"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, August 17, 2014

The War That Will Not Let Us Rest

Comancheros of 'A' Co, 101st AHB, 101st ABN, Sept 1970

by Byron Edgington

Recently, I had the privilege of addressing a local High School World History class about the war in South Asia. 

Like many of my fellow Vietnam veterans, and most of my fellow Americans, even fifty years after the fact, my opinion and belief about Vietnam and our efficacy in prosecuting that war has changed time after time.

I was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. I flew for a year with the 101st Airborne Division based at Camp Eagle in Northern I Corps. In my one-year tour, I logged 1,200 hours in the cockpit. 

I left Vietnam March 17th 1971, and within two days, I mustered out of the Army. I was, quite literally, flying combat sorties on a Monday, and back home in Columbus on Friday. It was surreal, and more than a little disorienting.

I believe my experience matched that of many, if not most, of my colleagues, troops who filtered back into the world alone, unheralded, with little fanfare or opportunity to tell what happened to us, let alone uncover its meaning in our lives.

Here’s what I believe. This may be a minority view, but, as I said, my opinion about Vietnam has altered and changed many times over the years. 

Today, without meaning to be patronizing to my fellow vets, I believe that our actions in Vietnam may have been more heroic than what our fathers did in their war. 

We’ve heard the tales and trials of the Greatest Generation, their unbelievable exploits to defeat the Nazis and the Japanese war machine. We’ve read the books, seen the movies, and heard the trumpeted war stories all our lives. Those men and women were indeed heroes of the highest order for what they did.

Here’s the crucial difference, in my humble opinion: they were faced with a nation at risk of being defeated, subjugated, and crushed under the tyrannical rule of Nazi Germany. The threat to our way of life was real, harsh and immediate. 

It’s no stretch to say that, had our fathers’ generation not fought tooth and nail to defeat those two armies, we may very well be living today under a fascist form of government. The upshot is this; those troops had no choice but to fight through to final victory.

The military we faced in Vietnam was little more than a rag-tag collection of insurrectionists and rebels, a nationalistic band of determined little men, who fought valiantly to unite their small country. The North Vietnamese military and the Viet Cong posed no threat to America. 

They had one goal in mind, to create a unified Vietnam, and to end the artificial separation of their country by foreign nations after the World War.

In other words, those of us who went to Vietnam did not go to protect the borders of this nation, or our culture and way of life. We went simply because we were told to go, and we did. 

Again, in my humble opinion, perhaps those Vietnam vets who still labor under the disillusion that we ‘lost’ the war, or we ‘failed’ in some way, I say take heart. Regardless of how anyone feels now about that war and our part in it, we answered the call, even when it was unnecessary to do so.

Byron Edgington
Byron Edgington

The SkyWriter

Other Articles by Byron Edgington:

War: A Waste of Youth
The Right Seat is the Wrong Seat
Jim, Frank, and The Snake
Smokey, The Alcoholic Pup

The Sky Behind Me: A Memoir of Flying & Life 

Byron's Website
“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

You are invited to add an opinion, thought, or comment, about this post. Or, write about anything you want to share and send it to me in an e-mail and I will post it for you.

Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog.


  1. Fear, Imagination and Intent are often behind the decisions that we as individuals make, as well as governments. The actual really of what is happening or what is intended is often clouded by our imagination and fear. In my opinion it was the fears of what could have happened in Vietnam that motivated our actions as a government and not the immediate reality of what would happen.

    Vietnam was not overrun by the Chinese. As I recall, that was one of the fears at that time.

    I did not have to serve in Vietnam, but in college I was in ROTC for 2 years. My reason for quitting my sophomore year was the blatant politics I saw being played on lower ranking members of ROTC by their superiors. The leaders I knew in my unit in college were not the type of men I would have wanted to go into combat with or serve in any capacity. They were selfish and self centered and did not embody any of the ideals I thought an officer candidate should possess.

    For those who served in Vietnam, I admire your courage and honesty after all these years. I do not know if I could have made it through, if I had gone. I had John Wayne dreams as a young man, but the reality of what it might have cost me did not seem worth it. Life tested my soul in different ways, as it does yours and I guess all that really matters is that we come out a better and more whole person for having lived it.

  2. Robert; I feel the same way, that how we live our lives after major disruption counts for a lot. Thanks for responding.

  3. I served with the 101st ABN out of Camp Eagle as you - as a door gunner not a pilot. Got out in October 1970. You likely were there for Lam Son 719 - Glad I was NOT!!

  4. I WAS IN THE 101ST IN 70-71!!
    mostly draftee's but they never quit, never gave up and like the marines
    before us------never lost a battle!!!
    the troops in Vietnam did not lose the war-------the politicians lost. they quit.
    NIXON PROVED THE NORTH COULD BE BEATEN-----when they left the peace agreements he bombed the hell out of them!!!!!


    1. Thank you for your service, Mike, and Welcome Home.

  5. CW2, 145th Avn Co III Corps RSVN here, and my father was a submariner with 10 combat patrol pins in the Pacific. You are accurate in this post! It is exactly how I feel about these things. I would like to be in touch. Thank you for your service, Byron. Be well!


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