In the past, people have asked me what it felt like to come home from the Vietnam War. I could never tell them anything that they would understand... or want to hear. Forty years on and I'm just beginning to understand it myself. In returning to CONUS, I'd left behind friends, and a job worth doing, to come home and live amongst a people who seemed self-centered, uncaring and shallow. Complaints about everyday problems struck me as being venal. I... Didn't they realize that people were fighting, and dying, half a world away?
Did they not care?
I grew to loath this prevalent attitude. That loathing went a long way in influencing my decision to remain in the service. I could relate to people in uniform... didn't really give a damn about anyone else.
This feeling probably explains a favorite saying
of many Vietnam vets:
"Fuck 'em, fuck 'em all, save nine...
six to be pall bearers,
two to be roadguards
and one to count cadence."
There have been honest attempts at portraying us. This is a video clip from the TV show, "China Beach." The actor playing the roll of the mother is a friend. Her name is Penny Fuller. In 1983, while she was visiting us in Berlin, I related a story to her of my former wife throwing out all my clothes and uniforms when I returned from Vietnam. My first morning home, I had to root through trash cans on the curb to recover it all. My wife claimed that everything stank... "smelled like that place!" When Penny accepted the roll on "China Beach," she told my story to the writers... they liked it and wrote it into the episode.
I always thought that was cool.
The pertinent portion of the video clip begins around 4:57 min.
I don't believe that civilian attitudes have changed at all.
( Paint It Black )
Amateur Psychology - Part of the reason for my attitude, upon returning home, was a feeling of guilt at having "deserted" my comrades in Vietnam. I'd been asked to stay, to extend my tour. I was considered to be good at my job... one of the best. But I had a new daughter who I'd never seen and thought that her father should be looking to stay at home, watch her grow. (Didn't pan out that way... pity, that.)
I wasn't a grunt. I hadn't lived in the boonies. I'd slept dry. I'd drunk cool beer (and cold Coke over ice). http://jmawelsh.blogspot.com/2011/12/13-dec-11.html
Can't swear that I would've had this feeling of guilt, and the urge to return, if I'd been Infantry instead of M.I..