Texas is another country...

Texas is another country...I have driven into Texas from all four directions and can affirm that after crossing that imaginary state line you just know you are in Texas . The world becomes wide open space, the sky feels higher, you can stretch out and rest a spell.

Monday, December 9, 2013

VIETNAM WAR

Post by Alana Cash

The Vietnam War lasted from 1956 until 1975.  There were only a few thousand US troops at first.  Kennedy tripled that in 1961 and tripled it again in 1962.  But it was Lyndon Johnson and his deception about the Gulf of Tonkin that escalated the war to nightly news.

A total of 58,209 American troops died in the Vietnam War, over 4,000 from Texas.  I know there are names of high school classmates of mine on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC, and when I was there,  I couldn’t go near it.  The average age of the troops in Vietnam was 19.  How old were their mothers?

There are many misconceptions about the Vietnam War that have become part of its mythology.  For example, contrary to political PR, there were no – none – zero POWs left in Vietnam after 1975, so no need for Rambo to save them or Reagan’s campaign promise to get them out.  There were 2646 American MIAs, however, and 200,000 MIA South Vietnamese.  There was not a disproportionate number of African American soldiers serving in Vietnam.   The African American population was 10% of the total US population in the 1960s and 10% of the population of troops in Vietnam.  In fact it was poor sons of coal miners from West Virginia who served and died disproportionately in Vietnam.  

When my brother got his draft number in 1969, he went across the street to the dispensary and got himself declared 4F on account of asthma, then he and some friends went up to Alaska for a year.  That summer, I worked as a lifeguard at the NCO pool across the street from the Kelly AFB flight line.  The pool was surrounded by an 8-foot chain link fence that had metal slats in it so the airmen couldn’t see the girls by the pool, but the lifeguards sat on high chairs and we could see over the fence.

Every afternoon between three and four o’clock a convoy of ambulances drove down England Drive, the street between the pool and the flight line.  An airman opened a gate and the ambulances drove onto the tarmac and parked.  Soon after the ambulances arrived, a series of cargo planes landed one after the other.  And their precious cargo was a plane load of young men who had been burned so badly that they were shipped from Vietnam to the “burn ward” at Brooks Army Medical Hospital in San Antonio.  The burn ward at Brooks was for the special cases, young men with so much of their scorched body covered in white, blinding-white bandages that you might have confused them with mummies. 

Night after night, news of the war came into our living room just down the street from the flight line, letting me know that tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, the war would serve up another group of young men whose bodies were mangled and charred.  And I should be ready for it. 



 -David Segura said...
... and the ambulances arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center ("BAMC") in Ft. Sam Houston, where I was working my first job. It was a civil service job in "Linen Control" in the late 1960's. I delivered fresh linens to the hospital wards, including the burn wards. I have re-lived those days throughout my life and have never forgotten my brothers. Imagine a man, our age of 19, or so ... begging God aloud to "... let me die, please God...".
This experience, forever etched in my mind, along with our high school senior class song: "Impossible Dream" have guided the rest of my life. Indeed, I have marched into Hell for a Heavenly cause.
It is with tearful emotion that I pause ... and will write more.
December 9, 2013 at 7:41 PM
 Delete
Blogger Larry Mayes said...
There were no (POWs)– none – zero POWs left in Vietnam after 1975. In the 1980s it was not certain that there were no living POWS in Vietnam, so most of the emphasis was on recovery of remains. From my view a Navy Surgeon General's command, this was a high priority that made slow progress with the Vietnam government.

I remember a soldier who rented from us, who returned with severe burns and was threated at BAMC. Never knew much about his fate after his admission.

Names are familiar for me as well. Two from elementary school, three from my Marine unit. In all 6 from combat. The war lasted until 1975, but when 22 Oct rolls around each year, I take the time to remember 5 who died on the same day in three separate engagements. This part year, then enhanced Memorial Wall displayed photos. It was tough to see the face of a classmate who's face I haven't seen in 52 years. Each anniversary extends that 1975 date, by just another day. For some the war rages on.
December 9, 2013 at 7:44 PM
 Delete
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Very sad, but such a respectful story.

3 comments:

-David Segura said...

... and the ambulances arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center ("BAMC") in Ft. Sam Houston, where I was working my first job. It was a civil service job in "Linen Control" in the late 1960's. I delivered fresh linens to the hospital wards, including the burn wards. I have re-lived those days throughout my life and have never forgotten my brothers. Imagine a man, our age of 19, or so ... begging God aloud to "... let me die, please God...".
This experience, forever etched in my mind, along with our high school senior class song: "Impossible Dream" have guided the rest of my life. Indeed, I have marched into Hell for a Heavenly cause.
It is with tearful emotion that I pause ... and will write more.

Larry Mayes said...

There were no (POWs)– none – zero POWs left in Vietnam after 1975. In the 1980s it was not certain that there were no living POWS in Vietnam, so most of the emphasis was on recovery of remains. From my view a Navy Surgeon General's command, this was a high priority that made slow progress with the Vietnam government.

I remember a soldier who rented from us, who returned with severe burns and was threated at BAMC. Never knew much about his fate after his admission.

Names are familiar for me as well. Two from elementary school, three from my Marine unit. In all 6 from combat. The war lasted until 1975, but when 22 Oct rolls around each year, I take the time to remember 5 who died on the same day in three separate engagements. This part year, then enhanced Memorial Wall displayed photos. It was tough to see the face of a classmate who's face I haven't seen in 52 years. Each anniversary extends that 1975 date, by just another day. For some the war rages on.

Anonymous said...

Very sad, but such a respectful story.