Road Trip Truths

My husband got a call last week.  It was about his life long best friend who was put onto hospice.  We told him we would be there as soon as possible. We reached out and set up employees to do my delivery work, gave our daughter our refridgerator food, confirmed that my husband had been released from Jury Duty and we hit the road.

Jimmy lives 2000 miles away.  I’ve never been back east so getting to make a journey even though it was quick is always something I enjoy doing.  Mike and I will celebrate 35 years together in November.  I have had many times in our marriage that I thought I knew EVERYTHING about the man I married.  We have faced many crises in our lives.  We have had many joys in our lives.

On this journey to see Mike’s friend from 4th grade we always find many things to talk about.  As we are talking about their friendship and life changes through the 6 decades of friendship when my husband drops a bomb in the car.  He admits that he was called by God to move to Granby Colorado and to be a preacher.

While he had told me about being called to move to Granby, in other truth revelations throughout the years.  God spoke to my heart when I was ten years old and told me Colorado would be my home someday.  It has been my home for 4 decades now.  But my husband has never indicated he was called to preach.

I am honored that he trusted me with his truth.  It’s a piece of his life puzzle that makes me go- so that is why………  and now I get why he tends to be critical of preaching………  but I don’t know how to help him fulfill his calling.  God seems to be pointing out to me that he has fulfilled his calling.

Preachers are called to help God’s sheep- Mike recognized how lost I was and friended me.  That grew into a relationship and he has more than once helped me find my path back to God.  He has this quiet safe calm that even our daughters have recognized that when a woman has been abused, we feel safe with him.  We know that he won’t hurt us.  We know that he won’t do the horrid things to us that have been done in the past.  While he told me he only did 1/2 the job that God gave him- I think he did more.

I don’t know if he completed it,  my original reaction was he let God down.  But I think he has ‘preached’ to many women throughout his life.  He has given them a safe friend to be with, a safe ride to home, a shoulder to lean on without expecting anything in return.

We sat with Jimmy and asked him if he knows Jesus.  We asked him if he knows that he is going to heaven.  We shared memories and some of the stories of their youth.  I then on our last day with Jimmy told him the memories were fun to share, but have you asked for forgiveness?  Have you apologised for the bad things you have done?  and then Mike says with all the love and compassion in the world- Jimmy give it all to God.  Don’t leave anything out.  God loves you man and He’s your ticket out of this world.

I feel in my heart that Jimmy is heaven bound.  My prayer is that his illnesses don’t force him to suffer endlessly.  We serve the Good Mighty God that loves all of us and wants us to come home to heaven without reservation.  Thank you God forgiving us the time to see Jimmy and to enjoy his unique life long friendship.

Mental Health Insight

Hi All,

I wonder sometimes why I use this blog- only 18 followers.  But that is okay- this is a hard post to write but I want to help people find the solution to our nation’s mental health crisis.

I’ve had another HARD autumn.  As I tossed and turned last night trying to find the answer that my daughter so genuinely asked me- What will make you happy?  Suffering with mental illness most of my life- the honest answer is I don’t know.  But last night God opened my mind and helped me understand, I want to be free of the financial burden of our business.

The stress is too much for me to take any longer.  I tried to leave the business last year, I tried to give our daughter the business again this year.  She is kind and did not take over our business.  So it has been a roller coaster of emotions with some very deep, dark dips into depression, anxiety and panic.

I don’t ever want to let anyone down- most of all my daughter and business partner.  So I’ve tried to shoulder the weight of the financial end of our thriving, growing business.  But in my own mind, the fears run out of control driving me over the edge of near sanity.

The decisions have all been made.  Checked.  Cross checked and over thought.  I will meet with our drivers today and give them 2 weeks notice of us closing our doors.  I will then contact our clients and so on and so forth.  My heart hurts for our drivers who have done a fine job and don’t even know the mental health struggle I’ve been battling….   I also know that what they earn from us is a part time wage and we are their 2nd jobs so it’s not like dinner won’t be put on the table for them because of this decision.

I know our daughter will succeed at everything in life.  She is an over achiever- my hope is that by splitting this connection my mental health struggles will stop affecting her as severely.  Not knowing if your business partner can cover your back STINKS.  So while my mental health will always affect her- maybe now it won’t affect EVERY aspect of her life.

It took me 2 months to figure out what was causing this uproar in my stability.  As someone who suffers and overcomes depression- please know I am not alone.  I find it nearly impossible to pinpoint the downturns- the cycle.  I listen to my trusted family who recognize they are about to get hit with another wave of this turmoil and I try to avoid the slippery edges- but Autumn gets me every year- some years worse – some years not as bad.

