He brings you throughout his life showing you, no. Showing cannot describe the feeling adequately enough. He puts you into his life, when he goes through the trenches, you go with him. When he hits a home run for little league you can experience, not the joy it brought him at the time, but the pain in remembering that joy now that he can no longer do those things. When he makes love with a woman in Mexico you can completely understand how stirring, meaningful and frightening the experience is for him.
This is a book about self discovery. From beginning to end, you see him struggling to survive life. He is constantly trying to be the best at everything. From the very start he was working out his arms trying to make himself bigger that way to make up for being to short. He joined the cub scouts with his friends and marched in the Memorial Day parade. He hit a home run his first time at bat in little league. When he grew he joined the wrestling team and constantly won first place in competition.
When he lost, it was so emotional that he would cry. He would do anything to be first, even if it meant incredible agony. You can always go further than you think you can. Kovic wanted so much to be a hero, to be all of his heroes rolled up in one. He would do anything to achieve that goal. The way that Kovic writes this book makes it even more incredible. He jumps around in his life, telling you things in, what I believe is, their order of importance to him.
He begins by describing to you the feeling of being shot and what is going on around him. You follow him through the sequence of being carried off the field, moved to a hospital, moved to another hospital. You can see him winning a medal of honor. He describes to you the other wounded soldiers around him, and while you feel for him, by taking a look around the room through his eyes you get a fuller picture of just how terrible this war was. He then skips around through his childhood, his birthday on the fourth of July, playing with his friends.
You can see just how good his life was.
It was perfect, what most kids would dream of, but he never felt that he was good enough. He always thought he could do more and he could never talk to girls. So on his graduation from high school, still trying to be the big hero he joined the marines because they were the best. You can see the comparison with drill camp and the wrestling coach. He gives a whole chapter to the drill sergeant yelling at them. It is an incredible chapter, filled with do this and do that and grow up, be a man, mixed thoughts, confused feelings and fear.
In everything he is confused about what to do next. While in the marines he could never decide if he wanted to go back home or stay. He could never decide whether or not he should go speak up about Vietnam. He could not decide whether or not he wanted to get married. He is constantly trying to become whatever it is he is to become. He knows he was kept alive for some reason and he is continually trying to figure out what that reason is.
Which brings me to another point in the book. In Apocalypse Now , the soldiers travel down a river which is symbolic of their exposure to the War. The farther they travel down that river i. It seemed as though the soldiers who saw heavy combat realized that being scared to die and being hesitant in war accomplishes nothing. And I am not afraid. As the main character of Platoon shoots down Vietnamese soldiers in a killing frenzy towards the end of the film , he exhilaratedly screams, "This is fuckin' beautiful.
Soldiers' feelings toward the Vietnamese. A constant throughout all of these movies is the derogatory manner used to speak of the Vietnamese. The terms "Vietcong" or "civilians" were seldom used to describe the Vietnamese people. Most often they were just labeled and referred to as "gooks" among the U. This suggests that the soldiers had little respect for Vietnamese people in general. Another issue conveyed through most of the films was the trust factor. The U. The soldiers did not know who to shoot and who to protect. Who could they trust for sure?
For example, the soldiers in Platoon walk into a civilian village and are frustrated because they cannot tell the difference between innocent civilians and the Vietcong. Out of fear and frustration, they begin to shoot some of the villagers. A soldier looking at a little old Vietnamese woman remarks, "I wonder if grandma runs the whole fuckin' show," referring to her being part of the Vietcong.
Some of the films portrayed the U. Killing these people meant nothing to the soldiers. They are the enemy, and even if they are just civilians, they are still "gooks" from which the enemy forces are born. In these films, the soldiers have no sensitivity or expression of emotion when they kill someone from the other side. For example, the unit leader in Apocalypse Now small talks about surfing as he walks through a battlefield of freshly killed Vietnamese soldiers.
