What is a Vietnam Veteran?

Discussion in 'General Conversation' started by tkishkape, Feb 15, 2008.

  1. tkishkape

    tkishkape New Member

    Gore, Okla
    What Is A Vietnam Veteran?
    By Dan Mauer

    A college student posted a request on an internet newsgroup asking for personal narratives from the likes of us addressing the question: "What is a Vietnam Veteran?" This was the reply from Vietnam veteran Dan Mauer

    Vietnam veterans are men and women. We are dead or alive, whole or maimed, sane or haunted. We grew from our experiences or we were destroyed by them or we struggle to find some place in between. We lived through hell or we had a pleasant, if scary, adventure. We were Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Red Cross, and civilians of all sorts. Some of us enlisted to fight for God and Country, and some were drafted. Some were gung-ho, and some went kicking and screaming.

    Like veterans of all wars, we lived a tad bit--or a great bit--closer to death than most people like to think about. If Vietnam vets differ from others, perhaps it is primarily in the fact that many of us never saw the enemy or recognized him or her. We heard gunfire and mortar fire but rarely looked into enemy eyes. Those who did, like folks who encounter close combat anywhere and anytime, are often haunted for life by those eyes, those sounds, those electric fears that ran between ourselves, our enemies, and the likelihood of death for one of us. Or we get hard, callused, tough. All in a day's work. Life's a bitch then you die. But most of us remember and get twitchy, worried, sad.

    We are crazies dressed in cammies, wide-eyed, wary, homeless, and drunk. We are Brooks Brothers suit wearers, doing deals downtown. We are housewives, grandmothers, and church deacons. We are college professors engaged in the rational pursuit of the truth about the history or politics or culture of the Vietnam experience. And we are sleepless. Often sleepless.

    We pushed paper; we pushed shovels. We drove jeeps, operated bulldozers, built bridges; we toted machine guns through dense brush, deep paddy, and thorn scrub. We lived on buffalo milk, fish heads and rice. Or C-rations. Or steaks and Budweiser. We did our time in high mountains drenched by endless monsoon rains or on the dry plains or on muddy rivers or at the most beautiful beaches in the world.

    We wore berets, bandanas, flop hats, and steel pots. Flak jackets, canvas, rash and rot. We ate cloroquine and got malaria anyway. We got shots constantly but have diseases nobody can diagnose. We spent our nights on cots or shivering in foxholes filled with waist-high water or lying still on cold wet ground, our eyes imagining Charlie behind every bamboo blade. Or we slept in hotel beds in Saigon or barracks in Thailand or in cramped ships' berths at sea.

    We feared we would die or we feared we would kill. We simply feared, and often we still do. We hate the war or believe it was the best thing that ever happened to us. We blame Uncle Sam or Uncle Ho and their minions and secretaries and apologists for every wart or cough or tic of an eye. We wonder if Agent Orange got us.

    Mostly--and this I believe with all my heart--mostly, we wish we had not been so alone. Some of us went with units; but many, probably most of us, were civilians one day, jerked up out of "the world," shaved, barked at, insulted, humiliated, de-egoized and taught to kill, to fix radios, to drive trucks. We went, put in our time, and were equally ungraciously plucked out of the morass and placed back in the real world. But now we smoked dope, shot skag, or drank heavily. Our wives or husbands seemed distant and strange. Our friends wanted to know if we shot anybody.

    And life went on, had been going on, as if we hadn't been there, as if Vietnam was a topic of political conversation or college protest or news copy, not a matter of life and death for tens of thousands.

    Vietnam vets are people just like you. We served our country, proudly or reluctantly or ambivalently. What makes us different--what makes us Vietnam vets--is something we understand, but we are afraid nobody else will. But we appreciate your asking.

    Vietnam veterans are white, black, beige and shades of gray; but in comparison with our numbers in the "real world," we were more likely black. Our ancestors came from Africa, from Europe, and China. Or they crossed the Bering Sea Land Bridge in the last Ice Age and formed the nations of American Indians, built pyramids in Mexico, or farmed acres of corn on the banks of Chesapeake Bay. We had names like Rodriguez and Stein and Smith and Kowalski. We were Americans, Australians, Canadians, and Koreans; most Vietnam veterans are Vietnamese.

