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Thursday, July 31, 2014

DRUGS and The American Soldier in Vietnam

Lawrence "War Hippy" Blouir

by Lawrence "WarHippy" Blouir

I don't imagine this article will help me win any popularity contests with my fellow Vietnam Veterans.

However, since I am a Vietnam Vet, I've never had any aspirations of being popular anyway.  My big struggle was just simply feeling accepted. 

I've noticed that the history of the Nam Vet doesn't say much about drug use.  I have to think it's because we're not proud that some of us used drugs to cope with the insanity of that war.

I'm sure some of my Brothers will say drugs were not tolerated -- they just got guys killed.  I have to think those that said it must have rotated out of the Nam before I arrived, or they are simply in denial of the problem, or maybe they used alcohol to cope instead.  

Whatever their story is, this isn't about THEM.  This is about ME and the Brothers all around me, from Saigon up to the DMZ;  from 1969 until December 1971, when the military forced me to leave Vietnam on a Medevac Bird with the label, "Drug Returnee From Vietnam" attached. 

The Army had a policy that was never publicized, for obvious reasons. If you had a dirty drug test, and they had started surprise drug tests, you were sent to detox, then returned to your unit. 

If you were on an extension, (which I was), you were first sent to detox.  Then you were immediately shipped back to the states.  You had no chance to get your personal effects, and even worse, no chance to say goodbye to the guys you were closer to than family, the guys you knew you'd step in front of an AK round to save. You almost have to be a war vet to understand the bad psychological effects that caused in a person.

The Army Rule:  If you were caught on a drug test and on an extended tour, you must have extended because you were addicted to drugs.  You were immediately sent home. (This was not publicized, because you know how many guys would have used it to their advantage).

My reason for being on an extended tour:  

My first extension leave, I REALLY loved flying and I extended for a spot as a door gunner on a slick. During my leave, I decided that I was gonna keep extending, and I was NEVER gonna come back to this country full of hateful, ungrateful, asswipes -- this country I used to call "home". 

At that time, I hadn't even been introduced to what was called "coke".  Not all of us were there for drugs. I had discovered that you can get used to HELL, if you're forced to stay there long enough. 

I got back to the Nam, and the Battalion Surgeon at 1/9 Cavalry told me I was crazy and he turned down my extension transfer.

Some time after that, one of the guys I smoked pot with, asked if I wanted to do some "coke".  I heard what a good buzz cocaine gave you even before I went to Vietnam, so I said, "Sure, let's do it". It took all my bad feelings away, temporarily, so I kept doing it. 

By the time I found out it wasn't cocaine, I was already feeling the need for it, if I went too long without it. Yeah, this dumb kid started his heroin addiction without even knowing what it was. By then, I didn't care what it was called. I only knew it helped me deal with the Nam, and that's all I cared about.

At this point, I'm sure some self righteous grunts will jump in and say, "We never allowed any drug use out in the bush -- that shit got brothers killed!"  Right on, good for you.  You must have been in-country before me. 

The thing about engineers is, we went out into the bush when the line companies needed to have us there, so I partied with a lot of grunts. I carried a gram vial of "coke".  I can't even count how many line company grunts I partied with that carried a prescription bottle full of "coke", because resupply was less frequent.

By now, you're probably wondering if I spent the rest of my life as a heroin addict.. Well, I spent my first nine months home, a heroin addict on the streets of Cleveland, Ohio. 

We never used heroin intravenously in Vietnam.  There, it was pure and cheap and we smoked, or snorted, it. Back home, it was cut so bad and so expensive, you had to shoot it. 

I got so sick of that lifestyle and after nine months I knew I had to do something.  So, I picked up and moved all the way to LA California, where I'd been raised. Away from the suppliers, I was able to pick myself up, and continue trying to fit back into a society that I had to hide my past from.

This is my story.  It in no way reflects on the honor of my Brothers, who may or may not have chosen drugs as a way to remain sane in an insane environment. Unless you humped a click in our boots, you have no right to judge us anyway. 

