Archive for the ‘Vietnam War’ Category

Veterans Day

HPIM1959

Three Vietnam War veterans we met a few years ago at a Vietnam war memorial service in Fort Collins, Co.

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The traveling Vietnam War memorial wall with over 53,000 names listed of all the soldiers who died in that war between 1965-1975

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Sometimes we forget,

take for granted what you did;

your service and time

while defending our freedoms

to keep us safe and secure.

~~~~

Thank you to all our veterans

Have a blessed Veterans Day

_______________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2015


For those whom we toll Freedom’s bell

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They left family and friends to fight a war.

It wasn’t for personal gain or glory

they crossed the seas to distant shore

We honor them, their names and story.

They served their country and they served it well.

They’ll be remembered this Veterans Day,

And we’ll bow our heads,

and in reverence pray,

“Let us remember those who died for us,

May God have mercy, and there not be more

young men and women called off to war,”

While holding the memorial program read,

wiping tears for the fallen dead

another flag is lowered and spread

across a casket and the trumpet heard,

“Let us not forget those who toll freedom’s bell

Paying the price, sacrificing all,

for those not among us, and for those who fell.”

_________________

The above photos are ones I took at a memorial service for Vietnam veterans and all those (68,000 + ) killed in the war. The ‘traveling wall’ behind the boots, M-16 rifle and helmet of a soldier killed is a smaller version of the real wall memorial to those who fought and died in this war, located in Washington D.C. We saw that memorial and many others while visiting Washington D.C. that were just as moving. The photo of the helicopter is a Huey fighter/gunner type used during the Vietnam war, 1966-1975.

Every year in our town around 4:00 a.m. a group of war veterans from the Veterans Association drive slowly, reverently around town in a truck ringing a large bell in honor of all who died in past wars. The clanging bell usually wakes me up as I hear it passing. It has come to be an expectant sound and annual event on every Veterans Day.   

Happy Veterans Day and God bless to all our troops and armed service men and women in uniform. We will not forget the sacrifice made by all for our freedom.

_________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

 

 

 

 


When Dark Closes In – Chapter X

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WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Chapter X

Scott – Hue, South Vietnam

June, 1967, Hue, South Vietnam

It was nearly impossible to empty his mind of the things he’d seen, and try to write stuff as if he was a boy scout on a camping trip. Yea! Some trip. Every time he started a letter to Jen or his mom, he didn’t know what to write. What he thought they wanted to read, or hear, he could not write. What he could write they would not want to read, or hear. Too depressing. The media covered enough of the grizzly stuff, but how many bothered to read it, or hear it reported on Nightly News?

He wadded up the letter, another hard ball, and threw it at the latrine. Smack! Wadded another. Threw a curve ball. His mind flashed back to the time he was in high school. They were in the seventh inning, their baseball team’s playoff game for the all-state championship trophy. The opposing team was up at bat. He stood at the pitcher’s plate, slamming home fast balls, right into the catcher’s mitt, strike one, two, three. Another one, “out”!


Bases loaded. Runners up, eagerly waiting. I took my time, made them sweat. Slowly raising my pitching arm, arched my back, turned and, raised my left leg, fooling those on bases. Then, quickly straightened, and threw to third base with the runners sprinting for second and third. The umpire called it. ” Out”!

His writing notebook was not entirely empty. There was much of it that was already filled with things he didn’t share with anyone. He’d been keeping the ‘journal’ since he arrived in Saigon nine months ago. Now, he snatched minutes whenever he could to unleash whatever was in his head. When he didn’t know what to write home to Jennifer and his family, he used the journal to communicate his thoughts, express his frustrations, or just rant with pen on paper.

            ____________

“Here I am, nine months into my tour of duty, these last three in Hue. My M-16 remains the only friend I know that won’t leave me, my constant companion. Sleep deprived, I have dreams of hot showers, cheese burgers and fries, the waves of Puget Sound washing over my bare feet, but, I lie back on burlap bags filled with freeze-dried army rations near the latrine, stink like the village pigs here, and my eardrums vibrate from the drone of planes and helicopters overhead.”

“I still see the faces of the dying villagers lying helpless in our wake as we moved in, after the Viet Cong. Their blood soaks the ground. They are the innocent victims of our bullets and shrapnel. Open, gaping wounds fill with swarming flies to lay claim to their remains. Medics cannot help them all. Only the monsoons help wash the earth of their blood. But, nothing washes away the memory. Their fading cries linger in my head. I hear them over and over.”

