Robert Gjertson, Vietnam veteran
North Branch, MN, USA
Let me clarify first, "VietNam era vet". Didn't want to "hump" so I joined the Navy... ended up a medic with the Marines. They were talking peace in Paris when I joined; my class in school was the first that did not get sent to the Marines in total. First duty assignment was the Naval Hospital in San Diego, and then the POW's got released. I had the privilege of meeting some very unique men, and hearing some horrifying and heroic stories.
We weren't thinking about Viet Nam much in 1974 when I was assigned the the Marines and went through school at Camp Pendleton. I went to "the Rock" in January 1975, and up to Japan in Feb. We went back to the rock in late March, early April, to get used to the heat, then went to Viet Nam, off the coast. Vietnamese pilots were flying families out, for money, with bikes, suitcases, anything they could carry, and refusing to go back inland. Theirs were the choppers filmed being pushed off the fantail of Navy ships. Our ship, the USS Duluth had about 5000 refugees on board when we finally left.
Two weeks later, the final casualties of this era, at Koh Tang island. A friend of mine, another Navy Corpsman, was killed there, where I have felt for years, I should have been. The company they flew out of Okinawa for that assault was IN TRAINING; our company, trained and designated for BEACH ASSAULT was on Okinawa that day, stopping for food, mail and pay on our way back to Japan. Archie's(his nickname)chopper took a missile up the tailpipe, and never made it to the beach.
Yes, you can have survivor's guilt even when not involved in heavy combat. I made my peace with him at "the Wall" in 1992. "Archie, rest in peace"