So many of us have been quiet about that war for oh, so long. We who have survived are old now. We are in our mid sixties to early seventies … those of us who are still alive. We were young when we were soldiers in that hellhole called South Vietnam. Being soldiers changed most of our lives forever. Most of us loved our country when we were young soldiers, and most of us still love our country. We did our job in a brave manner even though we were scared stiff, and even though we didn’t know it. We were obligated to go to Vietnam and obey our orders once we were there … regardless of the consequences.
Many of us were just eighteen or nineteen years old, and many of us were twenty to twenty-five years old as well. We bonded together when we were ripped apart in battle, and many of us never saw each other again … we cried and we were mad—very mad. Those guys were our brothers, we lost them just like that, and we still wonder WHY. To this day, we cry when we think of them. But the dying from that war—our war—has not stopped!
I have been to the funerals of too many Vietnam veterans in the last ten years; some were from my platoon. All of them died very prematurely from poisons or stresses handed to them, compliments of our war. Over there in Nam, we were never given the opportunity to say good-bye. This is why I try to make as many Vietnam vet brothers’ funerals as I can, no matter what part of the country, to say good-bye. To this day I still dread good-byes.
Those of us who have survived by fate or chance have tried to push our memories into the farthest corners of our minds and keep them locked up. For the most part, many of us succeeded in doing that … for the most part.
The years have zoomed by, all of a sudden it seems. We are no longer young, but most of us are still soldiers. Something strange is happening to many of us, something we are having a difficult time understanding and dealing with. Those memories that we thought were locked up in a remote part of our brains have been breaking loose and running rampant into our daily thoughts and our nightly dreams.
Some of us want to open up, but still there are so few who will listen—just like it was when we came home from Vietnam. My memories have resurfaced, and I can’t put them back into the remote corners of my brain. It has been painful to write this book, and I did quit several times. But I had to finish it. I just had to try to tell America what we went through over there … what we are going through now, and alert people to what our brothers and sisters from the Gulf-Afghanistan-Iraq wars are going to go through.
Many of us remain bitter. Many of our brothers lost their ability to work and became part of the homeless population and are unable to take care of themselves. There are thousands of us totally disabled—from physical and mental wounds. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans have died an early death while disability claims were pending—leaving behind their families. Therefore, another reason for this book is to try to help preserve Vietnam veterans who are still alive!
Many of us have come to believe that the VA has been deliberately stalling our disability claims, hoping we will just grow weary and quit fighting—or just die. Thus, the cliché came about … DENY, DELAY … TILL YOU DIE! Maybe so. But a lot of our Vietnam vet brothers fought the VA long and hard. And because they did, things are so much better now than they were in the 1970s and 1980s.
Comrades, again I say this … WE DID NOT QUIT OVER THERE UNDER THE WORST CONDITIONS IMAGINABLE, AND BY GOD, WE SHOULD NOT QUIT NOW!
Personally, from what I have heard and witnessed on a firsthand basis, the VA has come a long, long way, and I think they will continue to get better. But—you know what? It just seems as though nothing ever gets changed or improved upon when it comes to the government unless there is some major OUTRAGE to force changes!
Vietnam vets were a tough lot over there. Those of us who have survived should be even tougher in our elderly state—BUT MANY ARE NOT! I’m afraid many of us have become passive, and in some instances, we just don’t give a damn anymore.
Sometimes I get frustrated when hearing about another Nam vet who doesn’t want to talk about it. I know the pain, but if more of us don’t open up and talk about it, more of us will die leaving untold stories. Please, talk about it on behalf of all those who are not here today. Yes, we are fading away, my fellow Vietnam veteran brothers, as old soldiers do. I personally do not want to leave this world just yet. I do not want to leave it without attempting to tell our fellow Americans one more time what happened over there … and what is happening to us now.
It is true that our fellow Americans, and America itself, are much better off when the sacrifices of America’s brave warriors are known by many. America needs to know. So please read the book, read it again, share it, and tell your story to someone.
When I told a non-Vietnam veteran who served for the U.S. Army during the DMZ Conflict in South Korea about this book, his quick response to me was this:
Dusty, you had better write and publish that book as soon as possible because I read where Vietnam veterans are actually dying at a faster rate than World War II veterans!