with the Pentagon statement. I ask ‘just what were they thinking dressed in those plastered shirts?
As it turned out, those new jungle utilities designed specifically
for the conflict worked amazingly well once they weather in a bit.
But brand new they had this shiny thing going that wasn’t good unless
Thanks for noting that.