First light was almost upon us. I peered around the left edge of the ammo box. What I saw told me that there would be no more pawing around through the supplies dropped by the choppers in the dead of night. Through the misty rain, and what was left of the gently blowing night, I could see a slightly darker wave moving out of the jungle towards us. I also knew that we were all as good as dead if we stayed in our current position. It was either time to attempt to run back to the company lines under what covering fire the M-60s, grenades, and the Ontos could provide us or get back inside the hole and, with air hopefully on the way, wait the attack out and pray our hole wasn’t found. Three options, with not one of them being without high mortal risk.
My near constant conclusion to evaluating combat solutions whispered out of my tight grimacing lips.
“We can’t go ahead, we can’t go back and we can’t stay where we are.”
The same situation, with all different terrain and other variables, ever-changing but never-changing to come together and arrive at the same three solution conclusion.
“We can always attack, Junior” the Gunny whispered into my ear, obviously having overheard my depressive whispered admission.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, surprised.
“Let’s get back in the hole and make-up one of your plans,” he replied, then began to slither toward where the hole was located.
Nguyen followed him and Fusner was about to when I grabbed his ankle.
“Give me the AN-323. We have to have Cowboy or what’s coming across the flats will be the end of us by full dawn.”
“Talked to him, sir. He’s coming at first light,” Fusner got out, shaking his ankle to loosen my grip. “First light he’ll be here but he can’t come with the others because of the support they have to give Lima and Kilo.”
Fusner succeeded in getting loose from my weakened grasp and was gone ahead of me into the night. I crawled to catch up, well remembering my inability to find the hole on my own in full dark. It still wasn’t light enough to see well yet, and the mist was thickening into regular monsoon rain. The mist was actually harder to see through, but that wasn’t going to make much difference to the attacking force coming out from the jungle unless Cowboy could rain Skyraider hell down upon them.
The Gunny’s comment reverberated through my mind, as I crawled.
“Attack what, or who, or whom,” I muttered to myself, crawling along in the shallow path through the cloying mud left by the three before me.
The hole was there, but I only knew I had arrived by going right over the lip and dropping inside.
Fusner grunted as I piled headfirst into him. I slipped by him to land in the collected muddy water at the bottom of the hole.
“The plan,” the Gunny said across the total darkness.
I worked myself up out of the water to finally stand with both feet spread against the upwelling sides of the hole.
“Shouldn’t we be looking out there to see where the hell the NVA are?” I countered, wondering what kind of plan he wanted me to think up.
A plan that could have no foundation in reality that I could think of.
“Lima’s coming in from the south and they’re going to take it right in the side from Hill 975,” the Gunny said, speaking flatly and analytically. “Air is headed there to cover their move, little good that will do them. Kilo is headed across the eastern top edge of the highland again, to drop down the switchback parapet both our companies came down last week. Air is being diverted to cover their move too. That’s why only Cowboy is coming and he probably had to argue like hell to do that. Not like we haven’t over-used air a bit ourselves lately.”
I listened carefully to every word the Gunny said. It was the single longest speech I’d ever heard him give, and by far the most complex tactically. Every word he said was dead on and I knew it. It was his conclusion, spoken earlier up above that had, and still, haunted me. Attack who, when and how?
“Okay, you’ve got all the data, Junior,” he finished. “What do you have for us?”
I didn’t have anything, and I knew we were about to lose whatever time we had to prepare for an advancing enemy. For some reason, the Gunny wasn’t worried about the attacking force we’d been able to barely observe moving across the flats toward us. Was the Gunny gambling that heavily on Cowboy’s arrival to nail them, or the remaining fire of the Ontos to deter them? It didn’t make sense since we were not hot on the radio talking back and forth to Zippo and the Ontos crew.
“It’s a feint,” the Gunny finally said, when the answer to his question was met with my complete silence.
“Feint?” I asked, dumbly.
