I am, as you can probably guess by my name, just the son of this particular vet. I've been seeing all the historical AMAs and I thought reddit might appreciate this. This is also a throwaway. He doesn't want even the slightest possibility of this being linked back to him. I'm sitting at he and my mom's house and will be asking him these questions while he keeps his nerves calm by watching Olympic women's beach volleyball.

If I post anything as myself, it'll be in parentheses.

Proof: http://i.imgur.com/Lx15s.jpg

A PM'd Question:

Q - I wanted to ask your dad a question but I saw the AMA too late. I completely understand if yall are done with it and he's not interested in more questions, thank you for everything for the Reddit community, and his service for our country too.

I've asked this in other soldier's AMAs, but never got a response. I'm very interested in combat from a psychological standpoint. I simply wanted to ask your dad about his first "contact"/"firefight"/etc with the enemy. The first time he was shot at and had to shoot back. What happened? What was your first reaction? What emotions were you feeling, what was running through your mind, etc?

If it's something he doesn't want to talk about, or he is simply tired of answering questions, I understand. Thank you.

A - No, I don't mind, I'm trying to put it in order. It was on a squad-size patrol which was under strength, probably 11, 12 guys. It was a situation where we were surprised and they were surprised, there were like five NVA and it was very quick, extremely, extremely quick. It couldn't have lasted more than 12 to 15 seconds. There was probably, between all of us, everybody involved, 300 to 500 rounds fired. Nobody on either side was hit. We broke contact immediately and it was a situation where everybody just kind of drew down and responded to all the training we'd been through for weeks and weeks and weeks. No fear involved or anything, just kind of pure adrenaline, like woah. And most of us, rather than try to - it was more giggling relief, and I tend to do that when I get extremely nervous about this, is get the giggles.

Rather than detailing any fear or dread involved with it, it was more the relief in giggling over the fact that it was over with. Shock and amazement. And then just carried on. But you kind of built on that as to what to expect in the future with the possibility of more drastic results, always. I hope it gives you some kind of insight into it. It's a very difficult question, that might be why you got so few responses. But thanks for your interest.

EDIT: Going to bed for the night! We've been going at this for like nine hours according to the post time, it's 3:00am, I've pretty much never seen him stay up this late. It has been therapeutic for him, I think. He genuinely appreciated all the thanks he got. He seemed shocked by it. It's not something he's heard much and I could tell it was getting to him, suddenly hearing it from so many people. While he is relatively open about it, he only did this because I asked him to, and he doesn't talk with much of anybody about it except for me and my mom occasionally and my cousin who served in Iraq. He might answer more tomorrow morning if there are anymore questions.

Thank you all for the questions, I really think you guys did a good thing for him. And me, too.

EDIT: We're about to be done for good, but for more enlightenment on this subject, we strongly encourage you to please refer to the encyclopedic knowledge and great wisdom of MakesItAboutNam.

Comments: 677 • Responses: 89  • Date: 

getinthechopper124 karma

While in action, were you ever in a situation where you had to shout my username?

sonofvet116 karma

No. (He laughed)

The worse it got, the farther the choppers stayed away. Also, the part of Vietnam I was in was very mountainous, it was the northwest corner near the DMZ and the Laotian border. I never set foot in a rice paddy. I felt cheated for awhile til I found out they were totally fertilized with human waste and you never wanted to sustain a wound in a rice paddy because you were half-way gone right off the bat through infection and disease.

getinthechopper32 karma

All of this makes obvious sense. Follow up question, and I do not mean to be insensitive: One of my all time favorite movies is Tropic Thunder. Does a movie like this even register on your father's radar, if so, what are his feelings regarding comedy movies centered around the war?

sonofvet59 karma

I enjoy them as much as anybody. If the Marine Corps could possibly teach you anything, it's that you're not thin-skinned.

