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An anniversary, of sorts ... it was 38 years ago last Friday ...

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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 03:33 PM
Original message
An anniversary, of sorts ... it was 38 years ago last Friday ...
Edited on Thu Mar-01-07 03:44 PM by TahitiNut

On February 24, 1969, Airman First Class Levitow and the crew of his AC-47 gunship, Spooky 71, were flying over the besieged American force at Long Binh, dropping magnesium flares to illuminate the positions of Vietnamese troops. The plane was hit repeatedly with enemy fire. One such mortar blast wounded the gunner, who dropped an armed flare inside the plane. Levitow, the loadmaster, saw the immediate danger and repeatedly dove for the flare, though the plane was in a thirty-degree bank and though Levitow himself had been hit by more than forty pieces of shrapnel in his back and legs. Reaching the flare, he managed to eject it from the aircraft seconds before it ignited. The plane eventually landed; by that time, its fuselage contained more than three thousand shrapnel holes.

For this action, Levitow, who was discharged from the Air Force as a sergeant in 1969, after having flown over 200 combat missions, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon on May 14, 1970 (Armed Forces Day) at the White House.

I saw this happen ... from the ground below. It wasn't until many years later that I found out about Sgt. Levitow and the award of the Medal of Honor. I saw the AC-47 right after it got hit and saw it fly off, I guess directly to Bien Hoa Air Field which was right "next door."

Each year, right about this time, I think about this. I think about how a guy was covering my sorry ass and got the Medal of Honor. I'd only been in-country for about seven weeks ... 'tested' only by several scattered nights of incoming that made us wake up and scramble for cover. We stood perimeter guard on rotation. We were on alert - three of us in the bunker. Instead of "one up; two down" or "two up; one down" we were all awake. Something was up. When we popped an illumination flare, all hell broke loose.

It was right above our position along the southern perimeter of Long Binh Post ...

... where Levitow's AC-47 got hit.

At our position and to our east, an augmented battalion of NVA had attacked. We repelled them and, according to scuttlebutt, only three sappers made it through the wire.

Well, I survived. I made it through another nine months (gestation?) in Viet Nam.

Yeah. That's me. I drag this photo out occasionally and look into my own eyes ... remembering the 'kid' I once was. I was told it'd be a "learning experience" - and it was.

So there I was last week, thinking about that night 38 years ago and, as usual, using DU. The 3-4 times/year resurrection of the ignorant rants about the (so-called) "myth" of veterans being spit at was again being 'discussed' and I again (stupidly, I guess) told of my own personal experience. And I was again and again called a liar - and worse. Those posts were, after quite a while, removed. Then I got a PM from a DUer calling me a "disgusting, lying piece of filth" and a "punk ass bitch" and a "fuckface liar." This DUer said "I bet my life savings you never even served!" (No, I'm not going to call anyone out or identify the DUer - someone not banned for behavior I regard as beyond despicable. No - I don't want to break DU's Rules - and have my post removed or get banned. Ironic! Really fucking ironic!)

I'm tired. I'm tired of malicious, despicable attacks and slanders from a person who was only 5 years old at the time Levitow got a Medal of Honor while covering my sorry butt. I'm tired of people who weren't even born then who arrogantly and maliciously call me a liar and worse - and pretend to know more about my first-hand experiences than I do. I'm tired of traveling alone and getting spit on - then only to have other veterans (and 'friends') later turn their back on me. That's gotten too fucking old. For merely telling the TRUTH.

So, here's a redacted image of my DD-214. NOBODY should have to do this! No veteran should EVER be attacked for telling the truth!

Welcome home, GI. Yeah. Right. :puke:

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uppityperson Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 03:35 PM
Response to Original message
1. k&r and thank you for this posting and glad you survived.
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leftofthedial Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 03:37 PM
Response to Original message
2. thank you for your service
I'm sorry it is still a source of such pain.
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 03:40 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Maybe it wouldn't be ...
Edited on Thu Mar-01-07 03:45 PM by TahitiNut
... if it weren't for the despicable attacks that continue. :shrug:
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niyad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 03:42 PM
Response to Original message
4. THANK YOU for your service, TN. I am so sorry that you have been the target of so much hatred for
your service, and seen so much pain.
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AndyA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 03:42 PM
Response to Original message
5. My thanks to you and to Levitow for serving your country.
We all owe you heroes a lot. I'm ashamed that our military is treated the way they are by the government they served so admirably.

