Veterans Court

Over fifty years have passed since we returned from that beautiful country and that terrible war. Like millions of others, we left our homes as boys and came home older, yet not fully men. It has taken a half century for many to come to a reckoning of what that experience has meant in our lives. Recollections, both good and bad, are stuck in our minds and deep-seated emotions in our hearts. 

There are, of course, the occasional “thank you for your service” comments. These are often welcomed and accepted with mixed feelings. For some, it has taken decades to come forth and speak about those days. Like so many past wars, Vietnam veterans remain hesitant to talk about the horror that is war. Some have yet to reconcile what it means to say, “I served in Vietnam.” For the men and women who went, there remains uncertainty about how we should look back on those days. It is more a question of whether we want to remember. History books tell us over 58,000 American men and women died. The memorial wall in Washington D.C. lists each of those names, a stark reminder of prices paid for war. 

For those who went to Vietnam, it wasn’t simply another war in the history of many wars. It was our war. Now fifty years have passed and many thousands of those soldiers have passed away. In the not-so-distant future, all will be gone. Memories fade, and faces grow distant, yet we recall those brave young men and women who answered the call to duty. Bravery isn’t measured by medals and ribbons; it is measured by facing one’s fears and persevering. 

We easily keep in our mind those youthful faces of friends who fought beside us. Courageous and often scared, yet willing to step up and do what was required. Those who served will never forget the thumping rotor blade sound of a medevac dropping to extract a wounded comrade. We never forget the freight train roar of an incoming rocket, or whispered blessings of a chaplain praying for those heading out on patrol. Still, there are other fond remembrances. That mess sergeant who extended his tour so he might prepare Christmas dinner for the troops. The laughter of jokes from those who had become like brothers, and wise guidance from elder NCOs who helped keep us alive. 

And so we find ourselves now in our seventies, older and hopefully wiser than we were in those long-ago years. And what shall we make of that time, of that place? The author John Steinbeck wrote, “All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.” Indeed, his words were and still are true. The United States has been involved in many armed conflicts since Vietnam. Many thousands of our country’s men and women have been lost. It is not our task to decide the right or wrong of decisions, sending the young to fight in those conflicts. Yet as elderly men who have served this country in war, we believe any war should be the last resort available. 

As writers, it is our responsibility to write honestly. It does not matter if we are writing non-fiction or fiction, honesty counts. Both of us are proud to have worn the uniforms of the Army and of the Marine Corps. We have shared experiences that are terrible to consider, and reminiscences we relish remembering. When we meet a Vietnam veteran on the street, we often ask when and where they were stationed, or what unit they represented. Most conversations end with the words: “Welcome home.” Powerful words understood by every Vietnam vet. Our recommendation to you is this, next time you see a man or woman who has served in the military or in one of our wars, stop and consider their sacrifice. Look them in the eye, shake their hand, and thank them. Honestly, thank them. Veteran’s Day is November 11th., a time to express your appreciation for the service of all veterans. 

 

David Davis served as a medic with the 101st. Airborne Division in Vietnam. His first published novel “Running In, Walking Out” is based in part on his experience in Vietnam and as a therapist. His second novel is titled “The Unusual Man.”

 

Wes Choc was stationed as a US Marine at Khe Sanh, Vietnam, carrying radio for his captain and as a Vietnamese interpreter. He has published three books, one titled, “Just Dust, An Improbable Marine’s Vietnam Story.”

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.