|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|
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.
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).
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.
155 split trails
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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