It is so hard to describe- but these two pictures are fitting of the last two months in my life.  I am in the middle of a GREAT dot to dot picture-  but I CAN NOT find the next dot.  I keep trying and trying but now the scribbles are covering everything and I never found the next dot.     And when I see the scribbles and recognize the manic behavior I change- oh no look I have a square peg and all the holes are circles……. my peg won’t fit into any of them… it doesn’t matter if I twist, turn…. hit…..  my peg doesn’t fit =  which equals I don’t fit- I am not smart – I am unwanted – I don’t belong…..   I have learned to take those thoughts captive and argue for myself and speak good into me (with lots of mental health counseling)  But I can’t stop the manic from starting- I use it to accomplish lots of really good things – and sometimes that is enough to mask it from changing my life- but not this time.

Another thing that helps with the manic emotions / feelings is to get myself grounded in the moment or space.  This tool I forgot about until just today.  5 things I can see, 5 things I can touch…  etc.  It is VERY calming and if I had remembered this tool faster I might not have scribbled up the beauty of our business.

Change is happening.  It will be okay.  Paths change.  Some things end.  Some things improve.  It will be okay.

Addiction sucks the life out of the addict and those who love them

This last month I have been in the middle of addiction with a young woman trying to help her find the way out.  Honestly I’ve been in the middle of it for over a decade with her but it has been extremely intense this last month.

I sit here writing this blog now that she is checked into a detox unit under a suicide watch.  The last 36 hours have been hard on all of us.  This afternoon she asked me to take her in.  That was after hours of texts and phone calls switching from ‘help me, save me’ to leave me alone- let me die.

Trying to get mental health help for anyone is hard.  No one can help unless she calls.  When she is in the middle of crisis she is not capable of calling a stranger for help.  She calls me because she trusts me, but I can only do so much.  I can want her to be sober and drug free till the end of time- my desires don’t have any power of the evil of addition.  I placed calls yesterday and spoke with different experts but bottom line is until she calls they can’t do anything.

I can find detox that doesn’t help with mental health.  I can find mental health that will not deal with addiction.  I can not find her help that handles both.  I took her to a center in Grand Junction that has put her on a waiting list for a 90 day rehab program.  There are a few hoops for her to jump through to make it into the program.  Unlike me she is not a people pleasing hoop jumper.  So far she has completed 2 of the phone calls, but I don’t know if I can keep her involved long enough to make it to the top of the waiting list.

The other issue is the cost of rehab programs.  I understand the work that they do- it is hard, exhausting and many times unfulfilling work.  But the cost of rehab is so far out of reach that it feels as though we will never succeed at helping her find a new path in life that is not destructive.  While I will never advocate for socialized medicine we need something different than we have now.  We successfully raised one of our children who had significant respiratory ailments from birth.  Multiple ambulance rides to Children’s Hospital, weeks of ICU care and so forth.  The cost was jaw dropping.  We just kept making payments for decades.  We honestly could have sent her through a 4 year university for less than we paid in medical bills.  I don’t have the answers to how to fix the medical world but I know when you have to use every cent of your income and more for medical care that is not right or fair.  I have first hand been turned down for medical care because I did not have the ability to pay for it upfront.  This young lady is being turned down because of her financial status.  While I don’t think doctors, nurses, emt’s, therapists should work for free or be told you can only charge this much- I don’t think we should be turned away either.

After a grueling 2 hours of checking her in tonight and she hugged me, telling me she is sorry to keep me up so late & thanking me for caring enough to bring her- I know she will be alive in the morning and for now that is good enough.  I told her we are going to get it right this time.  You will do this by my rules.  If you leave this time you can’t come back.  I won’t enable anyone.  It’s a self destructive way of life to enable addicts.

If the detox center can not place her somewhere and she has to check out and come here we will attend AA meetings daily like last years rehab told her to do.  She stayed sober for 62 days then.  I will make her look in the mirror and tell her she is loved, daily.  I will make her go to church every Sunday.  I will make sure she makes it to mental health counseling and we will continue to pursue the center in Grand Junction.  And I already know that she will get frustrated and leave.  And I will continue to love her and pray for her- but I will not open my energy to be drained like this again.

I am exhausted.  I am struggling with my own mental health.  I’ve been working hard at utilizing all the tools I learned in my own mental health counseling to keep my head above water.  I think that is why we have such a bond.  She knows my history and I know her history- we are similar in so many ways.  Thankfully I never suffered from alcoholism myself, but was raised by alcoholics, lost my dearly loved brother to suicide and have made unsuccessful attempts on my own life.   Fight or Flee- I understand her wanting to flee life and the emotional pain.  I pray she heals enough to want to fight for her own life.

Please include us in your prayers!  We need our prayer warriors standing in the gap and holding back satan and his minions.

