Always willing to share her treats with her brother, Emily offers Baxter some of her milk, straight from the sippy cup...
The Vietnam war is incomprehensible for most of us, but thanks to the story shared by this brave Marine, who fought in 1965, we are able to get a glimpse into the past. While we will never truly know what it is like to be submerged into a violent war filled with terror, we can learn to appreciate our vets who still struggle so many years later, with the memories that haunt them. These are the words of Dan Kendall, United States Marine Corps, 1965...
Twenty-five years have passed and I have finally made it to a place called “The Wall.” It has been said that all Vietnam Veterans must make a trip to this place to complete the cycle of healing. We all go and hope we do not find those names of friends to whom we never got to say goodbye, but as you look at panel after panel your worst fears and realized, here on panel 2-E is your friend’s name with a diamond beside it, stating he was killed in action. Looking further down you see the name of the man you never got to know but knew him only as the NFG (new fucking guy), his name was Miller, but a cross is after his name.
We never recovered his body so the government has listed him as a MIA. Sudden guilt overwhelms you and the question we all ask ourselves is “did we do everything possible to save our fellow brothers?” This question will only be answered when we meet in heaven.
My aim was to help you feel the emotion that draws so many people to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial every year. Another speaker asks all of us to register, and vote for those who aren’t with us today. For you see “the price of freedom is written on the wall.”
In previous speeches you have been asked to use your imagination to reach exotic and faraway places, but tonight I will ask you to travel back into time. To learn why the Vietnam memorial has become a symbol of this country’s most emotional and controversial memorial in Washington D.C.
I ask of you to try to visualize the life of a nineteen year old who was in Vietnam in the year 1965. I am going to take you on a day and night experience of a combat soldier who was under constant emotional and physical strain.
Starting by waking up in a cold sweat, despite the heat, and asking the same question that he has asked every day since he arrived “in country.” This will be the same question that is on every soldier’s mind “Will I survive this day?”
As I wake up this morning to go on a company sized patrol knowing my squad will be leading the point on this mission. My best friend, Miller, will have the lead point in our platoon.
A light mist covers the rice paddies as we begin to cross toward our main objective, the village of Chu-Lai. Our worst fears ring out as the point receives incoming fire and the call for a corpsman rings back through the company. We know there has been casualties, but we do not know how bad or who.
As the rest of the company moves up to secure the village, those who were hit have been evacuated, leaving us not knowing if they’ll live or if they’ll die. As the adrenaline wears off we are all left with the anger of not knowing or being able to say goodbye to our friends.
Returning back to base camp from the day patrol, there is no time left to dwell on the emotions that have carried you through the day. Now you must forget the day's events and prepare yourself for the worst mission of a combat soldier. This is the night listening post where you are alone in the jungle as an early warning system for your company.
As the sun slowly sets, you inch your way out to your position where you observe the jungle as it will your friend, or your worst enemy during the long night. As you set in knowing that you have men on your left and right, but there is a NFG who has had no prior experience in combat and you begin to worry if he’ll make it through the night. Suddenly the darkness is broken by gunfire and a loud explosion coming from the direction of the NFG’s position.
You remain still so as not to be discovered and are afraid that the pounding of your heartbeat will give you away to the enemy. Finally dawn breaks, with the knowledge that you have made it through one more day.
Finally the day comes that you’re a short timer and you get on the freedom bird for home, but the question you always ask yourself is “What happened to your friend Miller and the NFG?”
Emily loves to crawl across her furry brothers. Every now and then, she decides to take a break on Brody. (No newfs were harmed in the taking of this photo)...
So sorry for the delayed Newfie Newsroom post this week. Vacation and visitors has got this newf family backed up! Without further ado, I present to you a naked baby kissing her furry brother...
This account from an anonymous veteran, offers solid information on what someone with PTSD struggles with. Vivid flashbacks, self-medication and self-inflicted pain are just a few of the many issues our vets have to deal with.
I am 42 years old. When I was 21 years old I was in the Air
Force as a Security Policeman. I was deployed to an extremely impoverished 3rd
world country. I was there for 95 days and 16 hours. During my time there I
witnessed poverty I did not know was possible.
There was no infrastructure, no police, no firemen, no EMS. In most homes and
what businesses existed, there was no running water. People defecated and
urinated out in the open in the streets. There was no trash service, so people just
piled there trash anywhere they could. The area we were in was infested by rats
and wild dogs. Violence and death were every day occurrences.
It is painful for me to describe the incidents that caused me to have PTSD, so I will
be general and brief. I was part of multiple physical altercations. I witnessed acts of
violence perpetrated on children from toddlers to teenagers. I bent the rules
whenever the opportunity to exact justice through violence presented itself. I
became another person whom I did not know or would have ever wanted to know.
