"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

Friday, December 28, 2012

Poem: "Waves", by John Puzzo

Please play the video while you read ...

by John Puzzo

They are like the waves washing on shore,
58,237 of them. 

They just keep coming from way out there, 
until they wash up over your feet
and gently remind you of who they are
and who they were.

Sometimes the storms come 
and the waves are not so gentle.
That’s when they’re grabbing us, and shaking us,
to make us remember.

Then they slide back into the ocean.
But they’ll be back.
They never really left.

Sometimes they leave something behind
and it takes your breath away.

“Here comes mine. There he is.”
And just as quickly he comes to 
Fill your heart again, reaching you there 
on the shore.

Then he recedes once again. Back into the sea. 
58,237 others are making their way back to the shore
to meet theirs.

It takes a long time for 58,237 waves 
to come against the shores of our memory, 
where we wait to greet them.
But that’s alright. They’ll be back.

They don’t ever really leave us.
It would be like the sea itself suddenly evaporating.
They are the sea.

Those who only knew them on these shores,
the ones who sent them off –
“Be Safe. I will miss you. Write to me? 
Let me know if you need anything.”
And you never forget that face. 

Out there in the sea, with others of his kind 
he looks back at you,
still there, on the shore, with your feet in the sand.

You are the last thing he sees, too.
They share something very precious 
in the sea of sacrifice where they live now.

The ocean will never die. 
It will keep sending them back to us
to remember.

Add caption

John J. Puzzo
K Company (Ranger)
75th Infantry (Airborne)
United States Army 1968 - 1971

John is the published author of two books about Vietnam.  He is a brilliant public speaker, and an all-around good guy from Connecticut.  

"The Highlanders In the Viet Nam War"
"Vietnam and Hollywood"

Other Articles by John Puzzo:

“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, November 22, 2012


They told me the big black Lab's name was Reggie, as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people were really friendly. I'd only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open. Everyone even waves when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing and as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, I thought a dog couldn't hurt. It would give me someone to talk to. I had just seen Reggie's advertisement on the local news. The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after it aired, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn't look like "Lab" people, whatever that meant. They must've thought I did.

At first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner. See, Reggie and I didn't really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home). Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too. Or maybe, it was because we were just too much alike.

Then I saw the sealed envelope among his things. I had completely forgotten about it. "Okay, Reggie," I said out loud, "let's see if your previous owner has any advice."

The letter:

To Whomever Gets My Dog:

Well, I can't say that I'm happy you're reading this. It's a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie's new owner. I'm not even happy about writing it. If you're reading it, it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab, after dropping him off with the shelter -- he knew something was different. I've packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip, but this was different ... it's like he knew something was wrong, and something is wrong ... which is why I have to go try and make it right.  

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls. The more the merrier. Sometimes I think he's part squirrel, the way he hoards them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn't done it yet. Doesn't matter where you throw them, he'll bound after them, so be careful. Don't do it by any roads. I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.

Next, commands. Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I'll go over them again.  He knows the obvious ones ---"sit," "stay," "come," "heel." He knows hand signals, too: "back" to turn around and go back with the hand straight up.  "Over" if you put your hand out, right or left.  He knows "down" when he feels like laying down -- I bet you could work on that some more with him. He knows "ball" and "food" and "bone" and "treat" like nobody's business.

Feeding schedule: twice a day, once at seven in the morning, and again at about six in the evening, the regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand. 

He's up on his shots. Call the clinic on 9th Street.  They will update my info with yours and they'll make sure to send reminders when he's due.  Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car. I don't know how he knows when it's time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time. I've never been married.  It's only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He's gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides, if you can. He sits well in the back seat, and he doesn't bark or complain. He just loves to be around people and me most especially. 

Which means this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new.  And that's why I need to share one more bit of info with you...

His name's not Reggie. 

I don't know what made me do it, but when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them his name was Reggie.  He's a smart dog, he'll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt. But I just couldn't bear to give them his real name. It just seemed so final, and by handing him over to the shelter, it was almost like admitting I would never see him again.  But if someone is reading this ... well it means that his new owner should know his real name. 

His real name is "Tank." Because, that is what I drive.

I told the shelter that they couldn't make "Reggie" available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. You see, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could've left Tank with ... And it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq, that they make one phone call to the shelter ... In the "event" ... To tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my CO is a dog-guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed. He said he'd do it personally. And if you're reading this, then he made good on his word.

Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family. And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family, too, and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me.

That unconditional love from a dog is what I took with me to Iraq as my inspiration to do something selfless to protect innocent people from those who do terrible things.  If I have to give up Tank in order to do it, I am glad to have done so. He is my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that's enough. I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter. Maybe I'll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth. Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight - every night - from me.

Thank you,
Paul Mallory

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure, I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags have been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog. “Hey, Tank," I said quietly. The dog's head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright. "C'mere boy." He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn't heard in months. "Tank," I whispered. His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him. "It's me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me." Tank reached up and licked my cheek. "So whatdaya say we play some ball?" His ears perked again. "Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?" Tank tore from my hands and disappeared into the next room. And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

If you can read this without getting a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye, you just ain't right. A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America' for an amount of 'up to and including their life.' That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.

(Author Unknown)

“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

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bill McCullough: Vietnam Vet Shares Story

CJ - 
My name is Bill McCullough. I read the story about Doug in the Coshocton Tribune. I've lived in Coshocton County most of my life. I don't think I ever met Doug, but he has been a part of my life for a long time.

After marrying Shiela Miller in May of 1967, I went in the army. By July of 1967, I was in Vietnam. By January 1, of 1968, I was with the 196th light infantry brigade d 4/31. I returned to the states on December 25, 1968. By September of 1969, I was back in Coshocton working at GE (General Electric) full time, Buckeye Mart part time, selling Amway, and building a home.

I'm sorry I don't remember Doug's funeral. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was probably trying to foget my time in Vietnam and trying to make my life normal. For years, I tried everything, good or bad, to help forget Vietnam. Shiela was always there for me, although not knowing what, if anything, she could do to help. We have one beautiful daughter who has turned out wonderful. I regret that I wasn't in the right state of mind and I couldn't be fully there for her as she grew up. Julie married her high school sweetheart, Chris Yaw. I understand Chris's dad, Paul Yaw, was a friend of Doug's and he escorted Doug home from Vietnam.

In the '80's, I was part of the group of Vietnam vets that started the VVA Chapter 159 in Coshocton. As a group, we tried to do things that would help Vietnam vets work through something we didn't understand. After becoming president of the Chapter, we decided we should erect a monument on the courthouse lawn to honor our brothers lost in Vietnam. We had a lot of help from the community to accomplish this. Marlene Shroyer Griffith and Robin Coffman also helped organize a welcome home parade for the Vietnam vets and then recognize and honor our lost Vietnam vet brothers.

