Vietnam, A Veterans Point of View

Vietnam, A Veterans Point of ViewByOscar Elizondo

(There are many untold stories about the war in Vietnam and mine is just another one. However, each soldier faced a different battle because each mind saw it in a different way. Maybe one of those GI’s that fought alone side me saw something similar, but I don’t think he saw it with my eyes. So with all respect to the men that saw what I saw, felt like I did, suffered the same way I have, and still has the nightmares that has haunted us through the years, I believe this account will bring back some memories. Besides, you might be the only one that really understands what really happened way back then because these stories are not the ones that were ever told because of the guilt, or the fear that somebody might not believe us.)

I left the state of Washington on an airplane that was headed towards the country of Vietnam. A small country fighting amongst themselves and a war that had been going on for a good ten years. I had received my basic and infantry training in the same Fort Lewis Washington base, and I felt I could take on the world. I had trained hard and my mind had been brainwashed into believing I could make a difference. I couldn’t wait to get off the plane and begin the fighting. Little did I know what a real war was like, and how different it was from all those war movies I had seen when I was growing up. I was in for a rude awakening and a painful one at that.
I couldn’t sleep on that long flight across the ocean because I was so hyper. I envisioned myself putting an end to the war, after all, I believed in my country, and America would not fail. If I had known then what I knew when I got out, I guess I would’ve approached the war in a more settled way. Not that it would have made any difference in the outcome of the war, but maybe it would have prepared me to deal with the fear.
Once we landed and unloaded the huge airplane, we were herded on to some trucks that were to take us to our headquarters where we would join our company. I remember a jeep with a fifty caliber machine gun leading the convoy of trucks and some instructions about keeping our helmets on because of the dangers looming out there. They called us “Green Horns” and they told us to keep alert for the enemy. I resented that label on us as I looked out from the back of the opened truck. The tarp had been pulled back and we could see the sky above us as we drove off. We had landed in Cam Ranh Bay, the Americans held the nice peaceful looking base. What could possibly go wrong where we had tanks, cannons, airplanes, navy ships, a large army, a hospital and some other forces?
The group of eighteen-year-olds was packed like sardines as the trucks raced on to whom knew where. I was amongst them, just as brainwashed as they were, and ready to serve my country, the great United States of America, the most powerful country in the world. I could feel the wind blowing on my face, I could hear my heart pounding on my rib cage knowing that I was there, and the tension was building up inside of me.
A few minutes after taking off we heard the sound of a bullet and suddenly the trucks stopped. The same three-striped soldier that had belittled me earlier was giving commands to us to unload the trucks and find some cover. I jumped out quickly just ahead of the last person that was behind me. It was a long jump from the top of the army truck, and as I landed my feet pounded the ground with the army guerilla boots I had been assigned to wear for that countries terrain. I headed for some sandbags that were protecting a bunker and waited for the other eighteen year that I hadn’t properly met yet to follow me. I wanted to know what was happening, and since he had been sticking his head out from the top of the truck I figured that he knew what was going on.
I waited for a few minutes thinking that he was just behind me and then I realized that the other soldier hadn’t even gotten off the truck. My eyes gazed back at the halted vehicle and I wondered why he was still there. I wanted to run over there to warn him of what was taking place. My humanly instincts were taking over and I knew I needed to help him get off because I figured he hadn’t heard the orders given by the commander, or maybe he didn’t know that we were in the line of fire.
However; as I made an attempt to move in his direction I was ordered to remain there. I was terrified at what I was hearing. I couldn’t keep still as somebody held me back. I struggled to get free, or maybe they just let me go because there were no more sounds of bullets. It didn’t matter that I knew nothing about that individual, all I knew was that he was no different than me.
I jumped onto the back of the truck and kept a low profile. I didn’t know if it was all over, and I didn’t know that it was already all over for him either. I hustled as I crawled on my hands and knees in order to make less of a target for the shooter that was taking pot shots at us. At first I tried reasoning with him about getting down, but it didn’t seem to phase him at all at what I was saying. I couldn’t see his head because it was leaning on the top of the cab of the truck.
I grabbed him by his arm and pulled on it, but it was lifeless. I reached over with both hands as I carefully stood up and picked up his head that was still lying on the top of the driver’s cab. It was then that I saw the horror of war because part of his face were missing. A bullet had ripped a hole through the back of his head and had exited from the front. The entrance of the bullet wasn’t all too big, but the damage it had caused on the way out was.
It seemed kind of stupid not to have noticed the splattered blood all over the top of the truck, but I guest since I was crouching down so that I wouldn’t become a victim myself, and since I was looking up, it was not easy to detect. It was a terrible sight, and I wasn’t sure of what I had seen. The young man’s face that I had seen only a short time earlier was unrecognizable and I couldn’t remember what he looked like right then.
By the time I took control of myself the sergeant was at my side. He had seen what had happened and he pointed at the eighteen-year-old that was dead. He shouted at the rest of us, “You bunch of Green Horns! Didn’t I tell you to keep your heads down? This is Vietnam, the enemy is waiting for you. You mean nothing to them, and this young man just paid for it with his life. Does anybody here wants to tell me how to do my job? I’m supposed to keep you alive until your unit takes over. Look at him, I said look at him, and don’t any of you ever forget this moment.”
He pointed at the dead soldier and ordered me to load him up on the jeep. I had help in lowering him down from the truck, but as I did I said something that I knew I would never forget. I said, “I’ll make them pay for this, I swear!” I then covered his body and said something else, I guess I still had a chip on my shoulders because I hadn’t done all the learning yet. I then realized that I had seen my first casualty of the Vietnam War. God Help Us!

OSCARELIZONDO
COPYRIGHT © 2008 OSCARELIZONDO

Vietnam, A Veterans Point of View

oscarelizondo

Harlingen, United States

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Artist's Description

There are many untold stories about the war in Vietnam and mine is just another one. However, each soldier faced a different battle because each mind saw it in a different way. Maybe one of those GI’s that fought alone side me saw something similar, but I don’t think he saw it with my eyes. So with all respect to the men that saw what I saw, felt like I did, suffered the same way I have, and still has the nightmares that has haunted us through the years, I believe this account will bring back some memories. Besides, you might be the only one that really understands what really happened way back then because these stories are not the ones that were ever told because of the guilt, or the fear that somebody might not believe us.)

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