God, If your listenin'
The skinny I heard was true and we're truckin' our way back to
Phubai. The scuttlebutt is that we will fall back and regroup for a
few weeks then head north to Dong Ha. They're building an airstrip
up that way and we will be manning the holes around the perimeter.
I've been told that there is some heavy shit going on up there.
Seems like Charley don't want C-130's landing in the midst of his
stomping grounds. Only time will tell what that place is all about.
Right now I'm gonna catch a few zee's. Its Gonna be a long bumpy
trip back to the country club. Trouble is my mind wont shut down, it
keeps driftin' back to yesterday and I keep seeing my brother's eyes
every time I close mine, God if your listenin' help me and my
brothers get past this, Please.
Old Glory is on fire and lays burning on the ground while a mob of
anti-war types chant," Hell no we won't go. " draft cards are lit up
and waving in the air as though that would free these freaks from
the draft. Jimmy Hendricks wailing guitar rifts in the background as
the anti war movement gains momentum on the streets of Berkley.
Longhaired, barefooted girls toss flowers on the ground with their
spaced out eyes looking like two piss holes in the snow. Their long
limp dresses twirl round about them as they dance and raise their
hairy assed armpits towards heaven as if they didn't have a care in
the fucking world. The bandana wearing, bead clad male hippies are
sky high as they smoke their grass. Standing there thinking their
cool as shit while they pump the peace sign up and down chanting at
anyone within earshot to get out of Vietnam. They talk of flower
power and of peace and love. Yet they display hate and contempt for
anyone who is fighting or who has fought in Vietnam. What I see is
America's youth fighting against America's youth, cause teenagers
are fighting and dying in the Nam while teenagers are protesting and
dancing in the streets here. Makes a hell of a lot of sense don't
it? These shit birds think they are fighting a war over here in the
world using flowers, drugs and words as weapons of peace. The truth
is they wouldn't amount to a puss filled pimple on a combat Marines
ass. All these hippys are accomplishing is the alienation of the
true American defenders of freedom; keeping those who know the cost
of freedom from the homes and peace that they sweat and shed their
life's blood for.
A decorated soldier walks by the crowd of dancing idiots and they
turn their anger towards him and shout " Hey baby killer, how many
villages did you burn"? " How many innocent people did you kill"?
And then they spit on the uniform of one who fought for them and for
the freedoms they have.
In his mind he reflects back to the Vietnam highlands where a battle
still rages on. Orders were given to take the hill that would be a
strategic foothold for the powers that be. Bleak would be the only
way to describe this place as the smoke from the battles seared the
lungs of those heroes who fought and died for every inch of ground
gained. The hillside he remembers was blood-soaked, with the dead
and wounded everywhere. Enemy resistance was high and the NVA had a
definite will to withstand this assault. The hillside looked like a
charred pile of burnt ash; The trees nothing more than blackened
crooked matchsticks. Leaving a visual testimony to the destructive
power of Napalm, which sucks every bit of life out of the ground and
foliage. Not to mention human life, for it is obvious as they fight
they see the enemies twisted charred bodies motionless as though
kiln dried in time similar to the statues of Pompeii.
He remembers the Anguish upon the faces and the contorted features
of his buddies as they crawled upward covered in mud and blood
seeking cover under fire. Machine guns riddling the dirt as he
watched the earth explode upward showering him and all those in the
vicinity. He remembers the mortars as they came crashing down at
steady intervals leaving only traces of his buddies to the left and
right of him as they were caught in the blast of this hellish
nightmare. His ears echo the sounds of choppers doing flybys
sending rockets screaming through the air and watching Willy-Peter
spread itself spider like in all directions and listening to the
screams of the night.
He feels the recoil of his M14 cracking off rounds as inch-by-inch,
step-by-step he and his unit advanced onward and upward into the
hell of the battle. The situation was fucked up beyond all
recognition and he had seen this all before. An eerie and strange
recollection of other battles fought and won at the high cost of
life. Hills taken after fighting for days with uncountable
casualties on both sides. Then once the hill was taken it would be
abandoned by the command, only to be taken back again by Charley as
a stronghold. Knowing also that this same hill would have to be
retaken again later at a greater cost of life. Meanwhile the smoke
still rises, the battle still rages and blood still flows this very
moment on many hills in Vietnam.
Seven days ago this soldier was on a hillside steeped in the fury of
war. Today he feels fortunate to be alive, though guilty because he
survived. He walks upon the streets of America amid the draft
dodging scum of the earth that curse and ridicule him and those who
fought and died for their freedom.
His eyes have no reflection and for these protesters his heart holds
The Vietnam Veteran undauntedly walks quietly on by muttering under
" It don't mean nutthin "
And his mind drifts back to his brothers in the Nam. And he says,
"God if your listinin'help me and my brothers get past this,
And the war goes on.
©7/18/03 Richard Preston
Murphy's Law, The revised edition.
Phu Bai, still the same tent city with the same dusty view it's not
much of a vacation spot, come to think of it it's not much of
anything at all. The mountains loom off in the distance like jagged
purple teeth under the big blue sky during the day while at night
it's a different ballgame. Quite a contrast if ya think about it,
here we have relative safety though not without a mortar attack or
probes from time to time around the perimeters. The Seabees have
kicked some Cong ass in the past down by their compound and I
wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of their ordinance. They
have no sense of humor at all. Good bunch of boys though. If we
don't have a brew in our compound they are always willing to trade
off something to keep us supplied. I like that in a group. Proud of
em' and the fact that my Dad was a Seabee even endears them to me a
As I look off in the distance I think of the hell that's going on in
the hill country, at night the flashes of battle can be seen as we
leave the beer tent. It's an eerie feeling as we sit there and
hammer down a few beers knowing that a day ago we were wandering
around out there with our ass hanging out as target practice for Ho
Chi Minh's finest. Now some other poor sunsabitches are catching the
shit out there. With each flash that lights up the sky you wonder
who bought it and who will be flying in KIA or wounded in the
morning. This war is relentless and no matter where ya are it's with
ya twenty-four seven. Gotta get a star on our foreheads for trying
to drown it in beer but no matter how hard we try it just won't go
It's been hotter than a two peckered Billy goat, as my Granddad
would say, with no relief from the heat and humidity in the near
future. As I listen to the Armed Forces radio in the morning I hear
the song playing " The morning sun is shining like a red rubber
ball, " And I think to myself, you don't know the half of it buddy.