“There is no time to grieve the death of friends I’ve made here. I just watch the medics wrap them up and send them home in a body bag. My grief, my emotion is an internal kind, because it’s just not cool to watch a big boy cry. But, when, or if I leave here alive, I will feel more ashamed for not shedding any for the friends I watched die.”

“We don’t know where our enemy lurks. The south will do whatever is necessary to annihilate and wipe out all evidence of VC presence, or compromise. There is infiltration in the South’s army. It is hard to distinguish between the two armies sometimes. At times we don’t know who we’re fighting. We just fire. The South Vietnamese Army formed a special unit for the sole purpose to hunt ‘rats,’ (revolutionists and their spies), another name given the VC. SWARM (Specialized Warfare Against Rat’s Movements) are a brutal bunch of boys. Some say the CIA trained them. No reason to doubt it.”

“Reports from home tell about the apathy for the soldiers here. Does anyone care we are dying? Troops have no real commitment to the South’s cause. They were pulled in, with no choice. This has become a political war. Those in WA., DC that decide our fate should be here. We would choose theirs. And they would go home in body bags. With, or without the U.S. help, the South Vietnamese will fight on, to keep their side free from the north.”

“Things are getting intense around Da Nang, and our unit may be heading north. My only momentary relief comes from looking at Jennifer’s picture, and reading her letters from home. I pray I make it back. I never thought much about praying for anything before. Guess I never needed anything so much until now, so I’ve given it a try. Whether or not God listens, at least I’m giving it a shot.”

            Scott Bradley – 1967, Hue, South Vietnam

                        _____________

Suddenly, the sounds of M-16 s erupted everywhere. Another ambush. The screams of troops falling under fire while launching grenades, the chaos from those running, hitting the ground, diving for cover: they were under attack.
Aim, fire, and kill. Scott emptied his cartridge on all he could see in their black pajamas, then reloaded. They camouflaged themselves in the bush, foliage hanging off them as they crawled along the ground. They laid low in rice paddies, creeping along like maggots. They were dropping, but it was too hard to see how many he’d gotten. They could pop up like ducks at a carnival shoot to gain the surprise. Carnage everywhere. The surprise attacks were coming more frequent.

His knees buckled. He lost balance. He felt a stinging, piercing pain, like a hot knife shoved in, then withdrawn. His grip loosened, his M-16 feeling too heavy to hold. He looked down at the growing red stain, the sticky wet blood oozing from a chest wound. He would not go down. Not today! Tightening his grip, he stumbled up, out of his trench and ran into the fray.

“Bradley! What are you doing? Get down, man. You’re going to get…No!” Mac yelled.

______________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson




The making and telling of story: WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Members of the military are attempting to keep...

Members of the military are attempting to keep Vietnam War protesters under control. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a story about young adults living in the sixties era of the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia, 1965-1975. It is about a ‘coming of age’ generation, across the country holding protest demonstrations against the war,  rebelling against the ‘establishment’ of rules and regulations, experimenting with pot, ‘free love,’ and illegal abortions. It is about those who swarmed to the Beatles concerts, danced and rocked to the tunes of popular groups and singers at rock concerts like Woodstock.

When Dark Closes In tells the story of Jennifer, Scott and their friends who lived, loved, fought and died during that time, succumbing to  the shadows of a dark period in history. But, from out of the darkness comes a light of hope and redemption for some whose lives will be forever changed from that moment on.

In two chapters posted Jennifer was coping with an unplanned pregnancy and considering an abortion. In 1966 abortion was illegal in every state. She was Catholic, unmarried, a college student, and her baby’s father waited to hear if he would be sent off to war in Vietnam. Those were traumatic times to live in. The choices and decisions made by the youth were often made in haste, with little thought to the circumstances. Other decisions made concerning the war, our military and troop buildup were made by our president, his administration, and congress. It caused division, unrest, war protests. Many dodged the war to run off to Canada where they could hide and blend in with the masses there, some never returning to the U.S. to face the consequences.

These characters, their lives and choices made are not a reflection of my personal views or perspective, although my husband and I were ourselves nineteen in 1966, living with our own choices, but instead they are those of the characters created for the story. All feedback and comments on this story, or any chapter posted are welcome. Comments are helpful to know the thoughts, opinions expressed and views of another, but do not influence my own on the way I tell the story. I hope you enjoy/have enjoyed reading it. It is a current work in progress, but also one I have been writing and editing for many years, recently renamed and revised with the posted chapters and prologue, all of which may be found under the category and menu heading of, When Dark Closes In.

