"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Soldier's Poems: by Mihanel Pabon

Mihanel Pabon

Intrusive Thoughts

by Mihanel Pabon

It's a memory embedded 
in your brain
that's not so much a memory
as it is a stain.
No matter how long ago it was
when most will say, let it pass

You are not trying to remember it
you're trying to dismember it.
Normalcy becomes an illusion
for when everything seems to be all right,
when it appears you're winning the fight,
BOOM, a trigger appears.

Unfortunately, you never know 
or what
a trigger could be,
a smell, 
a sound, 
or something you see.

I could go on writing for untold pages
and write a manifesto for the ages,
but I just want you to understand
that I'm really trying
 against this intrusion
to take a stand.

I'm going to go straight to the core.
You see, I want to enjoy
this precious moment of normalcy.
It was all caused
by war.

Why I Am

Mihanel Pabon

I Am, so you can be
What you choose to be
I am, so no one in your way can get
And in comfort, your roots you may set
I am forever in your service
Sometimes I do get nervous
But that's part of who I am
That's my humanity
Which does not include vanity

I will do everything I've learned
To stop inhumanity
It's not in vain
To be proud of who you are
And from where you came
To always be true to the cause
Never ever seeking, or wanting applause
It's who I am
So you can be
Above all things, happy and free
My family I love very much
But as a human being
In one way, or another, everyone's life we touch
Thank God
They understand who I am
So the old can be happy and free
And the same way the young grow older
Is why I fulfill my destiny
I am

About the Author:

Mihanel Pabon was 11 Bravo (grunt) and in Vietnam from January 27 to December 20, 1970.

He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with Elaine, his wife of forty years.  As he says, "Talk about deserving a medal -- I mean Congressional -- I was fortunate to find someone so strong."

Mihanel and Elaine have two daughters, Mandy and Tara, and a four month-old granddaughter, Lei-Lani Olivia. 

A lot of Mihanel's writings were the direct result of requests, which he customized. If you need the right words for anyone, or any situation, feel free to leave him a comment with your email address, so he can contact you.  He will be happy to try and help.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you feel comfortable sharing. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history, sharing the truth about the Vietnam veteran, and what it was like in Our War.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Round Trip: by Lance Pinamonte

Some things stick with you longer than needed...

Recently, I found myself wondering why I am filled with a deep dread whenever I think of a "Round trip Ticket".

The reason finally dawned on me the other day when I was discussing prices for round trip packages with a friend.

In other posts, I have told the world what a normal day was for a flight crew in the RVN.  We started our days before daylight with pre-flight, our mission, or missions, fairly set before takeoff. On many days, our mission would change as the day went on, by changing courses, or schedules, as needed to support, or lift, troops and supplies.

This is an example of one of those days ...

It was a simple day. We were taking off from our revetment with a "Clear Left, Clear Right" from the Gunner, and Crew Chief, hovering to the main strip, calling for clearance, and quickly going into transitional lift, then climbing to 1500'. 

Our day was set:  lift an LLRP team into an area near Nui Ba Ra, then fly some resupply to various units in the field. So we flew into Lai Khe to pickup the LRRP's and dropped them without problems. We then went back to Lai Khe, and loaded C's and water for the first resupply run.

After a couple of sorties, we got a call for an emergency Medivac.  We were in the area, so we turned around, turned on the speed, contacted the unit, and realized it was the LRRP's we had dropped earlier. 

We came in high and they popped smoke, then dropped down to the tree tops and came in hot to the small clearing.  We picked up a few tracers as we cleared the trees, but nothing heavy.

Carrying an Injured LRRP
The LRRP's had two wounded.  One was serious, with a sucking chest wound.  Another had schrapnel in his leg.

I helped load them up and gave the pilots a green light to DiDiMoa!  

We cleared the LZ and climbed quickly to 1500', heading at top speed to the Lai Khe Medivac pad.

My gunner and I swung around and checked our passengers. Both were fairly stable and it looked like they would make it home.

We landed shortly, and the medics came out to the pad to help evac our passengers. I was most worried about the guy with the chest wound as his pulse was not very stable.

