43 years ago on July 27, 1970, I departed for Vietnam. How the time flies. I still think of Vietnam daily. I still wonder about undeclared war, or "non-war." And about the somber feelings of acceptance, denial, pride, disappointment and confusion when reflecting on the meaning of the Vietnam Conflict and my service in Vietnam. I want to remember Vietnam in a kaleidoscope of ways and avoid nailing down a false certainty about its meaning.
Denny L Johnson and 19 other West Point classmates of mine who were killed in Vietnam weigh heavy on my heart. Forever.
Flying helicopters was very satisfying. Movement, freedom, mission accomplishment, camaraderie are words that come to mind. Agent Orange comes to mind occasionally these days, since I was exposed to it in numerous locations where I landed on firebases in I Corps (top 1/4th of South Vietnam).
Music comes to mind. "Stand by Your Man" and "D I V O R C E" by Tammy Wynette were popular with the troops and officers, as was "Proud Mary" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water". We listened briefly to AFVN when flying almost daily, but especially on Sunday flights to the outpost nearest the DMZ, where we took Red Cross Volunteers to entertain troops informally with games and conversation.
Pictured here are the two models of helicopter we flew for the 45th Engineer Group Headquarters, Hueys and Kiowas. The other photo is me on Christmas Day 1970.
War in the distant rearview mirror of life looks sadder than in real time. Lives lost and national interest moved on. Was it a useful conflict? Did it change the world? Did it lead to lives saved later because of lessons learned? Do I still have my camera and stereo that I got at a tremendous discount from the Pacex catalog in the "war zone"?
Just a few thoughts 43 years later. More next year.