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  Vietnam Scrapbook

David Schave, Vietnam veteran
Hudson, WI, USA

Like most young men of my era, I knew of past wars and the necessity of serving my country when called. I knew as a young boy that someday I would be called upon to do my duty. A common saying back then was: "It's not much of a war, but it's the only one we've got."

As a favor to my mother, I enlisted in the Air Force for four years, rather than face certain combat, by being drafted for just two years by the Army.

I became an "Electronics warfare" operator, specializing in "Morse Code Intercept". After serving two years in Japan, I ended up in Vietnam anyway for a year, but at least not fighting for my life in the jungles. I flew above the beautiful countryside copying morse code transmissions from the enemy. I logged 126 missions, and over 700 hours in a C-47.

At the time I felt patriotic, but also just wanted my year to get over with so I could get "back to the world" and get on with my life.

I wasn't scarred from my Vietnam experience, nor did I go on to become a "antiwar fanatic" or a "hawk."

In the thirty-one years since returning from Vietnam, I've become a student of the war, and a bit of a history buff. I've read just about everything published about the war, seen the movies on the war, and visited the Vietnam Memorial. I become quite emotional when I read the names on the wall, and I get both emotional and angry when I read of the lack of support back home for our troops, and of how so many of our young men were killed needlessly. Some might say all the lives were lost needlessly because we should not have been there in the first place. I say "possibly," but when a squad or a company is under fire, or being overrun, and a G.I. is killed in combat -- that's one thing. But when our troops are killed by friendly fire, or bombs dropped from our planes, that's when I feel terribly sad for those killed, and for their families back home.

As I look back on my life, I feel fortunate, but I also feel that like most people, we live pretty ordinary - some might say boring lives - we go to work every day, we get married, raise families, and retire. Nothing I've done before or since Vietnam can compare with the experience of Vietnam and the war that was waged there. I really felt alive there. I had a common bond with other guys doing the same job I was doing. We relied on one another, and we helped one another. We were still boys or young men doing a man's job, having to be very responsible for our actions and our results. Our own lives and the lives of others depended on me doing the job I was sent there to do. I've not felt anything remotely close to that since then.

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