My mind was full of flag waving, red, white, and blue, apple pie, and patriotic fever. Little did I know about the emotions and reality I was to face in the next twenty months: everything from birth to death, love, hate, fear, and so many other truths of life.
After landing in Vietnam, I was waiting for transportation, along with about a hundred other guys. I had to go to the bathroom, so I left my duffle on the tarmac and headed for what looked like an outhouse.
As I stepped into what smelled like a combination of diesel and a dead animal, my father's words hit me, "You didn't eat that. It crawled up inside you and died!"
It was very dark as I went inside. I could make out holes, so I moved to one end, where I could see light coming through the slats. I had just started to empty my full bladder, when I noticed something, or somebody, over on the far end of the outhouse.
As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw a mama san squatting above a hole, pants around her ankles, and she was smiling at me. I was quickly zipping up when she started calling me "Dinky Dau, Number Ten GI!".
Then, as I left the outhouse, I heard a chorus of laughter from over a hundred men. So I took a bow, and laughed at myself with them. I was wrong ...
Shortly afterwards, I developed a mistrust of the Vietnamese people, when one of our hooch maids was fired for stealing. These were big time jobs for them, so I was suspicious about why she would want these small items she had stolen.
So this little girl of 16, who was supporting her whole family with this job, was back to begging in the streets. I was wrong ...
As things heated up, we started to lose men. Many of us wanted revenge, and nothing less than a hatred for our enemy emerged.
There was a POW camp near one of our VIP landing pads. The guards routinely prodded the prisoners across and around the pad to pick up trash, cigarette butts, and garbage. One of the young prisoners smiled at me and gave me a peace sign, only to get the butt of a guard's weapon across his back for the action. I didn't respond to his smile, or his peace sign.
A week later, we were sitting on that same pad, when the guards led three POW's to the edge of the pad and sat them down. The young man who had smiled at me was in that group. He didn't holler, but I heard him say, "Hey, could you spare a cigarette?" in perfect English.
At first, I didn't know how to respond. Finally, I reached under the gun seat and retrieved one of my sample packs of Parliments from the C-rat box and carried it over to him.
The guard started to raise hell, but he quickly stopped, when the young man said something to him in Vietnamese. He then said, "Thank you."
I replied "You're welcome."
I saw him one more time standing near the fence around the compound and I went over. We talked for a few minutes and I found out he had gone to school in the states. His father came back to North Vietnam when he was fourteen and he enlisted. He was eighteen, the same age as I was, and I was wrong again ...
I had thought we were there to protect the people of South Vietnam. Once, we landed near a small village that was slated to be relocated. The people had a few rice paddies, a few goats, and a couple of water buffaloes.
We gave out C-rations and candy bars, loaded them onto trucks, and left the village on fire. I was wrong ...
I also thought we were helping the people of Vietnam. Then I saw the beggars in the streets, little girls of twelve, or thirteen, selling themselves. The old people were shoved off to the side in a country that, in good times, revered their aged. I was wrong ...
I soon found that there was more wrong with this war than was right.
Nowadays, nobody wants to admit being wrong. They all have fancy excuses for their mistakes. They hold to methods, politics, financial fallacies, and ideologies that are known to be wrong. They cling to ignorance and refuse to open their minds to better ideals and methods. They refuse to be wrong, even when proven wrong.
So, what is so wrong with being wrong, when admitting you are wrong is the first step to being right?
67N30 Crewchief/Doorgunner Helicopter Mech.
“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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