“They aren’t really coming,” the Gunny replied. “I’ve seen this before. The old attack at dawn thing. They aren’t coming because they know air support will be here, and the Ontos will be able to see them before they can get onto the mud flat close to us.
“Why the feint, though?” I asked, still not even partially understanding.
“They’re going after Kilo but they don’t want us to know,” he went on. “They want us to cower here waiting for relief. Hill 975 forces are going to take Lima apart, the NVA regiment in the bush here is going to make mincemeat of Kilo, and then they’ll both take their sweet time in mopping us up in a pincer movement when they’re done with Lima and Kilo.”
My mind suddenly exploded with white light. I got it. I got it all. I thought for a few seconds to get everything he’d told me together.
“The plan is to roll the Ontos to us here, and then move the company south in three prongs,” I said. “One of our platoons along the lower ledge of the cliff, one along the side of the Bong Song and the last two behind and supporting the Ontos in its charge. We pick up the remaining supplies in the light with those two center platoons. Our machine guns can be concentrated at the very front edges of our moving forces, firing enfilade flanking fire from the outer prongs while the center gunners use ground fire to cover the Ontos as it moves forward into the jungle and through it while blasting away with flechettes and high explosives. Screw Lima and 975 until we’re done crushing this force between us and Kilo.”
“Fusner, get Kilo up on the net and fill them in,” I continued. “Then call back to the Ontos and the company. Get Sugar Daddy and Jurgens. We move on command at dawn just like the NVA was trying to convince us they were going to do. The Ontos makes all the difference, and finding the additional 106 ammo dumped out on the mud flats here becomes vitally important. The Skyraider is there for punch through power and psychology.”
I got out of my pack, pushed it to Fusner, and then climbed my way to the top edge of the hole, standing on the platform the Gunny had fashioned. I could see the jungle as a rotten gray line, thick with moisture and mixed with the slanted rain now falling. Dawn was only minutes away. There was no enemy, as the Gunny had predicted. They’d come out under cover of darkness, absorbing our sniper fire, as a price of doing business, then faded back once they thought they’d put the fear of God into us. I stared toward the jungle and then turned to peer back up where our lines were. The Ontos was still invisible against the dark backdrop of the cliff face, but I knew it was there. I glanced once more down at the jungle area that was now totally quiet except for the thrum of the river’s passing and its ever-changing currents and eddies.
“They thought we’d be afraid,” I said out loud, to no one but the sodden rainy night around me. “They think we’re not a bunch of totally whacked out Marines with nothing to lose. Well hell, we’re afraid all right, but we’re about to become afraid for them and not of them.”
Saying the words made my back stiffen and my shoulders lift a bit. There was no real hope in the valley, but there was some satisfaction to be found here and there, and I just knew this was going to be one of those times where some satisfaction might be found. I canted my head down, listening to Fusner putting the Gunny on the radio with Kilo.
“It’s almost light, Fusner,” I said, looking down at the top of his helmet. “Maybe it’s not too early for your crummy little Armed Forces radio. Turn it on. We’re not attacking in silence.”
“The name, sir?” he asked, without twisting up from his position in supporting the Gunny while he talked on the short-corded handset.
I waited, looking up again into the rain while trying to gather some of it with my tongue. My hands and the rest of my body were encased in the awful smelling mud. I realized my old leeches were still with me, as I’d had no time to strip and get rid of them. I smiled at that thought, waiting for God’s inspiration. Maybe the leeches in the mud were really there, after all, I thought. Maybe the leeches that had to be there simply recognized that I was already taken. I was already owned by their brethren, and I had only so much blood to be equally distributed around.