(I can vouch for the fact that he laughed his ass off at that movie. And the stuff about the potential insensitivity, that was me just so everyone is clear. I worry about him, not going to lie. It took him getting drunk for me to hear a lot of things, and there's a lot he's only hinted at.)

Maldon62 karma

No question here, but I wanted to say that I'm glad you made it back alive.

sonofvet72 karma

I'm very pleased myself. I have children, grandchildren. I've had a very good life before, during and after and I still look back on my Marine Corps and Vietnam experience as the big adventure of my life.

cloudspit50 karma

Sorry for the intro but I think its vital to my question.

My father who was in Vietnam has come out now and again and tells stories of his time there. One story broke my heart and I always wanted to dig deeper but after he said it he just left the table and headed to bed for the night.

This is his short story, its called the "Can of Peaches".

"The day I learned I went crazy was when we were ambushed and as a sergeant of a machine gun squadron it was our duty to stop them and mow them down in the chest before they overran our compound. After they stopped coming I was finally able to look around and see what happened to my men. My best friend was dead next to me with his brains blown out the back. I sat there. I took two deep breaths and took a can of peaches out of my pocket and opened it. I ate it right there and stared at my best friend. That was when I realized, I had already lost it."

Did your dad ever have a moment of self realization that he had "lost it"? And I am sorry that I cant say exactly what my father lost, but sometimes at night I wonder what is was.

sonofvet24 karma

I can't say anything that directly affected me, and I honestly believe the things I did go through and saw gave me more or taught me more than I lost from it. And again, at the time, I was a kid and had a difficult time for a number of years putting things in perspective, but I do believe I finally did. I wish you and your father luck.

OOPC46 karma

Did you feel unfairly treated when you returned back to the US?

sonofvet79 karma

It was 50/50. There were some people that totally wanted nothing to do with you, and then there were other people that kind of overcompensated, so I didn't really - and I wouldn't put up with it. I avoided people that disagreed with my views and values.

CoolHandMike44 karma

Seems to me (Navy enlisted, '95 - '05) that everybody these days is overcompensating. Like the first words out of anyone's mouth upon hearing that you served are "thanks for your service". It's become an automatic response, and it throws me every single time. On one hand, I'm glad our vets are being honored these days, but otoh, I wish it wasn't such a rote, unthinking response. I'd be interested in your dad's thoughts on this.

sonofvet33 karma

I agree, it is kind of a rote response, but I find myself doing it with other vets. But any acknowledgement is better than none at all. And a thanks is just what it is. If it's sincere, it carries a lot of meaning.

CoolHandMike13 karma

That's just the thing. Most of the time, it's not sincere, it's something people say because they think it's appropriate, regardless of the context. Also, it's not like I did anything spectacular whilst in the Navy. I fixed a few radars, a few radios, and that's pretty much it. I'm no god-damned war hero; save your hero worship for those who actually deserve it.

I guess there's no way anyone who didn't know me in the service would know what I did or didn't do, but still. It's not sincere unless you really, really mean it. Otherwise, shut the fuck up. Imho.

sonofvet17 karma

I respect your opinion without necessarily agreeing with it. If it's heartfelt, a thank you is very valuable.

[deleted]43 karma


sonofvet53 karma

I discovered it through my son just through doing this and I am kind of amazed by it. You're right, it does give me hope for the future. People looking for answers rather than taking for granted that what they may read or hear on the news - it isn't always necessarily the reality. And everyone has their own reality, so.

(Just from me, I want to say that he's stated a couple times how surprised he is no one has come out all prickish anti-war. Like he's not pro-war, but he was genuinely a little worried someone was going to get all "How many babies did you kill, asshole?" or something.)

idonotcollectstamps32 karma

What does your father think of current combat actions. Particularly the Iraq wars and occupation, the Afghanistan occupation, the quickly escalating Syrian actions and the possibility of a war with Iran.

Most importantly what does your father think of the possibility of reinstating the draft?

sonofvet55 karma

I totally disagree with the draft. Before I would reinstate the draft I would require like one year mandatory service immediately following high school before you went on to college or whatever your future may hold.

