"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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Old Vets: by Michael Lansford

Michael Lansford 
I have asked myself this question many times --  What is an Old Vet?

What is it that actually defines what an Old Vet is? 

Thousands of us began as fairly innocent young kids, (or men, if you prefer), who were sent off to do unknown things in a world few will ever know.

We became Old Vets long before our time, because we survived all the horrors of war in ways I still find hard to think about, let alone try and explain.

Those of us that survived -- and still survive today -- were already old by the time we were 18, (or whatever age fits).

We came back to a changed world from the one we remembered and longed to come back to. It was a world that had become not only tired of war, but tired of us, as well.

The world didn’t know a thing about the who, the what, or the why, of it all, and we couldn't explain it to them for many reasons. Some people had -- and still have -- closed minds to the cold hard truth of war. Some did try to understand, but we as "Old Vets" couldn't tell anyone anything.  We feared the reality of what society already thought of us.

The irony is, the world still thought of as kids, and we weren't allowed to do certain things, because we weren't "OLD" enough, or mature enough, to make decisions that impacted our lives (as well as those of society). In one respect, we were years ahead of the rest of the world. In yet another, we were years behind.

Nothing like being in combat with the permission and ability to take or save a life, call in air strikes, artillery fire, risk our lives in suicide missions, handle explosives and weapons, live like animals, or worse, and yet back in the world, we weren't even old enough to buy beer.
My biggest issue to this day was being told I couldn’t vote -- I wasn't mature enough to make decisions that affected the future of our country? We were sure old enough to go off to war …

So, we did what we had to do to survive. We withdrew and tried living in what the world perceived to be a normal life with all it had to offer. From where we came from, we never quite seemed to fit in, or adapt, to a changed world. From our viewpoint, we only exchanged one evil for another -- one which was much more dangerous.

A song, a picture, nightmares, sounds, or cross words spoken to and about us, all brought back the reality of our war, so we withdrew even more, some to the point of no return and no escape. Some blocked it out completely, but it was still there -- deep inside it still lurks, always.  Even now, as true Old Vets, we constantly live with our demons.

We were a generation that asked nothing for what we did, and we gave all we had to keep us alive and, in our minds, to keep America safe and free. For us, it was a small price to pay for freedom. Whatever it took, we stepped up and paid that debt in full -- some more than others.

We never failed, backed down, ran, or quit. What we were and are will be with us forever. We were willing to give our lives for our country, our comrades, and everything we considered right, and no one will ever take that away either.

We have survived to be where we are now, and we owe so many for the blessings bestowed on us by family and friends who never gave up on us.

For the most part, we as Old Vets have survivor’s guilt.  I do.  We have questions, too.  Why, how, and what were the ultimate reasons we survived?  There are no answers, just more questions.

At times, being old Vets makes us wonder what if?  What if we didn't come home?  What about those that didn't -- how would their lives have turned out? Would any of them have made a real difference back home?

Most of us can’t, nor will we ever, truly come home. Vietnam will be with us forever, like it or not. We lived it, breathed it, and we remember it, regardless. As long as one Vietnam Vet lives, who we were will never die.

We are truly one, no matter what branch, or where, we served. We are a band of brothers and sisters, just like it has always been said about past Old Vets. What we are in life reflects on who we all were and what we believe in, even to this day.

Michael (lying on belly) Awaiting Medivac after Hamburger Hill
How others see and hear us, shows we are many things they never knew about us and it represents us all, in one way or another.

What they see and read speaks volumes about us. We can't change outsiders’ opinions of us, but we can write the truth and hope they will listen to what we have to say. 

We are who we are and if they only knew we would give our life to save them, they might have a different view of us and our war – a war that made us such Old Vets to begin with.

Only we can know what's inside us from where we came. Some things truly can't be explained. Life isn't always fair, it's just life, and we live it every day, each in their own way.

I hope the next generations are, (and will be), learning more about the horror of war and combat, and how it changes someone from day one, for the rest of their life. Fact is, now days, society is seeing the reality of war, thanks to all the tech things out there. Real war comes face to face with them daily. They get a new look at what all wars really are, just sitting on the sidelines watching.

For us, we didn't necessarily have to be in actual combat, but we still had to show up. There were no timeouts, breaks, days off, or holidays. Combat was 24/7. There was no second place in war.

Being Old Vets, we have traveled many roads in our lives, both good and bad. We still feel we are at war, no matter what is going on. We’re still fighting for benefits that shouldn't ever have been questioned in the first place. We paid our dues and stand to this day by the Oath we took long ago.

Through it all, the only thing we ever wanted when we survived and came back to the world was a simple "Thank You". Money doesn't buy what that means to us -- it never will. The people we owe thanks to are fellow Vets, (past, present, and future), family, friends, our Combat Medics, Medevac's, doctors and nurses, as well as the Donut Dollies, who also showed up to give us hope and helped us remember the world we left behind. Even Bob Hope showed up. Now that's courage to boot.