A picture says a thousand words, and that look on your face says it all.

Thanks again for serving. To a lot of us, you are a hero. Ignore the others, they should be ashamed of themselves for saying such things. And they owe that freedom of expression to guys like you.

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flakey_foont Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 03:45 PM
Response to Original message
6. Thanks for your service
I am sorry that others had to stoop to calling you names. That is indeed despicable
I respect and honor your service to this country
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Journeyman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 03:50 PM
Response to Original message
7. I can't speak to your experience. . .
and I was never assaulted or spat upon on my return, but I remember the looks of hatred and disgust, the turned heads, the shunnings and the whispers . . . and later, enduring the general belief we were all somehow crazy or at the least "not right in the head."

And I've seen posts on these boards that tell me those who return from Iraq will endure the same, even from those who claim to support them. For those who doubt, check the threads in the post for the first CMoH winner from Iraq. . . at least, the posts that weren't deleted.
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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 03:52 PM
Response to Original message
8. I wish I could say I'm shocked at how you were treated on DU, but
I'm not. There are some real bad apples around these parts, though thankfully, they are few and far between. I hope you can learn to ignore the ignorant; I would never presume to know what any soldier has gone through and find it despicable that others do.
I thank you for your service, TahitiNut. I also thank you for your reasonableness, intelligence and sense of humor; I really appreciate those traits in you. :hug:

Finally, OT p.s., is that second pic a pic of a painting?
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 04:22 PM
Response to Reply #8
13. "second pic"?
I don't know which one you mean. The two photos of the bunker line and one of me were taken by me. I Photoshopped the one of me to 'texturize' it - clay. (I thought of it as a metaphorical play on "feet of clay" - a whole body of clay. Molded.) The photos of Levitow and his plane are from the web - and I remember the abuttments they had for the planes at Bien Hoa and helicopters at the adjacent heliport. I'm guessing the photo of Levitow is from a portrait studio photographer.

You're a treasure on DU, babylonsister. :hug:
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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 04:35 PM
Response to Reply #13
15. I meant the second person pic, which would be you. The photoshopping
explains the effect (I guess; I know nada about I really like it; it is rather haunting.
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 05:14 PM
Response to Reply #15
21. Yeah ... I thought it was a poor photo ... and then I played with it.
I didn't like the shadow of my rather prominant nasal equipment. But now I look at the shadow and think it conveys something very truthful. I look at that version of me and feel like I'm reaching back in time to him. There's something therapeutic for me about it ... and, in a way, helps convert that time into actual learning and personal growth. (It was a LOT to swallow.)
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Straight Shooter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 03:53 PM
Response to Original message
9. You can't fight ignorance.
Edited on Thu Mar-01-07 03:54 PM by Straight Shooter
It does not diminish the truth of your experiences that there are those who don't believe. The most compelling example is to look at how many people still insist on denying the reality of the Holocaust, despite film footage, photographs, documented evidence, the whole works. Look at how many women are scoffed at when they claim rape, and their experience is deliberately ridiculed and diminished because others cannot handle the truth, because to admit the truth is to admit that they are vulnerable, also.

Thank you for this story of Levitow. I am always awed by the courageous actions which men (and women) will take to protect their brethren in times of crisis and attack.

Your photo is great. I see a lot of determination there. Vietnam never took that away from you.


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HCE SuiGeneris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 03:57 PM
Response to Original message
10. I am sorry that you have suffered such indignities
at the hands of ignorant assholes. Your intelligence and experience lend great value to all of the discussions in which you participate. Thanks for being here, and for your service in Vietnam. :hippie: :toast:
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Mnemosyne Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 04:02 PM
Response to Original message
11. I'm sorry anyone would attack you this way TahitiNut.
Assholes are too common everywhere nowadays.

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Pacifist Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 04:04 PM
Response to Original message
12. This breaks my heart.
My dad was spit on when he returned from Vietnam in January '70. I don't know why so many people are loathe to admit that happened.

Bless you!
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Stinky The Clown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 04:28 PM
Response to Original message
14. Fuck
I got nothing more, man.
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kestrel91316 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 04:43 PM
Response to Original message
16. You served, and honorably. My dad served, too, for 23 years.
PM me the name of the DUer who got so nasty with you and I'll personally go break his or her legs so bad they'll never be able to put them back together.