I worked at GE until I retired in 2000, working most of the time on the night shift. Lots of overtime gave me an excuse to go through life in a blur. By 2008, life was catching up with me. By chance, I met up with Jessie Maple on County Road 10. I first met Jessie in Vietnam, after I got to d 4/31 196th lib. Jessie, like Doug and me, was also from Coshocton County.

Jessie had three months to go in country when I arrived. He taught me how to walk point, watch for booby traps, and how to stay alive. I owe him my life -- again, I owe him my life. In 2008, he took me to the Veterans Service Office in New Philadelphia which got me into a PTSD group.

Now we know what we know about PTSD and head trauma. We can't let today's veterans go forty years before they get help.

Bill McCullough 

“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

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Vietnam Vet Included in Book

Coshocton Tribune - October 29, 2012
Coshocton native, Doug Kempf, is remembered for his commitment to his country in a new book profiling those who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.

Kempf, 22, died Sept. 5, 1969, while serving as a U.S. Army medic in the Long Khanh province of South Vietnam. While tending to injured men in the field, Kempf was fatally wounded by a sniper’s bullet.

His name is one of thousands forever enshrined on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The memorial is celebrating its 30th anniversary. In recognition of the milestone, All They Left Behind" by Lisa Lark will be released Nov. 1, 2012.

The book features profiles on more than 60 soldiers and photos featuring about 300 men and women involved in the conflict. This includes Kempf, who has a section of the book a little more than two pages long.  Lark said Kempf’s story represents the type of courage and commitment you just don’t see anymore.

“The piece of the story that really struck me is how he wouldn’t take help from anyone else,” she said. “He could have stayed in college, people would have given him money to stay in college, but he wanted to do everything himself. He believed (serving) was his responsibility and he was going to do his duty.”

His profile includes photos of him in uniform and on his wedding day with his widow, CJ Heck. Doug’s brother, Dennis Kempf, and his cousin, Ron June, were interviewed for the book. Doug’s oldest brother, Terry Kempf, still lives in the Coshocton area, as do many nieces and nephews.

Heck, an author, lives in Florida now. She maintains a blog in Doug’s memory [Memoirs From Nam] that allows Vietnam veterans and family members to share their stories and memories of lost loved ones. Lark said Doug has one of the longer chapters in the book, because Heck lives to tell Doug’s story.

“As far as Doug is concerned, I think it’s important to know there was more than just a medic there. As a lieutenant told me, ‘Doug Kempf was our mama. He heard all our problems,’” Heck said. “In his time off, he would go into town and nurse children who were there. Maybe they had lice, or had fallen or had gotten shrapnel. He was always helping someone.”

Heck said she’s never been to the real memorial in Washington, D.C., but she has visited the traveling memorial wall and has seen Doug’s name inscribed there.

“It’s very haunting, but very cleansing as well,” she said. “As you reach out to that marble wall, it’s like a hand reaching back at you. It’s a mirror image. It’s almost like you’re reaching out to touch a name, but they’re reaching out to touch you.”

Lark is a high school teacher in Dearborn, Mich. She said the city lost 23 soldiers in the Vietnam War and every year a Memorial Day ceremony is conducted to honor them. After the ceremony in 2010, she said a student asked to write a letter to the family of one of the men. She managed to find a few of the families that still live in the area.

After contacting the families, Lark said recording their stories seemed like a natural progression and the book project grew from there. She said she used the war memorial’s website to locate family members who left messages in remembrance of loved ones.

“I was just very struck by these young men,” Lark said. “Once you see their pictures, it’s hard not to want to know who they were.”

A portion of proceeds from book sales will go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for the Education Center at the Wall targeted for groundbreaking in November. Lark said the center will feature profiles, photos and memorabilia collected by the park service left at the wall by visitors.

“As time passes, we’re beginning to lose those first person connections. The people that knew the men and women on the wall. Their friends, spouses and children. We have a responsibility to future generations to teach them that these are not just names on a wall, these are people,” she said.

tribune.com; 740-295-3417
Twitter: @llhayhurst

“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

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Red Jeep

by C David Ramsey

 Late one afternoon, several of us were sitting in the shade of our hanger at DaNang. It was between pay periods and we were broke. If any of us had any money, we all would have been down in the city sipping some half cold beer, but broke we were, so we just sat around and talked.

I remember someone saying, “If I was home, I know what I would be doing; I'd be driving around in my uncle's red 1957 Chevy picking up girls.”

We were all silent, thinking about the beautiful life we had left back in the states. Then all of sudden, John Olinic said, “I got an idea; let’s paint the Colonel’s jeep red.” We all agreed Olinic had lost his mind.

I told John we would all be busted and locked up for life if we did that. John said, “No, we can get another jeep, paint it red, and give it to the Col.”  John Olinic was like Corporal Klinger on M.A.S.H.  He knew where to get anything anyone needed -- for a small price, or a cold beer. Soon we all jumped on board, sharing ideas for Col. Curtis' new red jeep. General Motors would have been proud of our design effort.

The next day, we went to the ARVN motor transport section on the other side of DaNang. We made up some story about a four star Vietnamese General from Saigon coming up and we were sent to get a good running jeep from their compound. I can’t describe how suspicious they looked, but as soon as we mentioned General Westmoreland, they were all too happy to help.

 We also told them it would be sent back to Saigon, so don’t expect to get it back. Again we were given that look. We then told the Vietnamese officer to write down his name because we would give it to the General so he would be sure to get a commendation. Soon he was all too happy in selecting a nice American Jeep for the Four Star General from Saigon. That nice man even filled the gas tank for us.

When we arrived back at the hanger, we had to hide the jeep in a secure work area. Every night about ten of us would gather and start sanding. Soon the jeep was ready to paint -- and paint we did.  We found some red vinyl somewhere down in DaNang, so we took out the seats to be upholstered. We then glued a nice white CO HMM-162 to proudly tell everyone this Red Jeep belonged to Col. Curtis. We broke down the wheels and tires and painted the rims a nice silver. The green canvas was also replaced with a nice red cover.
Downtown, we found some chrome air horns. It didn’t take us long to remove them from the owner's truck. We placed a tank in the back of the jeep with an air line up to the horns and a pull string so the Col. could blow his horn anytime he wanted. There it was, we had defiled everything the Marine Corp had established with that red jeep, and it was beautiful.

The following Saturday, we asked Col. Curtis to meet the squadron down on the tarmac after breakfast. I don’t think any of our officers knew about our adventure.  If they had, they would have blown a fuse -- plus our heads off.

