Saturday, February 23, 2013

Day 1: Can I go home now?

For some people, the thought of going to a completely different country and traveling along its roadways to see its cities, towns and people who live there with all expenses paid sounds like a dream come true.

Except for a couple of real world facts:

  1. From the point where the aircraft can get shot down arriving to 365 days later when the aircraft can get shot down leaving, you have a 50/50 chance of going home in a body bag.
  2. The enemy wasn't the only thing who might kill you. If it moves and it can penetrate your skin with metal or venom, it could kill you too. 
  3. You are about to live in a soup of daily malaria pills, no plumbing, little to no hot water, unbridled prejudice, and the stench of burning human waste.
  4. Any rank below E-6 meant you were just a body with hands and feet able to fill sand bags, burn human waste and perform tasks the recruiter never talked about.  Because had he only an insane idiot would have signed up for this insanity.

While landing in Vietnam, you could see the stillness in the air a black plums of burning diesel rose strait up into the air, all kinds of airplanes and helicopters could be seen flying about like reckless swarm of bees that weren't sure what stirred them up.  The sandy red ground was scarred with spots where bombs went off and sandbags and psp created sanctuaries for helicopters and hooch's for the men.

Once on the ground and all the returning Vets sensed no hostiles were about to attack them, everyone debarked the aircraft in a calmer, sober manner. A remarkable difference in some of the men who were so drunk upon departure that they had passed out and slept through half the flight to Nam.

The air had a remarkably dry smell to it tainted with the exhaust of turbines and jet engines.

The Vets went their way and the rest of us were paraded into a makeshift building whose stories were told by the signs of burnt wood and shrapnel holes. A sober reminder that a few never passed this point with their lives in tact.

So, from the moment you landed in Vietnam, your best friend was your ability to understand and do your best in a totally hostile world that wanted you dead.

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