January 20th, 1966
After seeing the Vietnam War televised for years, it made me want to join. I’m 17 years old just a normal teen. I tried to enlist in the Navy, but was refused because you need to be 18. So I went for the Army, and with my parents’ permission. They needed bodies for the front line defense in Vietnam, and that’s why they were taking soldiers so young. It was my chance to make a difference in the world.
March 10th, 1970
Boot camp was rough, not only was there physically training but mental training, and killing training. You learned how to use weapons, you also had to learn to kill with your bare hands. Boot camp changed me. I went from being a normal teen to being trained to kill. Everyone is trained to be a solider, take commands and fight.
My specialty is air traffic control. Me and a group of guys control and monitor the air traffic around the area. We work in a town we call Dogpatch. A town of 1,000-1,200 people that made houses out of anything they could, to escape from the war. They have no running water and most are starving. There are kids missing arms and legs, and no young men, they are too busy fighting the war. For six hours, I sit in an aluminum hut, with no protection. When my headset is on, I can’t hear the guy sitting next to me. You don’t know the true meaning of bravery unless you witness it. To be brave means to do what you have to do despite how scared you are to do it. And for me, I’m scared 24/7. I thought that after watching so many T.V. shows about battles, I’d know what to expect. But I was completely wrong.
June 17th, 1970
We have no sleep schedule at all. Night turns to day, day turns to night. But we are able to take 30 hours a week to recover ourselves. And once a month we are sent to walk the perimeter of the base. During those walks I shot off a lot into the brush. I’m not sure if I killed many people or not. But one night around the base camp, I thought I saw movement near the barbwire fence. I challenged the movement, raising my riffle. But I was meet with another riffle; everything seemed like it was in slow motion. I shot him three times. Another stood up and threw a grenade; I shot him three times as well. At the age of 20 and I knew for sure that I killed two people.
April 18th, 1971
Today I got stuck on dumping duty. We had to take the slop from the extra food from our trays and left over food in the kitchen. Once a week, we have to dump the barrels over a hill near the base. There are always kids there fighting for the slop. We had to dump it on some of them because they wouldn’t move. The only way to get them to back up would be to fire a shot at the ground. That’s when I realized that the war is about the cost of inhumanity. Kids are fighting for slop, that you’d feed pigs, simply to feed their families.
April 7th, 2018
Years after the war was torcher. After thinking, I realized that the United States shouldn’t have been there. The French were exploiting the Vietnam people; they were only fighting for their liberty. It haunts me that I killed two people. Two people who were fighting for their rights. I’m beyond angry that I put myself in the position where I had to kill people. I was ashamed. I was depressed. When I was 21, I sat on my bed with a shotgun in my mouth. I thought that it would be better to end my misery. Then I thought that it had to get better soon, it had to turn around at some point. I was 21, my life didn’t get better till I was 41. It took 20 years till my life finally started to change. The soldiers that don’t die, come home feeling guilty that they’ve killed people and lost friends. That man you killed was a husband, son, a human. Despite how hard you try to forget, it will always be in your head. I learned the true meaning of dying.
A message from the Veteran: “Please say thank you to anyone who has fought for this country. They risked everything for you. No one will ever be able to understand the pain they’ve been put through.”