The date was August 1, 1990, I was sitting on my back porch watching my grandchildren play. Sitting with my amazing wife and thinking to myself man, I got it all. But yet a part of me was still sad, destroyed, hurt, and all of the bad feelings you ever get resting on my soul every day. And I thought a little more, pondering just this one thought, but this thought has controlled my life and actions for 20 years. I kept telling myself over and over were we heroes or killers?
On November 20, 1970 during the Vietnam War, I was in a platoon of 50 guys and we were led by two of the finest leaders I have ever known. As we were heading through the jungles of Vietnam, talking with my brothers on how bad this rain was, how it's completely dark and how the Vietnamese can spring out at us at any moment. We would never see it coming but yet I was not as focused on that problem as much because I was mostly thinking about how I was here…here meaning that I was in this moment fighting for my country and the brothers I had lost in battles long ago. We were living up to be heroes. The rain finally stopped, but it was still very dark and then we came to a stop. I looked up at the font line at the top where I saw my two leaders talking with each other. We then started to move again, but instead of moving out we gathered with our leaders and they told us that we needed to clear this hill now because if we are successful in this mission we could easily turn the tide of this war around. We all loved the sound of that. However, there was a catch and that catch was that this hill is heavily guarded by the Vietnamese soldiers. The leaders then told us the plan.
The plan was to split into equal groups and my group will attack from the front end and the other from the back. Then the Vietnamese soldiers will be unable to retreat and we would have them surrounded. So we got into our groups and we moved out. We got to our point and on our radio we heard where group two was and they were in position. So we told them to move out and take the hill and we would do the same. As we were walking through the area nothing happened so we kept going. Then my leader tried to make contact again with group two but he lost radio signal. My leader then said,” keep going.” Now thinking that I am really living up to be that hero who goes into battle and fights for my country. Then suddenly we hear something in the front of us and everyone is nervous now and everything is quiet for a couple of seconds. Then someone panics.. and fired off shots and then it was a battle. The other side started shooting back and now we were shooting at them.
Eventually, we started pushing back the Vietnamese soldiers and to our surprise the sun started to rise. It was getting lighter and lighter outside. I'm thinking we are going to make it, we were going to win and we would all be heroes. Then I tripped over something and I turned it around to look at it and it was a soldier. I realize at that moment that its not just any soldier that's an American soldier! I shot up from the ground and I felt a huge rush of panic fall over me. I thought that's why we never found the Vietnamese soldiers because they were never there and that explained why we were so far past our checkpoint. We should have seen the Vietnamese soldiers back at the start of our checkpoint. We were fighting American soldiers which was the other group of soldiers that broke off from us. Thinking now how bad this is. I immediately start running into the line of fire and shouting over and over stop shooting!! stop shooting!! those are American soldiers. In my head I was thinking that this is the most stupidest thing that I could have ever done and I am going to die. My bravery worked and both sides had stopped firing. I said” look we are killing ourselves we are all Americans here!” Both sides looked at each other and they just starred at each other and it was quiet. Very quite. Until the silence was broken by the sound of fire arms dropping, loud cry’s and soldiers falling to their knees. I too fell to the ground crying and thinking about what we had just done.
At that moment that's when it hit, I said in my head were we heroes, was I a hero? From that moment on I would ask myself that question every day. I also thought maybe if I did something good on a daily basis, it would fix the 30 mistakes that were caused that day. So I sit here today on my porch to tell you this story and out of this story I offer two questions for you the reader to think about. First, do you think any of us were heroes that day? The second question is, do you think the mistakes we made in our younger years will effect us every day? or when you decide to move on from those mistakes will you have learned from them?