Enjoy your Freedom.

Lawrence "WarHippy" Blouir
MOS 63B20 Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic
1st Cavalry Division (AIRMOBILE)
8th Engineer Battalion
1st Air Cavalry Division
24th Duster Battalion
24th Corp Artillery
23rd MP Co.
23rd Infantry Division
Vietnam ’69, ’70, ‘71
The First Team

Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal
Army Commendation Medal

Other Articles by Lawrence (WarHippy) Blouir:

“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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  1. Wow, good story thank you.
    --Martha Phillips

  2. I defended several men in Special Courts Martial for drug use. The division Judge Advocate sent them my way when he learned that I had a law degree. I was the antithesis of Perry Mason inasmuch as I lost every case. All were caught red-handed and protested the laws they had broken until they decided to take a plea deal (which I never recommended).

    Out of this I have just one tale to share, of a case that almost got me court martialed. Three of the four defendants had been observed smoking marijuana and their joints confiscated and sent to a lab in Japan to be certified. The fourth was charged as an accessory because he "must" have known that the others were using an illegal substance. How, I asked? He must have smelled it, they charged. How would he know that he was smelling marijuana, I asked. The three judges laughed, Everyone knows what it smells like. They do? I responded. I don't. How do you know? One of the judges explained that their battalion commander had supplied all the officers with a joint at a meeting and they smoked them to understand what they were dealing with. Really?

    I then observed that all three judges were guilty of the same crime as the defendants they were sitting in judgment of. Oh, no! they protested. We didn't break the law. We were only following orders.

    The court broke out in hostile confusion and ended abruptly when I reminded them of the lesson of Nuremburg, that following orders is no excuse for breaking the law, that we were only obligated to follow "lawful orders". It is the same argument that I hope will prevail and prevent federal, state, and local officers from enforcing unconstitutional laws such as confiscating our weapons or violating our other constitutional rights.

    I've shared this story many times in many places. I don't think I had shared it here before. Forgive me if I repeat myself

    1. That's an excellent story, Jack, and I had to smile.

      I agree with you about your statement about preventing federal, state and local officers from enforcing unconstitutional laws such as confiscating our weapons or violating our other constitutional rights. Well said!

  3. My experience was similar. When I left Vietnam in '72 I flunked the piss test and spent the next two months trying to just get home. Nixon's War on Drugs had me by the balls. I was lucky, was able to kick the habit on my own, but getting out of the Army was actually the hardest part. Anyway, I wrote everything down about ten years after I got home and recently published it as an ebook. Check it out - you can get the first 20% as a free sample and the whole thing is just two bucks. If you are interested, the title is: Inside the Wire: An Alternative View of the Vietnam War .

  4. I was stationed in Chu Lai in 70-71 and assigned to a helicopter company as mechanic and crew chief. In out company drug tests were done anonymously. In other words you pissed in a cup but didn't have to put your name on it. My guess is that the company commander was trying to judge what percentage of the company used drugs without having to implicate specific people. While I'm certain that many of these samples tested positive we were never required to take individualized tests. Over the course of my tour only one guy was busted for possession....and that was for heroin.

  5. I was associate team leader with a 5 man LLRps team (Echo/ 1/ 58, provisionally assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 4th infantry) in the Ia Drang Valley of Pleiky, January 68 to February 69. Living mostly as a rogue unit and deep into Indian country. Our number one team rule was no drugs, in the bush or not, we didn't want anyone on the team who would screw up and get themselves killed or get the team slaughtered or taken as prisoner (the latter was my worst fear over death). We drank a lot when we were at a host unit or back at LZ Oasis, but we kept ourselves clean in the busy. Just thinking hard about what could of happened to us if were stretched out on drugs or alcohol makes me shiver. Oops I lied, sometimes we would indulge in a little Numpai if we stumbled across a Montagnard Village.


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