July 1968, me and my unit went on night patrol duty near a delta outside of Da Nang. Two hours into our patrol we ran into a huge platoon of NVA troops. A firefight ensued. The fighting was intense. We lost five guys in my unit and several others were injured badly. Again, I escaped with only a bruise on my left thigh. This firefight scared me the most. It was dark, and all you could see were tracers from machine guns. I was sure one of those bullets had my name on it.
After that incident, the remainder of my tour was uneventful. I carried out other seek & destroy missions against enemy troops, but saw no action. During the seek & destroy missions, I enthusiastically carried out my duties as a pointman, and where ever else I was assigned. I served in the Vietnam theatre of operations for 13 months. During my combat duty in Vietnam, I lost many close war buddies, and witnessed many American soldiers die in major firefights with Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops. As a result, I struggled daily from survivors’ guilt. My buddies died in combat and I, for the most part, incurred no major injuries. I experienced many life-threatening battle situations, and egregious life-sustaining scenarios while in the combat zone of Vietnam. I think about those events constantly.
LIFE SINCE THE TRAUMATIC EVENT(S)
When I left Vietnam and flew back to the states I remember being relieved and at the same time depressed and angry. I was glad to leave combat, where I lost many buddies and saw horrible things that no one should be subjected to. I was extremely sad as well. I was sad that some of my buddies would never be returning to their families, and I was really sad knowing that I was leaving some of my buddies in harms way. When I got back to the states I was pissed. People called me a baby killer, war monger, and death machine. People who knew nothing about the war thought I was an animal and it made me very angry.
As a result, I found that I could not tolerate being around people, not even my family. Strangers who knew I served my country treated me with disdain. My family treated me like I had a disease. They were afraid to talk to me, and when they did muster up the courage to talk to me they always seemed to say the wrong thing. I go to bed angry and afraid most nights. Angry that my military experience in Vietnam has caused many problems for me. And afraid to go to sleep because the nightmares of Vietnam scare me badly. My brain cannot tell fact from fiction and when I have dreams about Vietnam it’s like I am re-living those horrible firefights I used to have in Vietnam. Daily, I find myself checking my windows, my door locks, and checking under my bed for intruders. I learned those skills in the Marine Corps, but my third wife seems to think I have lost my mind. She calls me paranoid.