Fusner fiddled over his tiny transistor radio. I knew the music, if it came on, wouldn’t matter in our current situation. The mock attack was over and, in minutes, the machine guns, the Ontos and hopefully the Skyraider fire, would drown out all other sounds. The song came, and I struggled to listen to the words I didn’t really know. The song was from the Beatles and it was already halfway through when it played up to the top of the hole. There wasn’t enough light to see the Gunny’s face when he glanced up at me in irritation, but I imagined his expression, and his patient waiting for what was to come next, and for my inspiration. It came with the lyrics: “Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes, there beneath the blue suburban skies, I sit, and meanwhile back…” The song was called Penny Lane and the plan was named. I remembered the only lyrics I retained from hearing the song in college. Something about a nurse and poppies and those lyrics had back then, and right now, taken my mind to the famous WWI poem that had affected me.
“We are the dead,” I intoned to myself from the poem, “short days ago, we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow…”
“Penny Lane,” I said down into the hole. “The plan is called ‘Penny Lane‘.”
There was no way I was going to call the plan Flanders Fields.
The Gunny surged upward a few minutes later.
“The kid’s radio’s a bad idea and I don’t understand the name of this new plan,” he said, moving to lay next to me, with half his body out of the hole to keep his place.
“Kilo’s gonna be saved for the third time, which is kind of ridiculous if you think about it,” he said. “Lima’s gonna pay the price but it’s not one we laid on them. And these NVA son-of-a-bitches plaguing us from the beginning are going to feel our bite, as long as they’ve moved that .50 to help them pick Kilo off the side of that wall like slow-moving flies, that is.”
“Attack,” I whispered. “Attack. Where in the hell did you come up with that idea?” I asked.
“It was your idea, Junior, but Penny Lane, my ass.” He slipped back into the hole.
I ducked down, although there was no incoming fire. I squatted on the small step, my back pressed into the muddy side of the hole, still too dark to see anything but ghostly shapes, and then only if they moved. The platoon moving along the cleft overhang of the canyon face would be in the same situation as Lima Company was going to be in, as they moved south past Hill 975. Fire from the jungle side would pin our platoon against the cliff, while Lima would be pinned against the raging unswimmable Bong Song. My platoon would have one distinct advantage, however, and that would be the fire pouring into the jungle from the riverside platoon, along with the Ontos plowing through the jungle and dispensing flechette rounds forward and to either side. The NVA would at first believe they were pinning Kilo to the cliff before they would only slowly come to understand that they were the ones surrounded on all sides. The only place they would have to go would be down into their tunnels. Resupply. The word came logically to me, as I thought about dislodging or destroying tunnel works. Satchel charges, large and many would be needed. The shock waves from such underground blasts, as the charges were tossed into any openings that could be found, would penetrate up and down the tunnels, even sending terminal waves through solid ground.
“Fusner, get battalion on the line,” I ordered. “I want another resupply to our rear, as we attack into the jungle. We need more flechette rounds for the Ontos and we need satchel charges for the tunnels.”
“They lost Marines on that last one, sir,” Fusner replied, instead of moving to get on the net and making the call.
“And, so?” I asked, surprised he hadn’t simply made the call.
“They won’t come into a hot LZ where they’ve taken casualties,” the Gunny replied, “and you already know that. Besides, the 106 ammo will arrive too late and the satchel charges can wait until we’ve secured the surface to set them if we secure the surface.”
The Gunny was right again, I knew, although I was beyond the point where such missing of tactical elements embarrassed me. I had been reduced to needing all the help I could get, and what pride I’d had when flying into the country was all but crushed into non-existence. We were going to use a frontal attack on a most capable and equipped enemy. That knowledge was the only thing I could use in my mind to scrape up any sense of my old Marine Corps pride. I was, once again, hiding in a hole, but I was coming out and I was coming out fighting, and soon.
“We’ll let the choppers know the surrounding area is secure as soon as we get into the jungle,” the Gunny continued, “and it won’t be, but what the hell, we can always call the Army if the Corps pilots won’t come.”
It was strange to think about the amazing and conflicting belief systems that floated down into the A Shau field of combat and through the rear area surrounding it. The Army thought of the Marine Corps as the ultimate fighting force that it was not. The Marine Corps fought, but when the going got tough defaulted to the Army for help for what the Corps rear area couldn’t or wouldn’t provide. The Marine Corps delivered in a broken sort of tattered leadership way but delivered. The Army delivered in the following role, but also effectively delivered.