This type of portrayal trivializes the lives of the Vietnamese and is meant to show us that the U. Other films portrayed the U. These films illustrated how the duty of war and the soldiers' fears and frustrations forced them to kill like any soldier would. Yet the killing is at least accorded a second thought.
These films did not portray the U. In one scene of Platoon , the main character is shooting at Vietnamese people in frustration. Yet the very next scene he is protecting a Vietnamese girl from getting raped. Contrasting these acts evokes the audience the range of feelings the U. In Born on the 4'h of July , the main character struggles psychologically with his memories of accidentally killing an innocent Vietnamese family. Yet another example is how the main character of Good Morning Vietnam becomes a friend to many Vietnamese civilians throughout the movie. These kinds of images and portrayals suggest that the U.
Alcohol and Drug Use. Drugs and alcohol were consumed in every single film. Most of the films had multiple scenes in which either the soldiers were smoking pot or drinking beer or hard liquor. Consuming the alcohol or doing the drugs was not portrayed as out of the ordinary; no one seemed to have a problem with it. In fact, it was portrayed to be widely accepted and practiced by all of the main characters in every movie, except for Forrest Gump.
Even the unit leaders in Platoon were smoking pot with the troops. In Apocalypse Now, the unit leader declares to one of his soldiers, "Nice shot. I'll get you a case of beer for that one. They were portrayed as one of the few pleasures or rewards soldiers received during the Vietnam War for a hard day's work. The drugs and alcohol usually seemed to be consumed for one of two reasons always. The soldiers were either using them casually in their leisure time for pleasure, or are more actively employing them to drown their sorrows and stresses from the war. Alcohol was consumed in every movie by at least one soldier for this latter reason.
In Platoon for instance, many soldiers in the unit would retire to what they called "the underworld," a tent where the soldiers could drink and smoke to relax and forget about the madness of the day's battle. In Apocalypse Now, Born on the 4 th of July , and Forrest Gum , the soldiers also abuse alcohol after they have left the War in their attempts to come to grips with what happened to them in the Vietnam War.
Regardless of the various reasons drugs and alcohol were employed in the movies, the scenes in which they were used are portrayed as one of the few times during the War that the soldiers were ever smiling and getting along with one another as a group. Media Effects. Surprisingly, many of the films portrayed how the media played a part in shaping the War and how the media had its own agenda. Some of the movies actually had film crews on the battlefields taking pictures and rolling live footage. In Good Morning Vietnam , the main character is a popular Vietnam radio disc jockey with thousands of soldiers as everyday listeners.
In Full Metal Jacket the main character is both a soldier and also a journalist for a newspaper. The films illustrate how media is as a tool to shape how the War was portrayed for both the soldiers and civilians back in the U. These portrayals of the War could either be in favor of the War and American involvement, or against our soldiers and the War. For example, a film crew in Full Metal Jacket interviews the soldiers for a program to show to the public back in the States.
They ask the soldiers, "Does America belong in Vietnam? It would promote people to be against American involvement. The newspaper editor in Full Metal Jacket acknowledged how the War was being portrayed back at home. He said, "We run only two kinds of stories here: Stories which win the hearts and minds of society, and combat action that results in a kill-winning the war. Before the disc jockey is permitted to read the news over the air and inform the soldiers in Vietnam of the latest developments, he had to first give it to radio officials who checked its content.
The officials would censor negative events out of the report, thus shaping the truth about what was really happening in the War. Though films are media in themselves, these Vietnam War movies seem to feel felt that, in order to give the most accurate portrayal, they should illustrate how the media at that time effected the way in which the War was viewed and accepted.
After the War. The films all suggested that the War had lasting effects on the soldiers who participated in it. All of the main characters were exposed to war, and all of them came close to being killed. Three were actually shot, and two were left without legs as a result of their participation in the War.
