Sunday, December 30, 2007

Press 1 for English (Strong Language)

The Guy from Boston uses some pretty strong language but I like what he says. The song is one of my favorites also. My regular posts should start back up sometime next week. Too much going on lately plus all the great bowl games. Not enough time to type out all the memories and work on the regular blog. Don't worry, they will come back very soon.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sleep in Heavenly Peace


I hope everyone had a safe and happy Christmas. I know I am ready for a nap after all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas Holiday. Enjoy your day with family and friends but also take a little time to unwind from all the excitement. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

I won't be home for Christmas... .


I won't be home for Christmas... .

I am among the thousands of Americans who served in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan who are now gone. Many who survived their wounds will never be whole. Many will have life expectancies far shorter than others their age who never served in uniform... never seeing the same number of Christmases to come.

I am among the millions of Americans who served in uniform during WWII who are now gone... and it is estimated that less than eleven percent of the men and women who served during WWII are alive today, with more than a thousand passing away each day.

I am among the tens of thousands of Americans who served in uniform in Korea who are now gone... and it is estimated that less than four percent of the men and women who served in Korea are alive today, with more than seven hundred passing away each day.

I am among the hundreds of thousands of Americans who served in uniform in
Vietnam who are now gone... and it is estimated that less than one-third of the men and women who served in Vietnam are alive today, with more than a two hundred passing away each day.

I and those with me won't be home for Christmas. Please always remember us... and those who will join us before next
Christmas...

Signed,
The Unforgotten Soldier

(Author Unknown)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

PTSD

Okay, maybe by now you have realized that I suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from combat in Vietnam. I actually feel that I am one of the lucky ones because mine was the late in life onset type. Many men and women find themselves in the grips of PTSD soon after the stressor. I had some symptoms early on such as inability to remember names, excessive responses to loud noises and anxiety after hearing the sound of Huey helicopters. These did not affect my life much so I lived a normal life for many years.

Many Vets feel the symptoms right away after coming back from the war zone. Some of the Vets in my therapy group have had multi-marriages, multi-jobs and addictions to drugs or alcohol. Their lives were affected as soon as they got back.

That is why I say that I was lucky because I lived a normal life for many years. I started having flashbacks about 1995 but they did not totally engulf me. The big problem with my flashbacks was because they started occurring while I was driving. As it turned out, certain songs on the radio would trigger the flashback. Luckily, I was able to get the car off the road before causing an accident. Even at this point, I did not really comprehend what was happening and continued with my normal life.

There were many changes at work that caused undue stress in my life and may have contributed to the old memories breaking through the wall that I had created. I did not associate with Veterans or even talk about Vietnam. I had done a great job of walling off that part of my life. Bad mistake.

About this time, I also became a little more negative about things at work. The administration of my area began to force things on us that I felt were not in the best interest of our department and the institution. An example was a new computer system that a department head was pushing for us to use. They did not want me involved with the main part of the development of this program even though I was the Manager of the area. Therefore, I assisted the accounting side of the program. When it came time to implement the program, old Mr. Negative stood up and said the program would not work the way it was set up. How did I know that? Because I had run, what I call “What If” scenarios repeatedly using different parameters and discovered they failed to include a "deliver to" location in the programming.

Of course, this created an uproar and I was the outcast, which upset me even more. However, when I explained that they had failed to create in the program a method to tell the Receiving Department where the material was to be delivered they listened to me very carefully. We receive over 40,000 line items daily so the Receiving Department would back up very quickly if they could not deliver the material. Accounting and I never liked this particular program anyway and talked administration into going with another program. Millions spent for nothing.

It was things such as this that started to upset me and the flashbacks started becoming more frequent. About the same time, a power struggle started taking place within the department and my boss and I decided to leave the area and stay out of the politics that was brewing. I began helping the Nursing Department create a bar code ordering system and a system for next day delivery of supplies for Nursing.

About this same time, another power struggle was going on by a VP who wanted control of my old department. He won that battle and got rid of the director and managers. At this point, my problems were getting worse but I was dealing with it by trying to ignore the problem. Even my wife could feel that something was not right. She was afraid that I might be having an affair. Guess I was starting to shut down socially and did not want to do things that we normally would do.

One day I attended an informational meeting that I thought was going to tell us the new structure of Purchasing. This VP laid out his plan for the future and informed the group that I (Stanley) was going to be the Manager again. Bad move on his part. You do not tell some one that they will be in charge of an area without first talking to them. I wanted to turn it down because of my problems. A couple people I talked to about it said that was a career-ending move if I did turn it down. Guess it did not really matter at that point because PTSD was ending my career anyway.