(My mom said why can't you just depend on a volunteer military?)

Yeah, otherwise I would stay with a totally volunteer force. You can do more with 5,000 well-trained people who consider it their career than you can with 20,000 people that are forced to be there.

(Regarding Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria/Iran)

I think the primary result of removing the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein from Iraq achieved the goals we were initially after and I think it could have been handled from there on out in a much better and more effective way. I don't know what that would be, but it could be better than it has been handled.

Only as a joke, I would say that when we wacked Iraq and Afghanistan we should have gone ahead and wacked Syria, Iran and North Korea in one fell swoop. Or smell fwoop. And that's tongue-in-cheek (he's so paranoid about what you guys think, lol).

[deleted]19 karma


sonofvet25 karma

I agree, I was being very generous with only a year. The longer, the more effective. During the draft period you were drafted for two years. Slapped through training, sent to Vietnam, and when they sent you back they discharged you. Nothing to really do for the last five to seven months so they just let you go. Cannon fodder. I didn't want to stir up a bunch of controversy by saying everybody should do two years, but a lot of European countries did until fairly recently.

IBiteYou10 karma

Your dad is funny.

sonofvet24 karma

Thank you. I'd rather be funny than morbid or disgusting. I would much rather be funny than morbid or disgusting.

brewphyseod25 karma

As an EOD vet of our two most recent wars, I am kinda curious how Afghan/Iraq wars veterans are viewed by older vets.

I also really wanted to know if most of your war experience was as boring as mine, and merely punctuated with moments of intensity. I realize boring is not a great descriptive word, but we spent the vast majority of our time just driving around, maintaining our kit, and waiting.

sonofvet31 karma

With utmost respect and, just like with Josh (his nephew/my cousin who served in Iraq), it's a situation where it's all volunteer and to go and keep being recalled the way most active duty personnel are and stick with it amazes me sometimes. You know, it reaches the point I would have been giving out to the point where I couldn't have done it, I believe. I can't help but respect the guys that just keep going back each time they're asked.

That's the way it was. Apparently it never changes, because the stories I heard growing up were basically the same thing. You know, you spend days and weeks hunting them, you finally make contact and then you never look forward to it again. You just kind of dread it, but you know sooner or later it either will or could occur. But most of it was the physical - what would you call it? - the physical demands it made. Covering ground, reaching objectives, you know, map coordinates, getting where you needed to be to be in place. That was the most stressful part. It reached the point to where it's like Jesus Christ, somebody shoot at us so we can stop, dig in, take a damn break.

Not hoping anybody would get killed or hurt but, you know, just you get physically exhausted between the ground you had to cover each day and the lack of sleep each night. It's difficult. And its probably been the same for everybody throughout history.

MrChildren21 karma

I used to dread quiet times because that opened up room for the command to fuck with us. Even living in a remote outpost (an abandoned school we took over and made into a combat outpost) they still found way to bring garrison to the field.

Was it the same way in Vietnam, 1Sgt's and Gunny's playing Marine Corps fuck fuck games?

sonofvet37 karma

Yep. Always. It was like they made it a point that if you were in a position to obtain comfort, it's like don't get used to it. Going to the rear used to be miserable, you didn't want to be there, you'd rather be in the bush. That wasn't hard to accomplish with rockets and shit coming in regularly, though, I preferred to be in the bush.

(Said to me, and I don't know if I got his quote right because I'm typing my ass off to try not to hold him up) Just quote Bunny from Platoon. "Hey, I like it out here. Nobody fucks with you, you've got nothing to worry about. Except dying."

ivoffee22 karma


sonofvet50 karma

Hundreds. I don't feel so much anymore, in my old age, but after that in my 20s through my 40s and even into my early 50s I never believed there was anything I couldn't accomplish. I never feared getting involved in a difficult situation. I became a general building contractor, ran that business for a lot of years, never feared taking risks if it involved a reasonable gain. What else, honey? What's good about --

(My mom: Well, you still like guns.)