I would like to end this blog with a prayer~ Heavenly Father, thank you for all of your blessings.  Thank you for giving me the strength to help others.  Thank you Father for loving us, guiding us and helping us find you and your path for each of our lives.  Father please give her caregivers the wisdom they need to treat her successfully.  Please soften her heart and mind to receive their help.  Lord, hold her in the palm of your hand as you have me, keeping evil away until she is stronger.  God, I love you and need you today and always.  AMEN

Conclusion to Yes, My Name is Rebecca

CONCLUSION

I was driving making deliveries and listening to K-Love Radio station. On came a song by Chris Tomlin “Nobody Loves me like you” You can hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KicvBB2L68

I asked God how He can send us songs that speak straight to our hearts. Each time I feel this song I realize how much I have healed because of God. I truly could have had a whole different story. I could have been killed. I could have succeeded at suicide. But I have A WHOLE DIFFERENT STORY. God loved me before I ever knew Him and He has helped me throughout my entire life.

I could have remained a victim for ever. But no with the help of God, my family and friends I stopped being victim and became a survivor

I could have remained a survivor for ever. But no with the help of God, my family and friends I am thriving!

It was not easy nor was the healing fast. It came at a snail’s pace sometimes and other times it was like a stampede of wild horses. Some of the healing had to be reapplied many times. There may still be more healing to come. My healing didn’t happen in a straight clear concise way- it was much more like a lost nomad with no direction or goal. But I made it!

Stay on your path and let God speak to your heart and heal your soul. The journey is worth it! He loves you like you will never understand!

Dave, my brother, my hero

Look at the muscle tone in his arm.  He kept himself in great physical shape.  When he returned home from Viet Nam he would do a handstand and walk through the house on his hands.  He had incredible balance that he never shared with me!

Dave had 6 pack abs for years.  I don’t recall him working out- but I remember his physique.  And with all that strength he was the kindest person I believe I have ever known.  He would give a stranger the shirt he was wearing if it was helpful.  For me, his little sister, he always tried to give me the world.

Whether he was giving me a gift or a lesson it was always thoughtful and appropriate for me.  I think that is one of the reasons he was always good at training dogs.  He was thoughtful and connected with his dogs.  He almost always had a dog.  I recognize in hind sight this was one of the ways he was trying to heal his PTSD.

Dave offered his dogs his patience.  He took the time to teach them basic commands.  He would have been amazing at obstacle course training with dogs- he had the physical health to keep up and the connection with dogs to do extremely well with it- but alas back in those days there was no such thing- Dogs did basic commands- hunting dogs did more but there was not agility or obstacle training back then.

More memories of my brother

This is a picture of Dave and I in front of his 442 Oldsmobile.  As our mom described it when he started it- that’s a HOT car!  It was a memorable muscle car.

I remember riding with Dave in his car.  Where I remember going the most was dove hunting.  We used to meet his buddies in the foothills and everyone would shoot doves. I remember Dave bringing them home- we probably ate them but I don’t remember that.  He did complain that some of his buddies bird shot loads wasted most of the useful meat.

He would take me out target shooting sometimes.  I refused to shoot at doves- but he taught me how to shoot pistols and rifles.  He was patient and kind.  He explained how to load each gun he taught me how to shoot as well as how to unload them.  He would let me ‘help’ clean his guns which mostly meant I could sit and listen to why he did what he did.

Another thing my big brother did with me from this age on was shadow box.  At this young age in the photo it was gentle and easy but the older I got the more he taught me how to box, how to hit or as he put it, how to kick ass and take names.  He had a way of making me believe I was as tough as he was.

Thru my teen years I did some fighting.  Most of it was self defense and when I think back to that time in my life I now know I was able to hold my own because of this man who took the time to teach me how to defend myself.  Through YEARS of shadow boxing I NEVER was able to hit my brother.  At times I would be so mad and frustrated by this.  I would be really trying and he was always faster than I was.

Fast forward to me at 17 years old- I’ve moved to Colorado with Dave and Sharon.  I moved into my father’s house which was one of the biggest mistakes in my life.  But my father, LeRoy, wanted to shadow box with me.  He had this notion he would show me I wasn’t tough enough.  I hit him on the end of his nose and followed with an left upper cut to his chin.  Set him on his ass.  It was not as intentional as it should have been- I had spent YEARS shadow boxing and unable to land a punch-  LeRoy just wasn’t privy to all that training.  LeRoy NEVER shadow boxed with me again.  Too bad I didn’t realize I was strong enough to not be his victim.

Thank you Dave for all these lessons.  I don’t use them often anymore- but they brought me a long way in my life and helped me in ways I probably still don’t know about!