Then Saturday came.  Col. Curtis had just finished his morning talk as John Olinic started a slow drive up the tarmac.  Heads turned everywhere and I heard several say, “What in the Hell Is That?”

John parked the jeep beside the Col. and said, “Sir, on behalf of all the men in 162 we would like to present you with this gift.  Drive it proudly, Sir.”
The first thing the Col. said was, “You're kidding.” As he walked around the jeep, we could almost read his mind:  Should I admire all this work, or put everyone in front of a firing squad?

 John pointed out the horn and showed him how to blow it. The air tank and horn worked great.  When the Col. pulled the string, a beautiful two-note melody could be heard all over DaNang Airport.  John insisted on a test drive.  At first, the Col. was a little reluctant to get in, but he did, and as he started the red jeep, he turned and started laughing. We then knew our Colonel would be proud driving his red jeep around Danang.

I don’t know what happened to that jeep after we left Vietnam, but I'm pretty sure everywhere it went, it got the same response, “What In The Hell Is That?”

“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

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Doug Karr: Mesothelioma and Veterans

Many thanks to Doug Karr for the following article on Mesothelioma, an extremely deadly disease that unfortunately affects many of our nation's veterans and heroes. Sadly, People do not find out that they have mesothelioma until long after exposure to asbestos, sometimes over 20 years, and early detection is key.

Doug is a former Petty Officer Second Class for the United States Navy. He currently writes about veteran health for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Mesothelioma and Veterans - What mesothelioma needs to grow 

Mesothelioma risks among the 23 million vets currently living in the United States are high. Veterans serving in the navy who work in shipyards and facilities where asbestos is used face even higher risks of being diagnosed with one of the deadliest forms of cancer. New promising mesothelioma research could be critical in improving the survival rate.

Mesothelioma and the role of HMGB1

Mesothelioma doesn’t have to be a death sentence if it is detected in its earliest stages. Mesothelioma cells require HMGB1 to grow, researchers concluded. Under the direction of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, researchers learned more about the role a protein critical to the development of mesothelioma played in the progression of the disease. The role of the protein, HMGB1 (high-mobility group box 1), in the progression of mesothelioma is better understood as a result of the research.

Now scientists are one step closer to being able to detect the mesothelioma in its earlier stages. The highly resistant form of cancer is usually detected in its later stages and responds poorly to current treatments available. According to Cancer Research, the protein affects the progression and survival of mesothelioma cells. Using laboratory mice, antibodies were used to inhibit HMGB1, slowing the growth of mesothelioma cells in mice. This extended the survival rate of mice infected with the cancer. This could have an impact on the survival rate of mesothelioma patients, especially among high-risk populations like veterans.

What does this mean to vets?

Like all mesothelioma patients, veterans diagnosed with cancer have a survival rate of less than one year after diagnosis. One in four mesothelioma patients have served in the navy or in shipyards. This means that most who have served in this environment have reason to be screened for mesothelioma. Retired veterans who have been exposed to asbestos are more likely to notice mesothelioma symptoms decades after being initially exposed. Many veterans experience flu-like symptoms and never seek medical attention when they manifest. This means that retired veterans must be particularly vigilant in seeking medical treatment when minor, basic flu-like symptoms occur.

Since most veterans are diagnosed with mesothelioma in advanced stages, the research is promising. It is still important, however, to be proactive in taking notice of any flu-like symptoms to improve chances of early detection.

“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

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

"We The People"

Thank you to the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, for making this exceptional video.  It had over 6 Million hits in just four days.

I believe the pendulum has finally begun to swing.  Let's keep it going.  Please click on the link and watch:   "We The People"

Many thanks to the great University of Oklahoma for such an outstanding job.

“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

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Long Journey: Rick Turton

Rick Turton
It was a long journey; 35 years, as a matter of fact. Compared to many, an easy trip, but a long and difficult time coming regardless.

There were times when I was racked with survivor’s guilt, left wondering “Why him and not me?” The first two years or so filled with violent, physical nightmares; the kind that hurt me and hurt others, too.

After they settled into the background, (more or less), came the counseling…long, long hours of counseling.

When I could no longer afford the counseling, I walked away. Not by choice. The subject of Viet Nam was always in the background though, lurking in the shadows, just past my field of vision…most of the time anyway. There was no one else around who knew…really knew, except my best friend.

I was never able to share any of my experiences with my father, a World War II vet (who never left stateside, but still…). I did try to tell my boys about some of the things I encountered.

Then, much later, after helping my wife raise two young men into responsible, and then married, adults came the advertisement that would change it all; “Coming this week-end! A traveling scale model of the Viet Nam Memorial wall!”

Let me tell you, that loosed the dogs of war! They started major hostilities inside my head! Some days, the “Good Guys” would win the struggle; other days, the bad guys would hold the high ground. It took days of inner turmoil, but I finally decided that I needed to compartmentalize a few things and move on.

It was set up in the front land area of a Christian Church in the outskirts of Grass Valley, CA; a gorgeous, tranquil setting nestled amongst the pine trees in the foothills of the Sierra. When you first arrive, you are directed to a parking lot close to the entrance. There are booths and displays set up by several support groups from the VFW to Viet Nam Vets Harley Owners Group. In the church itself, free food, coffee and haircuts were being offered along with prayers and guidance.

At about two decibels lower than a carnival midway, I began to wonder if we had done the right thing! We’d asked my son and daughter-in-law if they wanted to go along with us. They readily agreed. In hindsight, I’m not sure if they knew what they were getting into. We walked along the marked path towards a group of tents. Inside, there was artwork and Viet Nam memorabilia for sale. We walked through the tents and past the artwork, anxious to get to the wall.

What a sight! It started at ground level and built up towards the center, like the waves of war; each section was bigger than the previous one. And the names! The incredible number of names! 57,662 young men and women who gave their all for America! The enormity of the sight brought both my wife and I to tears! She looked at me and said, “An entire generation, wiped out…gone!” We were so overwhelmed!

She made her way back to the tents because there was a desk with a computer manned by volunteers. If you knew the name of someone who was killed in Viet Nam, they could tell you the panel number and line number where the person would be located. Sadly, she knew two young men. A short search and her friends were located; you can’t help yourself, really, you’re compelled to reach out and softly touch their names. Our daughter-in-law accompanied her through this journey and my son kept a respectful distance just off to my left and behind a little ways.

I set off on my own journey. I was just staring at the wall, trying to make some sense of it all in when a volunteer quietly approached me and asked, “Excuse me, sir. Were you there? Were you in Viet Nam?” When I said that I was, he said, “Thank you, sir. Thank you for your service.” He then said, “May I give you a hug, sir?” I said, “Sure, why not?” and we hugged. After a brief moment he said, “Thank you again, sir” and, just as quietly moved off.