I still like guns. I don't like to hunt. Animals don't stand a chance.

Just say I like to shoot and I like antique military firearms but I do not like to hunt.

I like humid climates.

vapor11dc22 karma


sonofvet56 karma

I know the funniest thing I ever saw. We were on a three-day in-country R&R in an area called Cua Viet on the Cua Viet River, and it was surrounded by security and everything so you could relax, cook steaks, drink beer without worrying about it, and one guy got caught with pot and he broke down and the company first sergeant grilling him determined that he wasn't the only one, so they said here's what's going to happen: We're going to hold a shakedown and a search in an hour so what we're going to do is put these butt-kits, like a three pound coffee can where you put cigarette butts, we're going to pass these around. If you guys have got this shit, put it in here. You won't get in trouble, we just want it off you before you're done here and head back to the bush.

So everyone is going jeez, we've got to get rid of this shit. There were only 78 of us in the company but there was probably 30 pounds of pot turned in, all of it machine rolled on the little hand machines in little papers and sealed in 10-packs called a party pack, and there was just tons of this shit. We were laughing at it. We were going oh shit, these guys are going to freak out when they see this, everybody unloading just piles.

The company first sergeant saw this shit, even after the company commander and everybody promised there would be no recriminations, he saw this shit and came totally unglued and said no, arrest them. Nobody leaves the tents for the entire period until we're able to sort this out, get legal advice and proper action taken. Everybody was bitching, you guys promised man, there was going to be no - bullshit. Nobody knew it was this extensive and you people were this stupid. You're going to jail.

So we're up there - at first everybody was panicky but after awhile it was like, we're laying around in tents, getting three meals a day, sleeping, it was like yeah. I can do the rest of my tour like this. I don't give a shit. So it lasted, I think, for four days. Wasted our whole in-country R&R, but on like the fourth or fifth day, Firebase Russell, one of the firebases up near the DMZ had been overrun and at like 3:00 in the morning we were re-armed and at day flown back out to reclaim the place. Nobody was still there but we moved in to take it over.

(Me: So nobody got in any trouble?)

No. The original guy that got popped, he was. That was it. We thought we'd have to fight to retake the firebase but not a shot fired. Lot of dead people around, though.

(I apologize, that got sort of unfunny by the end.)

theotherduke3 karma

Thank you so much for the AMA. Vietnam is a personal fascination, the war of an amazing time in american history. Congrats on coming home safe, raising your family.

Question: any other drug-related stories? A 30-pound pot shakedown is pretty amazing in itself, but this was the love generation going to war. Any stories about soldiers tripping in the shit?

Edit: nevermind, found your answer to my drug-related question elsewhere. Thanks again for your service, and for taking the time to help us all gain some perspective on your experience. I wish I could shake your hand.

sonofvet6 karma

Thank you.

sonofvet42 karma

Funniest thing, I don't know. It's a toss up between rock apes throwing rocks at us on a hilltop that we took over from them and they bombarded us all night chunking shit at us, or, after being up all night long, the entire company on a hilltop, filthy, stinking, muddy, wet, walking across the position to pick up additional ammo, after we'd been harassed all night with a couple of snipers popping rounds, couple of mortar rounds coming in, and I'm walking across the hilltop at sunrise, like 8:00, 9:00 in the morning, and I don't remember the name of the song but it was a 60s hippie song about spending your time with beautiful people, and I'm looking around at these sorry looking muddy, filthy slimeballs and this song is blaring from armed forces radio on somebody's transistor singing away about spending your days with beautiful people. That struck me as kind of ironic and funny at the same time.

(My mother: What about the guy that bit the head off the frog that almost killed him?)

That was in Panama.

(Mom: I guess that's not very funny, though.)