Dave’s Wedding

I remember Dave calling Mom and telling us that Sharon agreed to marry him.  He was so excited!  He asked if they could get married at home. Mom said yes!  And then the hustle and bustle of a wedding ensued.

Sharon was delightful and I always enjoyed spending time with her.  Dave and Sharon were living in Phoenix.  I was always welcome to come stay with them and spent days off with them in Phoenix.

They purchased their wedding rings in Tucson.  Sharon called me when they were ready and asked me to go pick them up.  I went to the jewelers and he tried to give me this size 4 wedding ring- I knew he was wrong.  I left it there and called Sharon when I got home – no cell phones back then!  I told her what he tried to give to me and she said yes- that is my ring- I said no way?!?  You wear a size 4??  I think my ring size back then was a 7 and I thought all ADULTS had large fingers…. LOL  So I went back the next day and picked up her wedding ring.

Dave and Sharon drove down to Tucson the day before the wedding.  We were all having fun with pre wedding chores.  After dinner Dave insisted that we all see the suit that he bought to get married in.  Mind you this was the only suit I ever remember Dave wanting after his Army uniform.  As he is unwrapping his suit he looks at Sharon and says ‘where are the pants?’  I still remember the horror in her face as she realized the pants were still hanging in the closet at their home.

My brother said, that’s okay- I’ll get married without pants.  Because he would have married Sharon in his birthday suit- he was very happy to have her in his life.  I offered to go get his pants and finally we all settled on Sharon and I drove up together and retrieved the pants to the suit.  Late night for the bride to be but it was a fun road trip!!

You could feel Dave’s love, his energy and it invaded every aspect of their wedding day.  To see Dave feel that complete was inspiring to each of us.  It is one of the moments in time I still use when assisting others.  I say- do you remember how you felt on your wedding day?  What can we do to bring that feeling back to your marriage?  Can you love each other ‘just because’ again- let go of the hurt, the disappointment, the anger and find your way back to the beginning?

Dave

Back in 2013 I was the Administrative Assistant at our church.  We had a sad falling out and I wrote this blog and put it into the church bulletin:  https://wordpress.com/post/maloneyblog.wordpress.com/136

It was true.  I remember vividly my brothers return from Viet Nam.  I had to go over details with our mother many years ago because I also remember believing my brother was not coming home.  So this memory is told with the missing parts filled in to help make sense of what a 7 year old recalls:

Sitting in front of the television EVERY night looking for my brothers name in the list of names played after the news.  I watched with intent EVERY night knowing that I had not been told of his death.  I believed that the dead soldiers names were listed at the end of the news broadcast.

My mother was not sure why I believed that and did not recall that the news ever broadcast soldiers killed in action that way, she told me why I believed he was killed.  She was called by Dave and told that he would be released from duty on a certain date and she should pick him up.

We were there to pick him up and he was not there.  It took her nearly 3 weeks to find out where her son was.  Turned out someone had given Dave the wrong ‘out’ date and held up his discharge for 3 weeks.  He was mad at the world and never bothered to call his mother to let her know.   He was state side and safe- and how Mom learned of his correct discharge date is still a mystery to me.  But in that frantic 3 weeks for her- I knew he was a ‘short-timer’ and that’s when lots of soldiers are killed in action.  I remember the desperation of wanting Dave to be home and okay but the belief that he was gone.

Thankfully I remember picking him up.  He was Oh so HANDSOME in that army uniform.  He walked with me like I was his queen.  He was spit at and called horrible names.  I was in shock at how awful those war protesters were.  I had seen news reports but when confronted with it first hand at what was the best day in my young life was shocking to say the least.

Here my HERO was returned to us ALIVE!  And in all that glory people were calling him a baby killer, throwing things at us and spitting on him.  He walked with all the honor and discipline a soldier is taught.  We got into Moms car and drove home.  He took off that uniform and NEVER looked at it again.  Mom saved it for a few years but realized it brought him more grief than good so she got rid of it.

Still to this day when a gentleman in a uniform offers me his arm (I am now a great grandmother in my life) I feel like that 7 year old ‘Queen’ that my brother walked out of the terrible place into our home.

To each and every veteran that has ever served in the military I thank you for your service and your sacrifice.  What you gave to me as a citizen of the U.S.A. I appreciate deeply and I NEVER take your service lightly.

Memories of Dave

Dave is my brother.  Sadly 29 years ago he completed suicide and I still miss him today.  Recently my sister wrote about him and probably accurately declared that he was an early victim to PTSD that so many veterans find any way to overcome.  As I read her words I knew it was time for me to share who my hero was to me and to recall all the good he did for us.