In the war we were killing and maiming people. How old is your kid? From the very start he was working out his arms trying to make himself bigger that way to make up for being to short. The narrative shifts back to first person for two pages as Kovic thinks of his tangible manhood, the beauty of women he is noticing on the beach, and the frustrating fact that he will never again have sex. Respectfully yours charlie lozon P. I just buried the last two in 6 months apart and they should of had a long time left but agent orange got 1 and the other drank himself to death and died in my arms.
Besides the obvious physical effects of participating in the Vietnam War, most of the films portrayed how exposure to the War left lasting psychological effects in most of the soldiers. Many factors during the Vietnam War combined to affect the soldiers' thoughts, emotions, and minds. They felt they could not trust any of the Vietnamese, which made them paranoid most of the time. They constantly feared death and were deeply traumatized as they saw their comrades being shredded to pieces by bullets and mines.
They were also frustrated and confused, not knowing exactly where they were going or how America was going to win the War. In the end, they all realized that their blood, sweat, and tears accomplished nothing; we lost the War. These films illustrated how all of these factors contributed to the psychological effects of the Vietnam War.
Some of the films portrayed soldiers who were being affected mentally even before they had left the battlefields. After a great degree of exposure to war and towards the end of the film, the main character of Platoon states, "Day by day, I struggle not only to maintain my strength, but my sanity. Many of the films portrayed how the psychological effects of war remained with the soldiers well beyond their stay in Vietnam. The veterans struggle to forget the painful memories and traumatic experiences.
The main characters of both Apocalypse Now and Born on the 4th of July have vivid flashbacks. These flashbacks would then remind them of the War's stress, confusion, and frustration, thus affecting their lives and families well after the War had ended. I've divorced my wife. All I can think of is getting back to the jungle.
One experienced soldier concludes, "You must make horror your friend. The traumatic experiences of the Vietnam War seemed to be too painful and intense to ever forgive or forget. The films illustrated how the stresses and ills of the War impacted its participants in such a way that they never could have the power to just let it go. The War had changed them forever. The main character of Platoon perhaps summed it up best when he said, "The War is over for me now, but it will be in me for the rest of my days.
Veteran Attitudes toward life at Home. Only three of the films depicted the life of a soldier after he had returned home. Born on the 4t" of July contributed the most information, with the majority of the movie being devoted to this particular topic. The other films concentrated on the lives of soldiers during their participation in the War. When it is portrayed, the post-war period for Vietnam veterans is portrayed negatively. Both Forrest Gump and Born on the 4 th of July illustrate how soldiers came home to anti-war protests and protesters.
The veteran in Born on the 4 th of July responds to this saying, "Love it or leave it you fuckin' bastards. They want to support their sons and brothers, yet seeing how they return from the War with permanent physical and psychological effects, the families tended to regret that American soldiers were ever involved in Vietnam. The Vietnam War altered the soldiers' views and perspectives in a way that only other veterans could relate to. They return home with sentiments such as, "Everything looks so different.
They cannot relate to normal life anymore, especially when no one can relate or understand what they have been through. Instead of being proud of their bravery and honor, civilians they encounter at home tell the veteran to "take your Vietnam War and shove it up your ass" Born on the 4 th of July. An old friend who went to college instead of the War tells the main character of Born on the 4 th of July how he and many other civilians at home felt after the War.
He says: "People here, they don't give a shit about the War. To them it was just a million miles away. We got the shit kicked out of us-and for what? For bullshit lies? Coming home to views such as these, veterans did not know how to react, what to think, or how to feel. All they knew is that they had risked their lives for their country and no one appreciated their efforts and courage. Instead of being glorified, their actions and contributions were protested in their faces. The initial response of the main character in Born on the 4t" of July is to stand strong to his beliefs in honor, loyalty, and pride.
He was not ashamed of losing his legs for such a noble cause, and he feels that the protesters of the War are simply ignorant and wrong. It seemed as though all he wanted to receive from those back at home was a pat on the back for his efforts in Vietnam. Yet that pat on the back never came.