It was pretty funny. He never bit the head off another frog.

stevenwangstron17 karma

Can you ask him more about his experiences with the "Rock Apes"? They're apparently like the Bigfoot of Vietnam!

sonofvet23 karma

(He laughed.)

They used to have - I used to think it was a bird but I was told it was a lizard and it used to go "FOCK YOO," I'm serious. And I've heard it a million times. And it was like no shit. Welcome to Vietnam.

(Me: Nothing about the rock apes?)

Yes, they are a nasty beast of a species. Killers, through and through.

(Me: No more encounters?)

The only one I had was where we apparently moved into their nesting site and they just started bombarding us. They're not really that big.

(Me: Did you get hit by a rock?)

No. I had a tiger trip a trip flare once. Or I think it was a tiger, can't prove it, but I heard it crashing through the underbrush and it was big, and the only thing I'm aware of that could've been that big was a tiger and there were a lot in the area.

Yog--17 karma

A guy I worked with said that when the apes would huck rocks at them they'd throw a grenade with the pin in back at them. About half an hour later, and long after he had walked off, they'd figure it out and blow themselves up.

edit: whoops that should have gone to the other guy. Ah, well.

sonofvet16 karma

I wish I'd had thought of that. They had us so shook up for awhile that we would be afraid that they'd pull the pin and then throw it back at us rather than rocks and tree limb chunks. I like that though, I've never heard that one.

Frajer21 karma

What are your feelings on Vietnam in retrospect? Should we have gone should we have not gone?

sonofvet44 karma

It was a personal experience for me that I'm glad I didn't miss, but it's a war we should have never become involved in. It was a civil war that, under the original agreement, should have been settled through a vote rather than a show of arms.

(I asked: Weren't they fighting already, though?)

Yeah, but when the French left the agreement of 1954 with the UN between the separation of north and south Vietnam, there was supposed to be a referendum vote nationwide to reunite the country under one form of government or the other but the Diem regime wouldn't allow it to go to a vote.

sonofvet29 karma

(He added:) That's very oversimplified. Somebody may correct me on that. I have no faith in the US idea of the domino period.

throwayaytime16 karma

the ironic thing about Diem was that he was believed to be asssinated by the US

sonofvet28 karma

My understanding is it was sanctioned by the US, though probably not performed by the US. That's an era where we dabbled in a lot of foreign governments that we ought not have been involved in and we're paying the price even today in areas like Iran.

orthogonality8 karma

Ambassador Lodge knew about the coup, and the CIA supplied money for it.

sonofvet10 karma

Between that and the Bay of Pigs fiasco, could this have anything to do with Kennedy, who was assassinated approximately three weeks later, after Diem? I spell a conspiracy.

(We probably laughed after this.)

lowspeedlowdrag21 karma

First off, give your dad a hearty Semper Fi from a younger guy.

What unit or units was he with? In what area?

I asked the WWII/Korea vet this last night, so I guess it's only fair.... What's his favorite meal? Favorite music from that period of his life?

sonofvet28 karma

Cool. Semper Fi.

Northern I Corps, which is like the first corps of combat operations (explaining it to me because I'm asking stuff too) and it was split up into five, and it was the northernmost along the DMZ, through Quang Tri province.

Acid rock, good Doors. Favorite meal? Like C-ration meal?

(Me: Might as well answer both)

I had no favorite meal, but my favorite C-ration was meatballs with beans with all the hot sauce I could steal and put in and canned pound cake with peaches.

sonofvet37 karma

I never got tired of C-ratons. I still, to some degree, as long as the variety was available

(my mom: Probably better then than they are now.)

No, now they're freeze-dried and ready to eat. Then they weren't the lightweight pre-packed food, they were in cans, everything was in cans, and they were heavy. But you did get in your little sundry pack that came with every meal a little pack of toilet paper, a little pack of chiclets gum, a little pack of four cigarettes, a book of matches, salt, pepper, the little paper packs, coffee, a stir stick, creamer, sugar and dried cocoa. And that was all in like a little plastic bag that came in it and you would always save your creamer, sugar, cocoa and coffee whether you used it or not, and then you would end up making like a four packages of cocoa with eight sugars and six creamers and all thick and gigantic and super-energizing.