My siblings and I had an unusual relationship.  My sister is 14 years older than I am and Dave was 13 years older than me.  It was nearly like having a second set of parents for me as they both held me to a high standard of behavior.

The first memory I want to share is coming home from junior high school.  While there are many amazing memories I plan on sharing before this time- this one explains how deep our love ran.

While at school in 7th grade I had a ‘wake-up’ moment.  I don’t recall if it was what a friend said or something that happened in one of my classes, I simply remember ‘realizing’ that Linda and Dave were my “step-sister & step-brother” and how my life would never be the same now.

Mind you I was about 13 years old and mature for my age.  But I stewed and fretted over this new information and could not wait to get home to talk to our mother.  Who although she worked full time nearly my whole life had realized at this turning point in my life that she needed to be home with me this year and chose to not work for one year and be the stay at home mother this young teenager needed.

I raced in the front door in a frantic distraught mess.  I told Mom, I have to tell you something- but first you have to promise NOT to tell Linda & Dave.  She didn’t take me very serious to start off with but once she realized how upset I was, she promised.  I told her, they are my STEP BROTHER AND STEP SISTER!

She tried to remain serious, honestly she tried.  She asked me why was I upset?  I blurted out with all my worldly wisdom that as soon as they find out they are going to hate me!  NO ONE loves their STEP SISTER!  My life is over- they will never ever love me like before they knew I was their STEP SISTER!  Just look at Cinderella, Snow White and every princess story ever told- their sibling HATE them!

At this dramatic reveal of why I was upset our Mom could only laugh AT me, not with me.  She said -you are wrong.  You are not their step sister- you are their half sister.  She then explained the nuances of blended families to me.  The completely hysterical thing behind all of this, is that there were no secrets in our family.  I had always known that Linda & Dave’s father and our mom were divorced- then many years later married my father and had me.  Shortly after I was born my parents were divorced too.  But in my mind we were a complete whole family Mom and the kids until this fateful day I ‘learned’ I was the dreadful STEP SISTER.

I knew back then how much they both loved me and I NEVER wanted to lose that.  Thank you God for giving me such amazing siblings that always looked after me even when I was the dreaded ‘step sister’ LOL.

Vietnam II

Guest post written by Anonymous

May or June 1969 to November 11, 1969

 

When I again walked through the Orderly room door of the Ninth Division MP Co. following three months with the grunts you could hear a pin drop. It was surreal, as though all the air was suddenly sucked out of the room. The same First Sergeant sat at the same desk but now his eyes bulged and would’ve popped clear out of their sockets if not attached. No doubt he immediately grasped from my demeanor that he was a “dead man walking.” As I surveyed the scene, a song by the Box Tops, “The Letter” played in the background on Armed Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN). Nothing had changed in the two or three hundred square feet where I stood staring down the man who tried to kill me with his Levy. Nothing, that is, except everything about me. The myriad of dreams, waking and sleeping, where I envisioned this moment flashed through my mind. What I would feel standing over this gutless Remington Raider while sporting a CIB (Combat Infantryman‘s Badge) on my jungle fatigues. The satisfaction of pulling the pin from a fragmentation grenade, counting off the seconds to ensure detonation at the precise moment it rolled under his desk. I wouldn’t bother yelling, “Fire in the hole!” or hitting the deck myself. I wanted to witness his little beady, yellow, cowardly eyes at the moment he realized he fucked with the wrong man. He sent a naïve young man into the bowels of Hell with scant chance of surviving mentally or physically. However, survive and prosper I did and now returned for my satisfaction. Most of all, I coveted being his final memory, his last earthly image, and prayed my face would haunt him throughout eternity. Alas, there were too many witnesses. Within a couple of days he disappeared anyway. No one was sure where he went. Maybe he was levied…!
From the moment I returned, jealousy and disbelief ran rampant in the Company. Most refused to believe I ever served with the Infantry, though twice MP’s espied me with the grunts en route to a lift off. As the profound changes in my personality became increasingly evident, the suspicion waned and many were envious of the CIB I so proudly wore. For those who may not be aware, a soldier may not adorn their uniform with an award or medal unless orders from the Department of the Army are in their possession. I had no such orders, primarily because I was never awarded an Infantry MOS during my entire nine years of Army service. As purely punitive harassment, my platoon leader demanded I produce orders or remove the CIB. He went so far as to sneak a peek at my 201 File, (individual Army records), highly irregular at best, perhaps criminal, to satisfy himself of my alleged malfeasance.