I then told the pilots I wanted to check the ship out, before we started back to the resupply pad, so they hovered off the pad and set down on the ready pad nearby.

After going over the ship, I found no holes, and we took off to finish our missions for the day. 

The rest of the day went smooth, except for a short message from our headquarters, saying we had night On Call, so we came in.  I finished my daily inspection, and we settled into a night in our hammocks on the ship. 

It was about midnight when the pilots woke us up. We had a Black Cross mission, Black Cross from Lai Khe to Bein Hoa.  Black Cross meant transporting our dead, and it was done at night.

We landed on the Black Cross pad in Lai Khe and helped the guys load up the body bags. I could see the tags under the marker lights of the ship. One of them was the LRRP we had Medivac'd earlier that day...

As I sat down in the gun well, my Gunner said, "He has gotten a round trip ticket today, God Damn It!"  It is the simple statements that stick with people sometimes ... 

We can watch a politician spout paragraphs of hyperbole, and maybe one sentence will hit us as meaningful. Or as my old gunner would say, "They don't pay us enough to give a shit, but many a shit has been given!"

"Cool Kid"

Lance L. Pinamonte
U.S. Army - 1967 to 1970
Crew Chief/Door Gunner
Helicopter Mech.
Champagne Flight

Other Articles by Lance:

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you feel comfortable sharing. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history, sharing the truth about the Vietnam veteran, and what it was like in Our War.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Agent Orange: The Whole Story

Barrels of Agent Orange

by Frank Fox

After I came home from Vietnam, I worked for many years in the Environmental Health and Safety field.

While I was there, the puzzle finally came together ...

Back in the 60’s, companies made some fairly potent chemicals. 

That being said, what was lacking at these production sites was any documentation about it’s effects on humans -- by that, I mean there was no information available to give to workers who handled the chemicals, or for the public who sold them.  

That was pretty much the state of Safety in those days -- make it and then sell it. Once sold, it was up to the purchaser to use it as he wished. 

The company I worked for made the Herbicide 2,4,5-T, which was also known as Agent Orange. Monsanto and Dow originally made these herbicides (weed killers) for agricultural weed control and sold it around the world. It was a great herbicide -- and it was very effective.

During the Vietnam War, the DoD put the word out that it would be great if there was something available to defoliate the thick canopied jungles of Vietnam. 

Dow and Monsanto were looking for sales, so they said, "We have something."  There was a demand and they made it.  There were no questions asked, as to how it would be used.  They just filled the shipments for their newest customer -- Uncle Sam.

Agent Orange (Herbicide Orange) was only one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1967. For that, a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D was used.

The 2,4,5-T was shipped in bulk containers (55 gallon orange-striped drums, hence the name agent orange). The drums had no hazard handling labels, nor did the military train anyone on it’s safe handling, cautions, and proper use of PPE (personal protective equipment) while handling it. Back then, there were no cautionary measures taken, because it was not known that any were necessary.

As to the application of the chemicals, the military leadership was not yet aware of the environmental impact. To them, if a little worked good, then lets slap it on really thick to work even better.  Uncle Sam wasn’t in the chemical business and they didn’t know. 

It was probably one of those good ideas likely thought up by McNamara’s think tank.  Down the line, there was an order from above to handle, load, and disperse it until it could be seen as working in the jungles.

Applying Agent Orange
The pictures you may have seen of the military loading planes, or helicopters, with 2,4,5-T always showed G.I's stripped to the waist with no safety equipment, (suits, masks, or rubber gloves), and many were smoking cigarettes.

They got it all over them and on their smokes and they just puffed away as usual. 

There were no mandatory showers taken after handling the herbicide -- they may not have showered for days after.

The stuff is still toxic in the soil today. 

Impatient military leadership probably thought the action would be instant, but when it didn’t defoliate overnight, they likely hit it again and all the while, with unsafe handling.

Because it was happening in a land far away from the U.S., there was no alarm, nor monitoring. They just kept painting the jungle with it -- as well as animals, U.S. troops, and civilians. 