I did quickly turn the department around and speeded up the process for ordering via the new computer system. What was a 5 to 7 day cycle was reduced to 2.5 days and I felt that I could get that below 2 days. This was a large department and we processed one million dollars per day in orders. By now, I was experiencing about two flashbacks per day. Not a good thing. I was afraid I might hurt someone if I had a bad flashback.

One day I met with the VP and he informed me that he wanted me to get rid of one of my best buyers. Good buyers are trained to question things and to find the best solution to a problem. He did not like her questioning his authority. This is when I went ballistic. I called him an ‘asshole’ and felt that I was ready to pound the shit out of him. He must have sensed that he was in big trouble and made a quick exit.

We had a department called EAP (Employee Assistance Program) which helps employees with work or home problems. I went down to them, told them I have a problem, and needed help. They sent me to the Psychiatrist and she said at the end of our session that I had classic PTSD.

I immediately went on Long Term Disability and finally decided to take early retirement. I did not want to hurt any of the wonderful employees that I had hired and had dealt with for many years. I was able to get Social Security Disability and the judge that heard my case told me to go to the VA and apply for benefits.

If you are already familiar with the VA, you know that process is a long drawn out one. Mine did not take as long as some that I have heard about. I did have an advantage in that I already was rated at 30% disability due to my mangled foot. After talking with the VA Psych department, I was awarded 100%. So now, you know that part of the story.

If you feel you are having problems adjusting after combat, please seek help from the VA and do not wait for 30 years as I did. I hope our little talk helps someone and good luck.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"In God We Still Trust" sung by Diamond Rio

As long as we are on a patriotic theme, I have to include this great song by Diamond Rio. Our country was founded on religious freedom and a few are trying to eliminate God from the National Anthem and from our currency. Let the majority stand up and be heard that "In God we still trust".


Welcome Home, Vietnam Vets

Welcome Home. If you were like me, you flew in by military charter from Okinawa or the Philippines after leaving Nam. I think I came back via TWA by way of Okinawa to Alaska and then to San Francisco. There were no parades, no welcome home banners and no one thanking us for a job well done. We tended to sneak back into the United States. The only welcome I got was from my family when I finally got back to my hometown for my 30-day leave. I am sure most of you got the same kind of welcome. I hope that not many of you ran into protestors when you flew into California.

To my Vietnam brothers, “Welcome Home”.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Soldiers With PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a recognized disorder thanks to the Vietnam Veterans. Sometimes it strikes right after the stresser and other times it will not appear for many years. If soldiers or their families feel that something is different after being in combat, please get help as soon as possible. Many WWII and Korean War Veterans are coming forth with PTSD so it is just not within the Vietnam Vets. Go to the VA for help and get the process, not for recovery, but for help in adjusting to a normal life. The VA can help through counseling, EMDR and group therapy. You do not need to have a Purple Heart to have terrible memories of combat. Please seek help at your nearest VA.

Tribute to Our Troops

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Do You Remember These?






Some miscellaneous things that I dug up related to Nam. I must have had it nice in May of 1968 because I have a laundry slip from Lili’s Laundry. What really made it special was the slip shows six pairs of underwear. While in the jungle, we never wore underwear because it was too hot and they were not comfortable. Guess I was used to the weather and did not have to go on long patrols in May 1968 so I was able to wear underwear. Isn’t it odd the things you remember? I do not know where I got the “Life in Vietnam” but I always laugh when I look at it and wonder why they gave us a travel guide for Nam. The little magazine is full of ads for hotels and bars in Saigon. The little “Airlifted by” tag was stuck to my ditty bag when I was airlifted to Cam Rahn Bay. The combat phrase book is the one I carried around Nam in case it was ever needed. I do not recall using it very much. Click on picture for larger view.

Old Pictures from the Military



I dug up some old pictures from my military days and scanned them for the blog. If you recognize yourself or anyone in the pictures, please attach a comment and let me know. The only name that I can remember is an old friend from both boot camp and Corps School, Steve Sabin. I am not sure of the spelling of the last name but Steve is the person kneeling in the Boot Camp picture. We both did very well at Corps School. I was ranked number one and he was close behind me in score. I would not be surprised if Steve went on to become a Doctor. I was close to being admitted to Medical School but was number two on the waiting list for RushMedical School in Chicago. Never did get there even though I was close. I did spend the next thirty years working in the medical field as a Purchasing Manager. Guess my Medical Supply training at Camp Pendleton did pay off. . Click pictures for larger view.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Doc Getting A Medal


I do not remember what this picture was about other then I was getting a medal for something I did in Nam. It might have been my official presentation for the Purple Heart. Thought I would include this picture for old Navy or Marine buddies that might recognize me and send a note off. Of course, in Nam, I had a big handlebar moustache but could not wear it stateside. Click pictures for larger views.

