Return to Viet Nam: One Veteran's Journey of Healing

( 5 )

Overview

Art Myers is a Viet Nam veteran with memories. In 2005 he and his wife Linda traveled to Viet Nam with a group led by a psychotherapist who works with veterans affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). From the Mekong Delta in the south, to Hanoi in the north, it was a life-changing journey.

Art's story is not unusual. He was a sergeant in the Marine Corps in 1968, a radio repairman stationed at Da Nang during the Tet offensive. He saw...

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Return to Viet Nam: One Veteran's Journey of Healing

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Overview

Art Myers is a Viet Nam veteran with memories. In 2005 he and his wife Linda traveled to Viet Nam with a group led by a psychotherapist who works with veterans affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). From the Mekong Delta in the south, to Hanoi in the north, it was a life-changing journey.

Art's story is not unusual. He was a sergeant in the Marine Corps in 1968, a radio repairman stationed at Da Nang during the Tet offensive. He saw only one day of combat, but that day affected every aspect of his life for 35 years.

Many veterans suffer from their memories of their time at war. They may bury them, or deny them, or run from them, or act out in other areas of their lives. Alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide rates are higher than average, as are failed relationships and chronic unemployment.

Art decided to return to Viet Nam, to overlay the memories of the young man during a terrible time with those of a man in late middle age. It was a good choice for him - and for his family.

About the book Art says, "I hope that talking about this journey of healing - and how it has changed me – will help other veterans and their families. The idea of helping even one other veteran stop the nightmares and gain some peace made my story worth sharing."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781467874441
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 11/22/2011
  • Pages: 172
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Return to Viet Nam: One Veteran's Journey of Healing


By Linda G. Myers Arthur H. Myers

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2011 Linda G. Myers and Arthur H. Myers, Veteran, USMC
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4678-7445-8


Chapter One

January 1968

One Day of Combat

My husband Art is a Viet Nam veteran. He was a sergeant in the Marine Corps stationed at Da Nang during the Tet Offensive in 1968. He saw only one day of combat, but that day affected every aspect of his life for 35 years. Here is his story.