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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 05:32 PM
Response to Reply #16
25. Well, you know I can't do that.
Besides, living in their same city makes it too conceivable. :evilgrin: Can't have that.
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yellerpup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 04:46 PM
Response to Original message
17. Too bad you didn't run into me, G.I.
Edited on Thu Mar-01-07 04:47 PM by yellerpup
From 1968 through '71 I used to cruise the local bars looking for the newly discharged vets. Some of you guys were scary and scarred, but I called my mission 'integration". I welcomed 'NamVets home by giving y'all one evening of sack time with a pretty, blue-eyed, willing blonde. Kind of sounds trashy repeating this here, but you had your mission and I had mine. I hope some healing was done. Any spitting done on my watch was spit swapping and no one ever complained. I still love you all for your sacrifice. No one came home unharmed.
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 05:10 PM
Response to Reply #17
20. After I got back, a WONDERFUL young woman helped me 'get straight' in my head.
She's forever a part of me - a very welcome part. She was a 'lefty, touchie-feelie' gal who had a horrid childhood - with sexual abuse and other horrors. She was very, very special to me and helped teach me unconditional love.

I have no illusions that a political perspective guarantees someone's a "good" person. My ride from OAB to SFO was with a "hippie chick" from Berzerkley - daughter of UCB professor(s) and girlfriend of a guy I met on the MAC flight back to Travis. The ride was a VW minivan, no less - with decals. They were great people, delaying their personal "welcome home' time to give me a ride.

It was a time of extremes - the good and the bad. I don't think anyone who wasn't a 20-something at the time really knows how it was. Hard to convey.

We should never, ever underestimate the healing power of "good loving" - no matter who floats our boats.

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yellerpup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 06:34 PM
Response to Reply #20
26. Glad you're still kickin' today, TahitiNut.
It was extreme and it was hard. I really feel for these young vets today...only this time, I say welcome with cookies & pies!
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wakeme2008 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 04:57 PM
Response to Original message
18. Hi 74F20 :)
Edited on Thu Mar-01-07 05:03 PM by wakeme2008
Below is my edited DD214. I did this a number of years ago for a mixed board. Cons love talking about War but can not find their own DD214 with combat zone service... Grrrr.. about 6 months ago I took all my VN era slides to Walgreens and they scanned them into jpegs and put them on CDs. The problem being LOL is I had only ONE picture of myself in VN...Now I can not find it..... Oh Well
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 05:29 PM
Response to Reply #18
24. It's really appalling that we'd even feel compelled to show them.
I remember that I worked hard in the 70s to avoid being seen as a Viet Nam veteran. It wasn't something people held in any kind of high esteem, imho. Somewhere in the early 80s, things changed. All of a sudden Viet Nam veterans seemed to be everywhere - like chickenman. Maybe it was when the Wall went up. Dunno. It was strange ... but I still avoided being seen as one and my family has never, to this day, been interested in whatever I might have experienced and learned. What's interesting to me is that people who weren't even alive then or barely out of diapers seem to have adopted similar attitudes - they're not interested in what I might say; they'll tell me and if I disagree then I'm either a liar or fool. After all, they read a book! :eyes: The more things change the more they stay the same.

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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-02-07 01:06 PM
Response to Reply #18
35. I'm struck by the "small world" of this.
Edited on Fri Mar-02-07 01:14 PM by TahitiNut
We arrived in Nam within a day of each other, with the same MOS, if I read the DD-215 right. "5 Jan 69"? Spooky. I reported to OAB at 1200hrs on 4 Jan 69 and arrived in country on 6 Jan 69. (My 'short-timer' DEROS was 6 Jan 70 - until I got the early out.) Did you go through OAB? If so, we might've been there at the same time. I was there for about 36 hours - enough to go into SF (to the wharf) the first evening. Did you go through the Bien Hoa repo depot? If so, we might've missed each other by less than a day. I didn't even stay overnight there. (Thank God.) Did you work on the RCA 301/501 equipment? The Univac 1000? That's what we had at the USARV/HQ DSC. Small world.
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northofdenali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 05:09 PM
Response to Original message
19. Tahiti, I was always anti-Viet Nam, but I was NEVER anti-soldier
or sailor or airman. I saw many a friend off on that initial flight to basic, wrote many a letter, started many a "round robin care box" and cried many tears for the 4 in my high school class who died there. When we knew a guy from Nam was headed back in to our airport, us local hippies piled into whatever vehicle was running at the time, staked out the ramp to the plane, and made sure he/she (yes, many women from here) got the bottle of (admittedly cheap) wine and the flowers we'd brought, along with thank you notes from everyone we could find to write.

