This video is very simple. It has little or no action in it, though all of that is certainly implied. Rather, it is an account from the “inside,” a revealing narrative of the inner realities that all of us who are combat veterans are familiar with.
It is told matter-of-factly, but the memories are still as alive as they were back then.
We were all kids back then. Some of us were drafted, like this narrator, but over 78 percent of us were volunteers. That distinction made no difference at all as we patrolled our ways through the dense, dark, and steaming jungles of most of Vietnam’s interior.
We all carried the same heavy loads. One load was that of our gear, the food, water, ammunition, detcord, claymores, and weapons that weighed up to 90 or a hundred pounds, depending on the missions and where you were going. The other load was the psychological load of the tensions, the overwhelming and strange mix of fears.
Would we behave courageously if and when the fecal matter hit the oscillating blade? For me as a Corpsman, it was always: Would I know what to do and do it well when the time came to take care of my wounded brothers?
All of that lived inside of each one of us during our times in the jungle, out in the enemy’s territory. All of that is part of the job, as they say.
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Even though most of us were young and often naive, it took only one firefight, one ambush, a few days of shelling in a long siege to know that we were not fighting for God and country, but for each other. We became close in our utter dependence on each other to survive the madness. We were defending each other’s lives, that was the most fundamental reality that we all came to know very quickly.
The most important people in the world became your small patrol team, your squad buddies, or the guy on either side of you in a firefight. You can hear this idea and attitude in the narrator’s words as well. We formed bonds in the heat and the stench and the bloody hell of wild war that are unlike any other human relationship.
Listen to this almost laconic narrator’s story and you may come to a little better understanding of why Vietnam combat veterans, indeed, combat veterans from any war, from WWII, to Iraq and Afghanistan, have such a bond with each other.
Though our combat experiences are different in kind and place, the experience of combat, of being under fire in an intense effort to survive the best efforts of the enemy to kill you, each one of us knows the meaning of the words, “No greater love in there than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” (Jn 15:13).
The Veterans Site expresses a deep and abiding respect for those who have fought together in the heat of battle for a good greater than themselves. In every generation, you were the best among us. We will never forget.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.