When I came home we were placed in a room together with our First Sergeant, a
Chaplain, and a doctor who explained if any of us were having trouble sleeping or
needed to talk to someone to speak up. He prefaced this with the statement we
could lose our badges, guns, and security clearances if we felt too overwhelmed by
anything we had dealt with. No one of course said anything as we were all fine. I
was far from fine.
I could not sleep. I could not explain to my wife or anyone else what I had done,
seen, or kept someone else from doing. Only people who were there would
understand. We were all mostly separated by shifts etc, so it was not easy to hang
out as a group. I began to drink as much as possible as often as possible. Alcohol
seemed to be the only thing that would allow me to forget or take away any
inhibitions I had about telling people they had no idea how easy their life was or just
pick a fight for no particular reason. I drank to pass out as it was the only way I
found I could get a decent night’s sleep.
This behavior went on for about a decade or so. I almost destroyed my marriage,
but thankfully my wife stayed by my side no matter how ugly I got. Back then you
really didn’t hear much about PTSD. You certainly didn’t talk about it with anyone. I
knew something was wrong within a couple weeks of being home. I started seeing
someone around my house that I knew for a fact was dead. I could hear screams
where there weren’t any, and I had extremely vivid flashbacks. I almost left out that
I began to cut myself and put a gun in my mouth from time to time.
The booze wasn’t working anymore and was making all aspects of my life miserable.
I sought answers from a church pastor and got some sense of being forgiven for all I
had done and the nightmares, flashbacks, etc got fewer and further in between.
Different movies or news stories would be uncomfortable for me, but I thought I was
dealing with whatever my problem was pretty well.
I had a close family member die in Afghanistan. Something within me broke. Every
day it became harder and harder to get out of bed. The flashbacks, ghostly visitor,
and new symptoms of PTSD showed up with the force of a freight train. I always
thought panic attacks were fake and to be honest people with PTSD were just weak.
Then I had my first panic attack and I knew I was horribly mistaken. I began to eat
junk food any and all of the time. Even though at the same time I was trying every
extreme work out like Crossfit and becoming addicted to it until I physically broke
from constant work outs, drinking, binge eating, and not sleeping.
I began to panic at work in my civilian job and on training weekends with the
National Guard. I would have fits of rage with my small children and some days off
never got off the couch until I had to go to the bathroom or get more beer. I was
heavily involved in my church and very tight with the pastor and my small Bible
study group. Suddenly I couldn’t stand to be around them. I felt worthless and
weak. I was beyond God’s redemption or help. I stopped speaking to everyone by
phone and would only text or email.
I began pulling away from all friends and family. I asked a friend at work that I
knew was seeing a therapist and I began seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist
probably three years ago or so. At first I refused to be medicated, but after reserving
a hotel room to kill myself in, I decided I would do anything to stop feeling this way.
The drugs have certainly helped. I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD, Severe
Depression, and Severe Anxiety. It turns out that holding onto to twenty years of
trauma, guilt, anger, and sadness actually physically changes your brain. As we
process the events of my life I have good days and bad days. The bad days are much
fewer and a lot less bad. I have memory problems now and the occasional flashback.
I mostly panic about having a panic attack, but I’ve been taught how to cope with all
of these things.
I absolutely never understood what PTSD is. I’m not sure how the general public
perceives it. I do know civilians seem to fear it, like a veteran may be “crazy” or is
apt to “flip out.” Veterans that don’t have it still generalize it and find it suspicious at
best and fake weakness at worst. I hold a very successful corporate job, and people
close to me there are aware I can be a bit moody, but they have no idea I have PTSD.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s like walking around with a deadly disease that no
one else can see. You don’t want to think of yourself as disabled unless you have a
limb missing, but I know now that I am somewhat disabled. There are certain
situations that are dangerous to me, and I will never be the young man I was before
my deployment ever again. I’m not even sure who that was. I do know that I am
stronger than I ever knew.
Things that help me cope are being at my kids sporting events, traveling, being in
nature, and being a beer snob. I don’t like to feel like I can be conquered by alcohol.
So I learned to drink not to get drunk, but to sample well-crafted beers of the world
and quit before I hit the line. I love being around my dogs. They always know when
I’m having a “moment” and they always make me feel better. I listen to a lot of
music and read a lot of books.
If I were to give advice to someone who think they suffer from PTSD, it would be to
go talk to a professional about it right now. I was scared to death to tell my closest
friends that I’ve been hanging out with since Junior High. After a year or two of
therapy I got them all together and told them everything I had been going through
and why I had distanced myself from them and had a hard time being in different
social situations. That made me feel so much better and took so much pressure off.