I protested against the war and US policies, just like I protest now against Iraq/Iran. Sometimes it's just who you run into (what airport, etc.) that makes it rough. Some of "my" guys said SFO was the worst; they'd duck into the first available mens room to change into civvies, but it never worked - the haircuts and general demeanor gave them away. I didn't hear anyone of my buds saying they were spit on. Verbally abused? Yep. And I still think that's disgraceful. However, if we'd handled the Cally's and the Mei Lei's (there were way more than one, and we all know it) the way they should have been handled, instead of waiting years, there would have been a lot more respect for the returnees. Those who tortured and abused at Abu Grhaib should be reviled - as should Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gates, and anyone else who continues to support Gitmo and the treatment of detainees, "extraordinary rendition" and going into the ME in the first place.

My ex was a 3-tour vet, beginning in 1966, coming home in Sept. of 1969. 101st then 82nd Airborne. Tell me he didn't see a lot that was wrong, even or especially in the way our own soldiers were treated over there. He could easily write a book, if he could withstand the still-prominent PTSD flaring up with each chapter.

So, as I understand your anger, and I do, I would ask you not to lay blanket blame on all of us who were anti-war then, and are anti-war now. I took a stand that I'm proud of. And the way I, and my friends treated our troops? I'm also proud of that.
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 05:22 PM
Response to Reply #19
22. I don't associate it with "anti-war" at all.
I'm pretty "anti-war" myself. I think the real fallacy is in over-simplifying those times. There were liberals in both parties. There were "anti-war" people in both parties. It was called "Johnson's War." I make absolutely no connection between "spitting" and "hippie." I thin that the eagerness of some these days to glue those terms together has resulted in others trying to deny both - babies out with bathwater. At the same time, there was no immunity from being a sociopath conferred by some political perspective. The whole notion that "all ___ are good" or "all ___ are bad" is just insane, imho. A case in point is the treatment I refer to - appalling. That doesn't mean "all DUers are bad" and it sure doesn't mean "all DUers are good."

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northofdenali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 05:26 PM
Response to Reply #22
23. Agreed. And I deplore that type of behavior, no matter
the political bent. We see it in freepers and far-lefties alike. "Baby with the bathwater" describes it perfectly.

I think many of those so-called "hippies" who engaged in this type of thing were anarchists or worse; possibly the pre-conception of the SLA, etc, who thought nothing of using violence and terror tactics to gain their ends. And I would not put it past the far RW'ers to have "plants" doing the same thing. How many CIA and FBI became "hippies" for the duration?

It must have been awesome seeing that plane actually land, and to know one of the heroes who shouldn't have survived, did. :hug: on this anniversary.
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issac82_82 Donating Member (12 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 06:38 PM
Response to Original message
27. Have you see the "stolen valor act"?

The stolen valor act -

According to the law Bush signed into office Bush should be charged with breaking the law -
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Name removed Donating Member (0 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 06:55 PM
Response to Original message
28. Deleted message
Message removed by moderator. Click here to review the message board rules.
Monkeyman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 07:28 PM
Response to Original message
29. K&R
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Morgana LaFey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 08:22 PM
Response to Original message
30. Downright damn ridiculous
It's hard for me to imagine people ignorant enough to harass you that way, and that they're DUers too. You may not want to hear this, but the very BEST way to stop them is to get to a point that kind of trashiness doesn't bother you any more.

And while I don't usually enter into them, I think the spitting vs. there was no spitting arguments at DU are the height of ridiculousness as well.

On a positive note, the one thing -- the one lesson -- we did seem to learn from Vietnam is that we can be against the war with all the vehemence it deserves and STILL love and support our troops. I'm very proud that that's the case (depsite what the freepers think).