Now, of course, anything sold commercially has to have MSDS (material safety data sheets) that go along with every phase of handling it, for employees and for the public. There also must be documented training for employees in handling the material safely, as well as the use of PPE (personal protective equipment).  This must go along with the shipped bulk materials and it must also have warning labels.

I would like to think that these days, any company would require and document the training and safe handling of such toxic material.  At least I hope we handle toxic materials better today.  Sadly, it came too late for many who were exposed to Agent Orange, or any other chemicals. 

Just like anything else, AO affected everyone differently. Onset can be soon after exposure, or like what we're seeing now.  After lying dormant for decades, it is suddenly triggered by health, or immune system weakening, or maybe time itself brings it on.

Personally, I think the U.S. military leadership was only interested in the application of AO, not any lingering health issues. The DoD should be the donkey on this -- they were in love with destroying the jungle canopy at any cost. It was effective, but the casualties are still mounting up all these years later.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you feel comfortable sharing. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history, sharing the truth about the Vietnam veteran, and what it was like in Our War.

Friday, February 13, 2015

War Reinvents You: by Jeff Yarger

Jeff Yarger
Michael Lansford's The Demons From War was very well written. There were lots of thoughts and memories evoked and revived in my mind.

When l first got in country, a few days after turning eighteen, l realized that those l'd been thrown in with were ... well, crazy ... sort of immoral, compared to how l'd been raised. 

That scared me bad, because l'd come up a little different ... harder, more street wise, and maybe just a little tougher than most.

Then as days turned to weeks, l emulated and copied those around me, trying to learn everything they'd learned. 

Soon l also realized that if l wanted to survive, l was going to have to become just like them. That realization scared me even more.

One had to forsake the teaching and values of their youth, become tougher, meaner, and more cunning than those trying to kill you. All for the sake of survival, you quit thinking as you once had.

Many things in your life lost their meaning. You became hard and, in ways, insolent and uncaring. You learned to become as devoid of normal feelings as possible, (or tried to, anyway).  You wanted to care, but you couldn't allow yourself that luxury. You learned that man was no more than an intelligent species of animal and, like all animals, willing to do most anything to survive.

As weeks turned to months, those who'd been killed, wounded, or left, were replaced with new guys that were as dumb as you'd once been. 

Soon, every firefight, ambush, and operation became blurred in your mind and all of it blended into one nebulous event. Most things became so obscured, to the point that you weren't even sure they'd happened, yet when you looked around for those once there, you knew that it was all too real.

Actually, if you were single, it was a very simple way of life. You carried most everything you owned and lived wherever you were. Your clothes, food, medicine ... everything needed to survive was provided. You had nothing to worry about, except staying alive. If you failed at that, all the other things didn't matter anyway.  Then, what you had never allowed yourself to believe in, became real.

In twenty-four hours, or less, you were home, but home wasn't there for you. Home, was as maddening as the war once had been. Everything and everybody had changed so much. In time, you came to realize that everything was the same, but you had changed. You wanted even some small semblance of your old life back, but it always seemed just out of reach.

To worsen matters, you realized that in an insane way, you missed the war that you'd hated so much. At the same time, those around you tried to make you feel guilty for where you'd been and what you'd done, when they didn't even know what you'd done. 

In actuality, you did feel guilty, but not for the same reasons. You felt as though you deserted the friends you'd left behind, and felt even worse when you realized that you had liked the adrenaline rush of combat and the camaraderie of war.
Then you go to your next duty station, hoping it will be better. Once again, you were back to weekly hair cuts, shined boots, starched uniforms and war games. It was different, but still not right. It was as if you would never fit in anywhere.

Many of those with you had no idea what you had been through and didn't care. You talk to others just returning and band with them. But they have no answers, because they all felt the same as you.

Finally, in desperation I came to a decision. I just couldn't handle the world around me and I knew what I had to do (at least in my case). After putting in the paperwork, (DD Form 1049), l waited. Weeks later, l was feeling somewhat normal ... back in Nam and starting all over again!

Sorry the above comment turned out to be so long. As is often the case when l write, the thoughts just keep coming ...

