Tommy Dial, Vietnam veteran
West Valley City, Utah, USA
I was an Engineman 3C aboard LCM8-822 and later LCM8-826, converted landing craft that ferried PBRs (Patrol Boat, River) between PBR Mobile base 1 and bases at Cua Viet, Da Nang and the Cua Dai River. I spent one day sweeping for mines on the Perfume River near Hue. Popular conception has it that the Navy sat offshore and pounded the VC with big guns on big ships, but many of us were in-country on the rivers and along the coast My boat didn't engage the enemy; we supported those who did. It doesn't mean we weren't shot at. We just did our job.
To children in school today, Viet Nam is history. To those of us who served there, it is yesterday. Or maybe this afternoon. It is a different war. It is a jump-from-behind-a-bush-shoot-and-disappear kind of war. It sticks with you and doesn't let go. In WW II, my uncle was severely wounded and spent three days in a foxhole on Guam . I can't imagine his memories. I live with mine. I didn't share his horrors. But he doesn't share my guilt. He fought a good war. We fought a dirty one. he came home with honor. We came home, those of us that did. My uncle had a wall with mementos. Our Wall is in Washington DC. My name isn't on that Wall. I think I would feel better if it were. I sometimes feel the need to go back and finish the job, to win something unwinnable for a people who don't care. There is nothing to go back to.
I don't talk about the war with my family or friends. I don't watch the movies. The movies glorify what wasn't, and the family and friends can't understand. Even vets avoid it. "I was at Tan My." "I was at Dong Ha." "Khe Sanh," "Chu Lai," a thousand places. That's about all you get. Sometimes you get a "story." Is it true? I don't know.
I do appreciate the United States for what it should be. I appreciate what we have here. Viet Nam taught me that. It taught me to love what my flag stands for, and not to love what some people use it for. It taught me to distrust politicians and newspeople. To dislike those who glorify war. To love my country and to hate those who tear it down who have never been anywhere else.
I remember some metal boxes at Da Nang airport. Someday we will all lie in boxes.