Scattered Memories of My Military Days

Please forgive me but I am going to do a lot of rambling on this post. So many things have popped into my head that I will attempt to put them down on paper. If you are looking for horrible war stories, those will remain tucked as far back in my brain as I can put them. They only come forth during flashbacks and I would just as soon forget about them.

I started my four-year military career at boot camp in San Diego, California. After boot camp, I went to the Naval Hospital Corps School at the US Naval Hospital in San Diego. I graduated first in my class so I got to choose my next duty station. I chose Pharmacy School in Portsmouth, Virginia. The school was already underway so I would have to wait until the next starting date. In the meantime, I worked in the Operating Room at Portsmouth Naval Hospital and drove ambulance during my duty nights. When the school was ready to start, they said that I would have to extend my tour another year to get into the school. I did not want to extend another year. About two months later, I got my orders to Vietnam.

Before going to Nam, a Hospital Corpsman must go to Marine Corps training to get some education on how to survive in combat on the ground. We carried rifles (I did not in Nam) and learned how to field strip them. By the way, the ones we learned to field strip at Camp Lejeune were not the same ones used in Nam. Not sure why I needed that training.

We learned how to treat soldiers wounds under combat situations, how to care for jungle rot and to take care of snake bits. Did I tell you that I never saw a snake in Nam? We did get a lot of good physical training to prepare us for long patrols in 100+ degree temperatures. They also taught us basic Marine Corps jungle fighting tactics and we got a feel for what it would be like under combat conditions. After this four to five week training, it was off on an all expense paid trip to South Vietnam for thirteen months.

My aunt Blanche (my Mom’s sister) was dying of cancer and that was the last time I would get to see her just before going to Nam. That was difficult because my Mom and aunt Blanche were so close and we were very close with the family. It is tough leaving and knowing that is the last time you will see someone. In Nam, you never really thought about your own vulnerability. You just did what you had to do and I guess I trusted that God would get me through my thirteen months. The only time you really started to feel vulnerable was, as you got closer to your tour end. You tend to develop a short-timers attitude and get nervous at loud noises.

Vietnam was both a beautiful country yet also a run down poor country. The cities were run down but the countryside was very beautiful. It was especially nice out near the jungle and mountains. Some of the old temples were situated in such beautiful settings. Please read some of my earlier posts where I talk about the jungle and mountains.

Guess I did not get very far with this post but I am sure more junk will pop back into an old brain of mine. Have to save some stuff for a later post. Take care.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gary, Joanne's Baby Brother



Joanne’s brother is Gary. He is about 9 years younger then she is but looks a lot older (heh heh). I know who sleeps on the other side of my bed. I am no fool. I do not have many pictures of Gary or at least I could not find many. Gary lives on the other side of the state with his wife Jenny. The first picture is Gary holding Joshua when he was young and the other picture is at a birthday party for Josh. Gary is in the red shirt.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Oz Fest and the Grandkids







Okay, this took place back in September, but I have not talked about our grandkids yet in the blog. Therefore, here goes. We have three lovely grandkids named Joshua (call me Josh)(12), Allison (call me Allie)(10) and Lauren (call her wild)(7). They are our pride and joy and we love them so much. They are great kids that love sports (Josh and Lauren) and singing and dancing (Allie). Allie was into sports but now has become more girly girly.

Joanne (Nana) is a collector of Wizard of Oz so we had to attend the Chesterton Oz Festival in September. That same weekend, we also had the kids so they were able to go with us to the festival. The pictures above are of the kids at the festival and at the Wizard of Oz museum. The last picture is of our Son (Mike) and daughter-in-law (Kelly) with the kids.

Aren’t they just special. I believe that you can click on the picture to get a larger image.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Time for Giving



My mind was drawing a blank today. Usually, the more I write about Vietnam, the more miscellaneous memories that pop into my head. Much of it is just random stuff so I avoid just dropping it into whatever I may be working on. So, that being the case, let us think about the Holidays and helping those less fortunate then us and do not forget about our wonderful soldiers overseas.