I then told my extended family through a letter. All of the people in your life who
truly love you, will understand. They will help you if you let them. I would also urge
them to check out Jesus and His message of hope. If that’s a stretch find something
spiritual in your life.
Warning: This post contains graphic descriptions
I thought about what I would title this post, but after some heavy brainstorming, I realized that a fancy title couldn’t possibly do justice for this one Vietnam Veteran’s account of war. What you are about to read is honest and graphic, and as I can imagine, it was very difficult to explain in words, but this anonymous vet did a respectable job explaining the terrors of war and how it causes PTSD. I only hope that this can bring the realities of war to the surface and instill some appreciation for our veterans.
18 March 1970
I think it very important that I put this event into perspective, as to when it happened during my tour of duty, which was the early part of my second month in combat. This event really brought home the horror of war, and that no one is physically or emotionally “ready” for the aftermath of emotional strain. I was the new kid on the block. They had a nickname for the “new meat.” They were sarcastically referred to as “F.N.G’s,” (Fucking New Guys.) If you were an F.N.G. you were lower than pond scum. They wouldn’t even call you by your given name. You had to earn the respect of your fellow soldiers, which for many guys, because of the combat environment took about three months. You were assigned every shit detail there was, that included the stirring and burning of human waste stored in fifty gallon barrels from under outhouses, at forward fire bases. My nickname early on was “Alphabet,” because I had a long name that no one could pronounce. Later on once I was accepted as a human being, and part of the army unit, a soul brother who I bunked with back at the fire base, gave me the nickname “Foxie,” and it stuck the rest of my tour. I have two close friends that still call me “Foxie” today. Go figure.
Prior to the death of four soldiers killed on 18 March 1970, I had been in a combat environment where soldiers had been killed and wounded, but I didn’t feel an attachment or closeness to these casualties. On 18 March 1970, two of the four killed were F.N.G’s like myself. I had known these two brothers from Louisiana, who were 18 and 19 years old. I had first met them in January of 1970 at American Division Headquarters in Chu Lai, where all new in-country soldiers go through a two-week in-country orientation that tries to orient and teach what will be expected of you, once you’re assigned a new job. Sort of like on the job training, for kill or be killed. This may sound crass, but it was the reality of war. It was who we were, where we were, and what we were about to embark on. This wasn’t the movies, John Wayne, the six-o’clock news back in the world. The world was what we called America, and that was a place a lot of us wouldn’t return to, and for those of us who were lucky enough to go back home to America, we would forever be changed from our experiences. I didn’t think a lot about my survival in Vietnam prior to 18 March 1970, but once this even took place, my outlook for my future changed dramatically, and not for the better. The event brought into focus how quickly death can and does happen. We were now not in control of our destiny. Shit ass luck can play a vital role.
My first time getting shot at, I messed up big time and it was a typical fucking new guy mistake. We had started to receive R.P.G.’s and small arms fire from what appeared to me as an “L-shaped ambush.” This is when you enter into an area called a kill zone. The enemy is firing at your position from two different angles, and if you’re not careful with your return fire, you can end up shooting at your own soldiers, from your own weapons, and this tactic is what the enemy wants you to do. During this ambush, my track commander took a grazing wound to his neck that started a large gushing of blood. He couldn’t stop the bleeding and he was more concerned about returning fire than stopping his bleeding that by this time had sprayed my face, arms and front of my shirt as I was right behind him on top of our armored personnel carrier. I took my field dressing from my pouch and wrapped it around his neck to stop the bleeding. He was having a hard time breathing and in the excitement had partially swallowed his tongue and couldn’t talk but gave the universal choke sign with his hand to neck area, and I was able to pull his tongue from his partially clogged throat. He was just one of many casualties that happened during this ambush. With help from two other soldiers we were able to put him in a blanket and get him to a medevac helicopter. We were in a rice paddy and the enemy was shooting at us the entire time. We were trying to run in water, which from the weight of a body slows you down anyway. The helicopter actually landed near our track but we still had to get our wounded on board. All the time that chopper was taking fire and very vulnerable waiting for us to get our wounded on board. We could hear the pinging of bullets going through that chopper. When we finally got my track commander on board we realized the door gunner and pilot were both wounded but the door gunner continued to fire his M60 machine gun and the pilot lifted off with three casualties from our platoon. The guy we put on that chopper did survive his wounds, spent about six weeks in a field hospital and returned to our unit for a brief time before he went home for good. We had a good laugh about this day when he came back but it’s a good story for his grandkids, if he had any. I thought I had accounted myself pretty good, after all I had stopped the bleeding, cleared his airway and with the help of two others, got him on the chopper, all while being shot at. What I didn’t even think about while this was happening was that I used my field dressing on the neck wound. I should have used his field dressing on his wound, that way if I had gotten shot. I wouldn’t have had any bandages for myself. The excitement of the event clouds your judgment but it was a valuable lesson nonetheless. The guys who had been there longer than me, had in no uncertain terms, explained how different things could have ended for me.
