"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

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Michael Lansford: In My Own Words, Part 1

Michael Lansford  [Vietnam '68-'69]
Note:  This personal memoir is the first of several shared by my friend, Vietnam Veteran, Michael Lansford. 

With my deepest respect and his kind permission, here is Michael Lansford, through his own words.  Thank you, Michael.

CJ, Thanks for doing what you do for us. It is most appreciated.

My picture shows me at The Wall. It was The Moving Wall. A vet friend of mine finally got me to go with him after about 35 years and it was very hard.

I know I will never see the real one as I can't fly. I got shot down in a chopper, so that ended that, except for the flight home. Getting home overrode my fears, at least for then.

It has been pointed out that ironically the shadow showing to the left of me looks exactly like the POW-MIA shadow flag. It just happened that way. The picture was not edited, or scripted, and I'm still amazed.

Like most of us [Vietnam veterans], I withdrew most of my life. We never told anyone about who we were, what we did, nothing.  I'm just now teaching myself to speak more, but it's still hard to do. I understand counseling does help, but ultimately we have to heal ourselves.

I still can't go out at night, no crowds.  I live alone. They made night lights just for me.  I have lights on in every room, even closets, and the TV is on 24/7.  My two dogs are my eyes and ears now.

Even though I live out in the country, I still have a clear field of fire.  I know the exact yardage completely around my house, outside security lights, and cameras with night vision. I have it all. I still kind of live inside my perimeter, so to speak.

My cameras also have sensors that I can set to beep, letting me know where and how far away anything is around me. They are fully adjustable to boot. This is kind of a part of my world, but it's my best way to deal with my fears. It's kind of like over there.  As long as I was inside my perimeter and had backup, I felt safer. No one lives very close anyway, but I like it way out here. It's just like the old days. Again, some things will never change. 

Thanks again for listening. These are pretty long stories but there is no short version to most, and like I said, I remember everything and I am 65 now. All the things are still there and as I get older, they just seem to be more out front again. I remember every day and night there. We all do.

My daughter just saw my pics this past year and told me, "Dad, I never knew anything about who you really were and what you did. You never ever spoke of anything." Now she sees me in a different light, a good light.

Can't put into words to a daughter the brutality of war or the reality of it. It's something I hope she never knows. Seeing my pictures was enough for her and with all the pics I have, I never took one with a weapon. Don't want to be remembered that way.
Even now, about all I told my daughter was I prayed and promised if I could walk out of that jungle I would never hurt another living thing again and I promised to never forget anyone or anything. It's a promise I have kept every May for 45 yrs. 

Told her all I wanted when I got home was a daughter and I told her I loved her even before I knew her mother. Just a personal thing.  I love her more than words can describe. She is my life and my beautiful granddaughter, even with how I am, they are close by to check on me every day.

My Father was the same way as me. He served in the Pacific and no one ever knew anything, except my Grandmother, who gave me all his medals and told me he was at Iwo, Saipan, Okinawa, and Tinian. He was with Sea Bees and built the airstrip for the Enola Gay. He got the Navy Cross and became a Naval Aviator and never said a word, ever. Grandmother said he didn't do it for recognition, but to save America and that's all that mattered. I guess I inherited that also.

For me, being a Viet Nam Vet, I didn't want to say anything. One reason, as you know from knowing all of us, is that if anyone even remotely knew we were Viet Nam Vets, we were degraded, shunned, harrassed, ignored -- you name it, we got it.

I too still feel the hurt from my first day back and seeing all those protesters. I wondered what they were so mad at and why they were so mad at us. All questions that will never be answered. I still wonder how their lives turned out and did they make a difference either?

I'm sorry to be so long. I have so much to tell, but I really don't know how, or where, to begin. All of us have our own combat stories that probably need to be told.  I guess I am just ready.

One of mine is Hill 937, "Hamburger Hill" -- just one of many in our A.O. in the Ashau Valley, but it just stands out more for me, as we lost nearly everyone. That story is for another day, though.  Like all of us on here, we are just survivors, not heroes.

To this day, we would lay down our lives for someone we don't even know, just because their life is in danger. Just something we all had inside of us. If someone was down you never even thought of consequences. You just did whatever it took to save them. Especially combat medics. They were that way, always first in, last out. Fearless. To me, they all should have the Medal of Honor.

I had a chat with my Doctor about the definition of a Combat Veteran. My answer was, "How many jobs are there where you know you will probably have to give your life to save someone? Would you be willing to do that?" Opened up his eyes on that one and he's a great friend and my Doctor.

Anyway, didn't mean to be so long winded. My apologies. Maybe at some point I can discuss our world at the "HILL". Again, others have the same battles, just in different places over there.

Again, I salute you for all you are doing for us.

Other Posts by Michael Lansford:
Life in the Jungle

“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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