“Besides,” the Gunny said, in a lower voice, “the next resupply will also drop another contingent of FNG officers to relieve you, Junior. You are not the best-liked officer ever to land down in this valley.”
“The men like him though, Gunny,” Fusner said in the darkness.
“The men don’t like him,” the Gunny shot back, anger in his tone. “The Marines didn’t give a shit about anything when he dropped in. Now they want to go home. Figure it out.”
“He gave us hope,” Fusner continued, in a dogged low tone.
“He made it so nobody wants to be around him,” the Gunny shot back. “They want to go home to get away from him.”
“That’s kind of like hope,” Fusner replied, his sentence more of a question than a statement.
“They’re ready,” the Gunny said, changing the subject. “Where’s that extra grenade you had? The company moves out in three columns on that signal. Sugar Daddy’s coming high diddle-diddle right up the middle to follow and support the Ontos. The sniper team will do rearguard because I want them ready, with their weapons aimed at the last location of the fifty-caliber, the only flea I see in this plan of yours. If that thing opens up then they have to shoot the gunners or our goose is cooked, because we’ll be fully committed.”
I moved down from the step and began rummaging around for my pack, staying as far up from the cloying mud as I could. Fusner pushed it into my chest, as I floundered about. The M-33 was where I’d left it. I pulled it out, handling it gingerly. The 33 had a questionable reputation. The M-26 that had preceded it had been the old faithful of grenades, following the infamous pineapple grenade used in WWII and Korea. The 33 had a temper all of its own. Some said the pin was too easy to dislodge, others said that the timing fuse, supposedly measured to be five seconds precisely at the factory, was not as advertised. I didn’t really care. I would pull the pin, or the Gunny would, toss it ten meters away, or so, and then let the thing go off. I eased myself back into the alcove gouged out of the side of the hole, held the grenade tightly to my chest with both hands and waited.
Why was the Gunny sticking to the phony story that the plan to attack was my idea? I had no clue. Why had he chastised Fusner about what my Marines either thought or didn’t think about me in such a negative and emotional way? Once more, I had no idea. That the Marines might want to get out of the A Shau, only to escape me, didn’t seem plausible from everything I’d experienced. I knew that many of them carried superstition packets around their necks with some of my stuff in them. Superstition ran rampant, like gossip, in a field unit, and maybe in the rear areas too. It was only natural for the men to think my amazing survival from time to time, as opposed to the previous officers who’d come and gone so quickly, might have something to do with magic. That many of those officers had died at my Marines’ own hands seemed not to count. Fusner thought I’d somehow given the men some sort of hope of survival, and it seemed that the Gunny was ready to unwillingly go along with that in conducting the current operation while, at the same time, indicating that the men were more interested in getting away from me than anything else.
“Ready on the right,” the Gunny whispered.
I prepared myself to climb up, pull the pin on the M-33 and then toss it, but first I strapped myself into my pack. There would be no coming back to the hole once we began the attack. Just as I turned to climb up to the lip of the hole, the AN-323 radio kicked to life. There was no speaker for that radio but the small noise the tiny headset speaker made was very audible in the near silence and dead air down inside the hole.
“Cowboy rolling on in,” a small tinny voice said. “You got your ears up and ready for that Flash?”
I climbed back down and reached for the headset, pressing my right ear into the small speaker, as I did not want to remove my helmet and risk dropping it into the muddy water below. I squeezed the grenade in my left hand uncomfortably but wasn’t about to part with it.
“Flash standing by,” I said, pressing on the transmit button and hoping our position deep inside the hole wouldn’t block the signal. It didn’t.
“I’ll be five by five when you start your run,” Cowboy said. “I’m a lone soldier up here, orbiting and waiting out the dark, and for your signal. “I’ll make a hole for your Ontos right down the center. I know the area well. I’m loaded for bear with maximum ordnance for the effort. Is it Penny for Your Thoughts or Penny Lane?”