So from one Old Vet to all my brother and sister Old Vets, I say thank you from the bottom of my Heart. It’s been a long and hard road -- but if any of us could do it differently, would we? As we learned from the generation of WWII Vets, let's hope this next generation will also learn from us ...

Remember, always stand up for what you believe in. Never second guess what you believe, or do, in life. Things don't always go as planned, but staying committed to what you believe in, is worth more than winning at something you don’t. Life doesn't always give you a do-over or re-do, whatever you want to call it. For some of us, we have been blessed with second chances. Learn to make life better, whatever you perceive it to be.

From just one of many "Old Vets",
Michael Lansford
Vietnam '68 - '69

Michael Lansford, an "Old Vet"

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 feel comfortable sharing. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history, sharing the truth about the Vietnam veteran, and what it was like in Our War.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for the Amen my anonymous friend. Amen's are as heartfelt as thank you's for us. Most appreciated. God Bless you & yours, always.

  2. Michael Lansford, it was a pleasure reading your story! Here in the heart of PA German Country, we have an old saying in German: "BIS BALD ZU ALT, ZU SPAT SMART", which means, "too soon too old, too smart too late."

    This year I will be 67 yrs. old in July, and if I was 17 again I would do the same thing again. My dad went through WW2, and he told me the world is full of two things: love & hatred. After the war, he chose love over hatred, and I feel the same way after Vietnam.

    I can forgive the people who called us names when we came home, but i will not forget. I guess you can say i went on with my life by saying to myself "A man who dwells in his past, will cheat himself out of his future, but a man who neglects his past, will fail his future."

    PS, thank you CJ Heck for putting Michael's story on the website.
    Semper-Fi --Allen J. Folk

    1. Always a pleasure to hear your thoughts Allen J. Folk. Sound words & wisdom we can all relate to as well as learn from to live by. So true about the world being full of two things; love & hatred. Lately it seems society is leaning more toward hatred for all the wrong reasons. They just jump on the band wagon only to say they were a part of whatever protest, movement it happened to be at the moment. Instead they should stand up & back this country or we won't have it much longer. As a Vet like yourself I too deal with the same issues, love over hate, forgive, yet never forget. Things etched in our hearts & minds forever. Ms. C.J. does a masterful job of taking my words & having them posted as what I really am saying to & about us all. In a way it's like the first words of the constitution that reads "We the People", in our case it's "We the Vietnam Veterans". Thanks for all your comments & insight to what I write. God Bless you & yours, always.

  3. ... such kind and warm comments from two of my favorite people. Thank you, Allen and Michael.

    1. Thank you too Ms C.J. Without you none of this would have ever been known. Probably told you this already, but can't help repeating thank you's.

  4. Not only were we not allowed to vote, but when I came down from the Cua Viet and Dong Ha area, we would go to the EM club run by the Navy. {If you remember correctly, Da Nang was a close city, unlike Saigon.} .

    If you were under 21, you had to sit on the Near Beer side, and that was the only Alcoholic Beverage that you were allowed to drink. Only if you were 21 and over could you drink regular Beer or Hard Liquor. I believe that the Army regs were different in I Corp and their EM clubs?

    Two days before, you were behind a 50, or tossing grenades. Now you are sitting in the only club you are allowed to go to sipping on Near Beer because the Navy has stated that you are not old enough to handle Hard Liquor. --Douglas Johnson M.B.A.

    1. We had the same rules in I Corp & a few extra. We got a new commander in base camp that ran it like it was stateside. Inspections, bugles going off before daylight, formations, who got "Shit" duty that day, & the part that burned us out in the field was when we hit the chopper pads they wanted all weapons confiscated & secured til you left. So much for a combat zone. They were more afraid of us possibly using our weapons accordingly from the way we were treated. One more little quirk was we as field personell we were not allowed in the chow hall, not allowed in the hooches, no nco club, no showers, clean clothes. nothing. For what it's worth we refused to give up our weapons so as punishment we were sent right back out or got shit detail, guard duty, KP, & had our mail withheld. Sure made our morale a boost. All this & after we had been in firefights, assaults, raids, etc, etc, etc.

  5. Truer words have never been spoken, " A song, a picture, nightmares, sounds, or cross words spoken to and about us, all brought back the reality of our war, so we withdrew even more, some to the point of no return and no escape. Some blocked it out completely, but it was still there -- deep inside it still lurks, always. Even now, as true Old Vets, we constantly live with our demons." --Charlie Ketchum

    1. Exactly right Cahrlie Ketchum. It doesn't take much to bring it all back these days. True some reached a point of no return as others still have deep inner emotions inside with no way out. For most of us withdrawal was our only option we had. The demons will never go away, ever. Thanks for all you did my friend. Dues paid. God Bless you & yours, always.


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