“Toys for Tots” is a wonderful charity run by the Marine Corps. Help them with toys, gifts or money. In addition, there is a nice website that you can send a card to a service man or woman overseas. LetsSayThanks.com gives you the opportunity to send a FREE pre-printed postcard greeting card to military personnel overseas to say Thank You for their service. What better time than Christmas to send some cheer? http://www.letssaythanks.com/Home1024.html Remember, Christmas is a time of giving and volunteering and do not forget those protecting our Freedoms.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Jo Ann, My Baby Sister





As long as I am discussing flying, let me tell you about my sister. She has been a Flight Attendant for many years with Delta and now with ASA. She went to Michigan State University for two years and then applied to Delta to be a Stewardess (now call Flight Attendant). Delta accepted her into the school and she flow for them for over thirty years before retiring. Retirement did not last long and she applied to ASA and was accepted.

My sister is currently a Flight Attendant with ASA and she loves flying around the States. When she was with Delta, she spent a lot of time as an international Flight Attendant. She loved flying international flights but it is hard on you with all the time changes. Before the start of this Iraq war, she flew many soldiers over to Kuwait in the middle of the night. She never told me about this until she was finished doing those flights. Guess she knew it would upset me and I would worry about her.

I have included a of picture of her while flying. The picture was taken with the Russian Cosmonaut Sergey. I forget his last name. Jo Ann is in the middle of the back row. The second picture was my sister and me as little kids. That sure was a long time ago.

Why I Hate Flying

In my previous post, I mentioned my flight from Vietnam to the Philippines had a few problems. Two of the engines were overheating so they shut them down when we were at altitude. They had all four engines running for takeoff and landing.

My flight to Vietnam went from San Fransisco to Tokyo on the first leg. It was via TWA and was uneventful. The flight was a combination of military and civilians. After a layover of a few hours in Tokyo to refuel, we continued on to Okinawa and it was now all military. About a quarter of the way to Okinawa, the pilot announced that there was a slight problem with the plane and we would be going back to Japan.

Of course, we all cheered that announcement. It was the sight of the co-pilot walking down the isle and opening a little door in the floor. Now they had our attention. The co-pilot opened the door and went down into the belly of the plane. This caused us to wonder what the problem was and how severe.

There were a couple of military pilots among the passengers and they were the only ones that really knew how bad the problem was. They knew that because of the method the pilot was using to turn the plane around. He was adjusting the engine speed on each side causing a slow turn. The reason the co-pilot went into the belly of the plane was to hand crank the wheels into a down position. The Flight Attendants (we called them Stewardesses back then) had everyone get into the emergency landing position with our heads on a pillow on our knees. I still peeked out the window on landing and saw all these emergency vehicles lined up along the runway. When the pilot reversed the engines, the wings caught on fire because he had dumped fuel over the ocean earlier. It turns out that the plane had lost hydraulics. This is not a good thing. At least we had to stay in Japan an extra 18 or so hours until another plane was brought in to take us on the rest of our trip.

Another problem I encountered while flying was out of Camp Lejeune. It was a small twin-engine airline (DC-9 or something like that) and as the plane prepared for leaving the gate, the cabin filled with smoke and we evacuated the plane. After an hours wait, they fixed the problem and we got back on that same plane. My confidence was greatly diminished.

The worst problem was while in Vietnam. This occurred while on my second tour (as I call it) and was about the middle of March 1968. I was ordered from Gia Le to be reevaluated at the hospital in Da Nang. The Marine Corps wanted to make sure I was okay for duty in the bush. Of course, the doctors in Da Nang could not figure out why I was sent back to Nam with my type of injury. They put me on limited duty at that point and said I could not leave the base. I could work at a Medical Clinic on base only. That was fine with me. However, going back to my base from Da Nang, I boarded a twin-engine plane they referred to as the Caribou. It had a high tail and the back dropped down to load cargo.

I was used to taking off in C-130’s from Dong Ha, accelerating, and climbing very quickly. We were in a slow assent from the end of the runway when we were hit by 50-caliber fire. The left engine shut down instantly which throw us into a left turn because the right engine was still on full power. In a matter of seconds, we had changed direction and just missed the top of the hills as we were coming down. The pilot got control of the plane and we came in wheels up onto the runway that we just left. Remember that back door I mentioned earlier on the Caribou? It was still down in the open position and as soon as the plane slowed down enough, we were out that door and off the runway.

Now do you know why I hate flying?


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Quang Tri to Guam

After my big foot hit the booby trap, Doc Hall bandaged me up and off I went by chopper with two other Marines that also were hit by shrapnel. I went to Dong Ha where I had my initial surgery on the wounds and by the end of the day; I was headed to Phu Bai via C-130. I had more surgery on the wounds and was put into a full leg cast with little openings for dressing changes. Here is how I described by wounds in my little medical book, “shrapnel in left lower thigh, shrapnel laceration of lateral malleous, shrapnel in middle of foot, thru and thru shrapnel wound near middle toe”. They estimated the grenade went off about two to three inches away from my ankle. It was not pleasant.

