I assume that from part two you would now be thinking I was going to speak of the horrors I saw on the battlefield,But before we get to any of that I want to relay another story that left deeply embedded images in my mind from Vietnam,and changed the way I began to think about why I was there.
I returned from the DMZ and for a while was put in charge of 80 Vietnamese civilians that had been vetted and cleared to work on the main compound.My duties were to be a liaison and to pick them up from their Village off the compound in the mornings take them to their work stations and get them started each day preforming the various tasks they were hired to do.
these out houses were a plywood building with half a 55 gallon drum under each hole filled with diesel fuel,that were periodically removed and set on fire then replaced and refilled with diesel.
They also filled sand bags and placed them around our vital areas this was done by running a ditch-er in the sand while they held the bags under the discharge,most of them were very small women and this was very hard work especially when the man running the ditch-er was a hater and ran it at speeds they couldn’t possibly keep up with there were times I wanted to drag him off there and beat his ass he was a very mean person.
Anyway Back to the images this experience brought to me,here were people so poor living in grass huts and makeshift shanties without shoes mostly and only one pair of clothes which they wore pretty much round the clock,they had none of the things we have and they are being treated on my base no better than a pig in a pen,yet each day when I picked them up and took them home in the evening they were smiling happy to have a chance to make their $.50 a day.They Had no connection to the war really they were surviving day to day not part of any political direction or ideology.
As time passed I was able through an interpreter to communicate and befriend many of these very wonderful and simple people.I found myself becoming very attached to them and wanting to do something no matter how small to improve their lives. they smoked and chewed this awful plant substance called betel nut,which made them somewhat high as I heard but I would never try it because of the way it made their teeth look.they seemed fascinated by American cigarettes and were crazy about the menthol varieties especially Salem and they dearly loved to get their hands on a bar of soap,so I started buying a case of soap 72 bars and a few cartons of Salem cigarettes on paydays and handing it out to them at the end of the day they used those bars of soap to wash everything they owned,I guess even people with dirt floors long to be clean as much as anyone else, as you might imagine I became an instant celebrity in their hearts.I also began smuggling out as many scraps of wood and building materials as I could for one particular old man eventually papasan told me he was able to use the wood and materials to build the best house in the vill and now he would be voted king, his family became very close to me,each day bringing me a bottle of (Tiger beer) it was made at a brewery in Quang Tri City built and run during the time the french occupied their country. I couldn’t believe that people who had so little in life could be so generous when it really must have been a big burden to their overall budget.Anyway I guess the point of all this is that my relationship with these nice people caused me to begin seeing our mission in Vietnam in a completely different way,It made the the other more gruesome things seem more odd to me than real.they are all burned permanently into my memories and I often wonder what must have become of them.
More in part four