Friday, April 29, 2011

Part III - A strange thing happened to me ‘in country’


Going back 41 years ago to this same week in April of 1970 - Part III of a 3-part series of posts                                                                                By Dave Stancliff 

One night I got drunk drinking Tiger Beer with some buddies, and found myself staggering towards the Song Ba River in the dark. Heck, I don’t know why I did that. Leaving the base camp alone was a stupid thing to do for several reasons.

Maybe I went to relieve myself. I was drunk. I don’t think I was going there for a swim. I clearly remember a young boy suddenly coming out of nowhere and startled the crap out of me! He stopped me from getting any closer to the river by pulling on my arm urgently and babbling something in Vietnamese or Montagnard. I really couldn’t make sense out of his excited babbling and I was feeling dizzier every moment. 
I tried to shake him off, and slipped and fell down on the muddy ground. Couldn’t seem to get back up.That was the last thing I recalled until I woke up the next morning with a splitting headache and still on the ground.

It was early, and the sun was slowly rising when a couple of my buddies came looking for me. After giving me a ration for being outside the camp perimeter, I told them about the kid.

“One of them, Crow, shook his head in wonder and pointed out to the river. “If you would have gone any further down that bank you would have slid right into rolls of razor sharp barbwirVietnam-Cambodiae just beneath the waters edge!” 

There is nothing I could say that would explain that feeling of having dodged danger like that. I might have drown if I got tangled up in it while drunk. I looked for the kid the next day to thank him, but couldn’t find him.
I didn’t die because some nameless little boy took pity on a stupid grunt that night. It was one of the strangest things to happen to me during my time in country. This incident happened during the last week of April 1970. We got orders the same week that we were going to Cambodia! But that’s another story that may, or may not, be told another day.

Have you ever heard the original “Good Morning Vietnam?”

I enjoyed Robin William’s version, but let’s keep it real here!

I hope this little three-part series of posts helps you understand what it was like 41 years ago for a 19-year-old boy who had to become a man fast in a foreign land.

It helps me to share this part of my history and hopefully help people understand war is hell. For some soldiers like me with PTSD, the war never ended.

I live with tortured memories that still come unbidden. I manage to lead a somewhat normal life (what’s that anyway?) and I don’t fight my battles every day. Most of the time I’m diverted by my daily routines, and Vietnam and Cambodia stay far in my past. Another life. Another reality.

It’s the nights that sometimes get really bad during certain times of the year (like now), when the nightmares come in terrifying clarity. But medications have lessened them. Counselors call it an “Anniversary date” and attribute it to extremely bad times in a person’s life. Whatever.
I’m really not sure about that. I guess it really doesn’t matter what anyone calls it; this isn’t my best time of the year for me and that usually extends through June.

As It Stands, Thank you for reading this. It helps me to share sometimes.

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