My little medical journal says that the next day was “uneventful, Pain bearable with slight drainage of wounds”. “Possibly will have dressing changed tomorrow”. After my surgery on the 13th is when we discovered that, I was allergic to pain medicine. I began taking many aspirin, which did not give me a problem. Changing dressings and debridement of wounds was not a pleasant experience without pain medicine. They gave me a large dose of Thorazine so I did not care what they were doing. It still hurt but I did not care.

In my little book, it states “as of 1200 hours 19 Oct. 67, I have received 26.4 million units of Pro-Pen and 11 grams of Streptomycin. Guess they were not taking and chances in my getting an infection. A lot of the skin was blasted off the top of my foot so the Doctor used something he was experimenting with for wound granulation. Sugar and Basitracin mixed and packed on top of the wound. This kept the wound moist and helped to reduce infection. This is a precursor to the modern day wet dressing. Alternatively, maybe it was a form of maggot therapy to get the maggots to eat the dead tissue. I was swatting flies that were constantly landing on my foot.

The healing process was slow and not progressing as fast as the medical staff had hoped. About the middle of November, I was flown down to Cam Rhan Bay where they have air conditioned medical wards to see it that would help. I still had a lot of swelling of the foot and ankle and after two weeks, they decided to ship me out to a Naval Hospital. Am I going home? Fat chance.

They shipped me off to Guam via the Philippines. The plane that came in to take a bunch of patients out to the Philippines had a problem with the engines. There were only two stretcher patients so they considered us the critical ones and put us both on the plane that normally would hold a couple of hundred. We must have had ten nurses taking care of two patients and they were all female. It was a great flight until they told us about the engine problems. Two engines were overheating so once we were airborne; they shut down the two problem engines and did not turn them back on until we landed in the Philippines. Remember this problem with airplanes and I will tell you, later, a few more problems that I have encountered while flying.

From the Philippines, I was placed on another plane, headed for the U.S. Possession of Guam. I arrived at the US Naval Hospital on Guam on 2 December 1967. After a couple of weeks there, I finally was able to get around on crutches. Mobility at last. The wounds on my foot still had not closed up as yet but it was getting there. By the middle of January 1968, I was finally walking without the aid of the crutches. I was transferred from the Hospital to work at a Medical Clinic on the Naval Base while waiting for orders back to Guam.

I was on Guam for New Years Eve that year and let me tell you a story that is cute now but was not cute then. I was an E4 or Hospitalman Third Class at that point but was friends with many Marines on the ward that were E6 and above. E4s had to be back on the ward by midnight that night. Well, about four of us went out, started hitting parties and bars and at 2330 hours, I said that I needed to catch a cab back to the hospital. These guys would not let me go. There excuse was “what are they going to do, send you back to Nam?” Therefore, I stayed out and partied with the Marines.

When we rolled in the next morning, the Chief on Duty said I was late and AWOL. All the Marines in unison said, “We told him but he wouldn’t listen”. They all had big grins on their faces as they walked off leaving me there. I was scared for the next couple of days that I was going to get a Court Martial or something. I never heard anymore about that so I figured the Marines had taken care of everything. It is just as the bumper sticker says, “The Navy has Hospitalmen, Marines have Corpsmen”. Semper Fi.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quang Tri, Vietnam

On my first tour, I was not at Quang Tri for very long. Maybe a month to a month and a half and I do recall we got a lot of rain. Bravo and H&S Company of 1st Btn 4th Marines were the initial military group to secure and prepare the area for the new air base. Dong Ha further north was too close to the DMZ and was in range of artillery. Quang Tri was level and further south and was less vulnerable.

My first day there was miserable because of the heavy rains. We setup in a Vietnamese cemetery. The dead were buried under mounds so a lot of us setup our tents on top of these mounds. The water drained off nicely. The next day, the villagers marched on our camp in protest of what we were doing. The villagers were informed that a base was going to be built here and the cemetery could stay inside the base or they could move their cemetery. Guess they decided to move the cemetery.

We did patrols from this small camp going west out onto the rolling plains. There was not a lot of farming out in this area and it was rolling hills and tall grass. The area had a few small villages between the camp and the mountains jungle. Most of these villages were the enemy and we would come under sniper fire when we approached them. Thank goodness, we had patrol dogs with us on these wide-open plains. They warned us of sniper fire before the rounds got to us. It was out on these plains that I stepped on a booby trap. A grenade went off next to my left foot. Twenty Marines went through the same spot before me but lucky or unlucky I am the one that set it off.