As I was trying to understand the feelings that were churning around me, my son came up and asked if I was all right. I just nodded because I didn’t trust myself to speak at that moment. No one had ever thanked me for my service before! A short time later, another volunteer came up and asked the same question; “Were you there, sir?” When I again replied that I was, he said, “May I pray with you?” Again, I just nodded and he took my hands and he said a short little prayer thanking God for my safe return and asking that He watch over me and my family. Again, he thanked me and quietly moved off.

After a while, I realized that something was happening inside me; the dogs of war being muzzled; they are still there, but much quieter. The weight of my shame had been lifted from my shoulders. I no longer hung my head. When I walked back to the car that day, it was as a totally different person who walked out through that tent. For the first time in my life, I said to myself and later said it aloud, “Yes…I am a Viet Nam Vet!”
And I now I say it proudly! “I am a Viet Nam Vet!”

I still do not understand why we were there. This was a politicians war; no more, no less. I learned a lot since that visit to the wall. I may not necessarily support the war, but I will ALWAYS support the Warrior.

“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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Vietnam Memories: Sgt. Bob Sampson

It’s the middle of the night, and I wake up with images of Vietnam in my mind. I've been dreaming --never whole stories, just flashes of memory like a slide-show. The memories are just bits and pieces ...

1967 - Six men lying beside a trail for hours waiting for the VC to come by. And when they do, you're so close you can reach out and touch them, but you don't make a sound. The mission is to count not kill.

Cat Lai - Knife throwing training.

The night we lost a team, wiped out, except one. The next day they brought their gear back to camp, blood all over the rucks. We had to inventory their gear and personal items so the personal stuff could be sent home.

The first VC I killed, up close and personal. My M-16 vs. his AK-47 -- I happened to be quicker…LRRP- 1, VC -0. Someone yelling, “You got him, you got him”.

Lying in the swamp at night with big black leeches stuck all over your body and nothing you could do because the VC was all around you. Needing to take a leak, but you couldn't move, so you peed your pants.

Next to Nolin when he stepped on a mine and being hit with shrapnel and pieces of his foot.

Doing a pre-mission over flight in an A-1 bird dog. The pilot letting me “drive it around”.

Coming back from our FOB and stopping at a bar outside Bien Hoa. The girl in a red and white Mini dress and white boots.

1970 - FOB at Cat Lai, the repelling tower.

RECONDO School. Climbing up a rope ladder into a chopper, thinking, hope I never have to do this under fire.

The 7 mile runs with the sand bag in your ruck.

FOB at the Fishnet factory and the Mud hole.

Files and I doing two man recons in Tan Ninh, planting the seismic and listening devices along trails coming into Vietnam from Cambodia. Because the devices were top secret, they wanted us to go back in and retrieve them after we had called in an Air strike. Not much to recover after a couple of bomb runs from an F-4.

The look on a rookie’s face the first time I light a piece of C-4 to heat up water for my LRP Rations. Chicken and Rice or Beef and Rice -- Good! Beef Hash or Pork with Scalloped Potatoes -- not so good.

My first time at a Fire Support base during a “Mad Minute”. I thought we were getting over run.

Lt. White offering Files and I a Field Commission. Sounded good until I read the fine print. OCS, Commissioned in Infantry, and back to Vietnam as a 2nd LT. Both of us declined.

1968 - Bob Hope Show, Lola Falana. I fell in love.

Going to the club with the Gun ship pilots who had supported us on a mission and all of us getting falling down drunk.

Coming into an LZ full of elephant grass, stepping off the skid thinking your about a foot off the ground and find out it’s about 8 feet to the ground. Not a pretty landing.

Working the Pineapple Plantation and the leaves on the pineapple plants ripping your pants and skin to shreds.

Wait-a-minute vines and Fuck-You Lizards.

The first time I had to crawl into a tunnel with my 45 and flashlight -- not one of my favorite activities.

Last Mission, the intense searing heat from the bullets hitting my hip and leg and then the pain like I have never felt before. Look down and my left leg is out at a 45 degree angle from mid thigh. Me thinking, “Man I'm in deep shit”. Training takes over, tie a tourniquet, inject a morphine syrett into my leg -- yeah, a lot of good that did.

Being pulled out by Dust-Off with a Jungle Penetrator, rounds hitting the bottom of the helicopter as I was being pulled in.

Laying in the Field Hospital. Noise and people yelling -- I was the one doing most of the yelling, every time they would move me. Cold and thirsty, the nurse telling me I couldn't have water, but she gave me a wet wash cloth too suck on. The Doc asking me how many times I had been shot. I didn't know.

Waking up in ICU in a body cast with all my parts in the proper places.

The night I got medivaced out of Vietnam.

Tan Son Nhat Airbase. Receiving incoming mortar and rocket fire.

In the ICU, a young nurse, a 2nd LT, looking like she just graduated from high school and trying to start an IV for a blood transfusion. Every time a round exploded she would jump. Tears were running down her cheeks and she keep telling me “I'm sorry, I'm sorry”. Finally another nurse pushed her aside and hit the vein the first time.

Hospital in Japan, triple amputee next to me. When he wasn't crying he was screaming. Guy’s on the ward yelling at him to shut the fuck up!

Letterman Army Hospital. Surgery after surgery. Six months without a pass. My Physical Therapist decided to help me go AWOL, at least for one night. Getting me out of the Hospital in a full body cast not much of problem, but not so easy getting me into her VW Bug. Mission accomplished.

Just some of the bits and pieces of memories from Vietnam ...

Sgt. Bob Sampson
71st LRRP 1967/68 RVN
M Company 75th RANGER 1969/70 RVN

***Thank you for your service, Bob, and for sharing.  Welcome Home. 
With much respect,

“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

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

C David Ramsey: A Job Well Done

It's rare when I put a second blog on in one day, but this blog is one I couldn't put off for another day.  You'll see why ... thank you, Dave. ~CJ

There are times when something special happens that gives all of us a shot of energy, boosting our faith in mankind. God knows, as we read the daily headlines, it completely drains every ounce of faith we have in humanity. From the political unrest, the unending wars, we have allowed ourselves to enter all the way down to the local senseless killings in our own hometowns.
Often I find myself turning off the 10:00 o’clock news and saying to the hell with it, I’m going to bed. Then I find myself turning and tossing with those headlines rolling like thunder through my mind.
But then there are times we are allowed to witness something that’s like a cold drink of water on a hot day. For some unknown reason, I have this strange habit of reading between the lines of a conversation, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together before the story unfolds. My dear wife gets aggravated with me when we're watching a movie, telling me to be quiet.
Over the past few weeks I have watched such a story unfold in a Facebook group I joined a few months back. This group is made up of veterans and widows from the Vietnam War. A few weeks ago someone asked the veterans to write about the most traumatic event they saw while in country.