_________________

Joyce E. Johnson

When Dark Closes In, Chapter IX, – ‘Scott’

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN (Historical Fiction)

Scott

Chapter IX

1967 – Saigon, Vietnam

“I could really jack up the cost of this job if I did it at home in my uncle’s garage. But here, I can’t collect, or set my own hours. At least the parts and coveralls are courtesy of the Army. You think they appreciate our expertise, Mac?”

A soldier hunched over machine parts, cleaning and oiling. “Hey man, we’re government commodities now. Dispensable and replaceable, you know?”

The Lieutenant’s voice boomed from across the road. “Bradley! You finished with that jeep, yet?”

“Almost sir.” he called back. Starting up the motor he listened to the sound. “Sounds better now, sir. She sputters a little, but still got some life in her. Till her sweet rump gets all shot up, and scattered to parts unknown.” he added.

“What was that?” asked the lieutenant.

“Uh, nothing, sir! Just thinking out loud. Do you think I could be relieved now to go get some dinner?”

“Yea, knock off.” The lieutenant looked at his watch. “Report back in two hours.”

“Thank you, sir.” Scott saluted and walked down the road to a café frequented by the military. Chopsticks and soy sauce were laid on a small table tucked in a corner. He ordered his food, propped his booted feet up on a chair and leaned back. While waiting for the food he rested his head against the wall and closed his eyes. A large ceiling fan circulated the humid air and smells that settled in the dim place. The weariness and drain of a long day took its toll and he was almost fully asleep when he felt a warm hand on his arm.

“You one sleepy soldier boy. Yes?” The girl said, smiling. She laid the plate of food down in front of him and he picked up the fork and started eating. She moved over behind his chair, hooked her long lithe fingers and hands into his muscled shoulders, and began to massage them; making deep penetrating circles, working down his back.

“I make you feel better?”

He had to admit the massage felt good, and she was something to look at with her long, cinnamon colored hair flowing down her back, locks draped over her bare shoulders. Her eyes were a translucent steel-gray. The tight, short red skirt crept seductively up her thighs as they moved in rhythm with her forearms.

“Just here for the chow, sweetheart.” he said, smiling. “You don’t look like other girls I’ve seen around here. Are you Vietnamese, or…?” He said between bites.

“My father. He was French man. Come here with French militia. My mother, part Chinese, part Vietnamese. My name, Suki. It …how you say in your country, nickname?”

“Yes. Cool name. Uh…Listen Suki, I didn’t come here for…well, you know, the entertainment.”

“What your name?”

“Scott. And thank you for the massage, but…I have to hurry and get back.”

“That O.K. Maybe, I see you again?” She glanced over towards the bar at the bartender ‘boss’ with the snarly, screwed up face, watching her.

“Bye, Scott. Have other customers waiting.”

He nodded, and watched her make her way back to the men hanging over the bar. She used her practiced approach on another, and minutes later they headed up the dark stairway to a room upstairs, his arms wrapped around her like an octopus.

There was a sense of longing and loneliness, an emptiness and deep ache in the pit of his stomach. He wanted only to be back home in Seattle with Jennifer. He hated this place, this war, the country, the constant monsoons, and stinking town.

It had only been a week since he last wrote Jennifer, but he would write again when he got back to the barracks. He hoped his letters were getting home.

Ten minutes later the soldier came down the stairs, rumpled, looking content.

As he walked back to base a transport helicopter touched down. The bodies of dead soldiers were being unloaded, identified and carefully placed into body bags, their personal belongings collected, and placed into smaller bags with identification tags. It all seemed so cold, so routine anymore. Unload, identify, match up, zip up the body or remains, and send home.

One soldier stood by, anxiously waiting, watching. Grime and grit covered his face and bloody uniform. His eyes looked wild, fearful, as if still out in the bush. He grasped the shirt of his friend.

“Smithy! We’re here. They’re going to fix you up. Hang on. I’ll make sure they take real good care of you. Smithy! Did you hear me?” Shaking Smithy, he pleaded, “Smithy?”

He looked up at the medic. “You will, won’t you? Work on him right away?”

Smithy’s body went limp, his eyes glazed over, staring up at no one, nothing. They just stared. His body was lifted off and laid with other still, lifeless bodies.

The medic turned to the soldier, and said, “Look man, he’s gone. I’m sorry. We have to get him unloaded so we can get to the wounded that need immediate attention. Smithy will be taken care of. Why don’t you help me collect his things and we’ll get him ready for the trip home. What’s your name fella?”

