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
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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