Several shocking things were written that would cause some serious nightmares. This room is not used for brag sessions, just stories only a war veteran would know plus, be mindful, talking about those horrors reduces the pent up stress that’s hidden deep in the soul a Veteran.

One of the stories shared in this group was very gruesome. I couldn’t help but notice the anxiety building as this man wrote out his story. Misspelled words, no spacing, and I could see his hands tremble as he typed.
He tells about a precious Brother dying in his arms plus, he himself was severely wounded during the battle. He listens as his dying Brother asks him to contact his family. He holds the lifeless body all night, refusing to let him go. I have no idea how a dying solder ignores his own pain to remember his family. This speaks highly of this brave man. Somewhere, “No Greater Love” comes to my mind.

Imagine, night after night, carrying this request in your heart for over forty years, knowing one day you must carry out that mission. I’m sure I could have come up with a thousand reasons to satisfy my conscience to let this mission pass. Carrying this request in your heart for over forty years was an awesome burden, knowing one day you must man up to your responsibility.
Now let’s complicate this mission with cancer. Like so many Veterans of Vietnam, through the use of Agent Orange, cancer strikes. It has with Larry. Drained of energy plus the pain of cancer, still he knows that request of years gone by must be fulfilled. He will travel over five hundred miles to stand at the grave of his fallen brother as he meets the family and shares only some of that awful event.

Larry used wisdom as he searched for the correct words, so he would not cause greater pain to this family. They listen very close as Larry talked of that awful day. Finally, after all those years, Larry Hansen stood at the grave, fulfilling the charge given by this fellow solder on a battlefield in Vietnam.

Being from the old south, I am often reminded of songs with the stories I have witnessed in life. This old song comes to mind when I think about Larry Hansen:

“I saw this wayward traveler, in tattered garments clad
And struggling up the mountain, it seemed that he was sad
His back was laden heavy, his strength was almost gone
But he shouted as he journeyed, "Deliverance will come!"

Then palms of victory, crowns of glory
Palms of victory, I shall wear.”

Job well done Larry Hansen.

C David Ramsey

“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

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Larry Hansen: Facing Fear, Finding Courage

We all have an inner voice, our own personal whisper from God, maybe even the universe. All we have to do is listen, and feel, and sense it with an open heart. Sometimes it whispers of intuition or precognition. Other times, it whispers a remembrance, that we carry with us for a long time.

Everyone loves a story with a happy ending. It gives us a sense of hope, a sense that something bigger is going on than what we can see or imagine. This is one of those stories and it's beginning and end, span forty-five years. It's a story about brotherhood, love and loyalty, but most of all, courage. I'm only the writer who brings it to you. The story belongs to my friend, Vietnam veteran, Larry Hansen:

Larry Hansen:
Hey brothers, I need your input. Robert, my friend, and I landed in country on November 23, 1967. On July 9, of '68, my best friend died in my arms. Before he died, he asked me to go see his sisters, and two brothers. I was to tell them what happened.

When I came home, I started out for their parish in Louisiana, several times. Each time, I talked myself out of it. What would I say? How would I explain me being alive?

I was a terrible drunk in those early days. No drug could pass me by. Time grew and the promise I made from the past has landed to bite me in the ass. Somehow Robert's youngest sister has located me and she wants answers. I'm afraid! I was awake and crying all last night, remembering that horrible day. Now I have to go through that hell all over again. I will not tell them how he suffered for thirty minutes in pain.

All I want to know is, by agreeing to go see them, will it end the loss? Will it ease their pain? Will it bring some ending to my hell of remembering that day, every July? Thanks brothers for your time. It's not a new story, and I aint the only one to live it. I've feared this day, and I thought time would lessen their need to search. I do think I'll tell them that no Marine ever loved his family, country, and God more than Robert did. Thanks for being here.

John Wagner:
Hang in there Larry, and do whatever is best for you. Robert wouldn't want you to do anything that would bring you more pain.

Dave Ramsey:
Larry, I think it will be hell at first but you have walked in hell for years with this hanging over you. The family will thank you for what you do and so would Robert. I think it will be good to tell them he was your friend and how you cared for him till the end. In war some live, some don't, you have nothing to be ashamed of Brother. Mount up and finish the job. You will do just fine. Semper Fi.

Doug Meyer:
I ve been in touch for years with my friend's older sister. We met a few years back. We both cried, and some kinda healing happened to her that day. And it was good. We stay in touch to this day. And the coolest thing was, I saw Tom in her eyes, in her facial being. It was a powerful thing. But of course, some things were never mentioned. She just happened to know what questions to not ask. Good Luck Brother.

Patrick Flynn:
Hi Larry. That's a hard one for sure. I was in the Vietnam War, two tours, not by choice. Anyway, three weeks before I got shot in my leg, a broken ankle, my friend was killed and at the time I was shot I was a door gunner. When I found out he was dead I cried my eyes out. I knew a Colonel I worked with a lot and asked him since this was my close friend, would it be okay to deliver his letter in person to his mom and dad.

He said, "Paddy are you up to doing this?"

I said, "Yes Sir, because he would want me do that for him and his Parents."

I got home the next day. I stayed with mom and dad. I asked dad, "Can I use your car?" He never asked why. I put my uniform on and went to their house with my leg in a cast. In my head I knew what to do. I have to say it was the longest drive. It was really only about 30 minutes, but it seemed like an hour. I went to their driveway, opened the car door and smoked about five cigs before I walked up to the door. His mom looked at me and we both started crying . She already knew. I told her things we did in country and how he would always be my best friend.

I know sometimes closure is best. I am still friends with his family. His mom and dad are both dead now. I'd do it all over again. I should have been dead too I'm sure. I know my mission now is to help other Vets. I was drunk for a long time, but I've been sober now for seven years. In your heart Larry, you know what's best. You don't have get into details unless you want to.

Larry Hanson:
Brothers, thanks for the lift. I spent a couple hours on the horn talking to Robert's younger sister. She has a way of making a body feel at ease. Funny, but she's just as he discribed her to be. They are coming up here next month. God, I wished it were done.

Well, the only thing to do is square my shit away, and lock an load. The thing that hurts the most is that I let Robert down. Being "better late than never", just don't cut the mustard. Putting it off for 44 years has one problem. It's closure for his sisters and brothers, but it's too late for his mother.