This sun will melt the balls of a brass monkey and it ain't much
better for us either. This is most miserable place I have ever had
the displeasure of being. All ya got to do is think about moving and
your soaked in sweat. Once the sun goes down its more tolerable, we
can then make our way to the beer tent after chow and enjoy a cold
beer. We then raise a toast to our brothers that recently flew the
big silver bird to the world. I have seen more than one hard-ass
Marine break down after a few beers and it ain't a pretty sight.
There Ain't nutthin' anyone can say or do to ease their pain, except
tell `em to distance themselves. We cover each other's six in the
field cause our lives depend on each one of us doing our job. On the
other hand I don't want to know the personal history of the guy in
the hole next to me. I don't want to know bout his love life and I
don't want to hold hands with em' in the shower. Friendships ain't
for the Nam, Acquaintances are. Friendships I've learned can be a
short-term relationship and detrimental to my psychological being.
To this day I have lost four friends in combat that I made at Camp
Lejuene; friends that I knew very, very well. I met their brothers,
sisters, mothers and Fathers, girlfriends and the whole nine yards
and now they are gone from my life and their family's. Friendships
are hard to make and even harder to lose under these conditions. If
I am one of the lucky ones who get out of this rat infested shit
hole alive, what in the world will I say or could I do to ease the
suffering and grief of the family left behind. God only knows, and I
wish he would enlighten me.
As you wander around here there are shrines and burial mounds
scattered all over the place. This is surely a place where war has
had a foothold for many decades. Some of the shrines are beautiful
to look at but what it all boils down to is a whole lot of death.
Whether it's a round pile of neatly packed dirt encircled with
stones or some elaborate cement shrine with Dragons all over it's
face, dead is dead and there ain't no way to dress it up. No matter
how elaborate or extraordinary it may be. I guess that applies to
our guys out there stomping through water boo shit and slippin' and
sliding through the rice paddies. Uncle Sam can pin a Purple heart
or a Silver Star on fire pissing Marine but if the medal is
presented posthumously it don't mean shit to the hero and it sure as
hell don't take the sting of death away for mamma or daddy either.
Till they can come up with a medal that will breathe life into a
dead brother who gave it all I could give a shit less about em'. I
was told by a Bronze Star winner that I met over here once, He
said, " with this medal and thirty five cents I can buy a cup of
coffee in the states". At the time being a newbie and all I didn't
get it, but now that I've been here a while I understand what he was
saying. Decorated Vets are honored by their own, but the world don't
give ya nuthin' unless ya pay for it with cold hard cash. It's a sad
state of affairs when a silver dollar is more precious than blood.
It's not that were lookin' for something for nuthin' but honor
should be given where honor is due. Hippies get more recognition for
being assholes than Westmoreland gets for being General. Though I
have heard that General W. and assholes have something in common.
Hell even if he were an asshole the size of Texas I would still by
him or any NamVet a cup of coffee, asshole or not.
The city of Hue is just about five clicks north up highway one.
Before I got here the grunts used to pull liberty there. Then I
guess all hell broke out one night and a number of Marines got
killed and the rest kicked ass tearing up half the town during the
skirmish. Seems Charley came home early and their paths crossed. Oil
and water don't mix. So they made it off limits. What we have to
look forward to now to is dust and beer. But I guess that ain't a
bad thing cause at least we've got beer to latch on too. Seems like
beer has a pretty important role here eh'?
Getting a haircut is a major production now. Can't get one unless
you have an armed escort with ya to watch the Vietnamese barbers.
Just before I got to Phubai they came in and set up a tent to give
haircuts and a shave. The Barbers turned out to be VC and they
killed five Marines by cutting their throats and then piled em'up
behind an inside canvas partition and dee deed'd. Needless to say it
caused quite a commotion. It's a little more organized now cause if
the barber is VC he knows he's got an M14 to the back of his head.
It makes the haircut a bit more pleasant. I scared the be-Jesus out
of one of the barbers there one day. Being an FNG a few months back,
I went to get my first escorted haircut. All went fine till the
Barber finished and folded his hands and started chopping his
fingers on the top my head making a popping sound. I un-holstered my
forty-five and stuck it under his neck and cocked the hammer. Sweet
Jesus I never heard such caterwauling as I did then. I thought
Pineapple, the guy who came in with me was gonna shit his pants.
Anyway how did I know that was some form of ritual to drive the evil
spirits out of my body? Somebody shoulda told me about that. The
barber was a little shaky legged after that and I reckon he may have
pissed his pants. But I think I got my point across that all that
chopping bullshit best be saved for some other jive ass Marine.
Gotta pull duty at the listening post tomorrow night, not one of my
favorite things to do. It's number one on my list of mind fucks and
second only to burning shitters in my book. Trust me burning
shitters is a whole lot safer than being stuck out in the middle of
nowhere with a newbie's knees knocking' all night long but this is
life in Phu bai. I'm a firm believer in Murphy's law with one little
twist. Whatever will go wrong has already gone wrong and it'll
probably get worse. Murphy is one dumb bastard for showing up here
in Vietnam to begin with.