Feb. 24, 1969. My 21st birthday. I took myself to a nice restaurant -- all by myself (sniff, sniff) -- and bought myself my first legal drink. DH (first husband) came home from Bien Hoa airbase, where he was stationed, about 3 weeks later. LOL. His flight (a red eye from the west coast) arrived about 7 or 8 a.m. I couldn't figure out what was "wrong" with him when he got off the plane -- a little stiff, a little aloof, very strange. He'd been drinking all night long. He was just trying to appear really, really sober.
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 09:07 PM
Response to Reply #30
32. Happy (belated) Birthday, Morgana!
:hi: :party:

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Morgana LaFey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 09:18 PM
Response to Reply #32
33. Why thank you
That's certainly not what I posted that -- your OP was just ... well, such a walk down memory lane, ya know? Those "intense times" you spoke of (so true).

Thanks for your service, TN. Thanks for the OP. And just let the garbage roll off your back (as in: quack, quack, ya know?).
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eridani Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 08:25 PM
Response to Original message
31. You dealt with your situation there the best that you could
You weren't responsible for being sent there, a fact for which there was no justification. I defy anybody to read the following and say that there was some actual reason for US military presence in Vietnam. (And yes, the similarities to a more familiar document are not at all coincidental.)

September 2, 1945

"All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.

The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: "All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights."

Those are undeniable truths.

Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellowcitizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.

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roguevalley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Mar-01-07 10:52 PM
Response to Original message
34. tahitinut, thank you.
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FogerRox Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-02-07 03:51 PM
Response to Original message
36. Welcome home... man.
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Name removed Donating Member (0 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-02-07 05:36 PM
Response to Original message
37. Deleted message
Message removed by moderator. Click here to review the message board rules.
Major Hogwash Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-02-07 11:04 PM
Response to Original message
38. Hey TahitiNut
I noticed your service number starts with US.
You were drafted, huh?

Here's what the drill sergeants told me at basic when I joined the Army after Vietnam -
US ARMY - stands for Uncle Sam Ain't Released Me Yet

I was RA, Regular Army, but all of my drill sergeants were Vietnam veterans.
They always told us "you wouldn't understand it, unless you were there."

Those are good pictures of the post at Long Binh.
You should write a blog of your own, so your story could reach more people.

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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-03-07 01:11 AM
Response to Reply #38
39. Yep. I was one of the last pre-lottery draftees.
I think the most popular acronym when I was in was 'FTA'. :evilgrin: Every draftee I ever met while I was in was dedicated (for reasons of personal pride) to doing the best job they could, even while viscerally resistant to the 'military life.' But there's no question that counting down the days to DEROS was universal. Most guys had their short-timer calendar - but, for sure, EVERY guy had one when they got to 100 days. Not one 'two-digit-midget' didn't know exactly how many days they had until DEROS.

After two marriages and many relocations, I lost many of the photos I took over there, particularly the prints. Somehow, I was able to keep many of the slides, even though a lot got 'lost.' I particularly like the ones I have of the Vietnamese people.

This is one of the 'mama-sans' (maids) who took care of my hooch. She was a really great kid - who spoke almost no English at all. (But she was able to teach me how to play their version of Oh-Wah-Ree.) The hooches were two-story wood frame with plywood floors, tin roofs, and screened and louvered outside walls with full-length awnings. (No windows - just louvers instead of siding.) Most of the time I was there, I lived on the second floor above the arms room. (I had it good, comparatively speaking.) This shows her standing at the bottom of the stairs and right outside the arms room.

Since we were the Headquarters company for USARV, a lot of the guys in my company worked in offices where we had Vietnamese employees as well. (I worked in the Data Service Center and we didn't have any Vietnamese working in that building. Sigh.) These young ladies were office workers. This was taken at one of the occasional barbecues we had. They're wearing their 'good' ao dais. The young woman to the left wearing a grey top was one of the maids. 'Class' and age determined how nice an ao dai was worn and what color was chosen. The women wearing the darker colors were older than the two young ladies on the inside of the group in lighter pastel colors. MSgt. Herb Saito (a native Hawaiian) made the most excellent teriyaki beef on a skewer I've ever had, before or since. Everyone showed up for the barbecues. The sandbags they're standing next to surrounded all the barracks. Before we built bunkers in the company area, we'd take cover behind these sandbag walls during incoming (RPGs or mortars). Nighttime harassment.