Robert trusted me to do a job, and I pussied out. Now, the one and most important person that I should have been up front with passed on. What a coward I am. So damn concerned about hiding, staying drunk for twenty years had its price. I just can't help knowing that I failed as Robert's bro.

Today, I have a lot of owning up, apologizing for me, and hoping they will forgive and understand. Back home in the hills of Tennessee my ol' mamaw would say. " If'n your gonna dance, you gotta pay the piper." Well she's right about that. Again, all we got at times like this is each other. Or as Billy Joel sang, "We held on to each other, as brother to brother." Thanks you've all been top notch.

CJ Heck:
You didn't fail anyone, Larry. You're not a coward, and you did not let Robert down. Survivors guilt is a heavy burden. We do what we can do; we face what we can face, and we bury the rest, thinking that it will stay buried. Then, years later it comes up to bite us in the you-know-what.  When we bury it, the only person we're letting down is ourselves.  What's helped me more than anything is the veterans who contributed to my blog, and those I've met through VIETNAM VETS. The key to healing, the key to recovery, is through each other and through sharing, whether it's talking, or writing the words on paper and seeing them there.

Dave Ramsey:
Most of us vets are like an old '56 Chevy, banged up, uses too much gas and oil, plus it smokes like crazy, still, we can't let it go. It has too many memories. We find ourself sitting in the worn out seat all by ourself with a ton of memories that only we know. Truth be known, if we would send it to the body shop for a make over it will fetch a price greater than any Lexus. It's value would skyrocket.

With a little help from their friends a Veteran would be the same way. A war veteran is the most valuable thing in America. We served our country in a time of need and came out a little banged up, but we came out. Our hair may be gray, we don't run as fast but, by God, we're here, standing tall.

Jerry Lamb:
It will be a tough pill to swallow and you already have swallowed your share. It was suggested to me a long time ago that, "This too shall pass", along with, "One day at A Time". My thoughts along with all those who read your posting will be with you at this time! Welcome Home Brother! And Remember, Only You can tell the Family How Brave He Was!

Larry Hansen:
CJ, Dave, I want to thank you for the words of widom. Maybe, just maybe, the trust we instilled in each other really is strong. Funny after all the years have gone by, I know that I don't stand alone. In the broader picture I couldn't find that safety area. I fought everybody every step I took. What I couldn't deal with I just walked away from.

CJ, I threw away 3 good marriages with my eyes shut, and pitching with both arms. Ten years ago, I crawled out from the bottle, and have not looked back. Today I will have a few beers, but no more whiskey.
Thanks Dave for getting me out. You have no idea just what your words have meant to me. Stay tight. CJ I do so want to express my deepest words of comfort for your loss. It seems we have our cherished ones with us, but for a short time. Hold on to the memories, they will get you through the rough times. They have me, now more so than then. Love you all! Gotta go to the VA. It's treatment day, and the radiation waits for no one.

CJ Heck:
Thank you, Larry. I also thank everyone else for not booting me out of the group because I'm not a veteran. I want you to know that it helps, being here, talking with you, listening to you, and if I can give anything back, even be a sounding board, I'm here if you need me. In trying to find people who served with Doug, even on the day he was KIA, I used to be frustrated no one would talk to me, but now I understand WHY. Listening to you men talk about how hard it is to do exactly that has opened my eyes. Now I can wait patiently until these men are ready to talk to "Doc"s widow. Thank you all for that.

Dave Ramsey:
As far as I'm concerned a widow is very much a part of any Veterans Group. I can only imagine the knock on the door ...then facing the life ahead with the never ending pain. The love I have for my wife is great. I could never stand to see her hurt. My wife keeps our life in balance with her tenderness. I guess you can say she's the heart, I'm the ass. Anyway, she calls me that sometimes, but she's forgiven.

Patrick Flynn:
I am married to the love my life. I am not sure why she stayed with me 38 years. Her name is Anna Marie and I love her very much. I am blessed.

CJ Heck:
She is blessed, too, Patrick.

Patrick Flynn:
Thank you. CJ Heck I say you're welcome in my group anytime. Thanks for caring. I hope you find who you looking for. God Bless you.

Larry Hansen:
CJ , welcome to our piece of hell they call "the world". I'm rather tired out, must be the radiation. Its a long slow road, and it leads to your typical combat veteran. Your slowly working your way out of "the newbie". It's our protective shield, sort of seeing what your made of. From where I sit, you'll do. Soon it'll be, "Hey, whats going on?" Trust, mutual respect, and your heart is all thats required. Yes, CJ, I believe you're doing just fine. We all love and respect you, for the cut of the cloth.

Your search has brought you almost full circle. That you have a true heart in your quest not to let your "Doc" fade away. In that quest you found that little piece off in a small corner of this world. To me and others what you began was a journey into the true Docs, whether they were called Doc, Corpsman, or medic.
They were a very special people to us. Someone who we could confide in and, no, it won't go anywhere else. He tended our wounds, gave us his all. Even if that all was to lay down his life. They were life savers! 

We all have our Doc, and thanks to all your efforts we remember them through yours. Hun, you ARE one of the people who is genuine. Bless you for your giving of yourself to us. It is a far better world for me anyway that you traveled the road that led to us. "When you are tired lay upon my bed, and I will give you peace. When you're hungry and thirsty then sit. I shall share my meager meal with you. Come drink for the water is mountain stream cold. When the load your carrying gets to be a burden, you need not worry. Your back is covered too by any and all. Bless your loving devoted heart, and soul CJ Heck. You are a Florence nightingale. Love ya.

Patrick Flynn: 
I would like to invite all to join another great group, called Veterans of Vietnam and Other Wars. We are 64 strong and need more. And Larry, I know, my friend. Please call 1-800-273-8255 and press #1 for veterans. I am always here for you guys and include women in our lives. Don't forget our families and friends suffer too. You know, for a lot of years I thought my name was asshole, so I always said, "That's MR. Asshole." I found I was not an asshole. I have PTSD.

Philip L. Richards:
Larry, I feel the pain, but look at the load you have carried all these years. It is tiring and debilitating. I try to live a simple life and by only a few rules. Consider how you would want to be treated if you were on the other side. The answer is in front of you. I sense you too are a simple-minded man and I believe you will find peace during this portion of your journey through life. Just a few to share with you: Truth is relative to what the other is willing to believe. Actions speak louder than words. The golden rule with infinite facets that help lead the way. I hope you find some peace and God be with you.