Frustrated with the lack of respect he receives, he cries out, "I just want to be treated like a human being. I fought for my country. I am a Vietnam War veteran! Constantly surrounded by civilians who cannot relate to what soldiers went through or how they now feel, the Vietnam veterans began to succumb to the beliefs and views of those who did not go to the War. Instead of remaining proud of what they believe in and what they had fought for, the veterans in Born on the 4 th of July to gradually deteriorate and weaken in their stance.
They begin to hate the War as well. The main character admits that he would trade in the morals and beliefs that he had fought for to have his body back whole again. As time passes, he complains more and more openly about the problems the Vietnam War has caused him.
The film ends with the main character and many other veterans as anti-war protestors themselves, declaring statements such as: "They told us to go, we'd fight communism. The government is corrupt. They are killing our brothers in Vietnam. All three films that depicted life after the War showed how the veterans had problems not only physically and psychologically, but also socially.
Born on the 4th of July was a film devoted to these problems, illustrating how Vietnam veterans were at first self-assured and proud but over time became confused and bitter. The veterans are extremely desperate to make sense of it all. Perhaps the best example of this is when the main character woefully asked another veteran, "Do you remember things we could care about before we all got so lost? Personal Interview. Today, most people in the United States do not even know what a "C. It is a small, simple, blue badge worn by the members of a very exclusive fraternity.
This fraternity isn't academic or athletic or dedicated to making money. Yet, the admission standard was very strict. Not all the members of this fraternity wanted to join, but every single member paid the same dues.
The cost of membership was easy to understand. To belong, you had to be willing to kill other human beings and the only way out of this club was to die or go insane. The school was the University of South Vietnam and graduation was a bitch. The United States Army awards the "Combat Infantryman's Badge" to infantry soldiers who served in a combat unit, line crew, fire team, or in some other combat capacity during a time of war. Maybe it isn't the most famous medal or award but it is the most honored. Only the "Medal of Honor" is worn above this beautiful, hard symbol.
For the men that display this badge, the world is a different place and their perception of life and other human beings is a closely kept secret. Only their fraternity brothers know the truth or would understand the meaning. They witness life through different eyes now and their personal perspective is forever tinted with blood and pain and terror. Not everyone survived the initiation. The ones that did survive eventually filtered back to their homes and began life again. Trying to forget, trying to remember, these soldiers will always be haunted by the intensity, desperation and camaraderie of their tour of duty.
Some were welcomed home with open arms and others spit upon, but all were changed. Tens of thousands died, hundreds of thousands were wounded or captured while their friends and family sat each night and calmly watched this nightmare unfold on TV.
This summary of Born on the Fourth of July includes a complete plot into a full- length study guide to deepen your comprehension of the book and why it's. This was an extremely powerful book. Ron Kovic is very able to get his point across to the reader. He brings you throughout his life showing you, no Showing.
A dark time for this country that in some strange way defines us as a nation now. Because of these men and this violent time in our history we are, as a nation, even more decisive and aggressive when there are American lives at stake. Truly, this will be the only reward for this brotherhood of warriors and a lesson well learned.
Time is a blessed healer for these fighters but it is also a teacher for the country that asked of them more than should have been asked. Assimilated and made to disappear after the Vietnam war, this group of men are finally getting the chance to speak out and answer questions about their experiences. Dispersed throughout society, these aging combat soldiers now have sons the same age they were during the fighting. Sons and daughters that would judge for themselves the effects of war and peace on men and society. The following is an interview done with one of these soldiers.
My father, Eddy L. Stevenson, was drafted into the U. Army in February, Working and going to college part time, he did not meet the criteria of the draft deferment laws during this time and so found himself in basic Army training at Ft. Bliss, Texas. Since he had been a full time college student for the three previous years, he was one of the older draftees. He was almost 21 years old. After basic training he was shipped straight into infantry training at Ft.
Ord, California. There on the beautiful Monterey peninsula he was given instruction in the deadly art of mortal combat. The instruction was a gruesome eight weeks of physical abuse, emotional intimidation and weapons training given by experienced combat veterans. His platoon sergeant having served two tours in Vietnam was 21 years old and his company commander also two tours was 23 years old.
