"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, January 8, 2015

Loved Ones We Left Behind


by Michael Lansford

We left this country to be sent to a far off land we had only heard of on TV.  Still just kids, we had no clue about the impact it would have on us, or our loved ones, after the last time we saw them. 

With all the life changing events we endured, and growing up so fast and so soon, it was even harder to think about what our loved ones endured, sitting and waiting, only learning where we were and what we were involved in through the TV.

Impatiently, they waited to receive a letter from us just to know, even for a brief moment, that we were okay and still alive. 

For us, it was never possible to write and say exactly what our world had become -- no one would understand any of it anyway, least of all us. 

How could we tell loved ones about war and combat, the suffering and pain we saw, both in life and death?  What they remembered was, only a short time earlier, we were safe at home with them.

Before going, we had no clue what it would be like, nor did we know the impact it would have on us and them for the rest of our lives.  For them, seeing the war on TV and reading about it must have been very hard. Who knows what they saw on TV, heard from others, read in the newspapers, and lastly our mail.  

I believe their fears and anguish were as bad, if not worse, than our own. The fear of the unknown does strange things to people's minds. That had to take more courage than anyone could imagine. Through it all, they stood behind us, backed and supported us, and without question. That's uncommon bravery, unknown except to loved ones waiting for our return, safe and (hopefully) sound. 

Their fears were compounded by all the negatives they saw via protests, picketing, and flag burning. Imagine having a loved one fighting for what they believed in, yet watching so many others on TV marching and hating us without knowing the true story behind why we were there and who we were. 

Our loved ones became targets, or outlets, if you will, for the protesters' rage. It must have been easy for them to lash out, knowing they weren't the ones going to a foreign land with the possibility of never coming home.

How did our loved ones handle all that and maintain their hope and faith that we would be home soon? I still wonder. Through it all, they stood with us. That kept us going, plus it gave us our will to live so we would get out alive. 

Some didn't attain that goal.  Their loved ones' loss was (and still is) great.  That's very humbling to know their grief and suffering will always be with them. 

Even though we came home, we were scarred for life. Most of us couldn't tell our loved ones about anything we did -- there was just no way to explain war to someone who was not there. It was next to impossible for us to even put it into words.

This is one of the many reasons a lot of us withdrew from society after we returned. The fear of reprisal was great from those that hated us, but also, there was the fear that talking about it would hurt our loved ones even more than everything already had. 

In the end, it was our loved ones that were the true heroes -- at least for me. What they did can never be repaid, just learned from. 

To the ones who waited so long for loved ones to come home, only to receive a letter informing them of their loss, I am truly saddened for you. My heart will forever be scarred. We feel their loss almost as much as you do, just in a different context.

You see, we were often the last ones our comrades saw in life and we carry that image with us forever. We can't tell their loved one much about it, except that our only comfort is for them to know their loved one did not die alone. Someone was with them wherever they fell and they will always be honored. 

So this is for all the families, friends, and loved ones left behind --we never forgot you either. Thank you for always being there, even if it was thousands of miles away. 

God Bless and keep you all. Thank you from an old surviving vet. I owe you.

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

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.


  1. Beautiful writing Michael. It is smooth, clear and heart touching. I hope that some day you put it in a book for all to read and feel the anguish, pain and healing you must feel sharing your experiences with us here.

    1. Thanks Robert, my friend. Just things we all lived & endured. Hopefully so those that really didn't know us will have a better understanding of the world we endured & could never speak of til years later, & some never can. We are all the same brotherhood regardless.To learn & know that we as a group were willing to lay down our lives for each other without question & never ask why. Ordinary men who did extraordinary things without question. Heroes all.

  2. Thanks again Robert for your support & for reading what I write. Always spoken from the heart.

  3. By all means we had no idea about the impact a year in Nam would have on us nor our loved ones once we said “Goodbye”.
    We grew up fast and there was little if any thought of how our loved ones endured, sitting and waiting, and watching the TV for any news related to Vietnam and where we were at. My parents always listened to the “Casualty” reports on TV. The sad part being that the TV was so tainted and biased it was ridiculous. Having participated in certain operations and then subsequently seeing how those were reported – It made me wonder if I was actually a participant – it was totally different than what occurred!
    Our loved ones always waited to receive a letter from us to ensure them we were still alive. My parents, especially my dad, wrote daily. My “girlfriend” at the time (whom later became my wife) also write when she could as well. However – Dad would always write. Being in WW II – He knew the importance of the “mail” to the soldier in harm’s way. He I could tell what my world had become – but I am sure he already KNEW THAT!
    Dad knew the impact it would have on me as well as on him and mom for the rest of our lives. Dad ignored the public media and he relied on our mailings for the facts.
    Once we came home, we were changed men for life. I had no problem in discussions with my father about things we did over there. He was not in Nam but he knew the horrors of war and the effect it has on the men fighting and the loved ones at home.

    I did not withdraw from society (totally) after returning. My father was my best “counselor” upon my return. Dad was my true hero for me.
    For those whom did not survive – those are the heroes along with my Dad. As stated often the last image to those who did not survive was a fellow comrade comforting him as he began his journey to God. We valiantly tried to assure that they did not die alone. Wherever they fell we wanted to be there for them until the end. They are the heroes – as was my dad.
    My ONLY regret – was that when my dad passed away – I was NOT there.
    I was not present to give him the comfort, peace, and love he had given me me when I returned from Vietnam.
    His tombstone is made of “black granite” just like the Vietnam Memorial in DC. Ironic? – More than likely he planned it that way.
    RIP Dad – My Hero!

    1. Very moving comments my friend. I still am in awe at our loved ones endurance with what we went through. Exactly right about media not saying facts, Still that way it seems. My Dad was in WWII in the Pacific & he never spoke a word either. I knew nothing about what he did til he passed either, yet he & I never talked about either war, Ironic also. He already knew all my thoughts without words just the same. For many years I kept all my thoughts & experience hidden, for many reasons. Now is just my time to let others know what we as Viet Nam Vets endured & came home not only to but with as well. Strangely my will states my headstone be in Black Granite also. Who knew?. Thanks for all you did my friend.My heroes are the same as yours & lost so many trying to keep them here & the usual last words we all heard were "You're going to be ok". I heard & said them more times than one could imagine. God Bless.

  4. Michael, thanks for sharing this. Very moving.

    1. Always good to hear from a fellow Vet. Thanks my friend.


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