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Memories of Vietnam

Updated on August 9, 2010

It’s that time of year when the heat vanishes with the sun, the breeze whipping up the change in temperature. We’re sitting in the dark, and he’s whispering. I can see the tears suspended in his eyes, refusing to fall. He blinks and they momentarily retract, only to slowly reappear. He wipes his eyes.

“I want to tell you, but I can’t.” His whisper is broken, barely audible above the breeze.

I touch his shoulder and he flinches. I leave my hand there, and he doesn’t move away, his body tense under the smooth of his shirt.

“The fear . . . you don’t know . . . .” The whisper breaks and he moves away from my touch. I tell him no, I can never know.

This was not the first time he had talked. His nickname in the military was “Animal.” The nature of his position was such that he had frequent contact with other units. Practically every unit had their own “Animal,” someone whose actions had earned them that moniker. But when stories were traded, and it came to light what he’d done, he was the Animal.

He was ashamed. He had never told anyone. It was the few people who were there who had spread the story. They were long gone.

Almost 40 years had passed, and he had told me some things. He’d been shot, and lay there for three days, terrified that the enemy would find him. It left him angry, hating.

He’d gone out with a small group to find out what had happened to a reconnaissance team that had failed to return. They found them, all dead, their heads on sticks. He’d been shot on his way back, and they’d left him, as they had orders to do. He knew they would come back to find him, but the fear seized him and his mind was wild with it, for three days.

He asked me to get him a beer. Now, we are lying in bed. He is whispering again. I tell him it’s okay.

“I killed a man.” I say you did what you had to do.

“No!” A whispered exclamation. He is shaking. “I didn’t have to . . .”

He looks at me, the anguish and fear emblazoned in his eyes.

“I saw red, a veil of red, like blood. . .” His whisper trails off to silence.

By his estimation, he’d been in almost 300 fights since the war. He would go looking for them. He would drink, and he would go looking. Always, the veil of red would descend, and he would fight.

He had scars. He’d been hit over the head with pool cues and beer bottles. He’d been shot, stabbed, and had a finger severed and reattached.

He’d eventually stopped drinking, and stopped fighting.

The drinking returned, but more controlled. He was drinking now, and the memory wanted out. He made me promise not to tell anyone. “Don’t tell my kids . . .” The whisper. I nodded.

This story is written for our veterans who fought and suffered, and still suffer.

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    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Excellent work. I (by happen chance of geography) missed that war, but I give deeply sincere thanks for those who were required to go.

    • profile image

      C.J. Wright 6 years ago

      WOW! It pulls you in so much, it feels as though you were there!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 6 years ago

      I applaud you for a wonderful hub about a topic that doesn't get enough attention. It is very sad, the burdens that are carried after the war, and so many of them never shared.

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      War does terrible things to people and they are never quite the same again. Good portrayal of how it affects the minds of our heroes.

    • DTR0005 profile image

      DTR0005 6 years ago from Midwest

      A very effective piece - I love the narrative.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you tonymac. I feel the same way. Mquee, sorry I missed responding to you. I agree that VA could be more responsive, especially with regard to PTSD.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      Great writing - thank you. The pain of war always calls into question its necessity.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • mquee profile image

      mquee 7 years ago from Columbia, SC

      Very well written hub. Many vets are still dealing with that war and sadly, with the veteran's administration. Thanks for sharing.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Garnetbird, somehow I missed responding to you, but I very much appreciate your stopping by and reading. Thank you!

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Lamme, yes, it was difficult to immerse myself in the intensity, but it felt good once it was done. Thank you!

    • Lamme profile image

      Lamme 7 years ago

      This was such a powerful and well written hub. I can only imagine how difficult this was. Thanks for sharing this.

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Harrowing--very vivid Hub describing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder kind of "flashbacks" and memories.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Robogunny, 36 months is a long time to spend there. It takes a strong person to live through that and as you say "get back to reality." Your comments mean a lot to me.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
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      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      MFB III, you have a gift with words and I am honored that you stopped by to read this story. Thank you!

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, Rich. I am glad you are compiling your experiences there, as it is important to preserve the experiences of war.

    • robogunny profile image

      robogunny 7 years ago from South Florida

      Thank you for this very powerful story. As a VietNam vet of 36 months in Country, I came home with that "stare"....It took me many years to finally get beyond the stare and back into reality. Your story has many faces to it, faces that you have never seen, but they are there. Each one is thanking you for a job well done. I was clinging to each word as I saw that one of the faces was mine. Your words are very strong and very protecting in many ways.

    • MFB III profile image

      MFB III 7 years ago from United States

      Long ago and not so far away, scars not only mar the flesh but the mind and the spirit. Excellent synapsis of one man's most tragic moments in country.~~MFB III

    • NamVetRich profile image

      NamVetRich 7 years ago from Springfield Oregon

      WOW!!!!!