Ann Proffitt:
Larry, I am praying for you and for all the Nam vets. God bless you and I hope you get better. X

Larry Hansen:
I promised you that when I spoke to Robert's family I'd tell you. Well, I left early Tuesday for Norman, Oklahoma, thanks to my nephew, and a cesna. I met Robert's three sisters and a brother. I explained about his death, but not in great detail. It brought them to tears, but also closure.

I apologized for taking 43 years to do this. I went on to explain about my being a coward and not fulfilling my promise. They understood, which did make me feel better. At the cemetery the family left me alone with Robert. While I sat there, a strange thing happened. I caught the strong scent of peppermint candy, like what he used to eat. As I talked about that day so long ago, I began to cry. It was then that I had a feeling of not being alone. A feeling of calm came over me then, and I felt his presense. For some reason I understand now that his death wasn't my fault. Thanks to all who encouraged me to go through with this. I found peace at last after all these years. I'll never forget my best friend. Rest in peace bro, I shall never forget you. Thank you all!

[A Personal Note:  What I've learned through Larry's story is this:  A person is not a coward, if they are afraid.  It's all about facing our fear and finding the courage to do something that's difficult.  

When soldiers go to war, they have to overcome tremendous fear.  They do this by replacing the fear with tremendous courage.  When they return home, that same fear is still buried, where it festers for years, surfacing through night terrors and PTSD.  

The healing can only begin when those fears are faced, again with tremendous courage.  What then comes is acceptance, a renewed feeling of self-worth, and a realization that the fear does not own us -- it brings us peace.]

“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

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

C David Ramsey: Rosetta Stone, We Need You!

Should anyone from the Pentagon be spying on this blog I beg you, please read the entire story ...

When I went to P I MCRD in SC, the first thing on the agenda was to hump most riki-tic to get our heads high and tight. In route, we passed several sand crabs looking at us because we were a cluster fuck.

After we got our new GI, we shipped our civvies back home. There I stood with boocoo gear. I was so FUBAR I didn’t know what to do. It was zero-dark-thirty, and I was sure the DI would tell us what the SOP would be before taps. There I stood, the FNG totally in DTFE, but our head DI did feed us the scoop. He was a lifer and had just got pushed up to top.

When we arrived at the hooch, we met three wonderful DI’s with good looking campaign hats pulled down to their eyes. Each of these nice Marines made it a point to get in our face, screaming to inform us we were maggots. Maybe they thought we were hard of hearing.

Finally one of the maggots asked if he could use the bathroom. It took the DI over an hour to instruct us that the Marine Corp had no bathrooms. It was called a head. Well, if you were indoors it’s a head. If you were outdoors it’s called a honey bucket. The poor recruit who asked about the bathroom had to stand against the bulkhead till it ran down his leg. The rest of us kept it zipped, both mouth and pants.

Finally we were ordered to get in formation to hump it to the scarf-n-barf. The DI informed us that if we were lucky, we would get a nice dose of SOS and a cup of bug juice. So we put the piss pots on our grapes and cut a chogie a few klicks down the road.

When we arrived, the DI informed all us lard buckets the Marine Corp didn’t serve pogey bait. He also told us if we get it, we better lick it. The Marines didn’t appreciate wasting food. I couldn’t tell if it was SOS or 4 skins on toast, but believe it or not, the chow wasn’t that bad -- it sure wasn’t the gut wagon I expected.

That afternoon in sunny PI we learned the Marine Corp was very religious, because the DI told us to give our hearts to Jesus because our ass belonged to the Marines. We were also advised they would not tolerate any broke dicks. If we got injured, we were to suck it up. Can I get a hoo-ahh? HOO-AHH, SIR! I think that means Heard Understand Acknowledge, yeah that’s it.

The remainder of the day was pretty much just mass confusion on our part. Everything we did was just a skosh messed up with the Di’s screaming real loud. But we did march down to the armory to get our M16’s and duty belts.

When we returned to the barracks, those nice DI’s taught us the difference between a rifle and a gun. They told us to grab our crotch with our left hand and hold the rifle with our right hand. Then we would shout as we held on tight to both, “This is my rifle, this is my gun, this is for killing, this is for fun. Soon it started to hurt.

Much later that night we had to get into our fart sacks, because we had a long day ahead tomorrow.

Can you see where this is going? You have just gone through the first day of Boot Camp with all the new language a recruit must learn. Lost is not the word. I think it would be money well spent if the Pentagon would hire Rosetta Stone to teach this new language prior to military service. Maybe that young man/woman wouldn’t stand there lost in the translation wondering what the DI was talking about.

At Ease Maggots! Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Field Stripe Your Butts. Don’t you eye ball me, scum bag!

“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

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Old Veteran

by C David Ramsey

Its grown quiet at the old house. The kids have all gone back home. The old Veteran sits in his rocker and smiles as he thinks of his beautiful grandkids. He tried but could never keep up as they ran from room to room that afternoon. At times it became too loud but he said nothing, because they were having fun. 

He lives alone now and he often thinks of his beautiful wife of many years. He recalls the many happy days they had together. It makes him smile as he lives in that lonely old house.

He looks down at the old wooden box he made many years ago out in his barn. He reaches over, picks it up, and the memories start to flow. Every time the grandkids come over, they have to see that box. They plead for the Old Veteran to tell those old war stories. He protects the grandkids though, and never tells all the facts of what that old box could reveal.

As he opens the old box and again sees all the faded medals, his mind travels far back in time. He’s old, but he still remembers all the horror that distinguished him as a young man in a far away country. He sits there quietly, hoping none of his family will ever experience the pain that earned him these honors.

He will never forget his brave friend that died so gallantly by his side that miserable night. It all becomes real once again in his mind. The old Veteran holds the box tight in his hands. He sits there and remembers each day that brought his platoon into that jungle valley.

Walking through those thick vines as darkness overtook the day was a memory that will never be erased. Listening for any small sound that could save their lives, knowing it will be even worse when the darkness comes. He had never been trained for this, nothing could teach you not to fear. He looked to his brothers for comfort, but only saw the same fear in their eyes, as well.

The darkness had brought them to a small clearing that lay just ahead. He remembers stopping just short of the clearing. Battle wisdom had taught his platoon not to enter a killing field at night. He watched as they settled in, with weapon in hand. No one would sleep that night, because that day had brought them deep inside an unknown territory.

Quietly they opened some rations and started to eat. Suddenly, someone saw something up ahead in the clearing. It was the dim shape of someone carrying a weapon. They waited with caution, ready to light up the night with fire. Everyone in the platoon knew not to fire on just one person. He had been sent ahead as a scout for the many that followed. They watched as the lone VC vanished back into the thick black jungle.

The old Veteran held one of his medals, feeling the cold brass where it attached to a soft silk ribbon. He wiped away a small tear from the corner of his eye as he returned the medal to the box.