If you ever got diarrhea, you could eat like one of the small tins of peanut butter - it would dry you up instantaneously unless it was caused by disease.

[deleted]12 karma


sonofvet81 karma

Yes, and it was the most horrible, filthy crap in there. We would intentionally leave it behind intact in our abandoned overnight positions in the hopes that anybody following us would eat it and die. (He laughed).

God, it was horrible. You know how sometimes beans leave that greasy film in your mouth? That's what the lima beans would do. These things were like WWII vintage. They've got the shelf life of a cockroach.

Also, in the outfit I was in, nobody ate canned apricots. They caused incoming. And the old vets would kick a FNG's ass if they saw him opening a can of apricots. They swore they caused incoming. And I think I just ate apricots for the first time since then in Fig Newtons with the apricot/peach combination.

(My mom: Every time I try to buy apricots in cans, fresh, he says no, they cause incoming.)

Well we haven't been mortared since we've been here, have we?

lowspeedlowdrag19 karma

Was that 9th Marines AO when you were there?

Here's a little tribute to your dad, the Doors live in '70, coming through my 1969 Sansui reciever. I'll raise a glass to his buddies and mine, living and gone, brothers behind rifles and walking dead.

sonofvet21 karma


Let him know the 9th Marines had such a hard luck history that veterans going back for second tours and all the crap you heard in the States, and then you might put in there whether it be true or not, would live in deathly fear of being assigned to the 9th Marines.


(He rambled on about not knowing the appropriate way to say thanks on the internet, but he legitimately seemed to appreciate that pic and what you said.)

[deleted]7 karma

The Walking Dead. And glad you made it back in one piece Marine.

sonofvet18 karma

I wasn't in the 9th Marines. The AOs overlapped. There might be three regiments operating in the same AO.

(Me: Ever come into contact with them?)

Not really. You didn't really associate with other outfits. If you did, you were more likely to get into a fight with them than be buddies with them because you'd start bragging about who humped the farthest, the longest, killed the most, slept the least, burned the most, hah.

sleepwhatsthat20 karma

Did you go to boot camp at Paris Island and if so did Full Metal Jacket do a good job replicating the environment? (Not so much having to do with the murder-suicide in the movie, but matching the overall feel/tone during the Vietnam years.)

sonofvet56 karma

No to Paris Island, I was a Hollywood Marine, and that's what they called you if you went to San Diego. But I will say that Full Metal Jacket is the closest representation you'll ever see of real boot camp without going in that era, because back then they'd beat your ass and not think a thing about it. Today, I think maltreatment of troops is pretty much frowned on anymore. It was frowned on then, but it was accepted.

And R. Lee Ermie was a drill instructor in the Marine Corps in real life, so he brought a degree of realism in it just from his background.

shannotate17 karma

My grandfather was a pilot who was shot down and declared MIA during Vietnam. I think about him a lot, and I don't have a question, I just wanted to let you know I appreciate your service tremendously.

sonofvet17 karma

Thank you. As we appreciate your grandfather's.

JubilationLee16 karma

First of all, thank you. I understand more than most what those two simple words mean in referencing veterans of this this war. They always made my dad cry when I told him on veterans day- he said because no one ever thanked him when he got back and that was all he wanted.

My father was in Vietnam (68-69, navy, door gunner, det5 seawolves) and shot and killed himself last year.

1) did you ever have any interactions with the seawolves?

2) please understand I mean zero disrespect when I ask you this, and I will give context after(apologies if it was asked): why are you doing this AMA?

My dad spoke about Vietnam once. The gist was "I killed a lot of people, I'm sorry for what I did, please don't ask again." and I've got that same vibe from every person I've ever spoke with (even his fellow wolves). I'm just curious

3) how do you cope with your demons? What can we as a society do to help support you more? The suicide rate of veterans is staggering. What can we do?

