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.