    We were farmers, students, mechanics, steelworkers, nurses, and priests when the call came that changed us all forever. We had dreams and plans, and they all had to change...or wait. We were daughters and sons, lovers and poets, beatniks and philosophers, convicts and lawyers. We were rich and poor but mostly poor. We were educated or not, mostly not. We grew up in slums, in shacks, in duplexes, and bungalows and houseboats and hooches and ranchers. We were cowards and heroes. Sometimes we were cowards one moment and heroes the next.

    Many of us have never seen Vietnam. We waited at home for those we loved. And for some of us, our worst fears were realized. For others, our loved ones came back but never would be the same.

    We came home and marched in protest marches, sucked in tear gas, and shrieked our anger and horror for all to hear. Or we sat alone in small rooms, in VA hospital wards, in places where only the crazy ever go. We are Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, and Confucians and Buddhists and Atheists--though as usually is the case, even the atheists among us sometimes prayed to get out of there alive.

    We are hungry, and we are sated, full of life or clinging to death. We are injured, and we are curers, despairing and hopeful, loved or lost. We got too old too quickly, but some of us have never grown up. We want, desperately, to go back, to heal wounds, revisit the sites of our horror. Or we want never to see that place again, to bury it, its memories, its meaning. We want to forget, and we wish we could remember.

    Despite our differences, we have so much in common. There are few of us who don't know how to cry, though we often do it alone when nobody will ask "what's wrong?" We're afraid we might have to answer.

    Adam, if you want to know what a Vietnam veteran is, get in your car next weekend or cage a friend with a car to drive you. Go to Washington. Go to the Wall. It's going to be Veterans Day weekend. There will be hundreds there...no, thousands. Watch them. Listen to them. I'll be there. Come touch the Wall with us. Rejoice a bit. Cry a bit. No, cry a lot. I will. I'm a Vietnam Veteran; and, after 30 years, I think I am beginning to understand what that means.
  2. tkishkape

    tkishkape New Member

    Gore, Okla
    I am a Vietnam Veteran...

    I awaken each morning with the nightmares of war still fresh in my mind. If I made the decision to watch an action movie the night before featuring military actions, I didn't sleep at all.

    I have PTSD

    One of my therapies is to talk about the experiences that I still carry in my memory... the idea is that if I no longer carry them as a secret, they won't haunt me. The problem is that the things that fill my nightmares are so horrible that I don't want to revisit the memory and dredge up the details.

    I have no problem writing or talking about the people that I had to kill in order to survive that day, but I cannot get past the point where the victim's eyes showed the concious realization that he was dead or dieing. My fallen firends perish every night again and again and I never am able to save them. I survive, they don't, and sometimes I ask "Why didn't I die too?"

    This brotherhood is filled with men and women that faced similar situations. I am not alone. I know it...

    I need help.

    I want to create a special circle of friends to help each other through our tribulations and nightmares. Please, please contact me and we'll all have a new opportunity to heal.

    Thank you.

  3. brother hilljack

    brother hilljack New Member

    Shelbyville, TN
    Great post, we have to always remember the ones who came before us and try to live with the same honor as they.
  4. olefin

    olefin New Member

    Great post!

    We visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, also the Korean War Memorial and WW2 Memorials in DC.

    Also been to the First Vietnam Veteran Memorial located near Eagle Nest, NM.
  5. plainsman

    plainsman New Member

    Great posts, thanks.
  6. Veets

    Veets Member

    Very moving. Thanks for sharing.
  7. cathooked

    cathooked New Member

    north carolina
    great post! as a veteran myself,ill never forget that all gave some and some gave all for the freedom we enjoy today,i salute all.......all vets have a bond that no one can explain.
  8. Pirate Jerry

    Pirate Jerry New Member

    Yulee Florida
    I remember , welcome home Brothers !!!
  9. ronlyn239

    ronlyn239 New Member

    I served in Vietnam in '63 and '64 before the war really involved Americans, except as "advisors". I saw no one killed in combat, and actually, since the Vietnam era was from August '64 onward, I am not technically a veteran.
    Yet the memories of that era, the needless waste of lives to defend a nation that didn't care who ruled them...communist or democracy...still haunt me.