Ah, but there is no rest for the wicked! If you looked up pathologically useless in the dictionary a picture of 1stLieutenant ________  (fill in the blank with your favorite LT), (platoon leader), might emblazon the page. He probably ran track in high school if his speed in running to a bunker at the first sound of incoming mortar fire was any indication. One night he grazed his head on a bunker support beam jostling to be first inside. The “wound” didn’t require a Band-Aid, much less a stitch, but he nonetheless, put himself in for a Purple Heart, (award for being wounded in combat), and I‘m certain, dons it proudly now at every Memorial Day and Independence Day parade. Things finally came to a head when, in front of witnesses he gathered for his moment in the sun, he issued a “Direct Order” that I remove the CIB or be subject to Courts-Martial proceedings. Having unmasked and humiliated the imposter, he and his pussy posse wiggled off to entertain each other at great length with variations of their heroic deed.

Truthfully, recollection of events following my return to the MP Company are sketchy at best. To my memory, I never performed as an MP in Dong Tam again though I remained assigned to the Company. After my “disgrace” over the CIB I have little memory of day to day activities. I drank beer as often as possible. Anytime the Company had a shitty job away from Dong Tam, I was dispatched. Most often, these assignments meant going to a forward fire base where the units were routinely “in the shit,” (mortar attacks, snipers, fears of being overrun, etc.).

The mission of Forward Fire Support Bases (FSB’s), (small garrisons housing artillery pieces), was supposedly to utilize their firepower to protect our troops and make life miserable for the enemy in their AO (area of operations). During my OJTWB, (on the job training with bullets) a few months earlier, I quickly learned that calling in artillery strikes was a crap shoot and best avoided whenever possible. Luckily units in the jungle were sometimes assigned an artillery spotter whose sole function was formulating and transmitting strike coordinates via a PRC-25 radio to the FSB‘s; in which case you had a 50-50 chance, (some spotters were better than others), of escaping a barrage hammering of your position instead of Charlie’s. From 50-50, your odds fell dramatically should one of your Lieutenants or Company Commander be called upon to regurgitate a four hour block of instruction he slept through during OCS, (Officer Candidate School), at Ft. Benning, GA a year or more ago. “Short rounds” presented an ongoing concern. This occurred when prepping an area prior to a body count sweep. In theory the rounds were intended to strike an area to our front. All too often they fell “short” into the requesting unit’s lap killing and/or wounding (Friendly Fire) American soldiers.

A far better alternative when available were the Cobra gunships, (attack helicopters). Nomenclature of the weaponry aboard these angels of death escapes me but they were devastatingly effective killing machines. Their kill zones, the area you wished saturated, could be established using different colored smoke grenades, lessening the possibility of friendly fire casualties. On Mother’s Day 1969, my Company was pinned down, taking heavy enemy fire. In less than ten minutes two Cobras eradicated any semblance of enemy activity. Thereafter, the Cobra’s were affectionately referred to as “Mother.” Calling in bombers was also preferable to artillery because they could be given coordinates further from the requesting units position, and scared the daylights out of everyone within a ten mile radius, me included.

Most FB’s maintained a sand pile just outside the perimeter. This grit was used to fill sand bags which, in addition to barbed wire, claymore mines, etc., served as a first line of perimeter defense. Bunkers were also fortified with layers of sand bags and they worked fairly well in absorbing mortar shrapnel except in the event of a direct hit. In rear areas like Dong Tam, most GI’s slept in barracks and ran for the bunkers during an attack. In forward areas however, the frequency and intensity of attacks escalated and most troops lived and slept in the bunkers. They were dark, dank, and equally well suited to indigenous vermin, mainly rats which grew to the size of a small dog and fearless. I joked that I was afraid to shoot them with my .45 caliber pistol because I might piss them off.

The sand piles were multi-purpose. When not on ambush patrols or search and destroy sweeps, the grunts were tasked with shoveling sand into the bags, never a big hit job wise, but great for staying in shape. Everybody appreciated the protection they afforded, but volunteers to scoop proved elusive. Since the pile was usually without the confines of the FSB, they also afforded a bit of privacy for local prostitutes arranging “dates” in the daylight and plying their trade in the evening. MP’s, constantly searching for ways to protect and serve our boys in uniform took delight in raiding this nocturnal enterprise and running the hostesses off. This, of course, made Johnny Law highly unpopular with the ladies and the clients. As happens in war, American ingenuity saved the day. The MP’s began allowing the enterprising females to carry on, provided they slept in the jail bunker at night and filled sand bags all day. This prevented their reporting back to the local VC, kept those willing to risk disease serviced, and as an added bonus, filled a few sand bags. What more could you ask for?