The soldier was quiet for a while. He wiped his dirty sleeve across his face, as if trying to wake up from a bad dream. “Rakowski. Sam Rakowski. Smithy always called me ‘Rack’. He said I could shoot the rack off a running bull moose. I like to hunt. We were good at it. Together, hunting the Cong. We got a lot of em, Smithy and I.”

The medic just nodded. All of them casualties.

Looking over at Smithy’s lifeless body, ‘Rack’ asked, “What am I going to do now? Who’s going to help me hunt the Cong?”

Scott was suddenly thankful he was not in that unit. He walked back to the broken down jeep. Maybe Mac was still cleaning engine parts.

_________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson

Remembering our veterans who fought for our freedom

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Three Vietnam Veterans who fought and served during the war

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Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, Fort Collins, Colorado, May 24, 2013

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Huey helicopter used during Vietnam War for combat missions and for transporting troops to and from battle zones

Last Friday my husband and I viewed the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall with the 58, 261 names on it of soldiers who died in one of the longest and least understood wars of our country. The traveling wall is 80 %  the original size of the one in Washington, DC and the largest one made for the sole purpose of being transported and set up at cities around the country so it can be viewed on Memorial Day.  Fort Collins, a city seven miles north of mine in Northern Colorado was happy to  host the traveling wall for this particular Memorial Day. It is provided and set up by the American Veterans Tribute organization based in Flint, Tx. With this display came some other things not often seen by the public, yet just as impressive. One was the Huey helicopter used in combat missions and for transporting troops to and from the battle zones during the war between 1965-1975.  My husband, Wayne and I were eighteen in 1965 when the draft was implemented and men were called up to serve. Unless one was enrolled in a four-year college, physically disabled, or married with children there was little chance of being exempt from serving. My husband was placed in the exempt status because he was enrolled in a seminary in 1966-1970 and was required to achieve and retain a 3.5 GPA while in school. We were married in 1966 and he remained in the exempt status throughout school and after. Other friends and classmates were not as fortunate and were drafted and sent into the war. The U.S. was pulled into the war to help the South Vietnamese retain their democratic hold over the fight with the North Vietnamese Communist regime and the Viet Cong. But, the war was lost for the South Vietnamese with the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) conquering all, moving in and gaining control on April 30, 1975. It was a war that was unpopular to begin with and caused such political conflict within congress and the current presidential administrations that when the war was over and our surviving soldiers and nurses came home, many were treated with disdain and left destitute while trying to find a job and start over and many more left with disabling injuries for the rest of their lives.

In 1998 when Wayne and I vacationed on the east coast and visited the war memorial sites in Washington, DC, we saw the original beautiful granite wall memorial there. It is one of the most moving ones I have ever seen. Once again, this time while viewing the traveling wall it was a very solemn and emotional time as names were read, taps played, one playing the bagpipes while marching slowly before the wall, and the 21 gun salute heard, the service ending with a prayer from a chaplain. This Memorial Day tribute with included photos here is to honor those vets who served and fought, and for those who died in this war.

___________________________

Joyce E. Johnson

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN – Incoming Tide, Chapter IV

This is a chapter and scene from my novel, When Dark Closes In, about young adults in the sixties era. A bit of history  about that time: During the years between 1963 – 1975,  the military draft was implemented to increase the numbers of troops needed to fight the hated war in Southeast Asia, known as the Vietnam War. It was a historic time in the U.S. when the  ‘hippie’ generation experimented with pot, a promiscuous lifestyle, held protest demonstrations against the war and rebelled against the ‘establishment’ of rules and regulations. It is a generation that rocked and danced to the beat of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and other popular groups and singers on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. All of this story is fiction, simple as that. All characters are fictional, created only for this story, alone. Their lives and character are not based on any values or opinions of my own, but their story could be that of many out there, given the history and facts of that era and time. The history and references to the Vietnam War in places and localities are truthful and factual. You will find the prologue and first three chapters and parts of this story all posted under my ‘fiction’ category on my blog.