He made his way to the bedroom where he again hid the old box on the shelf in his closet. The Veteran then returned to sit in the quiet, thinking now of his grandkids, and wishing his wife was still alive to be with him. Maybe tonight his dreams will be of better days, but it was very doubtful. He closed his eyes and rocked softly as the night closed in.

Sleep well tonight my brave Veteran, sleep well.

“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

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Keep Firearms Out of the Reach of Children

By David Ramsey

Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, it didn’t take our squadron long to realize we weren’t in Kansan anymore, and nowhere near the Land Oz. The Wizard left as soon as the shooting started and I can’t blame him.

It had been one of those super hot days at Da Nang, and the brass wanted everything done in double time. Maybe the heat was getting to the officers as they stood around giving orders to us -- the workers.

We finally got through the day and we were looking forward to the evening and some well deserved rest. Sometimes those hard cots we slept in were comfortable, but only sometimes. 

Everything went into slow motion as we sat around that evening. We had built our own bar inside the compound.  Somehow one of the gunny sergeants was able to keep us supplied with ten cent beer that he got somewhere. No one ever asked how, or where, he got the stuff.   Sometimes it’s best not to know.

We downed our limit of beer. I think it was three maybe four per night. The generator would soon be turned off so everyone started to stretch out for the night. Soon everyone was drifting off into a deep sleep, disturbed only by the few snorers in those French huts. 

That night our sleep would be interrupted. The guards just outside came running through, kicking our bunks, and telling us to get up and get outside between the buildings. Everyone was trying to find their clothes, grabbing their rifles and ammo, and all while in the dark. Some ran outside with only their skivvies (underwear for those who forgot) with their M16s in hand. 

We soon heard the mortar rounds going over and landing a short distance away. I looked at my watch.  It was 3:30 in the morning. I often wondered if the VC ever slept. If they were going to do that to us, at least they could have done it in the heat of the day, not when we were sleeping. No, they had to wait until we went to sleep. 

As we hunkered between the buildings that night, Jessie, my friend, whispered that he had left his rifle back at the armory, inside the hanger. I tried to tell him it would be okay, he could take my sidearm if things got any hotter. No, come hell or high water, Jessie had to have his own rifle. We caught a delay with the incoming so we started to run to the hanger, two long dark miles away. 

I don’t recall how many times we fell on our mid-night run, but we were a mess by the time we got over there. It wasn’t any calmer over there, either, rounds were going off like crazy. Going inside the armory there was an old saloon-type half door, spring loaded to keep it closed. We were in a hurry to get his rifle, so we must have hit the door hard enough to keep it caught open. 

As Jessie was loading his weapon, plus grabbing a few extra magazines, the door snapped closed, making a loud bang. I spun around on my heels as I pulled the trigger on that M16 -- of course it was on full auto. In the blink of an eye, I emptied that gun. The door was shredded, the window was blown out, and there were holes all over the wall. 

I must admit I was scared to death. I turned around to say something to Jessie but he was on the floor in a fetal position. Oh my God, I thought, I shot Jessie! I stood there terrified and speechless. As I gained some control I screamed out his name. Jessie looked up and said, "Are you hit?" 

"No," I said, "are you??  I tried to explain but I was getting out only half the words. Jessie grabbed his rifle from the floor and I put a fresh magazine in mine and we hit the trail running. 

When we got back to Dogpatch, the mortars had stopped.  We were able to rejoin our men without anyone knowing we had temporary deserted. Jessie and I both agreed, we didn’t need to tell anyone about that night. I will leave you with this, if you have a 19 year old kid running around your house, lock up your guns. Both can be dangerous to have around.

C David Ramsey

“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

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Monday, February 20, 2012

C David Ramsey: Our New Found Wealth

While in Vietnam, the military had a good strategy for our monthly pay. It worked rather well. We got paid a small portion, twice each month, from our regular pay. Then the military sent the remainder back home. In my case, it went to my mother, who then deposited the funds into my savings account.

For security and financial reasons, our country discouraged the use of green back dollars going into Vietnam’s economy. Our government improvised a plan, using MPC, instead of our regular dollars. For those that don’t know, MPC means Military Payment Certificates.
We would take our US money and exchange it for the MPC to spend when we went on liberty. The exchange rate changed quite often, allowing some creative GI’s to make a small profit. I forget how much we were allowed each pay period, but I think it was around twenty-five dollars.
By the time we bought the essentials: two fifths of whiskey, a carton of Winston’s, and a couple of nights in Da Nang to visit our girl friends, we were understandably broke. For those of us who weren’t Wall Street smart, we had to use other ingenious ideas -- like Bernie Madoff.
We noticed the MPC was often changed. This was done to keep the notes from being counterfeited by the Vietnam mobsters. When the military changed the face of the MPC, we only had a short time to spend or exchange the old notes for the new ones. 

One night, during a poker game, we came across an idea that we thought just might work, and it did. What drew our attention to this criminal plan were the bars and shop owners on the back streets who would take the outdated MPC without knowing the MPC had changed. We decided we were going to give our plan a shot.

One of the criminals -- oops, I mean, brothers -- in our group, sent a letter home, asking if they would send a new Milton Bradley Monopoly Game. As you remember, this game comes with brand new play money packed inside, from $1.00 through $500.00 bills, and all neatly wrapped. We knew we could only use the $1.00, $5.00 and the $10.00 bills. The $20.00 MPC bills were not in use at that time.
When the Monopoly game arrived, we split the cash and then headed to the back streets of Da Nang. We had to be smooth in our first attempt, but we knew the merchants were also shady.
Cotton Cranford was the first to try our new Wall Street Plan. After Cotton went through the expected haggling process, the store owner looked at the note with a surprised look. Cotton assured him it was the new MPC for that week. The store owner gladly took the “new note”. Most proprietors were happy we chose their bar to spend our wealth, especially when we were the only ones there, using the same Milton Bradley money.
We became very proficient with this new spending plan, although some would call it a scam, cheating, a swindle or even stealing. (Being one of the culprits, I will refrain from any admission of guilt). I do, however, remember the beer tasting great for some reason.
Soon, several men were writing home, requesting a new Monopoly game. All of us knew an end would come one day, which it did. We started seeing pinned up bills at different exchanges, around Da Nang, with phony written on the front.
One evening after our squadron CO made his necessary announcements, he ended by saying, “For those using the Monopoly money, it will stop today”. Later the Colonel was overheard telling someone, “Considering everything, it wasn’t a bad idea”.
I remember once, the bank told me I had a counterfeit hundred dollar bill. Believe me, it was a sick feeling. It took me over a week to pass that note...

C David Ramsey

“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

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