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Helicopter dreams

Sometimes it’s the smell of a kerosene lamp or stove, it might be a snip of music or a sound. It could be a bumper sticker of a Viet Nam service ribbon or unit patch, a book cover of the latest war memoir, some story about a death or someone overcoming their injuries. Doesn’t really matter what it is, because it’s all around me/us.

But I guess I’m entitled to my helicopter dreams. They aren’t big scary dreams, more like an itch that can’t be scratched. They just make me sad more than anything. Or maybe disillusioned, it’s hard to quantify.

“Thank you for your service” is another trigger. Why do people want to thank me for committing mass murder?  How about; “I’m sorry our country is so fucked up, that they lied you into a war.” Can’t have that, it goes against the conventional wisdom that all nine million of us who had boots on the ground served righteously, just a few bad apples gave us a bad name. It’s a comforting illusion. There was nothing righteous about “destroying the village to save it”.

When I would hitchhike into Saigon on Highway One, I would first go through the town of Bien Hoa. The road was flanked on both sides with a version of poverty this kid wouldn’t see again until traveling through Alabama and Mississippi after I got back. When I got to Highway One, I was across the road from Long Bien, the largest U.S. Army base in Vietnam with over 50,000 personnel stationed there. I would watch as convoy after convoy would head out to resupply other areas. I would think to myself: “WTF! Millions of dollars of shit going down the road and I just drove by people hammering flattened tin cans on their hootch that they had scrounged from our dump.” Something wasn’t right. I can still see and smell Bien Hoa sometimes.

Looking back over my lifetime, it seems the US has been engaged in some conflict either covertly or overtly since I can remember. So every day there is a reminder and every day there’s a trigger. I’d rather not have been entitled to that legacy.

Originally posted to DKos Military Veterans on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 05:46 AM PDT.

Also republished by Military Community Members of Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •   Bien Hoa Air Base to Long Binh (7+ / 0-)

    This is the drive I took many a time

    White-collar conservatives flashing down the street, pointing their plastic finger at me..

    by BOHICA on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 05:56:13 AM PDT

  •  This is really interesting (5+ / 0-)

    and something people should take note of:

    “Thank you for your service” is another trigger.
    I've never heard that before.  I am not one to walk up to a soldier and thank them for their service, but I did not know that it could be a trigger.


    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 06:09:47 AM PDT

  •  Its why I smoke pot (10+ / 0-)

    best thing for PTSD. I don't dream any more. I get along fine without dreaming.

    Why do people want to thank me for committing mass murder?
    Maybe they don't want to thank you for that, but for showing up for one of our country's fights. Maybe they want to thank you for your sacrifice

    You can thank me for my service any time and I'll gladly say thank you. I figure if  someone is gracious enough to say it, I'll be gracious enough to thank him or her for it. I don't need to make it into a "teachable moment" about how awful war is.

    Hearing people disdain  people saying that always makes me wonder how much time they spent living in a hole eating C's. I spent quite a bit of time doing just that. For over 5 months straight I slept on the ground EVERY fucking night, rain or shine and it was monsoon season. you can thank me for that. (Thats no record in the 101st either) Its why I volunteered to be a lrrp---the possiblity of a hot shower and the chance to eat sitting at a table with a real knife and fork again before I died---true story!

    being old and having a long life, now I can see that with perspective and I'm glad I went. When my country called  I stood up.  It was the greatest, biggest, by far and away the most exciting experience of my life. Ive never been more important, being 18 and 19 y/o and making life and death decisions daily.

    what an incredible adventure it was Skulking down the Ho Chi Minh Trail dressed up like a bush, trying to look over both shoulders at once. And I could hardly ever tell people about it, it had no meaning for them.

    I look back at my war service with pride.  Tho still only an 18 year old, I showed up for a large shooting war dressed in the uniform of a US Army paratrooper. And I walked away scarred and cursing but still in one piece, mostly.

    I'm satisfied with that. Youre welcome, America

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 06:12:29 AM PDT

    •  For Me Saying "Thank You For Your Service" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BOHICA, Its a New Day, ToKnowWhy

      is as automatic as me calling an elder sir. Both are done with total respect. I never served. I don't think war is "cool." But many could have served and they didn't. So those that did, well I bow to them.

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 06:17:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hosting the (5+ / 0-)

      Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign tour twice as they came over to appeal their suit against DOW/ Monsanto et al, gave me another perspective on just what we did to that country.

      It makes me sick.

      My unit supported LRRPS and I kept my aircraft ready to go at all times. I was a pretty good crew chief and did my job.
      After a while however, the whole absurdity of why we were there starts to give you pause.

      As Hugh C, Thompson said:

      "I wish I was a big enough man to say I
       forgive them, but I swear to God, I can't."