      You have a great gift for writing, just reading your hub brought back memories that I never wrote in my letters home, having to work with the VA this past year I have had to recall certain events that happened to me during my tour. If I do compile the letters and make them into a book I will also relate some of those haunting times, I will look forward to your hub's, Rich

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      John, sorry for responding so late to your comment! Viet Nam has profoundly affected so many people. My friend also remembers certain dates and re-experiences some of the torment. Thank you for your comments and I hope you have found some peace.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 7 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      It takes courage to write as you have because it brings so much emotion and imagery into the writer's mind. This material is definitely outside of most readers' comfort level and so it is important -- when we are allowed to share it as you are -- that we do so. I understand the saying, "Freedom isn't free." Thank you. And please thank your friend for the service he gave all those years ago so that we can still live in a great and free country.

    • John Cain profile image

      John Cain 7 years ago from Dayton, Texas

      Very nice hub. Vietnam caused a lot of anguish to a lot of people. On March 19, it was my 40th anniversary of returning from Nam. It seems like another lifetime in a way. In another way, its a nightmare in which I cannot be awakened from. Thanks for a very good story.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Seakay, it seems that everyone handles it differently. The person I am writing about here also would not talk about it for many years, but once he did talk about it, he felt less guilty about what transpired there. Sometimes, just knowing that you are accepted no matter what is very freeing to the soul.

    • profile image

      Seakay 7 years ago

      My brothers are twins and they both served in Nam. One came back with many stories. The other would never mention anything about the place. He just wanted to try and forget. I know he never has.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you for visiting, trout. Much can be learned from our veterans.

    • troutbum1021 profile image

      troutbum1021 7 years ago from Aurora Colorado

      Vietnam is one of those American experiences which is sometimes relagated to the back of historical closet. Thank you for your narrative and, bringing into focus the ongoing struggles of these vets.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thanks, Mikel, for visiting and commenting on all of my hubs. I will relay your message.

    • Mikel G Roberts profile image

      Mikel G Roberts 7 years ago from The Heartland

      Tell him I said I am Proud of him, and I Thank him.

      Mikel

    • myClone profile image

      myClone 7 years ago from The Land of Confusion

      This is an excellent narrative! You have a great way of "painting" a picture of what is being experienced with your words--a true gift. I can't wait to read more!

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      John, thank you for reading and commenting. I hope I can do his memories justice when I write them.

    • John Cain profile image

      John Cain 7 years ago from Dayton, Texas

      Excellent hub. I remember Vietnam 40 years ago. Seems like a different lifetime. Glad to follow you.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
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      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, ulive. Your comment means a lot to me! :)

    • uliveulearn profile image

      uliveulearn 7 years ago from Canada

      You did a wonderful job in your writing with this emotionally real portrayal of a war Vet. Having worked with Veterans, I applaud you. Many don't come back the same person, they are broken and lost. Well done.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
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      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you for reading and commenting, suziecat.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Wonderfully honest Hub. War is a terrible thing.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, Ohma. Yes, it is sad beyond measure.

    • Ohma profile image

      Ohma 7 years ago

      Well Written! Miserably lived! Such a sad thing that wars keep happening, people keep dieing, and we never seem to learn.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Shadesbreath, thank you for reading and commenting. My friend was 19 years old when he was sent to Viet Nam. He did three tours. It has forever scarred him.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Nicely done, carried off well, neither over nor under-done. I had a friend many years back who was a sniper in that war. He spent a lot of alone time in the jungle, and did things that he really struggled with sometimes too. He was a good, kind man though, his actions in the present so much more than atonement for his having done what he had to, and even what he might not have had to but did anyway dwelling as he did in some bloody almost pseudo-reality as that sort of experience must be. I can only guess at it.

      Anyway, nice work; I look forward to more from you.

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Strong story.. and a great read. Thanks!

    • PrettyPanther profile image
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      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Yes, Mr. Deeds, it is heartbreaking to think of it.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 7 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Well written hub. There will be plenty more stories like that from Afghanistan.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, avangend!

    • avangend profile image

      avangend 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      This is intensely powerful - I had to read it a second time. You are a wonderful writer, and I greatly look forward to your future hubs.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Daytripeer, that's one of the best compliments I've ever received. Thank you!

    • profile image

      daytripeer 7 years ago

      If this were your 300th hub instead of your first, then, your 300th hub would be special. A great start on here. People are going to like reading you for sure.

    • PrettyPanther profile image
      Author

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, this was very personal, and I never know if I'm projecting the intended tone and message. It is good to have feedback!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Wow, this is powerful! Good job!