The company's first sergeant was an "old" man at 29 years old. In their offices hung many pictures and trophies don't ask me to describe these trophies of their tours of duty in South East Asia.
They were "stone killers", combined these three men had 70 confirmed combat kills. The training in the white sand of Monterey Bay was very hard and very serious. A fast trip home only to say "good-bye" and "I love you", he saw the terror in his family's eyes as he left. Two weeks and a few days later he stepped off a shaky Huey helicopter as a jungle warrior replacement. Every life has its darkest days and this was the beginning of an uninterrupted nightmare that lasted almost four months. His memories are somewhat faded now, out of sequence and softened, but still important, if for no other reason than to document a dark place where humans should not go.
Like all places, the jungles of Vietnam also had many names, " boonies", "bush", "Indian country", "he field". Some remembered phrases and words still provoke strong feelings for some of these men. The worst word was "contact". From small skirmishes to battalion size battles the killing was done with hatred and done wantonly. Can you imagine a tired, dirty, scared infantry company made up of twenty-year old draftees armed to the teeth and in a bad mood?
These were not the strike troops of the first years. These were not privileged sons, they were poor and middle class youngsters that could not avoid the draft. There were no volunteers in these combat units and the only thing that kept them in the field and together was fear and personal pride. They would rather have died than be called a coward and that is exactly what they did, die by the thousands. The conditions and quality of the American effort by this time are more than evidenced by one statistic.
If you walked out of the perimeter to do your latrine business you better make danm sure that you could get back in because a certain percentage of the kids on guard were most likely stoned, drunk or flat-out terrified. How's that for a nightmare? With this scenario in mind I interviewed my father about his tour of duty.
His response, while carefully considered, is certainly subjective and in no way represents the thoughts or feelings of all other veterans. He was assigned to Company D, 1st platoon, 1st squad and there began his tour of duty with eighty-eight other lost souls. As he stepped off the re-supply chopper he was directed to where his fire team was digging their fox hole for the night. There he met the "men" he would try to stay alive with for the next year: Sal, Birdman, Woody, Wolfman and the Cowboy.
Some seemed very young, others very old, but all were stone killers. My father describes it as a trip through the Twilight Zone, a Freddy Cruggar Friday the 13th movie and Disneyland all rolled into one. His three months in the field were spent during the dry season in the central highlands patrolling in a "free fire zone. Entire infantry companies were being over-run by sizable forces of NVA soldiers.
This intense experience came to a very sudden end three months later. He was wounded in action on August 28th, Delta Company was caught in an ambush and he was hit with rocket fire in both legs, right hip and left arm. Within the span of a very bad three hours, Delta company went from eight-eight soldiers down to twenty-one. He spent the next eighteen months in three different Army hospitals. Eighteen months, five operations and thirty pieces of rocket shrapnel later he was debriefed, discharged and sent back to Texas to begin his life again.
In the short debriefing he was asked only one question by the Army psychiatrist. The question was "I see from your file that you have confirmed kills, does this experience make you want to kill other people? I knew the answer to the first question of the interview but I wanted to confirm it anyway. To the question, why did you participate in the war, he answered, "I had no choice, I was drafted. I didn't really even know where Vietnam was or why we were there.
All I definitely knew was that friends, relatives and classmates were dying. I did not want to go and from what I saw and heard it was nothing but a political mess that for some unknown reason, continued endlessly. Although, once I was involved in the fighting it became personal. All I cared about was survival and I could have cared less about right or wrong, good or bad. Now, its a different story. I've had 30 years to evaluate and educate myself as to what really happened. Now, I know the truth. It sucked, it was wrong and all that will ever come of it is an expensive lesson in how politicians and government officials must be monitored and controlled.
