Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I Was There Last Night

I got this in my email from my buddy Dave Reinheimer B 2/501 the other night. It's been around before so maybe you've seen it but it's worth another read. If you haven't read it before this guy is right on the mark.

I Was There Last Night
By Robert Clark

A couple of years ago someone asked me if I still thought about
Vietnam. I nearly laughed in their face. How do you stop thinking
about it? Every day for the last (now nearly 40) years, I wake up with
it, and go to bed with it. But this is what I said. "Yea, I think
about it. I can't quit thinking about it. I never will. But, I've also
learned to live with it. I'm comfortable with the memories. I've
learned to stop trying to forget and learned instead to embrace it. It
just doesn't scare me anymore." A psychologist once told me that NOT
being affected by the experience over there would be abnormal. When he
told me that, it was like he'd just given me a pardon. It was as if he
said, "Go ahead and feel something about the place, Bob. It ain't
going nowhere. You're gonna wear it for the rest of your life. Might
as well get to know it."

A lot of my "brothers" haven't been so lucky. For them the memories
are too painful, their sense of loss too great. My sister told me of a
friend she has whose husband was in the Nam. She asks this guy when he
was there. Here's what he said, "Just last night." It took my sister a
while to figure out what he was talking about. JUST LAST NIGHT. Yeah I
was in the Nam. When? JUST LAST NIGHT. During sex with my wife. And on
my way to work this morning. Over my lunch hour. Yeah, I was there.

My sister says I'm not the same brother that went to Vietnam. My wife
says I won't let people get close to me, not even her. They are
probably both right.

Ask a vet about making friends in Nam. It was risky. Why? Because we
were in the business of death, and death was with us all the time. It
wasn't the death of, "If I die before I wake." This was the real
thing. The kind where boys scream for their mothers. The kind that
lingers in your mind and becomes more real each time you cheat it. You
don't want to make a lot of friends when the possibility of dying is
that real, that close. When you do,they're a liability.

A guy named Bob Flanigan was my friend. Bob Flanigan is dead. I put
him in a body bag one sunny day, April 29, 1969. We'd been talking,
only a few minutes before he was shot, about what we were going to do
when we got back in the world. Now, this was a guy who had come in
country the same time as myself. A guy who was loveable and generous.
He had blue eyes and sandy blond hair. When he talked, it was with a
soft drawl. Flanigan was a hick and he knew it. That was part of his
charm. He didn't care. Man, I loved this guy like the brother I never
had. But, I screwed up. I got too close to him. Maybe I didn't know
any better. But I broke one of the unwritten rules of war.

help it. You hear vets use the term "buddy" when they refer to a guy
they spent the war with. "Me and this buddy a mine . "

In war you learn to keep people at that distance my wife talks about.
You become so good at it, that twenty years after the war, you still
do it without thinking. You won't allow yourself to be vulnerable
again. My wife knows two people who can get into the soft spots inside
me. My daughters. I know it probably bothers her that they can do
this. It's not that I don't love my wife, I do. She's put up with a
lot from me. She'll tell you that when she signed on for better or
worse she had no idea there was going to be so much of the latter. But
with my daughters it's different.

My girls are mine. They'll always be my kids. Not marriage, not
distance, not even death can change that. They are something on this
earth that can never be taken away from me. I belong to them. Nothing
can change that. I can have an ex-wife; but my girls can never have an
ex-father. There's the difference.

I can still see the faces, though they all seem to have the same eyes.
When I think of us I always see a line of "dirty grunts" sitting on a
paddy dike. We're caught in the first gray silver between darkness and
light. That first moment when we know we've survived another night,
and the business of staying alive for one more day is about to begin.
There was so much hope in that brief space of time. It's what we used
to pray for. "One more day, God. One more day."And I can hear our
conversations as if they'd only just been spoken. I still hear the way
we sounded, the hard cynical jokes, our morbid senses of humor. We
were scared to death of dying, and trying our best not to show it. I
recall the smells, too. Like the way cordite hangs on the air after a
fire-fight. Or the pungent odor of rice paddy mud. So different from
the black dirt of Iowa. The mud of Nam smells ancient, somehow. Like
it's always been there. And I'll never forget the way blood smells,
stick and drying on my hands. I spent a long night that way once. That
memory isn't going anywhere.

I remember how the night jungle appears almost dream like as the pilot
of a Cessna buzzes overhead, dropping parachute flares until morning.
That artificial sun would flicker and make shadows run through the
jungle. It was worse than not being able to see what was out there
sometimes. I remember once looking at the man next to me as a flare
floated overhead. The shadows around his eyes were so deep that it
looked like his eyes were gone. I reached over and touched him on the
arm; without looking at me he touched my hand. "I know man. I know."
That's what he said. It was a human moment. Two guys a long way from
home and scared sh"tless. "I know man." And at that moment he did.