4) please, please don't ever think you are alone. Maybe this is just personal because of my dad, but know that there are people who care, will listen, and bend over backwards for you.

Utmost respect for doing this, sincerely. And thank you for your service, again.

sonofvet14 karma

1) No, not that I'm aware of. There could have been an isolated instance where we were involved but not that I recall. And I am really sorry for your loss.

2) I agreed to do it because you (me) asked me to.

(Me: Yeah, but...)

I have no dire need to share any of this. I don't mind sharing but it's not a necessity and I'd like to think that it is a matter of sharing and not a cry for help or a need to impress, entertain, or offend.

3) Personally, I think talking about it is good for you. So, any type of counseling. Veterans' groups have got to be good, where veterans can deal with veterans, and I've always thought about joining the VFW just because they have good discount bars at their locations. But haven't gotten around to it. But it's got to be good for you to be able to associate with people that experienced similar events and be able to openly discuss it with somebody that has a degree of understanding of it.

4) Thank you.

(It's hard to express it for him, but this was all really sincere. He just said to me he hopes it doesn't sound plastic and bullshit. These were good questions. It made him think a lot. It made me think a lot. Thank you so much, truly.)

splittybus15 karma

Did you buy a bitchin' car as soon as you got back? If so, do you still have it?

sonofvet26 karma

No, I don't still have it, but I got a totally rebuilt 67' Camaro Rallysport (neither of us know if that's supposed to be one word, btw).

splittybus15 karma

Awesome! My dad snagged a 57 Nomad when he got back but didn't keep it either. :(

sonofvet21 karma

Ooh. I would have preferred the Nomad.

Silent_Thought6314 karma

What do you feel about the current generation of Marine combat vets? (Iraq and Afghanistan)

sonofvet17 karma

(There are more thoughts on this in another question.)

I think they're one of the best-trained group of people out there. I believe they're much better trained than we were in the late era of the war when they were pushing through people faster and faster and I've got a lot of respect for them, just the fact that they're being deployed multiple times, and we knew that in like a four year enlistment unless we volunteered it was highly likely we would only do one tour. Although shit happens.

Silent_Thought6316 karma

Fortunately, the lessons learned in Vietnam, mainly needing training before deployment, have been learned since your generation and helped us get home safely. Yours is truly among the greatest generations of Marines this Corps has know. Thank you for your service and Semper Fi from 10th Marine Regiment.

sonofvet18 karma

Thank you. Semper Fi.

nocreditnewuser14 karma

I read through all the other comments already and I'm going to take this in another (perhaps inappropriate) direction.

In the movies and tales I've heard, the use of heroin, opium, and other drugs was fairly common in Vietnam. I have a buddy who is an Afghanistan vet and he told me they would sometimes be getting ridiculously drunk with French troops and suddenly get pulled out on patrol.

TL;DR How frequent was drug use among you and your fellow soldiers and how do you think that affected your collective experience?

sonofvet20 karma

Pot was readily available and used extensively, but my drug of choice was alcohol, so when beer was available I drank beer, and still don't like pot. But to each his own. And I would say that it had no more detrimental effect than alcohol use.

(Me: But what about in general, were guys using those other drugs?)

Not where I was, they weren't readily available because we were in a free-fire zone and it was a situation where we were dealing with farmers and villagers who grew it for personal use. We would go in and trade C-rations and cigarettes for rice, pot, spices, and sometimes going into the villages in a free-fire zone to trade for it was as dangerous as going on a daytime patrol.

(Me: So no heroin or whatever where you were?)


No-one-cares8 karma

My dad had the opposite experience there–lots of drugs. It was where he became an addict. He said that the MPs were the best suppliers of the drugs. In his unit, the leadership were heavy users too. (army).

sonofvet12 karma


(Me: You haven't heard of this stuff? I mean I haven't either, only in movies.)

