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Veteran Spotlight: A Vietnam Diary

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires
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The following is the diary of a local Marine who served in Vietnam in 1968. The veteran wishes to remain anonymous but was willing to share the impressions he wrote down of his time there. This is the first of three parts as transcribed by Wayne Soares, with minor editing for clarity.
 
1968 FEB 11: Left Okinawa for Da Nang by commercial plane. Got to Nam after 3 1/2-hour flight. DARK AS HELL. FLARES EVERYWHERE.
 
FEB 13: Being a "new guy" is wearing off now. The guys are great here and will go out of their way to help a "new guy." Every day is the same as the one before it. No liberty, no hot water, no slacks, BUT THERE IS ALWAYS GOOD CARD GAMES, PIN-UP GIRLS, BOOZE AND FRIENDS. The water buffalo water leaves something to be desired. Chlorine taste. It's hell taking a shower. COLD & SAND. Chow is good.
 
FEB 19: Jet planes and helicopters fill the sky. Flares light up the night. Our hootch isn't bad considering we are at war. I'm sort of incredulous about wanting to fly gunner. I feel sorry for the grunts here. What day is it? Every day is the same. Had first haircut by a Vietnamese barber. What an experience. Have the forehead and all around. Judo chops to the neck. Real personal. Clouds hang in the mountains here – beautiful. We were supposed to be attacked last night but weren't. People laugh in the same way everywhere. The same human feeling.
 
FEB 21: No matter what the task is or how trivial, it's best to always "PUT OUT" and do it as well as possible.
 
FEB 22: And the stare still looks the same. The moon still shines. People still smile. I have the day off! Slack or what? I love the world. It's good to love.
 
FEB 23: Got my UP CHIT for flying today. We play cards almost every night. Not bad here yet.
 
MARCH 1: The sunrises are beautiful here. Am looking into a camera deal. Some days are exciting and bold while others aren't worth being told. Love is right. Love is good. It is good to be right. It is good to love.
 
MARCH 3: GOT HIT TONITE – LOTS WORSE THAN LAST TIME. "These are the times that try men's souls."
 
MARCH 4: Cleaned up rubble in hangar from direct hits. Here I am far away from home. I could as just as well be on the moon. The world today makes me sad. Don't lose track of the present as you look to the future. Family.
 
MARCH 8: AM radio man for VMO-Z on mobile alert platoon. Things are going slow. As humorless as a chicken. Maybe the less you have, the more you have to boast about what you have. White caps are beautiful in the night.
 
MARCH 10: Went to church. The clouds went away. There are mountains I didn't know. A quite place where I could study and read. What revelations will time hold here? The dawn of being satisfied. One fourth of life is gone – never to be lived again. Oh, but the strawberries will never taste so good again.
 
What use would it be to become rich without pleasure and respected without friends. A wife beside me, who would understand and love.
 
MARCH 13: What do I feel about this war I'm fighting in? Toss aside the magazines and dove and hawk philosophies. Think with ----? Don't just sit around waiting for the picnic.
 
MARCH 14: The night's now upon me and the white caps of the sea are glistening and beautiful in the cooling breeze of foreign air. I love this life of mine. With glorious moments of past memories to fill my empty days.
 
MAR 17: To church I went today. A different chaplain presented the sermon with the main theme of "look at yourself, before you cut the next guy down!" Give yourself a human inventory – it helps.
 
MARCH 18: And Monday is Malaria Pill day! The screens are full of sand, the night guard sits on the ledge, Wade lies sleeping in his rack-poncho-covered cot – chairs and shelves are all dust covered. Combat gear waiting patiently for instant use. A girlfriend's picture hangs on his wall – and his mom & dad, there's a small one too. THEY'VE COME TO GET HIS GEAR NOW – HE WON'T BE NEEDING IT ANYMORE (when the cards are down and the sun is seemingly shineless, remember the warmth and
love of your mother and dad).
 
MARCH 20: ONE AMERICAN IS AS GOOD AS TWENTY V.C. AND THEY CAN'T SHOOT STRAIGHT – Heard before in country. And war is for other people – get your bleacher seat back home. This war's exciting. War is always for someone else. SOMEONE ELSE ALWAYS GETS KILLED. BUT SOON IT'S EVERYBODY'S BROTHER – THE TEN THOUSAND MILES WONT' SAVE YOU. Wade's up for a Silver Star. PLANE CRASHED – TWO KILLED. What's the world's story about? If something gets pulled off you're smart. If something fails, it's bad luck – ha. "Thou mayest rule over sin."
 
Veteran Spotlight is a column by Wayne Soares that runs twice a month. Soares is a motivational speaker and comedian who has frequently entertained the troops overseas with the USO. To recommend a veteran for Soares' column, write to waynesoares1@gmail.com.
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