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

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

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Last Road, A Vietnam Vet's Perspective

Michael Lansford and dog, Everett

by Michael Lansford

As I have journeyed through life after Nam, there have been many roads to travel, some good, some bad, some in between.

Yet through it all, we as Vets, will always be drawn to what we lived as kids right out of school, our teen years spent in a faraway land with dangers and horrors never even known of, until we were in country. We had no idea what to expect, much less endure, in a world unknown to us.

We all deal with these demons in our own way. Each way is right for us, yet they are all different. We have endured every emotion, physical and emotional, one could possible live and then some. There are so many things none of us can, or will, ever talk about.

For those of us that made it back, our war has never really ended, and it never will. You can't fix what's in our hearts and souls. We can only control our lives as best we can.

There's nothing good about war. We all lose in more ways than one -- always will. Yet it's the everyday people who defend this country for those who slam it, and us, for all they get for free. Nothing you have was, is, or will ever be, free. Someone in uniform from all wars paid for it giving you what you take for granted.

If you don't believe that, my best advice is sign up for the road we traveled and get a dose of "Life 101". Then you can tell us what we owe you. For me, life owes me nothing

Through life after our tours, we dealt with a different enemy when we rotated home. It was one we had no way to make understand our world, nor would they try to, with their closed minds.

Vietnam War Protesters
I sometimes wonder, if protesters had stood with us and defended our lives, as we did each other's -- just like they defended what they were doing -- how much of a difference would it have made?

Would more have made it home alive, or would it possibly have made a more positive impact on this nation that we defended with our lives?

Would they be willing to give their lives for what they were protesting against, as we did for what we believed in? These are answers we will never know.

Only combat Veterans have those answers with dues paid in full in ways others will never grasp, much less understand. Every Vet in every war answered that question without hesitation.

In our journeys through life, those of us who lived, deal with all the pain and suffering imaginable, and we all have so many health issues from our war. It's hard to get through each day, at times, yet we carry on, just like back in the war.

We get up each day and face adversity head on. Our pain and suffering will never end, both physical and mental. There are times even these many long years later when some out there still look at us as evil, etc. I promise you we were and are none of those things. We're just survivors from things others couldn't remotely manage to survive even one day in our boots.

For me, every day on this earth is a blessing, no matter what. From where I came from and endured, having nothing is better than where I was. I've lived through most everything life has thrown at me. I've been homeless, had things, helped others, been helped, withdrawn from society, spoke out, been spit on, cursed, abused, loved and hated. Just a part of life we must live. One of life's roads, if you will.

Michael's Daughter
My greatest joy is my daughter. The one thing I asked for while in country was, if I made it home, to bless me with a daughter. I didn't ask for anything else. God heard that prayer and answered it. I am forever grateful.

She has done so much with her life and now devotes her life to helping others every day -- something I wish I could do. All we are in life we try and pass on to others: family, friends, people, to hopefully know we were all good.

Veterans took an oath to "Defend this country against ALL enemies, foreign and/or Domestic." Our oath has no expiration date. It's forever. I know we will always struggle with our war, each in their own way.

Most of our lives have been about choices, good and bad, but choices we have made. Like I was taught by my SGT and Commander in country; "You make choices about what you are doing and going to do, then learn to live with it. But always remember, never second guess yourself and always believe you made the right choice, no matter what others think or say. Stand by your commitment, period."

Two other things I am forever grateful for is: 1. The things my father taught me in his own way, being a WWII Vet in the Pacific. He knew some day I would probably be in some kind of war -- seems the world knows no other way to get along -- he taught me how to be my own man, figure things out for myself, and how to find a way to survive whatever life threw at me. (Thanks Dad, it worked well).

Michael's "girls"
The second thing is, my dogs. Like most of us, we have and had many that helped us in many ways. Nothing loves you more than your pet. There's no judgment from them. They try and teach us how we should treat each other, just by their actions. Nothing in this world is more devoted.

In my case, mine actually saved my life in '06. Without them, I wouldn't be here writing this. Another debt I can never repay. I have a plaque I read every day that states; "Try and be the kind of person your dog thinks you are". Profound words I can never live up to.

For most of us that made it home, we will always have survivors guilt, but I do believe the comrades we lost are watching over us every day and what we say and do and how we act and treat others is a reflection on who we all were and are. Us, the living, are all that is left for others to truly know what a Combat Vietnam Vet really is, and stands for. Our actions speak for them, and always will.