“Penny Lane,” I said back, astounded by how quickly and effectively something as seemingly slight and unimportant as a plan name could spread and be totally accepted. “There’s enough light to launch, Cowboy, and the line of departure will be about ten meters south of the flash from the grenade I’m about to toss from our hole.”
“That’s rich,” Cowboy laughed. “A flash from Flash. I’ll start my roll in from eight thousand and hopefully, singe the hair of the guys riding that Ontos into history and Valhalla. Out.”
I pushed the headset back at Fusner, now barely visible in the pre-dawn light. I climbed back up on the step and pulled the pin on the grenade with a bit of difficulty because of the slipperiness of the mud on my hands. The M-33 felt perfect in my right hand, the spoon pressed hard against the pool ball sized round surface of the body of the device. I stretched my arm back, like my Dad had taught me to do when trying to throw a football as far as I could, and then heaved the grenade back toward our own line so the flash would radiate out from the top of the mud in front of every Marine present.
I never saw the flash, as I’d dived back inside the hole when the grenade was still in the air. I heard the small ‘crump’ of its explosion seconds later. I unsnapped the holster flap covering the butt of Tex’s .45 and got ready to climb out of the hole. I was as ready for open combat as I would ever be.
“Wait one,” the Gunny cautioned. “Wait until we can hear the Ontos and then gauge its position. Everyone on our side is aiming out front of that thing and the last place we want to be is there.”
I tried to settle back, but my pack stuck out too far to allow me to force myself back into the crease in the corner of the hole. I stood, with feet spread to stay above the inches of muddy water in the bottom, like the Gunny, Fusner, and Nguyen. I had run through the enemy before, as I had run from him, but I had never charged forward in attack. Getting ready mentally for the effort was not what I thought it might be. I wasn’t nearly as afraid as I thought I should be. I was instead hoping. I was hoping that I would measure up as a Marine in combat and I was hoping my company would be able to do the same. For only the second time since being in Vietnam, in combat and down in the A Shau Valley, I was feeling like I thought a Marine was supposed to feel.
I felt the Ontos vibrate the walls of our hole and suddenly wanted to be out on the mudflat, no matter the risk. My fear of being buried alive in the mud was greater than that of being shot, even if that was to be by my own Marines. I vaulted up the step and over the lip of the hole. I felt the others following me. The Ontos was idling right in front of me, it’s left tread no more than a few feet from the hole. Zippo sat atop and just behind the layered armor of the thing, his teeth exposed by a huge grin, about the only thing fully visible about him. I heard Cowboy coming in the background but knew the shape of the valley was also radiating sound well ahead of the fierce lumbering beast of the air. But he was there and coming.
I ran to the back of the Ontos, the Gunny pulling up to my side and Fusner not far behind. Nguyen popped up from under the rear of the machine, having taken the easiest path by sliding right under the hull of the thing.
“Ready,” the Gunny yelled into the open rear doors of the Ontos. “Are you going inside?” he shouted in my ear with his hands cupped.
I looked up at the open doors of the beast. There was room. I made a quick decision, following my new feeling of being an actual leader of Marines.
“No, I’m staying with the men,” I yelled back.
“Then get two hundred meters back. When the 106s start to fire you have to be either under the thing, inside it, or a hell of a long way from the back-blast.”
I turned to look up the mild incline to where the company had been set in. Everyone was on the move, and most had M-60 machine guns carried with ammo belts held by assistant fire team leaders just aside or behind them. Sugar Daddy’s platoon I knew, because they were so difficult to make out in the bad light. The Marines of one platoon moved against the face of the cliff. I turned once more to watch Jurgen’s platoon heading down to the raging water’s edge.
“Move out,” the Gunny yelled, as I achieved a position far enough away from the Ontos, with Fusner and Nguyen by my sides.