Jeff Yarger
United States Army, Retired
Disabled Vietnam Veteran 
1969 to 1972

[Jeff has written an historical novel about a two-year period during the Vietnam War, which he hopes will be published this year.

Chronologically accurate, it covers the major operations of that period, as seen through one man's eyes. It is the story of his time in Vietnam, along with the experiences of others he knew, all woven into one character, who went to Vietnam a few days after turning eighteen and was used up and discharged before ever turning twenty-one.]

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you feel comfortable sharing. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history, sharing the truth about the Vietnam veteran, and what it was like in Our War.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book: "Tiger Papa Three"

The Illustrated Confessions 

of a Simple Working-Class Lad
from New Castle, Delaware

by Edward Palm

Publisher:  CreateSpace
Pages:  264
Formats:  Paperback and Kindle

Paperback Edition
Kindle Edition

About the Book:

The Combined Action Program (CAP) in Vietnam was an enlightened gesture of dissent on the part of the Marine Corps.

The Corps recognized that our search-and-destroy strategy was immoral and self-defeating and that the war could only be won by winning those elusive hearts and minds out in the countryside. 

Toward that end, the Corps stationed squads of enlisted Marines, augmented by Navy Corpsmen, in villages to train and patrol alongside village Popular Force units. 

Through a combination of chance and circumstance, in 1967, I became a CAP Marine. This is my account of that experience, including how I readjusted to life back here in "the World" and the circumstances that prompted me to join the Marine Corps in the first place. 

As a one-time aspiring photojournalist, I have also included a gallery of the photographs I took during my time in Vietnam. --Ed Palm


"This book is outstanding. Ed tells what it was like to live during that era, growing up under the shadow of WWII, the attraction to the Marine Corps for many young men, and the closeness that developed between Marines serving in a very perplexing war that was not popularly supported by those back home. 
I have known Ed for some time. We went through Officer Candidate School, the Basic School, and Communications Officer School together. We lived close and our wives became good friends. 
 I of course have a signed copy of his book which he gave me several weeks ago during a visit. Ed writes extremely well – English is an art form for him. He is not afraid of controversy and his book represents the feelings of many who served through this era.  
The men he talks about remain friends and maintain a lively discussion through emails. I am fortunate to be included. I strongly recommend this book to those who served, or are interested, in this era. For anyone interested in a good read, this is it!" --Ed Meyer, Major, USMC Retired

About the Author

Ed Palm
A native of New Castle, Delaware, Edward F. Palm served in Vietnam as an enlisted man with the Marine Corps’ Combined Action Program.

He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania with a dissertation on the moral vision of selected Vietnam novels and has since published and presented on various aspects of American culture as well as imaginative representations of the American experience in Vietnam.

Returning to the Marine Corps in later life, Palm became an officer and taught military affairs at the University of California, Berkeley, and English at the United States Naval Academy before retiring as a major in 1993.

He went on to serve as a tenured professor and division chair at Glenville State College (in West Virginia) and has held dean appointments at Maryville University of St. Louis and Olympic College, in Bremerton, Washington. He has also taught full-time online for Strayer University.

Now retired, Palm devotes his time to photography and writing, including a regular opinion column for his local newspaper, the Kitsap Sun. His full CV is available at www.EdwardFPalm.com.

Through no fault of his own, Palm now makes his home about as far from Delaware as one can get and still be in the contiguous United States—in Bremerton, Washington.

Another Blog Post About Ed and his Books

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you feel comfortable sharing. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history, sharing the truth about the Vietnam veteran, and what it was like in Our War.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Inner Demons From War

Inner Demons from War

by Michael Lansford

Strangely enough, nowadays, as I lay in bed at night, I think of a few more insights about our war and our time there.

I have learned to write those thoughts down.

For those of us who came home, we were, and are, faced with inner demons from the evil we saw, were involved in, and had to do --  inner demons that endure, even now.

We still fight a war with our inner selves and it's something I can't explain.

In combat, we lived and fought with the Angel of Death on one side of us and our Guardian Angels on the other side -- I can't even imagine the battles they waged over us and our fates – who would live, who would not. The reasons were unknown to any of us, but their decisions always became known, and they were final.