When Dark Closes In tells the story of Jennifer, Scott and their friends who lived, loved, fought and died during that time, succumbing to  the shadows of a dark period in history. But, from out of the darkness comes a light of hope, grace and redemption for those whose lives will be forever changed from that moment on.

____________________________

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WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Chapter IV

Incoming Tide

Jennifer waited while Scott showered and dressed. She looked at framed pictures he displayed on the walls, one of them together, taken years earlier. His apartment was filled with things and touches of the man he was. A collection of miniature die-cast model cars and planes was arranged on the mantel beside the picture. On the other side rested an old baseball glove and hard ball from his days with their high school baseball team he played on when he was their star pitcher. A desk in one corner held textbooks and notebooks from his three years in college. A stereo unit with a stack of records propped up beside it took up space on the other side.

She turned on the stereo, tuning in to the local hit parade AM station, and the Beach Boys revved up and roared to life in, Little Deuce Coup.

The door to his bedroom opened. He was dressed in khaki pants, knit shirt and deck shoes. His hair with natural blond streaks, still damp, had a mussed up look adding to his rakish charm. His aqua blue eyes and captivating smile were just a couple of the things that attracted all the girls back in high school, she remembered. His recent tan was evident he’d not spent all his hours indoors at his uncle’s garage, working on cars, or in a classroom at SITE (Seattle Institute of Technology and Engineering).

Gads, he looks good.

“I left my grungy clothes in a pile on the floor for the maid to find. She’s off today.” He quipped.

“Oh. That’s too bad. I guess you will just have to wash your own clothes. Hmm…is that British Sterling I smell?”

“It is. You remember.” he replied, grinning.

Jennifer nodded. “I gave you a bottle of it the Christmas before I left for Notre Dame. It is my favorite men’s cologne.

“And now mine, too.”

“Oh, do I have that kind of effect on you?” she said, teasing again.

“Don’t you know what you do to me?” He walked over to the stereo, turned off the Beach Boys, and picked out several records, stacking them onto the cylindrical record changer. The strains to, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” began playing.

“Come here.” He said, motioning to her with his forefinger.

She went into his embrace.

“What are you thinking, with that smug grin?” she said, looking up into his eyes.

“Just how happy I am to have you all to myself tonight. We don’t have a third-party hanging around this time.”

“Who are you referring to?”

“Someone. Anyone. It seems whenever I want to be alone with you there is always someone around. But, tonight it’s just you and I, here alone in my apartment. And, since I am your ride back home tonight, you can’t get away from me.”

“I realize that. You certainly arranged this well, didn’t you? My father used to warn me, ‘Watch yourself with that guy.’ But, with my car in your uncle’s shop waiting to be serviced I could hardly refuse the ride, could I? But, Scott, don’t assume…”

“Jennifer… relax. Let’s just dance. Then we’ll go to dinner somewhere.” His arms tightened around her and he began coaxing her gently into a slow dance, their legs and hips coming together, moving together, with the music, the lyrics capitalizing on the mood, and the physical sensations she was feeling.

“Scott… I realize it’s hard for you to understand. It’s just that…well…”

“Understand what? Jennifer, I love you. I respect you for the person you are, and I’m not going to force my intentions on you. But, we’re adults, now. Let us have our time, our moments, together. Make your own decisions. Right or wrong. You’ve allowed your parents and your old-fashioned virtues to stand in the way too many times of finding some happiness for yourself.”

“It isn’t just that. It’s the consequences we live with if we make a mistake we aren’t prepared to live with, and could regret.” Her words, spoken quietly were so muffled she could barely hear them herself as she leaned into him, feeling the heat of his body, penetrating into her’s. Jennifer wanted to pull away, but couldn’t make herself do it.

The scent of his British Sterling cologne was intoxicating, his hands on her lower back, electrifying. Even as she said the words, “I think we should wait.” she knew he did not want to. She did not think she did either, anymore, as she allowed herself to be carried along, the pleasure, the blissful gratification, an ecstasy, she had never known before, and knew she could not stop. His kisses sent a wave of desire through her, gently at first like an incoming tide, then increasing with such intensity it was like the surf pounding against her groins, would not let her retreat. She succumbed to the moment, returning his kisses with the same intensity, and they forgot all else.

_______________________

On a personal note: My husband and I were just nineteen in 1966, got married and lived through that time. He was placed on exempt status from the draft so he could attend college in L.A., CA. Because, he attended four years of college, graduated, and the arrival of our first-born child in 1970, he never had to fight in that war, of which we are very thankful.

Joyce E. Johnson

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