The Gunny had stayed with the Ontos, squeezing into through the doors. I wondered if he’d done that to build me up more or whether he’d done it for security. The last part of that thought made me smile grimly. The Gunny didn’t do much at all for his own security.
He’d done it to make me feel like a Marine Officer and it was working.
Vibrations from excitement or Adrenalin , waiting for the next chapter, thanks LT.
Thanks Jim. Meeting in Santa Fe at the rendezvous. I will be on it in my hotel room though.
Semper fi, and thanks for the compliment.
Penny lane. Same as Col. Paul Cumberland in my tribute. Google his name
Read that, and thank you Dan.
Damn it! I want to keep reading. I vividly remember the first time I ran into the face of enemy fire. My view of what was happening was never the same as that of a company commander who knew where all his pieces were on the board. It was that of a Marine Sgt who’s world was no larger than that of an infantry squad. Looking back I remember my biggest fear was getting one of my Marines killed. I know I was scared but my mind was keeping me occupied with all that being a squad leader entails. I remember running and no mater how near or far the cover I was running to was, it seemed like it took a lifetime to cross. When we finally cleared the Haj out, the silence scared me nearly as much as going into the attack. Just being there though. In the very spot those little bastards had been trying to kill me from. With all of my Marines without a scratch on em, all trying to catch their breath like me. I remember thinking that I had now proven my worth as a Marine like my Father before me in Vietnam. I had never been more proud of being a leader of Marines than I did at that moment. I’m sorry if I’m being long winded here. Your writing has a way of putting a person in the boots and under that helmet and when you’ve been there and done that the memories and feelings all come rushing back. Keep writing Marine!
thanks Vince. Your writing here is really something. Thanks for the straight from the heart stuff.
I don’t mean for vets to have awful memories brought back, although I also know that most don’t ever lose them.
The idea here is to have a place to share those memories and know that the kind of oh so personal jungle warfare was not performed alone.
A lot of the really awful stuff happened to others and nobody knew….like me….
Thank you for writing your story. I have refereed to myself as a shadow warrior since my return home in 1970 after serving in the valley with the 101st. I I wouldn’t tell anyone that I served Vietnam because of the hate toward us vets. A shadow warrior is one who has experienced war and lives in it’s shadow, afraid to admit my participation in its horror and, yet proud to have served my country. We all carrie some guilt of surviving. I have enjoyed and can relate to all your segments and will purchase several copies to give to my family members. I will try to make to Santa Fe.
It would be great to meet you Gene. I think the nation harbors a great band of shadow warriors, as you describe them.
It seems natural when the revelations they might make, and have probably aid a price for making earlier on, are not accepted
or believable by a public that simply gets to enjoy the results and not participate in the carnage…
See you soon, I hope…
“No, I’m staying with the Men”……at that moment..with that simple statement..you became what you had dreamed of becoming one day….”A Leader of Men”….Do you remember the giant Billboards that were placed next to our nations highways all across the country? Those pictures of a new Marine Corps Officer in Dress Blues with raised Saber in Salute…A Leader of Men….that was your dream..and up until this very moment..it has eluded you….but not any longer…you were branded with the hotest iron imaginable…it was burned into your soul and even the surety of impending death was not able to take it from you…The pure, singular thought that you were about to lead a charge into the face of death…probably the most powerful moment of your life..and no chance or time to recognize it…..just a “simple’ decision… Now go “get some’ Lt…..Semper Fi
Now that specific moment in the books is an interesting one to highlight and capture as vitally illustrative of my accomplishment. Was it really that deep, that comment? Did the Gunny get into the Ontos to illustrate and outline that time in hell, one of the very rare
moments where I truly felt like a Marine officer? Did he help me again in one of his weird almost ‘alien’ ways? I can’t be as definitive as you are here about that. I truly don’t know. I did not come home feeling like a leader of Marines, at any point of the odyssey. I sometimes wonder and imagine an old Marine Officer of high
rank up on his sofa at night reading the first TDHS volume and marking it up like I might if I hadn’t written it. Would that old Marine see the exploits the way you do or simply nod his head occasionally and smile at reading stuff that simply could not be true at all? I would never expect a medal from
the result of his reading, were he in a position to grant or approve one. I would expect that he or she might set the book aside and wonder. The wonder would be about whether he might think it worth it to let his Marines read the book and then respond, getting back to him orally, or in the field
should they got there, letting him know by their conduct. Would he know if he observed them closely? Would his Marines be better Marines by the reading?
