Until our reunion last year I had never thought much about my time in Vietnam. It was OK by me to just leave it and the memories there. Ask my friends and relatives, they know very little about my experience from Sept 1968 to Sept 1969 on LZ Baldy.
Then, in Sept 2004 I met with some of the people I shared those times with at our reunion and with John Seebeth later here at home(see Dustoff 236 Med link). We talked about some of the things that went on while we were there and as time went on, I found it brought a healing and peace of mind to me to know that many of us survived that terrible time together be it right or wrong. We all know what we saw and did. That will be with us forever.
I thought I would also include an excerpt from a book I read that John Seebeth gave to me. I think it says a lot about how I and others felt during our time in Vietnam. Gary Weaver
The book is MEDIC, written by Ben Sherman.
(I hope Ben doesn't mind my sharing some of his thoughts and a very brief part of his book with you as it is a small part of my thoughts as well. Ben has said it in a way that is well explained).Here are his comments:
"Most of the war stories you've heard, especially the really exciting ones, have likely come from the vivid imaginations of rear echelon guys who never saw a firefight, never spent a day in the jungle, never slept in a rice paddy, never had their stomach turn over as they gawked at the open wound of a guy who bummed a smoke the minute before. Those who witness the raw hysterics of war up close tend to remain very quiet about it, forever. They think about it, you can be sure, but the words can't get around the clog in the chest.
There's a code. If you've really been in it, you don't talk about it. Maybe that hasn't always been such a good idea. We don't talk to each other. We don't talk to loved ones. It stays in the bottle, corked tight. As years passed, some have broken the silence. They've written books, both truth and fiction. A few have made movies, both accurate and not. Vietnam literature shelves in libraries and bookstores bulge with rage, righteous indignation, continued political discontent and who-owes-who. Vietnam poetry steams off the page. There's still a bunch of folks out there doing their yelling about a war we lost almost thirty some years ago.
A fellow vet I once worked with had a T-shirt that read: "Southeast Asia Games, 1963-1975, Second Place." His wit replaced the flesh he had left on China Beach for a cause he still couldn't articulate. Poorly stitched scars ran from his belly to his neck, then around his shoulder. Field scars. Deep ugly raised skin ridges that were hard to look at twice.
There had been no time in a field hospital to make them pretty".
During my tour in Vietnam from Sept. 1968 thru Sept. 1969, I met a lot of soldiers and many of them became friends. I wanted to remember as many as I could and came up with a fairly unique way of doing it. I acquired a flag of The Republic of South Vietnam and got many of my friends to sign the flag with their name and where they called home.
Larry Henry was my first contact by way of Classmates.com website. He told me about a website that would allow me to find addresses. I pulled out my flag and began typing names and towns. I found many addresses and began sending out letters through the regular mail. Within the letter, I listed my email address for those with email capabilities. I began receiving positive responses and I began to get very excited.
Everything was going well until I received an email from the daughter of 1st Sgt. John R. Wells. She informed me that her Dad had passed away. She apologized for not responding sooner, but they were in the process of putting her Dad in hospice care. She did say that they had received my letter and read it to him before he died. As I read the email, I began to ask myself whether I should continue my efforts. I was afraid that I might be bringing up memories of loved ones that some families may not appreciate. I was ready to stop.
I sent Larry Henry a message informing him of my feelings. He immediately replied. These are his words that persuaded me to continue.
I think what you are feeling is the reason I used for not getting hold of
Chaplain Bartley's family. In your case, though, it was something that you
couldn't have predicted...and very strange timing. All you can believe is
that your letter to someones father made them know he had made quite an
impression on someone. That would make me feel great to know that. I would
be proud to know that my loved one had touched someone enough for them to
try to find him 35 years later.
You and I are the lucky ones, I think. I have an idea that there are a
number of guys that are no longer around...or had a much tougher time of
coming to grips with the real world. But, you can't let that stop you from
trying. If it weren't for you, I would still be burying my past rather than
trying to remember it. I cannot thank you enough for that! As time goes
on, I am sure that Cyndi and her family will feel very much the same. Keep
I am so thankful that Larry persuaded me to continue. I found out about the efforts by Roger Coffin to put together a reunion. I was fortunate enough to attend and there were the faces of some of the individuals that signed my flag 35 years earlier. A lost part of my life was reborn.
A big thanks from all go out to Darrell Barnes, Larry Henry and Roger Coffin for helping to bring us all together after so many years. Below are comments from Darrell about that process and his thoughts. Pictues of his flag are below.
Close up of signatures
Ric Ostmoe and his wife visited Vietnam in January 2007. He has shared some pictures he took near LZ Baldy, Hawk Hill and Danang and some other area's. Ric will bring more pictures to our next reunion as he has over 800 pictures to share with us. Below are just a few he took.
Thanks to Ric and his wife.
RETURN TO VIETNAM . LZ BALDY, HAWK HILL AND DANANG
Tom Curtis sent me the poem below. He got it from Sp-4 Richard L. Karbler who was with c co 23rd med sometime in 1969. Its a bit hard to read because of copying and scanning. Thank you Tom for sharing this.
The following was written by the webmaster's daughter (Paige Wright) and has been copied here with her permission.
Thank those who are serving to protect your freedom,
Thank those who have served to protect the freedom you've known,
Remember those who have given their lives for your freedom,
Remember those who have served and sacrificed for your freedom that are no longer with us.
Remember them not only on this day, but every day, as their loved ones do.
A United States Marine was attending some college courses between
assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan . One of the courses had a professor who was a vowed atheist and a member ofthe ACLU.
One day the professor shocked the class when he came in. He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, "God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I'll give you exactly 15 minutes." The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop.
Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, "Here I am God".
I'm still waiting. It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold.
The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned and sat there looking on in silence. The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, "What is the matter with you"? Why did you do that?"
The Marine calmly replied, "God was too busy today protecting America's soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff and act like an idiot. So, He sent me."