The one KIA I remember before 18 March 1970 was when the company commander’s track hit a land mine, killing his driver in a beach area near the South China Sea. I wasn’t close enough to see it, but that event would impact my entire tour, as I took that driver’s job, that same day. Not an easy situation to be put into but especially because I was still and F.N.G and still learning the ropes of combat. Being a driver is the worst job in a cavalry tank unit. You sit right next to the diesel engine, inside the track. Typical days are 100 plus degrees but inside that driver’s seat it feels like 120 degrees. When you’re driving a tank vehicle, your head sits above the body of the vehicle, thus making an inviting target for snipers. The enemy knows you kill the driver, the tank stops, and the tank becomes a sitting duck. The crew of a tank has to get the wounded body out, and a new body in to drive, to get mobile again fast. This all takes precious time and the enemy knows this. Most head wounds are fatal, and as a driver you rarely even get to shoot back, as it’s your job to drive and create a moving target, not a stationary one. A typical day, you might drive about 20 miles in 18 hours. For a car, 20 miles is a short ride, but in the jungles of Vietnam, there are no highways. What you have is triple canopy jungle, rice paddies, and hedgerows. Many times you can’ t see what’s ten feet in front of you and this unseen area could be mined. The mines are usually marked in some way but you have to know what you’re looking for and easily missed by seasoned vets.
Now to the events of 18 March 1970, now that you have a background of events and situations which led up to the actual incident of the APC hitting the land mine that obliterated an eleven ton vehicle and four of its crew. Even forty-three years later, my memory recall is fresh and visual. It was an especially hot day for Vietnam, probably around 110 degrees. We had just stopped for a short break in our day. It was early afternoon around 1:00pm and during our stop we got a briefing from our commanding officer. We were about to cross a large open area that potentially could be a good ambush site, one that could also be heavily mined. Looking back now, my company commander must have had a little Nostradamus in him, as the mined-potential area was about five minutes after he told us. The third track in our convoy hit a land mine, but when it happened I wasn’t aware of what happened. All I saw was a huge ball of fire about thirty yards to my front and the explosion was deafening to my ears. Maybe three seconds after the explosion, everyone in our convoy opened fire on the tree lines to our front and sides. We didn’t know until way after this explosion that no enemy was ever seen in the area but it was a natural reaction to just return fire to any suspect origin of fire. Within seconds of the landmine explosion, small fragments of flesh and metal rained down from the sky on top of our convoy, which was now stopped in place. A large piece of human flesh, not identifiable but clearly human, landed to the left of my APC. It was later explained to me that the piece of flesh in question was a human stomach. The centrifugal force of the explosion filled the stomach with air and then exploded, landing near my track. I’ve often questioned this theory, but at the time I was very green to combat. I suppose it was possible. I would see a lot more death and casualty during the rest of my year, but none would come close to what happened right in front of us that day. When we stopped firing our weapons it became deathly quiet. We formed all our vehicles in a circle and sent out patrols to investigate the tree lines. No enemy was ever seen before, during or after the explosion. Nobody was even talking to each other-just following orders and trying to cope with what had just happened. We were handed four body bags and about sixty of us lined up in a straight line leaving half of our force on our tanks and A.P.C’s while the sixty men on the ground policed body flesh into the body bags, not knowing which partial pieces of human flesh belonged to which individual killed. They choppered a chaplain to talk to our unit. We were all now survivors, but it wasn’t in our thoughts at that time. We really didn’t have a lot to say to each other for hours after this event happened. Knowing what I would later learn about shock, I think we were in shock at that time, lost in our individual thoughts. Slowly I started to hear from some guys that the fault of this explosion was with the driver of the vehicle, which was a natural reaction to place blame on a new driver. From my standpoint, knowing what I would later learn from experience, I can’t explain the blame on any one soldier. He could have done everything by the book and still get blamed for it. The reality of war is soldiers serve and soldiers die. Wrong place…wrong time. They did their best, they gave their lives. I was there, don’t judge them.
P.S. After all these years…still not easy to write about. Many have told me over the years that this trauma will get easier over time. Haven’t found that to be true.