"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

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Coming Home: by Michael Lansford

Michael "Surfer" Lansford
Now each day I'm remembering more and more details of our world.  CJ, you have my humble permission to post anything I write.

I have been thinking about all this all night -- I don't sleep much at nights anyway, so I am going to try and carry this story all the way home, if possible. Mainly, I just hope not to offend anyone with my writings, but it was, and is, the world I live in.

I have been reading the other stories other Vets are writing. Very moving. Bravery most in this world will never know and probably will never have to do. Each of us had our own part we dealt with over there.

Even by writing about it, nothing can come close to the horrors of war we lived every day and most of us were just teens. It's hard to suddenly have to grow up, or else.

Courage was measured in so many ways. My stories are just a small part. Others did so much more. I am very humbled to have been a part of them all. Even now days, at times little things bring it all back. Something on TV, a noise, music from our time, the sound of choppers flying by. Memories we will have forevermore.

Then just as suddenly as we went to Vietnam, poof! We were back home again and to the world it seemed like we didn't exist -- except for the protesters to remind them. They never understood and will never know what really changed our lives from the kid next door, to someone they knew nothing about.  

I was always told that you can leave The Nam but The Nam will never leave you. Now 45 years later, I know they were right.

As we took off on that plane for home, I remember it all seemed like some kind of dream. It was something we all hoped for, for so long and we were finally headed back to the world for real.

Everyone yelled out as we lifted off, but no one said a word going home. We were all in shock. What do we do now? How has life changed at home? Have I been missed? Will anyone even remember me? What will I say and do when I land? We all had tons of questions, but no answers.

The protesters answered most of those questions for us when we landed. I'll get to that story later and with a few in country excerpts to go with it. Some things I forgot, but my memory of everything is slowly coming back.

I remember back then, it was, "Hide all your Vet stuff and never, ever tell anyone you were a Vietnam Vet." That was a real No-No.

There was no one to talk to, listen to us, or for the most part, no one who even cared who we were, or what we endured. We Vets didn't talk about anything, in case some outsider was listening and the fear of all the name calling starting all over again. 

Many a time over the years, others have fallen back on the old Evil Vietnam Vet Syndrome, but it was just an excuse to put us down, so we withdrew even more. 

In my little town, when I came home, most hated me -- and I grew up there. My Mom showed me one letter from one of the townspeople who wrote her letters. They said they hoped I never came home and that I deserved to die there, as I was all the bad things they heard about and not a good example for the community.

She was smart enough to never tell me who sent it though. I guess that hurt the most. I probably will get a little flak about how things were back home. What they should think about is, my family made sure I did not know who all sent the bad letters and said all the bad things -- and probably for good reason.

To this day, if given the choice, I still wouldn't want to know. I changed so much during that time as I'm sure they did too. No regrets, no grudges, no hate.

It's like the protesters, as I see it. They at least stood up for something, but they still should have backed us. Yet they had no clue about war as it is so vividly shown on TV now days. Maybe if they had, they would have seen us in a different light. 

Again, I sincerely hope I haven't upset or offended anyone with talking about my world, but I know in my heart, it is helping me as I journey down the rest of my road of life. If I have upset anyone, I ask for forgiveness and your understanding of the world we lived in that no one ever knew existed.

There are far worse and much braver stories from us all. We each had our own hills, and valleys, and jungles, to fight. Some were worse and some are probably best forgotten. We each deal with it in our own way. The roads of life we all are set upon, but how we travel them is up to us.

We travel and live in a different world than most of the people. It's kind of like a saying, "Time stopped for those of us that went off to our war."

Unlike today's war, in The Nam there was no way to communicate with the outside world, except letters for most of us. So now, as for me, my life has been and may always be two years behind the rest of the world. We can never catch up to the lost time. It's gone forever. All we have is right now, today.

Choices. That's what our world was and is about. We all have to make choices. You have to pick the best one for you and always know you made the right choice for that time. You never second guess yourself about life. You don't get to start over, or hit reset and begin again.

What I am most proud of is my daughter, who understands more about me and loves me more than I can ever repay. She is my life, as is my granddaughter. They are doing something with their lives to help others. That's something to be proud of. We all want our children to have better lives than we did. Mine are in the medical field, in what we Vets from our era called Combat Medics -- bravery I could never achieve.

Guess I'm doing okay for a nobody from a small town no one ever heard of whose only aspirations were to play football, nothing more. Then to leave home and endure a world unthinkable that most could never fathom, much less survive.

No matter what, we all served our country with Honor, Dignity, and Respect. I remember the Oath we took -- its forever. Right, or wrong, we defended America with our lives and NO ONE can ever take that away.

Michael "SURFER" Lansford
101st Airborne
VietNam '68-'69

Other Articles by 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

Do you have an opinion, or a comment, you would like to share about this post? We welcome all comments.


  1. Thanks Mike.........

    The statement contained therein:

    "I was always told that you can leave The Nam but The Nam will never leave you"

    Is so much very TRUE!

    I can vividly recall (and do so daily) "events" that occurred when over in Nam and they will NEVER leave my heart and soul. My better half" knows when certain moments in the day arise where she knows to "step aside" and allow me some solitude. She knows by my silence - mood - mannerisms that I am "back there" for a little bit of time and allows me the space I need to reflect.

    Coming Home - was very appropriate and conveys the mindset of many VN Vets. "Home" was not the same as when we had left as primarily teenagers for the most part. The "kids" grew up very fast in the Nam - and those whom returned "home" did so with far more maturity than their peers that remained back stateside. Unfortunately we came home with some extra "baggage" as well which unlike our duffel bags, we will never be able to empty.

    Coming Home was bittersweet - in that "brothers" were left behind - in that we all came home in piecemeal fashion - different ETS or DEROS dates etc.

    In 1969 - I left my "Home" - In 1970 - I returned to a "House".


  2. Thanks Thomas & welcome home also. Those that weren't there will never understand the world we lived in & even if we tried to explain they still wouldn't get it. Even to this day I live similar to back in the jungle. I live alone, can't ever be in the dark, go out at night, be in crowds, trust very few people. Live out in the country so no one can get close to me without my knowing it. These things will always be this way. Some things just can't be turned off like a switch.

  3. Well, written, Mike. Thanks for sharing those dark remembrances. I secretly hidden some of my war experiences in in a horror novel, entitled, "Enduring Possessions & Casualties of War", which is available on Kindle. Writing the story has brought back some memories that I've been trying to forget for 50 years But anyway, I thought I was the only one who hid my uniforms and gear and kept my TOD in Nam a secret. It's been 50 years and I'm still reluctant to talk about it, though There were only a selected few friend and family that knew I was in country, but when I returned they too kept it secret. Living in the bush most of the time, I rarely ever heard from home; My dad would write occasionally to tell me what was happening at home. My return home too was a nightmare, I remember being spit on and eggs thrown at me, and the vile names that were ragingly addressing me. Some things will never leave my thoughts until I become a memory. I still find it very hard to forgive those who opposed us and war, instead just opposing the war. I guess that's why I pretty much kept to myself all of my life.


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