We had to learn early on to save life and to take life, without hesitation, feelings, emotion, and completely devoid of self-worth -- ours, or anything else.

It’s hard to empty your soul of everything you were raised up to believe in before your lives changed from war. Our values about life and the outside world were taken from us, and like it or not, we either adapted, changed, or we were gone.

Amazing, how young kids/men had to transform into what we still feel and endure inside us, to this day -- things we can't explain in mere words. Only another Combat Vet truly understands our inner souls.

Even our minds were emptied. No thoughts, except for how to survive just one more day, every day. Our single-most important thought was to live one day longer.

Now, years later, we still suffer and fight our demons. Some handle it better than others. Some never can and never will. It's hard to turn off war and combat, and just be home again, like nothing ever happened, yet it had and in such horrible ways. War scarred all of us inside forever.

One minute we were there, the next, we were home, and just trying to figure out who we were and had become. We didn’t know how we would deal with it, much less tell anyone else -- but no one was listening anyway.

We came home to a society that called us bad things, spit on us, threatened us, even hated us. They had no clue about who we were, or what we held inside. They didn't ask, because they didn't want to know.

However society thinks -- whether we won, or lost -- isn’t something we can control, or explain. However, we were looked on as losers who fought an unpopular war with no clear objective and no desire to win. If that was true, then we paid dearly for a lost cause.

If society has any doubts about what we vets gave in Our War to their "lost cause", they should all go to D.C. and visit The Wall. It has been paid for in full -- and then some.

Through every battle, mission, assault, conflict, contact, or whatever we had been involved in, we never backed down, never ran away, failed, or quit. We won at everything we had to do, no matter what the cost – even when the cost seemed too high at times. It was a high price we paid towards an end that ultimately had no end -- and at least for us, it will never end.

What we as innocent naive kids became defies description. We can never go back and start over, or be the innocents we once were. There is no on-off switch. War changes a person and it’s embedded in our beings forever.

We live war’s horrors day and night. Some days are better than others, some are not.  The nights are the hardest. Sometimes, it seems the demons are more real now, than when we faced them in combat and yet there’s no way to defeat them. We will just fight them until our time runs out and, for what it's worth, we will never lose to them – we’ll just run out of time to finish the mission.

We came home physically, yet we never really came "home" and we never will. Little things remind us of war. A song, a movie, a saying, the sounds of choppers flying over, or close by (we feel them even before they can be heard). And then there’s the 1,000-yard stare. That's something that stays with us always. 

No one can truly understand our hearts and minds.  Society couldn't handle it, but that's not their fault -- at times, neither do we.  

Sometimes, I envy those that never went.  They should count their blessings, because they have inside them what we as Combat Vets wish for -- Inner Peace.  I can't help but wonder what it would be like to feel genuinely safe and unafraid of the dark. Most vets still fear crowds and being closed in -- there's a paranoia about most everything.  

Our souls cry out for help and yet there is no sound, or anyone to hear, or know those fears. We have only each other and the ones we lost -- they will always know and watch over us.

When we left for war, none of us knew, or thought, would we be heroes and warriors, scared and remorseful, angry and revengeful, religious and sad, hateful and every other feeling a human can have, or imagine. Combat has a dramatic and immediate effect on you and your life, no matter what you may think you can, or cannot, do.

In an instant, the will to live makes your decisions for you -- there's no going back. You get cold and indifferent and all that matters is seeing the sun come up one more day and know you lived to see it.

So how will we be remembered from our war? Good, bad, evil, hurt, heartless, cowards, or even losers?  Truth is, we have no say in what will be thought of us. 

What we do have is our soul, heart, mind, and the knowledge that we did what we had to do -- like it or not -- just to come home again. 

We will always seem different from others. How could we not? We walked a whole different path when we were young and it changed us, inside and out.  Sadly, it turned out to be a one-way street …

Michael Lansford

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you feel comfortable sharing. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history, sharing the truth about the Vietnam veteran, and what it was like in Our War.