"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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Combat Memories Last Forever: by Michael Lansford

Michael "Surfer" Lansford
As always, thank you, Ms. CJ --

Strangely enough, by reading others' writings, it brings up lost or hidden feelings I've had all these many years. Things like we've talked about that are very personal and hard to say, but must be told for us all. 

Hopefully, others will read and remember their inner thoughts that lay hidden from long ago. There are so many, and words can't begin to describe them all. They are just small snippets of memory, remembrances from my heart and my soul that I have kept inside.

Every day there was something that happened, or someone who affected us, all remembered for a lifetime. 

If our medics, doctors, and nurses could tell us how their lives were affected day and night in country, I don't think people could possibly fathom the reality of what they experienced -- the combat injuries, casualties, and war. I can't imagine how horrible their world was, except maybe for the nurse I already wrote about, the one who held my bloody hand and arm, telling me I would be okay. 

I think about what they lived daily and know how hard they tried to save us all, but couldn't. Combat medics especially, as they were what is now called 'first responders' in a crisis. They did amazing things to save us as I mentioned earlier in another post. 

Seeing them first hand do what they did gave us the will to live. Of course, some didn't live, but a medic would never tell you that you wouldn't live. They always told us we would be okay. Anything to keep us going. 

When one of our own went down, we felt so helpless. We were trained in basic combat trauma, but not enough to do much more, like medics knew how to. All we had were morphine injections, 1 shot only, rubber tubing for tourniquets, bandages, and always someone to hold each other together and say the same thing, "You're gonna be okay."

Medevac Chopper
The hardest part was keeping someone from going into shock. That was Priority One.

Then we had to try and stop the bleeding as best we could, and all the time maintaining what we called a circle of life to protect whoever was down, suppressing enemy fire, and always someone tried to draw fire towards themselves and away from our hurt comrade. 

Whenever possible, someone would find a way to flank the enemy and get them in a crossfire like they did to us. It kind of leveled the playing field, if you will.

We did whatever it took to save someone who was hurt, so the Medevac could get in and out fast. It was just part of our every day life out there. 

Sorry, I got to rambling a little. I just remember almost every day and night there, every mission. You try and forget and put it behind you, but in reality, it never leaves us, ever.

There are those that can't talk about it, and I completely understand. The pain and suffering they went through is too great for them, so they do what I did -- withdraw. But at some point in our lives, things will bring it all back -- a song, a movie, certain sayings, even words.

For me, even now, as I watch anything on TV that has any weapon being fired, I still count how many rounds they fired with that particular weapon. It's something you learned early on. You always knew how many rounds you fired, how many you had left, and most importantly, you made every round have a target. You just didn't waste ammo out there. That's all you had. That is one reason I carried an AK. It's a better weapon and it always worked. 

The bad guys had extra parts, etc., and best of all, they carried ALL the extra ammo I needed, so I could carry other things we may, or may not, need.

More importantly, out in the jungle we made sure we always walked with our weapon ready to use.  We were looking for trouble everywhere. We never strolled around, period. A sniper would get you every time with the element of surprise, because you wouldn't know where it came from. If you were watchful, you could locate the sniper and end that fear, even if for only a short time.

I've reread what I wrote and it still makes me cry and hurt inside. There is no escape, but I know I'm healing by writing about it. Like we used to say, "Don't mean nothing", or "Sin Loi", which meant, "Sorry about that."

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

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.


  1. Thanks again Mike for your thoughtful insight and courageous sharing. You are leading the way for others and helping us to understand a time and part of life that few experience. Your writing makes the Vietnam experience more real and intimate. You write with feeling and clarity. It is an honor to have you and the other men in this blog who have chosen to open up and heal their wounds of war.

    1. Sorry for the late replies. Had a few health issues to fix. Thanks as always Mr. Cosmar. I do hope what I write helps us all even in a small way.One step at a time as they say. We have to start somewhere & if we don't tell how our world was then all anyone will remember of us is what the TV's aired, protesters, etc.There really is 2 sides to stories. People just have to speak out, stand up, any term will work. Even all these many years later we are still defending & watching out for each other. Thanks again for reading & all your comments, means much.

  2. Hello Michael, I am/was a navy Corpsman and very much appreciate the respect you have for medics/nurses/doctors. You make it sound like it was hard for them to do what they did. Well yes and no. If we had an aversion to blood and gore, we likely would have never chose that field. It is because to us it is what it is, we were body mechanics and focused on the preservation of life. You too were interested in the preservation of life, but you had a different skill set. You mentioned that in a fire fight, your skills were to draw attention away from the wounded, not everyone could do that, it is bravery at it best. American troops have each others backs. That's why there were always more enemy dead than Americans. They fought to die, Americans fight to live and save the lives of their brothers in arms.

    In the military everyone has a role, all important to be victorious. The shame of Vietnam and some of our most recent actions, is not on the men in uniform, but on our leadership in Washington, and the officers and leaders in the Pentagon/DoD.

    I am partial to Medics and Corpsman, they do in the field what Doctors can do with lights and Air Conditioning and the safety of a field medical facility. wonder what the Doctors would do if they were being shot at, in the dark, in the mud and filth, mosquito's, and no surgical scrub sink. What its like to get a blood pressure in the back of a 'Choctaw' helicopter (you have to train yourself to watch the bounce of the needle), also listening for bowel sounds when you can't hear as well. Everybody has a little magic in them. Just like a pro baseball team, everyone has a specialized role.

    Let it come out when it needs to come out, many others can identify with you and a conversation starts. I was selling poppies this past weekend, and talked with an ex Marine officer, when I told him I was a Navy Corpsman stationed with the Marines (1964-1970) he came over and gave me a big bear hug.

    Have you thought about joining something like the American Legion, it's great when we all rub shoulders again, and do things like Poppy sales for Disabled Vets.

    Thank you for your service Michael. For what you have experienced try to do something positive for yourself daily or someone else. You did it in uniform without concern for yourself many times.--Frank Fox

    1. Thoughtful words Mr Fox. Thanks for all the support. That's pretty much what we all did & had out there was each other. Each role relied on the others, cross training if you will. We may have had 1 MOS, but we worked via many more, depending on circumstances. So true about how medics would be able to work in field conditions. They did amazing things that defied description, even to the point of giving up life to save life. Something a gifted few possess & used without hesitation. I know when I talk to other Vets things are easier to say simply because you know they have walked the same roads you did, each in his own ways but with the same mission. Thank you also for your service & knowing you were a medic makes me more proud to know you. You all have my eternal gratitude & respect. Debts I can never repay.


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