"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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Life: Changed Forever: by Michael Lansford

Heroes All ...

I've been reading all the posts from fellow Vets. It's good stuff, all of it, especially the post called The Reluctant Hero (October 6, 2014), about Mr. Peter Lemon, who was presented with the Medal of Honor.

The most recent one by Mr. Edgington, Laotian Rescue Mission, about flying into Laos to rescue the recon team is also very good.

I remember some of our rescue missions in Laos.  I wrote about one of them before.  It was when the Medevac was coming into our AO and it was very hot. They were great pilots and they did amazing things to save us. Heroes, all of them. 

It goes back to some of what I've already written about.  I saw so much bravery in Vietnam. It was a part of our everyday life that most never knew. 

The Laos post hit home for me, because the pilot crews from Camp Eagle were a later group doing just what the '69 crews did for us. We never knew who they were, but Mr. Edgington's writing gives me a sense that their unit was more than likely the same group who got us out many times.

Rope/D-Ring Extraction 
There was nothing more fearful than being extracted via a single rope that we hooked onto, or when possible, a rope ladder, while hovering and/or lifting us out as we scrambled to get out. In a sense, you are a sitting duck at that point in time. 

With a rope extract, we all hooked on in opposite directions, so we had a better field of fire in all directions. This gave us an invaluable edge, because door gunners weren't able to shoot straight down, or they would risk hitting us as we hung below. 

We called rope extract hooking onto a "D" ring.  Then we hooked to each other and the choppers just lifted us out and we flew to safer ground.  Then they set down so we could get inside. 

It was a weird feeling, just hanging there, a chopper above you, nothing but air all around, and it was a long way down to the ground. Scary thoughts. 

Anyway, I got to thinking about all the combat we were in back then and how it affected most of us. I decided I would write some thoughts down, as they came to me. I can't think of a good title at the moment. 

The funny thing about combat missions, firefights, ambushes, etc., is that once it starts, you instantly realize your life is on the line, as well as the lives of others around you. You must make instant decisions that affect each member of your team and group. All the training in the world can't even get close to the 'real deal' in combat. 

Once you pull that trigger, your life is forever changed in many ways and it will never be the same again. Something inside instantly transforms you from being a scared kid from the world to something you never could possibly imagine.  You can't begin to fathom all the possibilities you become, have to do, or are willing to do, to save someone. 

At times, your insides tell you, "This is your end.  It's the hand you've been dealt and there's no way out, except one of three ways: KIA, WIA, or MIA.  It all depends on fate." 

The choices you must make in combat are clearly defined, whether you like it or not. There's something strange about holding a weapon and knowing others' lives are in your hands, even the enemies'.  You must decide when, how, or why others must die. It's hard to comprehend.

As time moves forward and you become a short timer, the fear factor goes way up. With each mission, you get the feeling that this will be your last ride. There are times you feel every round is aimed only at you. It's kind of like having a sign pinned on you, or a target, saying "I'm Short",

Many a time I felt I wouldn't get out alive, like so many others felt, yet by the grace of God I lived and for the rest of our lives we all deal with survivors' guilt and the loss of so many we fought with every day. You even wonder, what has happened to me since I fired that first round? You're still the same person on the outside, but inside, your world is in a turmoil that never turns off, or goes away, ever.

Firefights did many things to us. You get numb, you get more afraid, more hardened, cold, and even indifferent.  Every emotion there is, you live it inside yourself and there is no one you can explain it to, especially when you get back to the world.

It's hard to put into words what we dealt with in times of life or death, combat, and even more so when being overrun and knowing your life depended on hand-to-hand and you were literally fighting for your life and the lives of others.

It was knowing that if you lost, your comrads would be lost, and that makes you fight with a purpose so fearful and so scared that you become not scared.  Inside, you know you must fight even harder and be willing to lay down your life to save your people.

You already know you won't make it, but you continue to take out as many of the enemy as you can, so long as you have a breath of life left in you and can still squeeze that trigger just one more time.

When it's over and you've survived, the reality sets in and you withdraw even more, knowing what had to be done and it fell in your lap. Why me?  you ask yourself. Fate? Timing? Being in the right place at the right time? Or worse, the wrong place at the right time ...

The roads we traveled then are still alive today, filled with guilt, anger, sorrow, remorse and more. We live it all every day and night. All it took was one simple squeeze of a single trigger from a weapon and life is never the same forever and ever.

How can we ever explain these feelings and the many, many more we carry with us? We went from innocent scared kids to hardened combat veterans -- for most of us, before we were even considered adults back home.

For me, I was home by the time I was twenty, a hardened combat veteran. Back in the world, I was still considered a kid and not old enough to buy beer, or worse, NOT old enough to vote, (as I was informed). See, I was not mature enough to vote and make decisions that affected my life, or the future of our great nation.

I thought I had already proven that, except for the fact that NO ONE back home had a clue as to what we all did over there to make it home again, nor would they understand the real world of COMBAT LIFE 101 ...

Michael Lansford

Other Articles by Michael Lansford:

“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. Mr. Lansford's recollection of his war experience is heartrending and real. Reading it took me back to those times as well, the truly unconscious rush to save buddies, no thought given to our personal safety or even survival. I've been asked by folks who weren't there, 'weren't you scared?' and 'What made you land with all that going on around you?' I'm no hero; I simply didn't think about consequences. Like Mike Lansford, and all the rest, I somehow sensed what had to be done. My colleagues were in trouble, and I had to get them out, just as they'd do for me.
    Thanks for writing, Mike. Well done. I hope it was my group that plucked you out on strings those times.

    1. Thanks for all the support. Amazing what we all did to save each other. I'm sure it was your group that extracted us out many times. All of our ops were supported by Camp Eagle. God Bless you & yours always.

  2. excellent michael. You describe so well the feelings and impact of combat. You survived to write with feeling your experiences and share them with the world about the horror and damage of war. Being in war creates a war within us and to heal we must face that war once again in our hearts and minds to heal the brokenness we feel. It is all apart of the mystery of life and the lesson we choose to learn by living. There is no judgement unless we choose to judge them ourselves.

    1. Thank you also Mr. Cosmar. We lived these feelings & many more every day, willingly or not. All of us will forever have our inner wars to deal with in the same manner. Many of us got second chances in life from that war. What we do with them is up to us & us alone. Roads we must travel sooner or later. Thanks for your comments & support. Very heartfelt. God Bless you & yours also my friend.

  3. It has been my experience that a tour in Vietnam was not a year or 13 months. Your tour is forever. It validates the truth, "You can never go home again." Same house, same family and friends but the ties that bind are gone. You must build a new life and if you are lucky one that is meaningful. I have been very fortunate and able to build a new life but there are so many who couldn't.


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