While I was there, I only went through Saigon a couple of times, to and from Ton San Nhut, once on TDY and once on R&R. From the back of a deuce-and-a-half, I'd take pictures. This is one that survived. It shows one of the less busy streets of Saigon and three ARVN rangers. Traffic and pedestrians were absolutely everywhere. Motorbikes, bicycles, Cushmans, scooters, and small cars (really small!) were all over. ARVN Rangers had a helluva reputation - fighters. Saigon was fascinating - a "wide open" city, with a 10pm curfew. We stayed at one of the hotels overnight to take the MAC flight in the morning. It had a sign on the closet in the rooms that said "Please check your weapons at the front desk." (Not something you usually see in hotels these days.) The top floor was a nightclub. Young Vietnamese girls would come for the music, the dancing, the partying - and whatever. Gorgeous. They couldn't leave the hotel after 10pm because of the curfew, so they'd sleep in the hallways ... or wherever. (I had to bunk in another room that night 'cause my roomie had a 'guest.' Sigh.)

Yeah ... maybe I should dig out more slides and do a blog. :shrug:

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Dover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-03-07 08:46 AM
Response to Reply #39
40. Tahitinut, thanks SO MUCH for sharing these stories and pics with us!
Edited on Sat Mar-03-07 09:17 AM by Dover
I hope you are giving serious consideration to a blog. Would love to see a site where all these stories could be shared in one place...from WWII - Iraq/Afghanistan. We all can learn from it. And it could be a place where those who are considering going into service could get advice and a realistic understanding of just what they are signing on for.

Those who have been to hell and back again have a great deal of wisdom and experience to share that is otherwise inaccessible. We need to add these stories to our collective's who we are, whether we participate or not. We NEED to know who we are, warts and all.

Have you considered returning to Nam? Have you visited the Soldier's Heart website where they organize return trips?
It seems to be very healing for the participants.

I hope all our soldiers have the heart, humanity and integrity that you demonstrate, even in the face of the impossible situations that war puts one in, and in responding to the ignorant and thoughtless people who can too easily intellectualize and distance themselves from the visceral realities of life in the service. I see an inner integrity in many of our soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan and places that don't make the headlines. Whether they demonstrate their patriotism while in service or in defending our Constitutional rights at home through pro-peace alternatives, they seem to be more and more willing to follow their inner promptings. Do you see this? I think back during Nam this awakening of what 'service' meant and how best to do that, was just in its infancy. And so the overall behavior tended to be equally immature and unsorted.

Also, perhaps now, soldiers are feeling more empowered due to the overall anger, unconstitutionality and disillusionment in our leadership/policy and a much increased support for the troops.
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-03-07 03:08 PM
Response to Reply #40
41. I'm not at all 'special' - no more than 2.5 million others and a lot less than most.
Edited on Sat Mar-03-07 03:24 PM by TahitiNut
I had it comparatively good in Nam. I wasn't slogging in the boonies on a LRRP. I wasn't at some I-Corps firebase. I was at the largest military installation in South Viet Nam, working right next to the General's compound - a collection of small ranch-style homes surrounded by its own fortified perimeter. I got out early, about 7 weeks before my normal DEROS and 20 weeks before I'd served a full 2 years. Nixon was 'pacifying' the voters and bringing home guys who'd otherwise get back during or shortly after the holidays - so they could be with their families for those holidays. I even got to spend 4 weeks in Hawaii on TDY because of the classified and critical nature of the system I was designing, and another week on R&R. (The flip-side is, of course, that I had to go to Viet Nam three times. It was bad enough the first time.) I only had to fire at 'the enemy' once. I really don't know how I would've handled being a combat arms grunt - infantry or artillery.

I once had the naive notion that I could speak for those whose experiences were far more traumatic - that I had just enough experience to understand but not so much that the attempt to speak of it was too painful. I soon learned how naive I was to think so. Not only are others more comfortable with their already-adopted positions and beliefs, we can really only begin to comprehend our own experiences - where, at the heart of any combat experience, the feeling is one of being alone, facing an inner terror. Each person deals with that by himself. The comradeship is very important - if only because that feeling need not be explained.