Before I jump ahead to Friday the 13th of October 1967, I will talk more about the early Quang Tri base. As I said before, there were very few of us at the start but everyday more and more would arrive with wire and fencing. Once the engineers arrive, things start to more fast. Around the wire, we had many small tents and the Headquarters had a large tent. During the heavy rains, the large tent was the place to go to get warm and to stay out of the relentless downpour.

This area backed up to a river, which we used to bath every now and them. One of the guys in our platoon was married and one day he lost his wedding ring in the river. We all tried diving to the bottom looking for that ring. Two days later after the rains had stopped, there was his ring sticking out of the mug on the edge of the river. How cool was that? He was about 21 and he had been married for 6 years. He was about 16 and she was 14 or 15 when they got married. He was a Southern boy from Tennessee or maybe West Virginia. I do not remember now. I really like that guy and how he loved his wife so much. He wrote her everyday and she did the same. He was short but very stocky and must have carried 20 clips of ammo on his belt. He was ready for anything. (Sadly, I heard that he was KIA from a mine.) Wish I could remember his name to leave a remembrance at The Wall.

While at Quang Tri, I had two to three days a week that were not spend on patrols so I volunteered to go to the Quang Tri Provincial Hospital in Quang Tri. Two of us Corpsmen would take a jeep and follow the engineers into the city. The engineers were sweeping for mines so it was not wise to go pass the engineers. Once we got to the hospital, our job was to work mostly with the children. There was a Norwegian Red Cross group working there running the emergency room and surgery.

Much of what we did was to lance and treat boils. The rice paddies were also their bathrooms so the water was a little bit contaminated. It the kids were cut or bite by a leach the wound could turn into a large boil. Boils are not a big deal in the states but in Nam, it took the lives of many children. We would lance and pack the area and give an injection of antibiotics. The next time we were there, we would give another injection and change the dressing. I hope that we saved many kids by doing this on our days that were somewhat free.

Hospitals in Nam were very different then what we are used to stateside. In Nam, when a patient was in the hospital, the whole family also moved in with them. There is not a food service at these hospitals so the family cooks the patients and families meals out on porches that surround the wards. The patient area is a little smoky from small fires but does smell nice from all the cooking. Even though there was a war going on, the people were friendly and so thankful for our help.

While at Quang Tri, you might say that I got promoted by moving up to H&S Company from Bravo Company. I was now in charge of the Corpsmen in Bravo Company. Now I did not have to go on patrols all the time but I did have to go out on Operations. After two weeks with H&S Company, we went out on Operation Granite and four hours into the Operation, I stepped on the booby trap. I was Med-Evaced out by a UH-34. Usually you see the Huey as a Med-Evac chopper but I was picked up by the old UH-34. I thought I was going stateside. Oh how wrong I was.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Shitters


I will keep this short and sweat because this is a messy subject. Earlier, I described the basic layout of the shitters in Nam but what I found interesting was the magnetic effect they had on enemy incoming. If mortars or rockets hit us, invariably, the shitters would get almost direct hits. Of course, no one was stupid enough to seek shelter in one of the shitters during an attack because we all knew they would be hit. I have a series of slides of this phenomenon but could not find them for the blog. Maybe some other time.

Ask any Nam Vet and he will tell you the same story about the shitters always getting the brunt of an attack. Being a Corpsman, it was my job to get a couple of Marines and a can of diesel fuel, go around, pour fuel on the little piles of shit, and set them afire. We needed to keep the area as sanitary as possible. Like I said, it was a shitty job but someone had to do it. I wonder if this same phenomenon occurs in Iraq.

One thing that is probably different in Nam then in Iraq is the urinals. In Nam, we had artillery transport tubes sticking out the ground with a screen on the top stationed around the base and that was the urinal. With the female Marines in Iraq, that method probably would not be feasible. At least we did not let the Marines just pee anywhere. We needed to keep things sanitary.

Bet you never thought of these kinds of things in a war zone. Isn’t this a great education?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Leftovers and Football

Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving and a safe one also. Being grandparents, we had to split our holiday with the other grandparents so we got everyone on Friday. That worked out nicely this year because that was also Joanne’s birthday. It was a double celebration day. We were stuffed and have been having leftovers for the last two days. I think we will have pizza tonight. We will probably go to Red Lobster tomorrow for Joanne’s normal birthday dinner. Much of the last two days has been spent eating leftovers and watching football.