Nine out of ten soldiers in Vietnam never saw combat or any violence. They were support troops, supplying rations, munitions, transportation, and etc. As a combat soldier, I wanted to know what his first reactions to the bloodshed and violence were. My reaction, like everyone else's was, oh shit, this is not good! How did I let this happen to myself and how am I going to get out of this! After the first few days passed, I realized I wasn't going to get out of it.
My reaction then was to adapt, whatever that meant, depressed, sad, scared to death, I wanted my mommie. Exactly like everyone else, I adapted to my situation. I very quickly found a peer group and followed their lead. It just so happened that my peer group was a fire team of six, year old boys that happened to be stone killers. I adapted. Just like you would, just like we all did, I slowly learned the art of hatred and wanton killing of the enemy.
I very quickly learned to hate dinks and gooks with every fiber of my being and relished the effort of killing as many as I could. They were trying desperately to kill me too. They hated us more than we hated them. The intensity of the these feelings is a little hard to look at but I wanted to know if this extreme level of emotion and violence still affected his life today, so I asked him if the war effected him mentally or physically.
He had much more to say when I asked how he felt about the Vietnamese people while he was there. I would have murdered them happily. My feelings about the civilian population bordered on venomous. Not only did I feel superior to them, the burning hatred in their eyes scared me. Soon after my arrival in Vietnam the truth was obvious. We'd bombed their cities, villages and country flat. We killed, wounded and maimed members of their families and raped their culture.
I often wondered how I would feel toward them if they had invaded the US and done to our country what we'd done to theirs. We invaded their land and took control of it and for years there was an army of , twenty year old fighters, armed to the teeth, in a bad mood, roaming all over their country. When you ask the Americans for help you better be careful what you ask for. It took me a little while to sort through those feelings but now I believe that my discomfort comes from the real hatred I saw on the faces of so many of the Vietnamese. I am still uneasy when I find myself exposed to a group made up of this race of people.
This may seem strange to say but I definitely am more tolerant of other races, religions and ideologies because of my time in Vietnam. I saw first hand that all people are the same. They all need and want the same things and will definitely kill other humans to defend their homes, families and interests. Culture, religion, ideas and theories may be different but none of that makes any difference anyway. All that counts is love of family, loyalty to quality behavior and protection of individual rights and freedoms.
All people, American or Vietnamese, react the same to these simple truths. While I was in Vietnam I definitely 'did not' see the quality in tolerant behavior and respect for other cultures, just the opposite. What I learned then was 'might is right' and whoever could bring the most fire power to bear was the superior race. Although, once I was safe and back to the world, the lesson was different.
The lesson I carried for the rest of my life is never, never underestimate any other human being. No matter how small, ignorant or uneducated they are, they are all capable of magnificent feats of sacrifice, bravery and indescribable violence. A common topic of discussion about the Vietnam War is the role drugs and alcohol played.
Was it as prevalent as is commonly believed? Why and how were they abused so badly by some of the troops in Vietnam? This was another topic about which Dad had solid thoughts. Not only that, but these twenty-year old men were going on seventy. What I mean is, that these child soldiers were making and enforcing life and death decisions daily and had given their very lives over to the fact that probably they weren't going to make it home alive anyway. They gave a damn about legal or ethical or right.
All they cared about was survival, peer group loyalties, friendship and then escape from the reality of this unending nightmare. Our time in Vietnam was probably unique in the history of warfare. These boys were conscripted and sent to hell by the most organized, legalized, controlled, powerful government to ever exist. There was no way out except to die in Vietnam, go to prison, or be branded a coward by your family and community. How dare anyone even ask a question about what was the right thing or wrong thing for these soldiers do. These were college kids, young workers and young fathers forced to police and kill other humans.
Whether to get stoned or drunk was a very minor issue to these men. Their lives and welfare, during this time, hinged on much more important issues than smoking marijuana or drinking Jack Daniel's or prostitutes, these were trivial pursuits. These were issues never thought of or cared about by combat troops. Discipline and order regarding these things was an internal matter and taken care of internally. What the world knew or approved of was invisible to these men. Only half the troops were heads a slang term soldiers used to describe people who used drugs or alcohol , the other half were very straight.