    I have been to the wall, and people from my hometown that I knew have their names on there. I think of what they might have become, the children who never knew their fathers, or indeed, those children who never were. What a horrible waste. I love that old Statler Brothers song, "More Than A Name on the Wall." It pretty much says it all.........The Wall is an emotional experience that no one from my generation will ever forget.
  10. chambers bd

    chambers bd New Member

    These fine brothers and sister's made a great difference for all of us, you know any time you see a veteran is great time for a heart felt thank you. Thank you

    I never forgot you, nor shall I or my family, God Bless You and yours.
  11. jholl949

    jholl949 New Member

    Mannford. Oklah
    I spent three tours aboard a ship in VietNam. Saw a lot of smoke and fire from a distance. Went to DaNang for supplies a couple of time without incident.
    Had General Quarters sounded once for a sanpan floating too close (unmanned) and was surprised when we blew it to smithereens when we shot it with a .50 caliber machine gun. Must have had explosives attached somewhere.

    I served from 1967 to 1969 and was indirectly involved in the Hue Offensive.
    I remember seeing the glare and hearing the USS New Jersey firing away those big 16" guns toward North VietNam even though we were over the edge of the horizon from her at about 70 miles away. Still a loud bang!!

    I, like most of the men aboard my ship, just wanted to get it over and get out. I suffer no ill effects but know many men who do. These vets need our help, our support, and most importantly, our prayers. They are the forgotten casualties of a forgotten war.

    The USA now has normalized political relations with VietNam as though that will take away the pain these men feel......
  12. catfish kenny

    catfish kenny New Member

    My dad was a korea and nam vet.....I never served but now I look back wish I did....My hat is off to all vetrans thank you all for allowing me to have what I have.And those that gave it all need to be rembered.........You boys did it all-gave alot and come home getting disrespescted...(WICH WAS SO WRONG) and I dont think anyone knows except who was there so ......!
    Albert this is a good post and Thank You !
  13. Wabash River Bear

    Wabash River Bear New Member

    What is a Vietnam vet? Being born in "62" I have vague memories of that era, growing up in those times. I cant tell you what it took to be a Nam vet, or what it was like to be there or come home from there. What I can say is in those days we said the Pledge of Allegience every morning before class, we did weekly "duck and cover" drills in the hallways, and my parents taught me to repect the flag, our country, and those who serve her. So when you pose the question "what is a Vietnam vet", I answer, its a person to be treated with honor, respect, and the same dignity we gave to veterans of popular wars like WWI and WWII. The Vietnam vets didnt choose that war, it was thrust upon them. The question should be, why did it take nearly 25 years to give these men and women their due, and the help they need.
  14. arkrivercatman

    arkrivercatman New Member

    My Dad was 101st Arbn Rngr ansd served in Vietnam.I know he seen some crazy things as he has told me some, but not close to all.When I was real young I can remember him having flashbacks.I knew then that my Dad had been to hell and back.He served towards the end of the war.He passed away two years ago and I know firsthand that this country is not taking care of its veterans as it should.Veterans of all wars, past,present and future, need care for the wounds they have,both mental and physical.They are the ones who live everyday with scars no one sees.
  15. chambers bd

    chambers bd New Member


    May he rip now that he has been called home, you know he was a great man. thank your family for me next time yall get together
  16. Arkansascatman777

    Arkansascatman777 New Member

    My hats off to all the men and women in all branches of the service past and present. We would not be free to do what we do if it wasn't for the job all of you have and are doing :cool2:!! You have probably seen some pictures I have posted of one of my uncles that fishes with us regularly. He is also a Vietnam Vet and I am proud to have the oppurtunity to take him fishing:cool2:.