God I loved those guys. I hurt every time one of them died. We all
did. Despite our posturing. Despite our desire to stay disconnected,
we couldn't help ourselves. I know why Tim O'Brien writes his stories.
I know what gives Bruce Weigle the words to create poems so honest I
cry at their horrible beauty. It's love. Love for those guys we shared
the experience with.

We did our jobs like good soldiers, and we tried our best not to
become as hard as our surroundings. We touched each other and said, "I
know." Like a mother holding a child in the middle of a nightmare,
"It's going to be all right." We tried not to lose touch with our
humanity. We tried to walk that line. To be the good boys our parents
had raised and not to give into that unnamed thing we knew was inside
us all.

You want to know what frightening is? It's a nineteen-year-old-boy
who's had a sip of that power over life and death that war gives you.
It's a boy who, despite all the things he's been taught, knows that he
likes it. It's a nineteen-year-old who's just lost a friend, and is
angry and scared and, determined that, "Some *@#*s gonna pay." To this
day, the thought of that boy can wake me from a sound sleep and leave
me staring at the ceiling. As I write this, I have a picture in from
of me. It's of two young men. On their laps are tablets. One is
smoking a cigarette. Both stare without expression at the camera.
They're writing letters. Staying in touch with places they would
rather be. Places and people they hope to see again. The picture
shares space in a frame with one of my wife. She doesn't mind. She
knows she's been included in special company. She knows I'll always
love those guys who shared that part of my life, a part she never can.
And she understands how I feel about the ones I know are out there
yet. The ones who still answer the question, "When were you in

"Hey, man. I was there just last night."

Catching Up


Just a heads up for those planning to camp during the 26th annual all services Vietnam Veterans reunion in Kokomo Indiana this September 18-21. Members of HCVVO (Howard County Vietnam Veterans Org) should have already received camping reservation forms and can mail them in prior to August 1st along with your payment of $10 per night with a 2 night minimum. Lots not paid for by August 1st will be released to the general public. As usual I will be pestering the other six members holding our seven lot basecamp to "gitter done" ASAP. We have a good location so lets not lose it.
As of June 1st non-members/general public can make camping resevations and those must also be paid for by August 1st. HCVVO has purchased 10 acres of adjoining land the past few years so there is no waiting list for camping lots. Anyone wanting to camp can be accomodated so bring some friends. To make reservations go to the HCVVO website "Events" page by clicking the camping link. CAMPING
This HCVVO reunion in September is the oldest and largest event of this kind in the country. Join 40,000 plus people for a weekend of good times September 18-21.

Seeya there, Joynt



I apologize for being slow in getting this info out but in the early going there was some confusion about the actual dates of this event. In February I got an email from Al Golden stating the correct info for the 40th anniversary remembrance of the 2nd Brigades first full year in Vietnam. I would like to stress that while this focuses on 1968 ALL 2nd Brigade Namvets are welcome and encouraged to come as there are many more anniversaries yet to come. Alpha company will have a good turnout as usual and hope to see you there. Here's a basic itinerary and all the contact info you'll need.

40th ANNIVERSARY - 2d Brigade Reunion, June 12-15, 2008!!

Troopers of the 2d Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, 1967-68

(1/501 Inf, 2/501 Inf, 1/502 Inf, and Bde HHC)

Although the 101st Abn Div (Air Assault) will be in Afghanistan and Iraq,

we are organizing a (40 years later) reunion of our Vietnam 2d Brigade,

on 12-15 June, 2008.

Contact Jim Hallums; 931-572-9527; hallumsfarm@charter.net. Let him

know you are coming, and if you will be at the bar-b-q or the bde dinner.


Thursday, 12 June

1100-1600 Registration at the hotel; 1500-2300 Hospitality room open

Friday, 13 June

0900-1500 Visit Ft Campbell; lunch, barracks, activities as the Post can provide.

1500-1800 Hospitality room open;1800-2100 Bar-be-que.

Saturday, 14 June

0900-1600 Activities as desired (golfing, tour of Nashville, local trips as desired)

1200-1600 Hospitality room open;1800-2100 Reunion dinner.

2100-0100 Hospitality room reopen.

Sunday, 15 June

0900-1200 Reunion guests depart.

Register at Reunion Hqs, Holiday Inn Express, 4 mi N of Fort Campbell on

Hwy 41A. Phone 270-439-0022; ask for special 2d Bde rate. Best wishes,

Or REPLY TO: JOHN H. CUSHMAN, Cdr 2d Bde/101st, '67-‘68

6200 Oregon Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20015; 202-541-0435; JackCushSr@aol.com



If you haven't been to that page of the website lately check it out.

Thanks to contributions from John Burris, Val Zappert and Barry Gregorich that page has jumped from a little over 500 names to 661. A few new names have been added to the "We Remember" page as well. Special thanks to those three guys and all of you that contribute to our A 1/501 website.
That was a lot of typing for me so I probably made a boo-boo somewhere. If you see a mistake of any kind anywhere on the website or have a suggestion please let me know. Every little bit helps to keep our website worth a visit.

TIA, Joynt