I joined the Marine Corps in 1964 when I was 21. I attended boot camp (Infantry Training Regiment) at Camp Pendleton, California, and radio school at San Diego. Every Marine is a rifleman first. I was an expert. On August 31, 1967 I arrived in Viet Nam after three and a half years in Southern California. I was ordered to Quang Tri, but my orders were changed because they needed me at Da Nang. In January of 1968, the Da Nang area was an in-country R&R (Rest and Recuperation) area because of its proximity to My Khe beach, known as China Beach by American soldiers. We weren't allowed in the R&R area unless we had official business. Weapons had to be carried in Da Nang, but we were not issued ammunition and could not have a loaded magazine in a weapon. My unit was the normal blocking force for the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam) military sweep of the area. That meant it was a photo op, where we would bring candy to the kids and take their pictures. In other words, my unit was not a combat outfit. Our military intelligence had learned that a large Vietnamese assault was to happen on New Year's Eve. So, on December 31, the Da Nang area had been shut down in preparation for the attack. But the attackers did not arrive that night, so the sky was filled with American tracers celebrating the new year. But military intelligence used the Julian calendar, and they should have used the lunar calendar. The assault was actually planned for the Vietnamese New Year, called Tet. And this was the last day of Tet. My unit, the 1st MP battalion, was responsible for base security. We had four line companies surrounding the base on all sides except where the Air Force was; that area was guarded by Vietnamese forces—ARVNs, QCs (Quan Canh, the military police of the ARVN), and Popular Forces (local militias). I was awakened in the middle of a January night by the sound of the crypto gear, radio apparatus to send coded messages. This usually meant high security information from Communications to our colonel. I got dressed and went out to the vehicle that had the crypto gear and asked one of the operators did it look like we were going to go on patrol that morning. He said it was highly probable. Within an hour the whole company was awakened, and three platoons were formed to go out as a reaction force. Several men were borrowed from other sections because we had a lot of men in our own unit who were either working a shift or about to go on shift. A platoon is usually three squads with three fire teams in each squad. A fire team could be an automatic weapon, two ammo carriers, three riflemen and a squad leader. So a full platoon could be 63 people. My platoon that morning consisted of 11 men. Maybe everyone else was so important they had to stay at the compound and do their precious job. This morning, instead of being a backup for the line company, the reaction force was being sent in as the front line for the Air Force section. Three platoons and the commander (Lt. John Manning), staff non-commissioned officer (SSgt. Robillio), interpreter, two radiomen and a medic, were loaded into trucks and taken to the Air Force gate. We dismounted at the gate and proceeded out down a dirt path, and then turned parallel to the gate. We crossed over a farm and then a rice paddy up onto about a ten-foot-high field with a row of trees. (See map on page 12.) The lieutenant instructed me to lay out the third platoon. And I placed my first man there. Fogle was about 30 years old and had a couple kids, and he'd be out of any trouble in that position. Then we came to a large path where we set up our M60 automatic weapon and left two ammo carriers there with the automatic rifleman. Then we laid out a couple more men down to the rice paddy on the other side of the hill. My last man was in the middle of the rice paddy. The lieutenant told me he and the staff sergeant would continue on and lay out the first and second platoons, with the two radiomen, the interpreter and the medic. He said they would return and let everyone know what was going on and whether anything needed to be shifted around. Then they left. My platoon was facing away from the base, expecting to encounter an advancing enemy. About a half hour after the rest of the reaction force left us, we heard shooting, small-arms fire and grenades from the direction of where the other two platoons had gone. We heard later that the lieutenant's group had been hit by major fire. The lieutenant was killed and a private (Colben Benjamin Stokes Jr.) was killed and eight others were wounded pulling them back out. So we never heard what was going on, and the colonel who heard about the fight didn't know anything about my platoon and its location. I had gotten Cpl. Robertson to keep a watch out for the enemy, because he had seen combat up north in a different outfit and would know what they looked like. We were standing on top of this hillside above the rice paddy when we noticed, from behind us in the direction of the base, this guy come down into the rice paddy and walk through it, and it looked like he was carrying a rifle. We had no idea who he was. And we kept watch on him because our last man was sitting in the middle of the rice paddy. When they were about ten feet apart, they looked at each other, brought up their rifles and shot at each other, and the stranger started wading back towards the base. And we dropped him in the rice paddy. From where he had come there appeared a string of men dressed just like him, running down this path. We could only see about ten or twelve feet of the trail before it went into the rice paddy. And it was just like a shooting gallery. I placed my rifle right on that spot and kept shooting one man right after another. One would be hit, and he would fall off to the side, and the next guy would just keep right on coming. I learned later they had been on a forced march for five days; they must have been kind of rummy. Some of the other men in our platoon had heard the shooting and came over the hill and they got right down in front of me and started firing. I had already gone through one magazine. A magazine normally holds ten rounds, but I had my three stuffed with 20 each. And I had some bandoliers of extra ammunition. I tried to load the magazines but I was shaking like a leaf. I was an expert rifleman, but I had never fired to kill a person. I thought I had better tell the rest of the men which direction the armed forces were coming from—we were expecting them to be heading into the base, and instead they were coming out. So I went back over the hill where the dirt path was and told my men that the enemy was coming from the other direction. As my men were turning around they said, "What did they look like?" And there, coming down the path from the direction of the base, was an enemy soldier. When he saw us he turned around and started running back the other way. The guy on the machine gun opened up on him in short bursts. I shot him three times and it didn't slow him down a bit. He ran a hundred feet down the trail and then about ten yards up the next hill and disappeared. It looked like he was wearing red pants. The machine gunner said he could see the bursts from his automatic weapon tearing the flesh from the guy's back. That didn't slow him down either. I went back over the hill. My men had stopped firing because the enemy had stopped coming. It was dawn by now. At the top of the hill I could see a small footpath that led down to a village. I didn't want anyone to sneak up on us from behind, so I went down the path to check it out. It led to the back side of several thatched houses with pieces of corrugated metal. I got within about 20 feet of the houses. I could see between two of the houses, and on the front porch was a Vietnamese guy with a machete, dressed like the line of soldiers, standing over this other Vietnamese guy who was on the ground with his hands and feet tied. On the other porch was another uniformed man reading off a piece of paper. It looked like an execution of some sort was about to be done. I shot the guy with the machete between the eyes, put