We got a lot of snow on Thursday and it is snowing heavily right now. I hope that this will not last long but with Lake Effect, you never know. If the wind is coming down off the lake and the temperature is just right, it will continue to snow for hours on end. It is supposed to warm up above freezing this coming week so the snow should be gone by weeks end. Let’s hope so.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing all of our family, friends and readers a “Thanksgiving Blessing and Best Wishes for a safe and happy holiday”. May we all take a moment to be thankful for the many blessings that we each receive from our friends and family. I also want to thank our Military personnel in far away places to stay safe and remember you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Best Wishes and Safe Travels

A Series of Rambling Memories

As I go along, all these miscellaneous, memories pop into my head and I keep telling myself that I need to put those down on paper. Most are meaningless to readers out there but they were part of who I am and what I did and from these I learned.

One thing that I enjoyed was learning how to shoot the various weapons used by the Marines. The M16 was okay but the M60 was the most fun of all. It was great watching that grenade go flying off to the target. Our M60 guy was really great with that thing. We would float things down the river and he could lob a grenade right on top of the item. I never got to try the machine gun but that was a fantastic piece of firepower. Felt sorry for the guys that had to lug that heavy thing around. Was that what they called the BAR? The other weapon I got to use a couple of times was the LAW. This was a shoulder mounted rocket launcher and made a BIG bang when it hit.

1967 was still early in the Vietnam War and I do not think the VC were used to our tanks. At the mountain base, Camp Zamora, we had one tank and there was a trench dug for the tank to sit at a slight angle upwards. The tank faced south and on the south end of the base was a hill that looked down on the base. One night, the VC decided to set up mortars on that little hill. As soon as I heard that first mortar leave the tube, I was in our bunker. After the second or third mortar hit, the tank guys were in the tank and had a round loaded and with one shot blew the top of that hill up. The tank was aimed right at the spot the VC setup their mortars so they must not have known what it was or what it could do. There was plenty of blood but no bodies.

Another nice defense we employed was on the wire. All around the base was rolls of razor wire and inside of the wire was placed claymore mines. The guys in foxholes that were on security watch could activate them. The claymore mines would blast out toward the perimeter. Another added security measure, probably designed by the engineers, were barrels of jet fuel that were wrapped in detcord (spelling?) with one claymore on the backside. That baby going off was just like a napalm bomb.

Continuing with this rambling, I will go to the subject of water. Being a Corpsman, I wanted to keep my group healthy so I made sure they drank plenty of water everyday and took their malaria pills. We were issued a new malaria pill because of the new type of malaria we ran into in this part of the jungle. Turns out that pill causes cancer so I am sorry guys for being such a mother to you and making you take that pill everyday.

We got our water from the river near the base. It was pumped into “mules” and we had a couple on the base so we could fill our canteens. One day, someone on the water detail, said, “Doc, check out the water in the river”. The water was foamy and had a darkish muddy look. We were either being poisoned upstream or they were spraying defoliant upstream and the rains were washing it down to us. I hope that we did not drink that contaminated water too long before it became visible. We had to have our water brought in by convoy after that. Now, I do not remember if we called it Agent Orange or just defoliant at that point in time.

Okay, I am probably going to get a lot of static on this one, but the Army guys were pigs. Let me back up and explain something first. We had wooden shitters over there that had an opening in the back that contained a 55-gallon drum cut in half. Some shitters were two holers up to four holers and were fancy outhouses that did not have a hole under them. Everyday, someone would be assigned to shit duty, literally. The half barrel would be removed, oil and a little gas would be added, and we would literally burn the shit. That smell sticks with you a long time. Well, when the Army pulled out with the big artillery, it was up to the Marines to clean up their mess. I do not think they every cleaned or burned their shitters. It was crawling with maggots. I told our guys to pour gas and oil on the whole building and burn it to the ground. It made a great fire.

Because the heavy artillery was removed, the base was not really needed anymore. We had to start breaking apart our bunkers and cut the sand bags. Two B-52 pilots were flown in and they surveyed what they needed to do in the middle of the night. The engineers strung detcord (spelling?) all around the base. When we were a distance away from the base, we heard the loud explosions of the engineers clearing the place out. I hope that the VC would go to the area to pickup what they could and would be there when the B-52 dropped there big bombs on the place.