I think that one of the other common experiences of those of us who returned - maybe particularly those of us who had it comparatively good - is "survivor's guilt." (I needed assistance understanding that.) After I got back and confronted a dissolved marriage and being a pariah, self-destructive thoughts weren't uncommon. I guess it didn't matter who you were or what you did in Nam, there was a painful ambivalence about those who had it rougher. When I was given my early out, I felt a strange inner turmoil. Of course, like everyone, I wanted out and home - and repressed the feeling that I was 'abandoning ship.' That repressed feeling was persistent. So, even when people treated me rudely, there was that part that thought I deserved it. (Dealing with that affords me some sense of insight to the trauma of being an abused spouse.)

Again, however, this is NOT 'special' or, in any way, deserving of pity. (I don't feel pitiful - and I don't feel heroic. Just one of over 2.5 million guys - almost a million left alive today.)

That's the experience, though, that also anchors my firm belief that military service (indeed, national service) should be universal in this country - a burden shared by all in a democracy, not just the economically-coerced or the marginally sociopathic or the maladjusted or those without advanced education or those with a heightened sense of 'duty.' Or even just males. Or just straights. Everyone. But that's another position that has 'earned' me some appalling attacks on DU.

Now I'm just rambling. Enough. :hi:

P.S. Yes, I've entertained the notion of going back to Viet nam for quite awhile. I'm curious. But my 'healing' is about coming home. I have little doubt that's what Iraq War veterans will have to face, as well. We must remember that when they're treated badly - by protesters or by their spouses or family or the public - many will have a "survivor's guilt" (often deeply repressed) that will, to some degree, tell them that they 'deserve' that bad treatment. IMHO, that's why some commit suicide. It's not particularly because of some feeling of guilt for committing what we'd regard as a crime - as some on DU seem to believe - but the rather common inner feelings of returning troops.

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Dover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-03-07 08:43 PM
Response to Reply #41
42. What makes your story 'special' is that in speaking about your own
Edited on Sat Mar-03-07 09:33 PM by Dover
experience (rather than for others) and your long journey toward self understanding and inadvertently speak for many others. And with each story we share, with each signficant yet 'unspecial' strand we add, we weave our collective robe of many colors.
Our unique experiences are also what binds us to humanity. We are at once individual and archetypal...a beautiful paradox!

As regards survivor's guilt, I am reminded of the movie Ordinary People, which for me was about how our striving for "ordinariness' (ie. perfection) masks our very human journey, our wounding as well as the extraordinary experiences that shape and confirm our 'special' contributions to humanity. By suppressing these things we cut off the blood and tears and joy and lessons we are here to learn so that we can truly begin to live fully. The unexpressed guilt of the main character, who saved himself but couldn't save his brother, is also survivor's guilt. Because the military becomes a second family for most soldiers, it seems inevitable that surviving or leaving while the 'family' is left in harms way triggers an age old, even mythological dilemma. We continue to live the great Greek tragedies and comedies which were always understood as a means to connect us to our humanity by revealing to us our place in THE STORY.

TahitiNut, it is your inner integrity, compassion and commitment to your personal truth that makes your voice so invaluable at this time. We desperately need warriors whose mature souls and feet of clay are touch-stones, living models, and story tellers, during these tumultous times. In fact this is the role of our elders...a role that is squandered as insignificant at a time when we are so rudderless and disconnected from our roots.

You WERE there, a soldier, transformed from civilian.
You WERE a witness, a participant. You have a unique and intimate knowledge and perspective.
You made and do make a difference, your experiences both 'in country' and 'in life' are valuable, and you have a story to tell.

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malmapus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-12-07 06:34 PM
Response to Reply #38
45. Major, surely you know the reverse as well
Yes My Retarded Ass Signed Up
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OzarkDem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-06-07 07:06 PM
Response to Original message
43. Great posts
Thanks for the stories and pics. My cousin was KIA during the Tet offensive at Bien Hoa.

I do some posting and research at the Virtual Wall web site for my genealogy research. I'm always saddened by the messages of those who lost friends and loved ones in Vietnam and still feel the pain of their loss to this day. For the life of me, I cannot imagine putting our soldiers and their families through that pain for Bush's useless war in Iraq. I will never understand it and probably not forgive it, either.

Keep posting stories and pics.
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westerebus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-07-07 07:31 PM
Response to Original message
44. Baby shit.
That's what I tell those who were not there because they were not old enough to have been there. It's what they played with while we fought to save each other's lives. And screw the punk(s) for their disrespect, remember, it don't mean nothin'.
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