Memories of horrendous events rarely fade. Example. The day that I stopped participating in the Vietnam war was the day I saw a Vietnamese Captain walk up to his counterpart in the North Vietnamese regular army and hand that person $5,000 in U.S. currency. I happen to be present (100 yards to the rear) for that exchange. I asked the Captain what just went down. He said, “me want to protect people from war.” Translated this meant that he paid off the NV person to not carry the war forward into his district.
Things changed for me that day. I was planning to make a career of the Army. I liked the discipline, the camaraderie, the tactics, the technology, even the danger of the military. Talk about viewing life through rose-colored glasses! Of course in those days I also saw a reason for the U.S. to be in Vietnam and I thought we were ultimately helping to keep a “people” free. Very noble of me don’t you think? What happened that day was one of those life-lessons you get free of charge. The money exchange was how the war operated, at least in the town of BoDuc on the Cambodian border.
The memory came back to me when I read several emails from men I trained with in 1969. We graduated from OCS as second lieutenants; we were naive and thought none of us would ever die or be wounded. Then I read the names of those who did die during combat, one of whom my wife and I introduced to her best friend in late 1969. They fell in love. One wonders how that might have worked out.
I was proud to serve in the Army from 1968 to 1971 in spite of the fact that I was sent there by politicians who were FUBARed. Brother were they ever! I came home physically unscathed and mentally about 80% OK. The bad dreams lasted a while but thanks to the nearness of my wife they went away. To all the men who served in that god forsaken hell hole of a country-thanks for your commitment. To the families of all those who died the memory of your fathers, sons, and spouses lives on with all of us. They won’t be forgotten.
To all soldiers in all the wars who have served and returned and to those who never returned-thank you for your service. Your commitment has kept the United States strong.