      White-collar conservatives flashing down the street, pointing their plastic finger at me..

      by BOHICA on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 06:39:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Me and the Vietnamese are cool now (4+ / 0-)

        Going back in 2003 I gave them another shot at me. I walked among them unarmed and unafraid (except crossing their insane streets) and they welcomed me.
        Going back again was as meaningful to me as going the first time.
        Self in Pleiku, with friends, 2003
        Photobucket
        But I guess I'm a lot different than you. I enjoy going back into my military experience, especially now I don't feel like I have to hide it any more (60s, 70s, 80s)

        One of the ways is currently serving as Secretary of my lrrp/Ranger company association. I guess I do it because I like maintaining relationships with some of the most ballsiest, gamest people I ever knew. These guys would do anything.
        Once upon a time our lives really mattered to each other, then we were seperated now we're back together again. I really loved some of these guys once. Amaziing. And These are the guys I really feel like I can talk to. Yeah we laugh about stuff that would have other people clucking their tongues in anguish, but who else can I talk to about it? Certainly not the people here, as tolerant as they may be.
        I walk into a room of old lrrps and rangers and I know however their lives went, I know exactly ho they are---and they know me. Someties I feel like I spend too much of my tie pretending to be nice. With these guys I don't have to.
        Sometimes its nice to be with people who know who you really are.

        I wear t-shirts that say Airborne, 101st, 82d, Lrp/ranger and people say nice things to me. Kinda badass to walk into the gym with a Ranger t-shirt on, nodding to all the tattooed body builders: We bad, we bad. I was walking by a motorcycle gang once and a couple of them said Thanks for your service---I liked it, it gets respect.

        Thanks for your service, BO. you can do what you like about it.

        Happy just to be alive

        by exlrrp on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 07:48:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Interesting comment! (0+ / 0-)
          I walk into a room of old lrrps and rangers and I know however their lives went, I know exactly ho they are---and they know me. Someties I feel like I spend too much of my tie pretending to be nice. With these guys I don't have to.  Sometimes its nice to be with people who know who you really are.
          And that's exactly why Willard was able to speak so easily and candidly to his benefactors in Boca - because he knows how their lives have gone, knows exactly who they are, and they know him.  He didn't have to pretend to be nice, and someone that he's not.  I'm also sure that it was nice for him to be with a group of people who really know who he is.

          From yet another vet, thanks for your service, and do with that as you wish.  :-)

  •  It would be really good (6+ / 0-)

    if this country could vow to only fight wars when it is truly a self defense situation or an extraordinary reason other than being attacked perhaps.  I heard all the stories about the wars that did fit these criteria but I can't say that I have witnessed such a war in my lifetime.  I used to think that the war in Afghanistan fit that criteria but I no longer do because have long since crippled AQ in Afghanistan. Our military admits and even Rumsfeld admitted that there are hardly any AQ left there. But we are still there.  Why?  The war on terror was simply a cover for the long held neocon plan to destabilize the Middle East and overthrow governments (see Wes Clark statements about this) and to create infrastructure not for the people of Afghanistan but for private industry and for control of the transport routes in the region.


    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 06:14:54 AM PDT

    •  Read This Book, It Will Stun You IMHO (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BOHICA, joanneleon

      Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan

      Basically 2 CIA dudes and 17 Special Forces got into Afghanistan before any American knew we were there. They had few suit cases of cash and by working with Afgans rebels w/ US air support routed the Taliban in a matter of days. Drove them all back to Kabul.

      Now we've been there a decade plus .....

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 06:24:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Should Note That Folks In Afghanistan (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BOHICA, adrianrf, joanneleon

        didn't seem to like the Taliban. In the first two battles in this book the US couldn't get the air support they wanted. So dudes on horses went up against old Soviet tanks and vehicles with 50 cal guns. The Americans were like "pull back, pull back."

        The Northern Alliance well they just charged tanks on horse back.

        I have also mentioned this book to note that those folks are warriors. Sun Tzu said you need to know your enemy. We should have left not long after that. They don't care we have drones and stuff. Doesn't matter to them.

        If they don't want us around they will keep fighting. Nothing we do, I mean nothing we do will matter.

        When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

        by webranding on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 06:41:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great post brother. (9+ / 0-)

    I’m sorry our country is so fucked up, that they lied you into a war.

  •  thank you for speaking up about your experience... (6+ / 0-)

    describing its meaning and putting it into a broader context.

    i'm part of the 99% - america's largest minority

    by joe shikspack on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 06:30:56 AM PDT

  •  Kris Kristofferson - Vietnam (5+ / 0-)

    Democrats will lie you into war just as well as Republicans.

    "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand? David Crosby.

    by allenjo on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 06:57:34 AM PDT

  •  I'm thankful my number didn't come up in the draft (5+ / 0-)

    and I was not faced with that terrible decision.

    Creedence Clearwater Revival Fortunate Son still rings true today. Rich men start the wars and send the poor man's sons to fight it.

    "It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth." - Morpheus

    by CitizenOfEarth on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 07:23:00 AM PDT

  •  I call mine, "submarine dreams" (0+ / 0-)

    Sometimes they're intense, sometimes not, but they're with me every night.

    It was explained to me in PTSD group that these things stick with you because it's your body that experiences situation, and creates the memory.  The brain retains the imprint, but it was the body that responded in the moment.

  •  Thanks for sharing, as always. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Funkygal

    Namaste.

    How did Supreme Court decision ACA help the 23 million still uncovered? Ask the 18,000 Doctors of PNHP -- they're not waiting, FORWARD now to pass H.R. 676, the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act .

    by divineorder on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 10:48:17 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for speaking up BOHICA. When I was in (0+ / 0-)

    Chicago for the NATO protests, the vets were marching in during the pre-march rally. When a lady near me told them "thanks for your service", I wanted to yell "No, thanks for stepping forward and telling the truth". We need more people like you and those vets who threw their medals of honor and said FU to the people representing the axis of evil that is NATO.

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 04:26:43 PM PDT

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