Thanks for more of your baffling stuff Larry. You are a delight and a class act…
Semper fi, my brother….
Thank you LT from a vet that’s walked the valley. We know the hell we went through and I thank you so much for telling it, so others will become aware. Love your writting, looking forward to the third book. I know that this has to be rough on you but hopefully help full too. Thank you again bring back memories which can be good to get them out. God Bless and keep going.
thanks a lot Richard. Santa Fe rendezvous is just up ahead….like the proverbial signpost up ahead. Hope you make it to that special event!!!
“The Marine Corps delivered in a broken sort of tattered leadership way but delivered. The Army delivered in the following role, but also effectively delivered.” The membership of our PTSD group is comprised of Army, Seabees, and Marines. We all served in various capacities. Our acknowledged leader is a Marine. (not was, right?) Three other marines were corpsmen. For sure, we Army vets take a lot of guff from the Marines, from challenges to jokes about what it is like to NOT be a Marine. If the shit ever comes down on this group I know who I will look to for leadership and support. We are all brothers.
By ‘following’ I meant for our unit not in the war. Remember that i fought in a very small place. Have nothing, nothing, but admiration for the Army and all the
care and help they showered down upon us to get by. I Would not be here without the Army!!!
Wonderful chapter, great read and so real to what it was. Even thou I was there (army infantry ) like you for one month. it will be with me forever, kind of weird for me it did not bother to much till I had bladder cancer in my late 50, but since then more, maybe because I was again looking at my possible death up close . Although thru God and two wonderful surgeons, I am still here over 10 years later. I think the internet and all the info about war and everyone is a hero. not sure what others think, but for me that is a sore spot, we know that is not the case, mostly in war and in life we do what we have to survive. Of coarse there are the rare cases of heroism. But just because I severed and I was in battle does not make me hero. Sorry for the rant. Don
Mostly, Don, I do not read ‘rants’ on here. I read expressions written from the heart that might not appear anywhere else. This is kind of a safe zone
for discussing the undiscussable. Thanks for your own perspective and your own experiences. I am not certain why the memories of that war haunt so deeply
and remain so imbedded inside our minds. The intensity has something to do with it, I am certain. Anyway, thanks for writing what you went through and
are going through to this day.
“… why the memories of that war haunt so deeply and remain so imbedded inside our minds.” For some understanding I suggest “The Body Keeps the Score – Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. He is a psychiatrist who has pioneered novel techniques for healing. He has little regard for pills or talk. At one point he worked for the VA but gave up in disgust.
This chapter and the comments are particularly moving.
Many thanks. Blessings & Be Well to all.
Thanks Dan, means a lot to me, those kind words of support…
Jim, The writing of your experience, your voice for those unable to speak of theirs, for those who’ve never experienced & for those who’ve thought this was ancient history – Thank you. I come from a later time in the Army, just outside this window of Hell. What experience I do have tells me your book should be required reading, not just for all the Academies, but for every ROTC program, for aspiring Officers, NCOs & Enlisted. And for every politician – those that will send America’s young men & women to the river Acheron & Charon’s ferry. Most sincere regards, Doug
Well, I get some compliments Doug, but not usually anything like the length and breath that you have gone through here.
Thank you so much. You can see stuff I cannot from the inside. I just write the story as best I can and have no real idea what the response is going to be like on here, even though
what the comments say on here mean so much to me. i keep going, as best as I can. Trying to use J, one of the vets as my spirit guide. he’s dying and I am trying to not only give
him something to take his mind off of that but also so he can get the end of the Vietnam part of the story before the event occurs.