We took a few AK-47 rounds on the road as we were leaving but we gave back a lot more rounds. They always told me, “Doc has his 45 on automatic again”. I tended to empty a full clip when I started shooting my 45. I had strong wrists so the 45 did not kick much for me and I could pull the trigger as fast as I wanted and still hit the target. The only casualty was a burn from a hot cartridge of an M16 that went down a Marines shirt. Oh, by the way, I was ridding in the back of the 6 X 6 with the other Marines. No more explosive trucks for me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Saga Continues

If you are looking for war stories, then this edition is not what you want. I am going to concentrate on the floral and fauna with this segment. Actually, more about the trees and bugs. At Camp Lejeune, we got a lot of training about how to handle snakebites. Vietnam has many neurotoxin snakes that were very deadly. We considered them 2 step or 10 step snakes. That means after being bitten you could take a few steps and be dead. Guess what? I never saw a single snake in all my time in Nam.

The guys were being bitten a lot from scorpions but the worse bite that I saw was from these big red centipedes. Those little legged critters could sure create a lot of pain. Benadryl and aspirin was about all we had to take care of those bites. I saw many very large interesting looking beetles over there but no one ever was bitten that I know of.

One interesting creature I found was a very large lizard at the base in the jungle (Camp Zamora). When the engineers build the base, they left this mound of vegetation and it happened to be at one end of our medical tent. At night, this big lizard would come out and explore our tent for food so we started leaving him or her C-rations. We usually left Ham and Limas because most of us hated that one. I slept pretty well so I never saw him at night but one of the other corpsman said that it must have been six foot long. That probably means he was only three feet long because that corpsman was a fisherman.

Did I mention that I never saw a snake over in Nam? Damn training never did prepare us for the right things. I had occasionally had to give penicillin to the patrol dogs because their footpads would sometimes get sores. All I could do was to go by weight and hope the dog was not allergic. I also had to hope I was not bitten. The handler would just lie on top of the dog while I came from behind and stuck him or her with the needle and syringe. One patrol dog was very nice and seemed so gentle until the handler gave the command “kill” and then the dog went ballistic. On patrol, if she started barking, we would hit the deck because a sniper round would zip overhead after she barked. We loved to be on patrol with a dog. They were lifesavers.

While at the jungle base, we did not have patrol dogs so at that point I really did not know what I was missing. There were three of us corpsmen so one would usually go out on day patrol with a platoon. Another would go out on afternoon patrol with a different platoon and the third one would go out on night ambush. One corpsman came down with the new form of malaria that we did not have a prophylaxis for and he was sent to the Hospital ship. Then one day, after I got back from patrol, I found out that I was by myself because the other corpsman was Med-Evaced out due to an accidental discharge on another part of the base. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My life just got a lot busier. Platoons have to have a corpsman on patrol with them so I started having triple duty waiting for relief to show up. I ate and shit between shifts and took care of sick call when I could and I slept on night ambush. At least I was not spending hours on end filling sand bags for the bunkers. As I recall, I did this for about a month. The morning patrol would usually cover the east area along the road to give protection to the convoys coming into the base. The afternoon would usually be west into the jungle. I liked that direction the best.

Getting into the jungle was the most difficult part. Once you got in, it was easy because it was triple canopy jungle and the lower level was easy walking. Getting in was the tough part because it was so thick on the edge. There was also this troublesome bush we call the “wait a minute” bush. It was a big version of the spider plant. You know those things that hang down that have flowers on it. Well this plant had barbs on these long extensions and they were always hooking your cover or clothes. You would say, “wait a minute” and backup to get unhooked or to get your cover back. That bush was almost as bad as the elephant grass that had sharp edges.

Did I tell you I never saw a snake in Nam? I did see a column of red army ants in the jungle that was about eight feet long by six inches wide. They would attack anything that got in their way including burning matches. I would clear the leaves after the trail marker ants went through and the whole column would start to back up until they found the path again. Another interesting thing in the jungle was the leaches. There were leaches that you found in the water and leaches on the jungle floor. If you stood in one spot to long, you could see the leaches heading your way moving across the leaves like little Inch Worms. As long as you cleared a spot to bare ground, the leaches would not move on the dirt.

In triple canopy jungle, if it rained, it would be about a half hour before the rain got to the bottom but it would still rain on the floor after the rain stopped. Lions and tigers and bears oh my. Well, no lions or bears but tigers, elephants and monkeys. I never saw an elephant but I did see what must have been the area they went to die. It was covered with HUGE bones. I did see a squirrel that looked just like the squirrels in the states. I think we were the first humans he had ever seen and did not seem that afraid. Sure not like the water buffalo the Vietnamese used to plow their fields. Little kids could control those big things but those buffalo did not like us Americans. Maybe we smelled bad.

To be con’t…