At another FSB, I met the prototype combat MP NCOIC, (Non-commissioned officer in charge). Rarely did an FSB MP detachment rate an RLO, (Real Live Officer). These sergeants for one reason or another wore out their welcome at Company Headquarters; usually alcohol was involved, and they were summarily shipped to the unit’s most remote and dangerous outpost. They normally had not attained enough rank to justify their years of service and had been regularly passed over for promotion. Their one overriding leadership trait was instilling fear through violence or the threat of violence in those under them and fear of what they might do next in those they reported to. Some could be courageous, though alcohol induced, but the majority were just cowardly bullies; nothing more, nothing less. The individual under discussion makes the point. He refused to wear a uniform, shave, have his hair cut, or engage in perfunctory hygiene practices. While awake and/or upright, he smoked or chewed tobacco constantly, and drank at least a quart of vodka every day. For his personal enjoyment and to amuse assembled gawkers he used an M-79 Grenade Launcher to determine how near a water buffalo he could lob a live projectile without actually striking the animal which often had a child or two aboard. This specimen of military manhood managed to extend his one year tour of duty into three and counting, with no intention of leaving “paradise.”

I met Hoa at the laundry pickup and drop off station in Dong Tam. She was a nice young woman and we became friendly. About this time the 9th MP Company determined they and I were better served by ordering me and my no CIB having ass permanently out of Dong Tam. I was assigned to a small detachment, ostensibly to perform MP duties but in reality my purpose entailed re-enforcing a bunker with, you guessed it, sand bags! Here I could stay in shape, drink my beer, wallow in self-pity, spend hours rumination how I would, “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out”, and fill in occasionally if an emergency MP was needed. I jokingly asked Hoa to go with me and was dumbstruck when she agreed. She found a place in Tay Nihn (sic); I believe was the town’s name. For a time I filled bags all day and spent the nights with Hoa. I must have been crazy. Legally and technically I was A.W.O.L. in a combat zone, by itself considered desertion and punishable by death from a firing squad. On top of that, I carried my .45 cal. Pistol and assorted knives for protection. I placed myself at risk of being killed or worse, taken prisoner. In the mornings I walked right past the MP’s who were guarding the facilities’ front gate. By this time my attitude and demeanor caused everyone to either fear or respect me enough to stay well out of my path.

On one extremely rare occasion when pulling guard duty at the gate, I observed a jeep approaching and thought I recognized the occupants. Imagine my joy when I realized it was the Company Commander from my Infantry unit who pulled me out of the My Tho River, and “Blood,” the grunt who helped me over the canals. They of course, didn’t have enough time in Vietnam to be sent home when the 9th Division allegedly left for the parade in Seattle and were levied to other grunt units. After profuse handshakes and hugs I, almost apologetically, briefed the Captain on the CIB issue. This West Pointer didn’t hesitate a second. He said, “You were out there, you earned it, wait here and I’ll return shortly.” He whipped his vehicle around and headed back into the compound. An hour later he returned with multiple copies of Department of the Army Orders, giving me the right and authority to wear the Combat Infantryman’s Badge on my uniform forever after.

Those Orders were the answer to my prayers. Now I possessed tangible evidence of   serving my Country in combat. Henceforth I could proudly look the detractor’s and naysayer’s in the eye and watch them slink away. Naturally I wasted no time in visiting Company Headquarters in Dong Tam and personally placing a copy of the Orders in my personnel file while retaining the original and several copies. First, however, I tracked down the platoon leader and intentionally made him aware the CIB was pinned above the left pocket of my uniform blouse and, appropriately, over my heart. He came unhinged and it was all I could do not to laugh in his face as I shoved a copy of the Orders he so demanded in his hand. He perused the Order hoping to discover some technicality to void my Award while I glowered and smirked. No question I overdid rubbing it in but what goes around does in fact, come around.

 

As the direct result of misappropriating my personnel file and continual harassment he was deemed persona non grata in Dong Tam and ordered to Tay Nihn (sic). I loved observing him seethe every time I passed him wearing the CIB. He also fumed because I refused to address him as “Sir,” only LT or Lieutenant, “Yes LT, no Lieutenant.” For his get back he ordered me confined to the compound, ending my visits to Hoa. I have long felt guilty over my treatment of Hoa and pray she wasn’t treated badly as the result of her liaison with me. As for the Lt., he ordered me into his quarters one night for a man e man. There he ordered that I address him as “Sir” at all times. I came to attention, saluted sharply, said, “Yes, Lieutenant,” executed a smart about face and walked out.

For this indiscretion I found my name on the gate guard roster, twelve hours a day, seven days a week. During my final eight weeks in the country, I was placed in charge of the gate to the tiny local airfield. The daughter of the airfield trash collector was a beautiful French/Vietnamese girl who attempted to use her charms to keep me from having the guards search the refuse trucks. One day my men confiscated hundreds of dollars in contraband but the miscreants were back the next day. Whoever they paid had more rank than a lowly MP gate guard.