In Vietnam these powerful men were making individual decisions based only on what they needed and wanted at the time. Back in the world they found that their status was significantly less meaningful and much less valuable than it had been in the bush. This country tolerated and condoned their actions in the line of duty but back here it was outlawed. One reward we were given for the risk we faced there was individual freedom. When the risk ended so too did the right to react freely. When they returned home, their experiments in freedom of choice were forced underground, but we all knew it was for the best.
It was just going to take a while to get ourselves straight and back into the flow of our society. It is weird that many hardened combat vets could die from an OD on some dirty street somewhere in their own country. Again, only half the troops were heads, the other half were straight. The media, especially TV, was a significant player in the Vietnam War. Even today most of the information and history of this conflict is documented by film, video and news broadcasts of the day. I ask my Dad what he remembered of the media coverage before, during and after he was there. As I look back now I realize that there were so many reports and stories coming into our home that the truth was fairly apparent years before I went.
Maybe in the first years the press waved the flag and distorted the truth but not in the last years. I think the American public knew full well what was going on by the end and it was the massive amount of information shown by the media that finally brought the war to its end. The media had no effect on the line crews or any of the troops in Vietnam while they were there.
Incoming information was censored anyway. The strangest thing about all the media coverage was how callused the American people became to seeing the death toll statistics each day. Even as a child I wondered about it. What a nightmare it must have been for the parents and loved ones of the soldiers to see those numbers each evening on the TV news. I remember thinking to myself that for each casualty there was a mother and father somewhere. How much grief can one country bear each day? Or, maybe the only reason I even noticed was because I knew there was a good chance that I would have to participate in the fighting.
We've all seen and heard about the stereotypical combat vet that returns home and because of his deeply violent experiences can not find a normal life. Episodes of nightmares and emotional problems are commonly reported and documented among returning fighters. Yet, this can't be the norm or describe the feelings of the greatest majority of them. Most of them came home and resumed normal lives.
My father went back to the job he left and the life he'd begun as a young man. I asked him how his exposure to life and death combat situations changed him as a person. To be in a civilized environment, so far from all that bloodshed was a little confusing. I mean, it was hard to decide which world was real. Both were a part of my reality but now neither seemed steady or confident to me. Once bitten, twice shy. After the intensity of Vietnam, all I knew was I did not want to go back there but I also knew that the world I'd come home to was a fake.
I knew then and I still know today that safety and security are an abstract illusion. The citizens of this country take peace and prosperity for granted every second of their lives. Instead of causing nightmares and emotional problems the war changed my attitude and perception. The same boy that left Texas did not return. The violence and desperation of that experience taught me the essence of what happiness, physical safety and individual freedom truly is.
Now, I would endure it all over again to protect my family and their happiness, physical safety and individual freedom. Not fighting back was never an option where I was. The infantry company I was with worked in a 'free fire zone. This area was well marked and the purpose was clear.
These free fire zones were set up to stop the flow of munitions and troops into the more populated areas down south. Anything in a free fire zone was to be killed or destroyed and there were supposed to be no civilians in these areas. In these places there was no quarter given and none asked. They NVA didn't take prisoners here and neither did we. The short term effects of this reality were unbelievable. Again, that trapped feeling panic of how did I get here and how the hell can I get out of here stayed with me. Another short term effect was utterly human: adapt or die.
Again, I adapted and before too long began to find some calmness and a measure of comfort. I was surprised at how my fear began to subside. I must say the initial fear was overwhelming though and during an engagement the fear steadily grew worse. Mostly, other members of my company went home, some died. I desperately wanted the former and at the same time I was terrified it would be the latter. The long term effects of 'kill or be killed' are completely subjective.
Nothing that is justified is destructive emotionally. Obviously, all the killing in Vietnam wasn't j ustifiable, some was murder, some was accidental but all of the killing on both sides shared one commonalty.