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James L. Erviti, Vietnam era veteran
Warwick, MA, USA

It has taken me almost 30 years to come to this point where I am able to say these words.

I'm not a Viet Nam vet in the way that many think of as a veteran of war. My battles are with my guilt and the war seems endless. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in February of 1968, full of visions of war and glory. What haunts me to this day is the fact that I never went to Viet Nam. Most of my friends did and some never returned alive others were scarred for life in one way or another. I did not get to experience those things that change a person for life, the horror of war is not in my consciousness only the fact that I did not serve my country in the way that I most desperately wanted to.

My job in the Marine Corps was a radio repairman and to put it in stark terms there were not a lot of radio repairmen getting killed in Viet Nam so I was never given orders to go. When I meet other vets I feel ashamed because of my lack of true service.

Just a few weeks ago I watched the movie Saving Private Ryan and afterwards wept in my wife's arms because I had not gone to Viet Nam to risk my life like so many of my peers. Regardless of the politics of the war I still felt a need to be with those who I had chosen to be with and in the end I had failed. I cannot express the sadness and regret that I feel for not having gone to Viet Nam. I am aware that I had no control over my fate in that regard but it does not absolve me of the feeling that I should have done more, that in some way i should have gone to fight. I feel as though I am a coward and never truly tested my worth as a man. And so, I carry with me a deep and heavy burden of guilt for not fighting next to my fellow Marines, for not putting my life on the line , for not suffering the obscenity of war.

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