Thoughts and reflections from an old Vietnam War veteran
That is me, sitting on the chain railing, quietly facing the Washington, D.C., Vietnam Memorial - a large, lifeless black granite monolith listing the 58,220 U.S. servicemembers killed during the Vietnam conflict.
That's also me, or what looked like me, way back in 1968, carrying an M60 machine gun (a real wicked machine). However, the wet, sweat and mud is missing from clothing unwashed (or taken off, for that matter) for a month until we were taken out of the field for a three-day R&R in a base camp just outside Saigon. Then new clothing was issued, and we were back off to the field again for yet another muddy month in the jungle. Strange - during an R&R, I found I could not sleep inside after a distant camp transformer blew up. The sound of the exploding transformer rocked me from a deep sleep, I jumped into the air, screamed "MORTARS," ran smack into a post and was knocked out cold. No one said anything, though, in that it was a normal kind of thing with troops coming back from the field.
I was lucky, though - other than a chipped chin, a few digs in my shoulder from carrying the M60 and a hearing impediment, I managed to get through it all 'unscathed.' Halfway through my Vietnam tour, the Army found out that I was educated. They were quick to pull me out of the field, made me a sergeant E-5 and sent me to school for ground surveillance radar, 'spook stuff', etc. The rest of my front-line infantry squad was not so lucky - members not killed or wounded when I was with them were ripped apart during the second offensive.
I still remember them, though, and touched their names etched on that lifeless black stone half-buried in the ground.
Others remembered too - placing a remark, a flower or even a unit patch under their names, a ritual of reverence unique to the Vietnam Memorial. So, Veterans Day is Wednesday, Nov. 11 and soon coming. A holiday for most, and a very quiet memory for some.
'All gave some & some gave all'
God Bless America,
Sgt. Don Colombo (11F40), 199th Light Infantry Brigade
A somewhat 'proper' plaque is quietly located at the Arlington National Cemetery, honoring my Vietnam Army unit (199th Light Infantry Brigade) and many of the 58,220 Vietnam casualties buried there.