I am again reminded of that one special saying on top of "Hamburger Hill" that says it all. When we get to the end and look back at our life's journey, we can turn and face it all and ask, "Was it worth it?" Something to ponder on that last road.

To my fellow Vets, lost and living I say, "Thank you all for what we all did, no matter what MOS we had, we paid our dues, defended America with our lives, and NO ONE can, or will, ever take that away from us, ever." As long as one of us lives, our cause will never die, or be forgotten.

A special thanks to all the Medevac choppers, combat medics, nurses and doctors who did more than anyone could possibly imagine to save us. Ladies and gentlemen, I salute you all and thanks for always being there willing to give your life to save us. Our lives were in your hands.

I have one more story about when I was wounded and medevaced to DaNang, There was a girl back home who I had a crush on (even to this day). She had sent me a picture of her, which I still have. But the strangest thing about that picture was, the nurse told me I had it in my hand the whole time and they couldn't pry it out of my hand, even during surgery.

The weird part is, the picture got smudged with my blood and my finger left an imprint on it, erasing one corner of her photo -- it's still there, even now. I had that much of a hold on it and I guess for me, it gave me the will to live.

Recently I went to a 40-something reunion and she was there. I showed her the picture and told her the story behind it. She cried and hugged me. I told her, "Please don't cry, just always know your picture helped save my life and in some way, it still does."

I offered to give it back to her, but she told me to keep it, so I would always be safe. Naturally, she is married to a great guy and he understood everything. I always wanted her to know that even small things from home meant so much to us over there. Just one of those little things people don't know about. Things like that is what gave us the will to live and get back home.

Her name is Donna Kahla Sliger. Her maiden name was Kahla. She's on my Facebook page. She's a good friend, classmate, and I had a lifelong crush on her -- you know, one of those once in a lifetime girls, kind of like my daughter's mother was.

Back then though, I knew from where I had been, seen, done, endured, I would never be the right person for her life. Something inside me that I felt in my heart was different than before I went over and I did not want anyone to know me, or be around me, for a very long time.

I am still learning to be a better person every day. I guess it's a lifelong struggle between good and evil. Please somehow find a place for her in here as she saved my life also. So many debts. How do I repay them all?

CJ Heck, thank you so much. If not for you, this all would have died with me.

Michael "Surfer" Lansford

Michael "Surfer" Lansford
2nd Batallion
"Bravo" Battery
11th Artillery
155 split trails
101st Airborne
Viet Nam 68-69
Hamburger Hill 10 May-21 May 69.

“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. Michael..... Writing as you do from your heart, touches me in ways that you and I, and all who know their hearts, will truly understand.... Your journey and your story will help so many people who challenge living every day..... Being real and dealing with the hand you were dealt makes you a great man.... I am proud to have you as my brother who stood by my side during a time when Americans were divided by us and them..... We will always be us Michael, and they will always be the people we fought so they could be they..... Thank you for your service to our country, and all that you do for US.... Lee Tucker, United States Army....Cu Chi Vietnam, 25th ID.... 68-69

    1. Michael LansfordJuly 9, 2014 at 12:11 PM

      Thanks Lee for all the compliments.. You are so right about everything. We all have many roads yet to travel. How we travel it will be in our own way that helps us best. Proud to know you as a fellow Vet, brother in arms. & call you my friend. True we will always stand together as one. Thanks for your service also my friend. You already know where I was, with, & when. Every tour no matter what year was hard. Never was close to Cu Chi. Always wondered if the mountains & jungle were about the same as where we were. Some days I think we walked straight up & jungle so dark sunlight couldn't get in. That was scary.

  2. Michael, you always have been and you still are a great guy! Your heart speaks all! A devoted, caring and giving man...I pray God allows you, one day, to recognize and acknowledge what you have given from your heart and soul for others. You owe no one any explanation for that! Your family and friends hurt when you hurt ..... May HE Bless you and give you comfort and peace you so deserve!! Forever a friend!!!

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful & caring words. I am very humbled by it all. At times I still have that "I wish I could have done more" feelings. Something I will carry always. Been blessed in so many ways, more than I deserve in many ways also. God Bless you & yours always my forever friend. Thanks for all the support also.