Thanks so much for writing this…
Jim, Seems to me that J is lucky to have you as a friend. Just sayin’. Doug
Thanks Doug. The modern age. We can be pretty close friends with someone we’ve never met or are likely to meet.
J is definitely one of those. He yells at me upon occasion but it is always from the depths of his giant heart.
Thanks for noticing…
Thanks for the kind words about the Army helicopter pilots. I flew with the Black Widows Helicopter Assault company, 101st, (1969) and made several flights into the Ashau Valley and across it. We had a great group of guys who were always “willing to give it a try”.
Yes, in the last segment I wrote about some disgruntlement with chopper support in some of the men’s minds.
Never forget how much we all longed to leap into the air with you….going up to where it was supposedly cool, and then back to imagined
hot food, a cot, sleep and air conditioning. There comes resentment from time to time, until you come to give us what we needed and the pick us up
when we are broken and dying without your help. The Army choppers performed flawlessly, as did the Marines…in reality.
The chopper pilots and medevacs, were the unsung heroes of the Vietnam War, without a doubt!
Yes, there were truly overlooked when it came to decorations and honoring… Hope you are okay J
and I know you won’t be in Santa fe. Will be thinking of you there and here too… Thanks and God bless my friend,
Yes, I am still hanging in there by a thread and thanks for asking about my situation. Having to rely heavily on pain meds now, so won’t be too long. There is something to be said about the waiting, rather then going quickly, but I guess there is a reason for everything.
Would love to be with my comrades in Santa fe, but just not possible these days. The closest I get to that situation, is reading your book and the comments that follow. Hey, I can still relate!
My thoughts are with all of you and blessings as well. Remember Jim, old soldiers never die, they just fade away.
What am I to do when you go silent? What are those of us to do when there’s no little ‘click’ of the radio button to let us know you are still with us?
I write on, of course, but, as with the twists and turns I stored up so effectively and held to my center of being for so many years, I don’t want to do it.
I know I must. For me, for you and for the guys…and gals on here….I hate the selfishness of thinking about it. How badly I will miss you and not feel so sorry for you passing, as sorry for me living on without you here to
badger me, to irritate me, to rush me along….with care. Thanks for being with me through most of the trip…and thanks for coming on with your special voice to accompany along the way, like
I did not expect you in Santa fe, but then…I never expected anybody to be here for the rest of the trip either!
Yes the BLACK WIDOWS. They flew us in and out. What a bunch. Flying on their noses most of time.
thanks for the comment RT
James… I was hooked by the time I finished the first Paragraph. Although I was an Innocent Bystander, Gulf Of Tonkin Yacht Club (USS Kittyhawk) from 1970 til 1973…our squadron lost 2 planes and 4 aircrew during the summer of ’72 and I buried my Best buddy from High School in June of 69 I still was spit on and called a babykiller when I got off the plane coming home. I’m still not sure how I feel about it all… BUT…reading “30 Days” is perhaps helping me put it all in perspective… Thank You. I bought books 1 and 2 and I am awaiting book3.
Thanks Truman for buying the books. Helps me, because putting the work up for free for some of the vets is important. If I was really making money then it might look like I was making stuff
up for money, and I’m not. I’m being quite successful at going broke publishing these books!!! Anyway, I am sorry that so many vets got that treatment. Usually, the prejudice was not that
obvious. Small things. Looks, sneers, raised eyebrows, distancing at cocktail parties and more. Today is considerably different but don’t ever forget that so many men think the current president,
who avoided Vietnam, is as great as, or greater, than McCain who went, served and was courageous in combat and then after. Most men have never gone to war, much less engaged in real combat, and so
there is that residual resentment inside of them that is almost impossible for the guys who went to understand.
The writing is first rate, giving the sensation that you can see the events happening. I have books one and two of the series. Is there a date for book three yet?