a bullet behind the ear of the guy reading the paper, and put one up underneath the ribs of the guy on the ground. I have no idea who these people were, but there was a saying adopted by the Marines, "Kill them all and let God sort them out." Then I saw three soldiers come around the far end of the house, and I heard the bullets slapping the leaves around me. I knew they were looking for me. I don't think they knew where I was, but they were firing into the bushes. When they brought an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) around the corner I got out of there fast, running back up the trail. I had the guys at the top of the hill watch the path. I said, "I think I stirred up a hornet's nest. They may be coming out." I started back down towards the main path. That's when I heard a helicopter coming. It wasn't one of our Hueys. It was one that the ARVNs used, like a little Bell helicopter, and they usually had a 30-caliber machine gun with an M-79 grenade launcher. The pilot was shooting down the tree line alongside the trail. And that's where I was. I was right next to a cistern, which was probably ten feet deep and full of water, with an opening at the top about four or five feet in diameter. I tried to hide underneath my helmet. And as the helicopter came by one of the rounds kicked dirt up into my face, and another one hit in the water right behind me. That's when I peed my pants. I told one of the ammo carriers to go back to the base to get a radio. There was no news coming back from the other two platoons, and we needed to know what was going on. Everything quieted down for a while. Our guy who was out in the center of the rice paddy suspected that the ammunition we had was the faulty kind that would jam the rifles, so he had fashioned himself a straw out of one of the reeds in the rice paddy. When the enemy soldier approached him our guy fired once and his rifle jammed, and he went under the water and breathed through his reed for about a half hour. I don't remember his name. He was a radio operator. But I can see his face—he looked like Tony Curtis, the actor. The guy I sent for a radio returned. He had gotten back to the base and found out that the first platoon had been ambushed, and somebody in charge had declared a free-fire zone where we were, and they thought we were all dead. We had to evacuate the area. I pulled everybody back, including two guys from the second platoon who were positioned next to us, plus two lost Marines from another outfit that was pulling a sweep on the area. We started back towards the first rice paddy. When the helicopter came in again Robertson and I were the first two on top of the hill, and that's the last I remember. He had hit us with a HE (high explosive) M-79 round. I have no idea how close it was. The rest of the troops said it looked like we just both blew up in a big cloud of fire. I woke up lying on the ground smelling the sweet grass and thinking I was back in the hills of Okanogan, Washington, been out hunting, and laid down for a short nap. I had no idea how much time had passed. Somebody was calling my name. I couldn't see where he was, but it was Robertson. And here came the helicopter again, and he was firing right down the center of the trail, and it kicked dirt all over me again. After the helicopter went by, I sat up and saw that Robertson was behind me, about five feet up the hill. Then three or four Vietnamese ladies came running down the trail with a little baby that looked like it was hit with a bullet or something. It was bleeding, and they wanted us to help them. And we couldn't do anything. I did give them my med pack to bandage the baby up, told them to take him to a doctor. We went over the hill, through the field, over to the first rice paddy. And almost everyone was hunkered down at the edge of the paddy. They said someone was shooting at them. So I started them out one by one running across the rice paddy. At about the fourth guy, the shooting started. I could see the bullets hitting the water around him. I called to the guys who had crossed the paddy and asked if they could see who was shooting, and they said yes, it was the ARVNs. I said, "Fire a few rounds over their heads," which they did, and the shooting stopped until everyone else got across the paddy. I was the last one. And they started shooting at me. On the other side of the paddy I jumped down into a Vietnamese grave, and the shooting continued. The bullets were disintegrating the headstone above me, and I asked my men what was happening, because everyone else was standing around and I was the only one being shot at. We were supposed to go back to the trucks, but there was a barbed-wire fence blocking our way. It had been dark when we came in, so I hadn't seen where we were, and we hadn't come back the right way. I said, "I'm getting out of here." I jumped on the top wire of the fence and knocked it down enough so everyone could get over. The two lost Marines found their unit as we went back up the path to the base. The rest of us returned to the trucks. As we went through the gate, ARVN guards had their rifles pointed at us. I told their officer to have them raise their rifles as we passed, which he ignored. I halted my men, told them to face right, lock and load. The Vietnamese put their rifles up. As we passed, I saluted the Vietnamese officer. A lieutenant standing near the trucks had been watching. He told me this might create an international incident. I don't believe it did. My platoon returned to our company area and found out about the two dead and the eight wounded in the first platoon. We said we hadn't eaten all day, and how about some lunch, because the cooks had stayed back. The best they could do was get us some Korean War C-rations—barely edible food in a can—because the cooks were too busy hiding out in their bunker. But the guy in charge of the Enlisted Club pulled out a case of beer and said, "We've got beer rats anyway." I found out later what had happened. There were three companies of NVA (North Vietnamese Army) that had come down from Hanoi. One company had been assigned to attack the air base. We were faced to repel them, but they had already been on the base. They had blown a hole in the fence and had been on the base blowing up planes and were making their escape when they ran into us. I also found out that Fogle—we had placed him out of the way so he wouldn't get hurt—was sitting in the middle of the trees when two men came across the field. And they were coming straight towards where he was. So he got ready and yelled at them to stop, and they turned around to leave, and he fired his whole magazine. He put in a new one, put his selector on semiautomatic, and dropped both of them. One of them turned out to be an NVA colonel who was in charge of the unit that had come down from Hanoi on a forced march. The colonel had many things on him, including a diary that described the plans of the NVA coming down from Hanoi—especially plans to murder the teachers on Teachers Day. And propaganda pamphlets, a US 45-caliber pistol with five magazines, and three mortar rounds, one with mustard gas. He also possessed an AK47 manufactured in Korea. Fogle took the AK47 as his war trophy after putting it through the right channels. Later, some officer stole it. We were told that there was no body count in the area we were in. I saw no further combat and left Vietnam six weeks later. I was discharged from the Marine Corps soon after that. But over 40 years later I got an email from Robertson and I called him on the phone. One of the things he told me was that 220 bodies had floated to the surface of the rice paddies a couple of months after the fight. Robertson had been part of the group that had to go out and clean them up. I told Robertson I had put in for a medal for him. He said he had never heard a thing about it.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Return to Viet Nam: One Veteran's Journey of Healing by Linda G. Myers Arthur H. Myers Copyright © 2011 by Linda G. Myers and Arthur H. Myers, Veteran, USMC. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