Most of the guys showered in the afternoon thus giving sun ample time to heat the water in the overhead tank. On my Vietnam departure day I showered before first light, not minding the chill one bit. It was slowly sinking in that I survived and would be returning to my beloved Cathy and Vallejo, CA with the only military distinction I gave a rat’s ass about, my CIB. Somehow, having no formal education, no marketable job skills that didn’t include use of a firearm, and going back to a nation deeply divided over our presence in South East Asia didn’t overly concern me. I arrived in Vietnam ten months earlier totally alone, as was the case with the vast majority of troops there, and would be leaving the same way. The World War II Veterans returned stateside on transport vessels and were, in many ways, more fortunate. A similar camaraderie, as well as the opportunity to process shared experiences would have been invaluable in alleviating our sense of isolation. Leaving the jungle on Friday and processing out of the Army at the Oakland Army Base on Monday next without winding down or making sense of our involvement in the American war in Vietnam was nothing short of catastrophic to many combat returnees.

My situation could be viewed as comical in some respects. The first message we received during the mustering out process was: Do not wear your uniform off Base, as you are likely to upset the anti-war people and even the citizens who support you won’t dare admit it in public for fear of verbal or physical reprisals. Even the Veteran’s Service Organizations, the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) in particular turned its back on us. My best friend’s stepfather, a Korean War veteran, reached out to me by taking me to dinner and later to the local VFW Chapter where, much to his embarrassment, I was denied membership because I didn’t meet their exalted criteria. Since the American war in Vietnam was never declared by Congress it wasn’t a “real” war and I wasn’t a “war” veteran. I walked out, bearing a grudge that continues unrelenting to this day. As the VFW’s numbers shrink they have begun actively recruiting Vietnam Vets, “Good luck with that”. Later I worked in a hardware store with Mormon boys who thought it was cute to watch me jump and dive for cover when they tossed firecrackers behind me   Welcome home GI!

We weren’t even given complete discharge physicals, just told to sign the medical forms stating all was well or risk having our discharges held up. Blood work was offered to those who thought they might have brought something back to their wives. Otherwise, keep signing the documents to expedite the process. Many a vet regretted not insisting on a thorough physical exam, when years later he sought benefits from the Veteran’s Administration. These trumped up records were dangled in the Vet’s face as proof positive the malady was not service connected and, ergo, the VA legally absolved itself of responsibility. This sleight of hand was never truer than in the case of PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The VA refused outright to consider this diagnosis for many years after the United States abandoned Vietnam.

The coup de grace was administered at the pay window. The last station in the discharge process is turning in your military ID card and receiving whatever pay you are due. I wasn’t about to relinquish my ID card for fear of not being served in the drinking establishments I couldn’t wait to be unleashed on so I falsely claimed it was lost. I stood in line watching my fellow vets collect Hundreds, and occasionally, Thousands of dollars. When my turn came the pay clerk forked over $2 and some loose change, a fitting conclusion to the roller coaster my two years of service entailed.

Aside:

My hope is the reader understands, as I now do, the duality of my life. Having been stripped of any personal power as a child through the multitude of abuse perpetrated upon me, I starved for a sense of self. The powerlessness which engulfed me as the natural consequence of my environment led to believing absolutely in my uselessness and cowardice. When circumstances at long last allowed me to stand up for myself, I, at least momentarily, gratefully donned the jacket of Superhero, anything being preferable to the belief that I was worthless and gutless.

 

My primary motivation in volunteering for the draft, for service in Vietnam, and, in a way, infantry duty, hinged on permanently eradicating these twin demons. After finally becoming a “combat soldier” and quickly developing an aptitude and passion for its mission, I was disillusioned and devastated by being placed in a position that necessitated taking the life of possible innocent non-combatant(s). Here was the worthless bully and coward persona I joined the infantry to shed rearing its ugly head. Forty-two years later, typing at this computer the knowledge of why I could extinguish a human life without hesitation or remorse is haunting. I lived all the intervening years since the war subconsciously hoping, begging, pleading, for the chance to prove to myself that I was more than a shedder of innocent blood, that I did have courage, that I could be brave. To that end I was fully prepared to terminate the life of anyone who I perceived displayed the bullying characteristics I so despised in myself. Not surprisingly I employed an array of mind altering substances, both legal and illegal, to suppress my nearly overwhelming violent impulses. My actions over the years, though threatening enough, paled in comparison with the macabre and mayhem swirling behind the often vacant stare. I can only thank God I lived long enough to regurgitate this information while I possess the opportunity and willingness to make such amends that are possible at this late date and effect long overdue changes in my thought process. To truly understand what drove me, nearly to the nadir of self-destruction, we must start at

 

The Beginning”.