  3. Our experience in Nam was shaped not only by us and our experiences, but also by the times. Most of us were 19 or 20 and were raised by a generation that fought a war that was truly a crusade against evil. From these men and women some of learn that it does take men with arms to defeat evil and that protecting freedom for people other then ourselves is a noble cause. Those of us that went , did so of being raised by these gallant people of the 1940's and now it was our turn to do the same. We did it with pride and civic virtue, but when we returned some of our fellow citizens considered us nothing more than people who interfered in the politics of another country and that the Vietnamese had the right to determine their destiny even it was to be ruled by a communist regime. They never considered the millions of S. Vietnamese who wanted to live free in a society not constraint by communism.

    When you look back at the past and realize what we did was honorable, no one should feel remorse. The only feeling that does present itself, is that upon reflection, the protestors were not products of a raised social consciousness , but were truly self absorbed with themselves and felt that no group outside themselves were worth the risk of combat to secure freedom for other people. Did they ever think that their protests were the gifts of a democratic society with a constitution that allowed there freedoms of thought ,speech and protest? No. How could they not realize that the same protest if held in Hanoi at the time, would have resolved in either execution or a "camp" for reeducation or being worked to death.

    Our burden was the face the mockery and caustic callousness of these people when we returned home and for years after,

    1. Thank you most sincerely for your comments, Doug, and for reading Michael's post.

      I think the best way to re-educate the public about the War in Vietnam is through writing about it, like these veterans are doing here. That takes courage, (something all vets are and have been familiar with), to face those buried memories and it takes even more courage to write about them.

      Even through the comments being posted on the blog posts, like yours here, helps to re-educate the country, not only to what the war in Vietnam was like, but how and what you veterans endured in country, as well as when you all returned home, for the freedoms they have enjoyed because of your sacrifices.

      To you and all Vietnam vets, I salute you and thank you for your service. Welcome Home.

    2. Michael LansfordJuly 25, 2014 at 4:16 PM

      Thanks Doug for all your excellent comments. Everything you said we lived, endured, survived, & by those who had & probably still don't have a clue what freedom really means or costs. I doubt if they could ever stand up for our country for any noble reasons. Most now are only looking for free rides, handouts, & what they now call "Entitlements". A total misuse of the word but closed minds will never wake up.

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  5. Michael Lansford's writings are powerful in their reach into our minds and souls as best words can.

    I think often about not only what Vietnam was like for me but what other wars must have been for American soldiers in other wars. I wonder if I am arrogant to think our war is different than any other. The most obvious difference is not about we went off to war but how it was when we came back. In no other one that I know of in history did the people who stayed home resent the people who went to fight. The reason for the war is not important in terms of the effect on the soldiers. All wars have horrors, casualties, and death. We had them and that lives inside us then and now and forever. One 23 hour ride on a TWA jet airliner and the world was changed forever. The time there was a blink of an eye. The time since then has been an eternity.

    I am a disabled veteran. I did not even apply for benefits until forty some years after returning from Vietnam. My injuries were numerous... both physical and mental. The mental one has been the most insufferable. I did not believe in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and did not apply for that disability. My VSO (Veteran's Service Officer) suggested I do apply for PTSD. The VA scheduled me for a psych eval. At the interview I was asked a lot of questions, some relating to Vietnam and my injuries and some relating to civilian life before and after. The one question the psychiatrist asked that hit me was "What event do you feel contributed most to your anxiety over your time in the war?" I had to think for a minute and it dawned on me that the trouble I have had for years in interpersonal relationships, social interaction, sleeplessness, etc. were not due to my two tours in country but the stark and explosion of consciousness at the Sea Tac airport when I came home and the months that followed.

    In Vietnam, I was with real brothers. As I stepped into the entrance area of the airport it was like a different country from the one I left almost two years earlier. There were dirty people in robes and signs telling us we were killers and war mongering trash.

    That complete cultural shock was what caused the most pain since the war. That pain is still with me but I don't think it is only with me but in America as well. Those war protesters and draft dodgers are now a majority running the country. They have changed America from the home we fought for into the ideology we fought against.

    To get to my point, I was at 100% disability before PTSD but when I was diagnosed with it, I wanted to know what the psychological evaluation said. I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) release. The report did not state specifically why I was diagnosed but I think the sum of all things up to and including return to the "World" are what have caused our war to be different than those before and since.

    The mental pain of rejection for doing the right thing and being denigrated for it has changed us Vietnam vets in a way the rest of our country cannot ever understand. We struggle to try to explain in words; however, the only thing that results is that people hear what we say but they cannot feel it. It is important for our people understand so that it does not happen again.

    I think I know what Michael feels and what drives him. He has a talent for getting as close to putting that time and place into words.


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