January 1968 One Day of Combat....................1
The Years Between....................13
What We Knew....................15
Jeanne....................18
Making Contact....................22
September 2004-September 2005 Getting Ready....................29
Homework....................31
Father's Day....................34
An Invitation....................35
Plans for Healing....................36
Final Preparation....................39
September-October 2005 The Journey....................43
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)....................46
Outside Ho Chi Minh City....................61
Trang Bang....................63
Nui Ba Den (Black Lady Mountain)....................65
Cau Dai Temple....................67
Cu Chi Tunnels....................68
The Mekong Delta....................71
Da Lat....................86
Cam Ranh Bay....................93
Da Nang....................96
Hoi An....................105
My Lai....................108
Chu Lai....................112
Hanoi....................120
Ha Long Bay....................127
October 2005-2011 Afterwards....................137
Home Again....................139
Reflections....................142
Six Years Later....................145
Acknowledgments....................153
Glossary....................155
Viet Nam Key Dates....................159
Our Website and Email....................161
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Customer Reviews

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( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 23, 2015

    This book explains a view of the Viet Nam war that I did not exp

    This book explains a view of the Viet Nam war that I did not experience as someone who was at raising a young family. I was proud of our soldiers but did  not know what they went through. Thanks 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2012

    Starting with his wartime experience in Viet Nam, which is impo

    Starting with his wartime experience in Viet Nam, which is impossible to turn away from, and continuing with his return all those years later to face himself and the country that changed his life, Art's story is one of wounds and healing every person, whether a soldier or not, can connect to. Linda, a seasoned traveler, takes the reader along with them to modern day Viet Nam, showing her parallel experience in a country new to her. This book stays with you long after the last page has been turned. Deb Shucka, Battle Ground, WA

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2012

    Tender and honest, the book walks the reader through an individu

    Tender and honest, the book walks the reader through an individual and collective experience of healing, recovery and self-acceptance. It brings to awareness the value of each person taking steps away from shadows of deep regret and pain, while gracefully touching on how personal recovery plays a part in the healing of others. People whose lives have been damaged by war do not suffer, or heal, alone. That's a powerful message. - Sandy Hammer, Kirkland WA

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  • Posted June 3, 2012

    I am a Viet Nam combat veteran. Reading Linda and Art's book he

    I am a Viet Nam combat veteran. Reading Linda and Art's book helped me relax and settle down. Since retirement much of that time has come back into my head. This book helps in settling those reflections. If you're looking for a war story, read something else. If you're feeling anxious and looking for some peace, read this one. I rate it as must read for those that were there.

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  • Posted December 30, 2011

    A Story of True Courage

    "This book is quite an eye opener for one who never got close to war or its effects. The vets I know who served in Viet Nam don't talk about it. It takes the bravest of souls to face long-term pain and fear. Mr. Myers showed great courage." - Jacqueline Kiser, Seattle

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