Yeah, but I didn't really take it to heart, being movies. But I guess you know what they say, you want good dope, the cops are the ones to go to. But I sympathize with the experience, and in some ways I guess I'm lucky I was where I was and it wasn't readily available, other than pot.

spider_cock13 karma

Did you ever actually see an enemy soldier or was it more hit and run tactics? Edit:I mean were the vc/nva like ghosts as they make it out in the movies?

sonofvet59 karma

(His reply to like ghosts?)

No, many of them were scared little 15/16 year olds that, on several occasions, attempted to walk into our lines to surrender - (he paused a pretty long time) - and a few times it didn't work out so good.

But there were - as in any military, there are the hardcore professionals that can be pretty damn scary.

sonofvet36 karma

Very much hit and run, but there were many occasions where they were sighted, shot at. The scary part is seeing the green tracers because they weren't used in the AKs or SKSs. If you saw green tracers you're getting shot at with the equivalent of a 50 cal from God knows where until you could pinpoint where it was coming from and what direction the sound was coming from. It sounded like birds banging through the leaves.

sonofvet33 karma

There were small unit actions constantly where there would be five to 25 people involved. Ambushes, quick shootouts that would last a minute and a half and then both sides would break off. We'd break off to bring in artillery or even an airstrike, they'd break off to get the hell out of there because they knew what was coming.

sonofvet32 karma

In 69 they were doing their best to minimize casualties, and the reason I only spent the time I spent in Vietnam is because my division, the 3rd Marine Division, was re-deployed out of combat with the - Nixon's pullout program. I happened to in the hospital at the time, aboard the hospital ship USS Repose and they brought me with them. Had I not been on the hospital ship there was a good chance I would have been transferred to the 1st Marine Division and stayed there and after ending up in the hospital that was something I did not want to do, go down south.

spider_cock13 karma

Jesus, that's horrifying. You ever carry an M60? How long would you be out in the bush? Can you list the equipment you carried? Edit:Or maybe even just your personal favourite piece of gear?

sonofvet35 karma

Yeah, I was in a weapons platoon where we provided either M60 machine gun teams, 60mm mortar teams, 3.5in rocket teams, flamethrower teams (he kind of laughed saying that one). The closest thing that the Marine Corps has in weapons platoons are like Army specialist ratings. Yeah, depending on what was needed and who was available you went out either with mortar - typically mortars and machine guns were the big items on call.

The longest single stay was 66 days, but typically it was three days out, one day in, five days out, one day in. Three days, five days, nine days, 12 days with one or two days in. Never got to go on R&R, I kept on getting bumped by senior personnel because I wanted to go to Australia. I never got my week off. Had a friend, though, that did go to Australia and stayed for two years. We met up at Camp Pendleton just before we both got out, or just before I got out. He had about two years to make up. But he was a Private and I was a Sergeant.

Yeah, carried a WWII canvas pack til I was able to break into a storage area and, at Vandegrift Combat Base, and we went in with a squad and stole every kind of equipment we could find and I ended up with a captured NVA pack frame that was wonderful. And I carried that with - we carried no personal items but a poncho liner, toothbrush that you were as likely to clean your rifle with as brush your teeth, food. Then, as far as weapons, I carried an M16 with up to 22 magazines. Carried a .45 pistol that somebody shouldn't have left laying around with five magazines. Carried a KA-BAR. Never more than two hand grenades, I did not like throwing them, there were fuse problems. Everybody carried a mortar round, everybody carried a claymore mine, most people carried a LAAW, which you didn't use to shoot at tanks, you used it to blow up bunkers and crap rather than tanks. Six cantines...

(Me: JESUS, you carried a lot of stuff.)

Yeah, about 80 pounds, and I weighed about 140. You could carry less if you wanted to, like the weapons and ammunition, if worst came to worse, it's like they always told you, there'd be plenty of shit to pick up to use from everybody that was killed and wounded. I didn't want to run that risk.

spider_cock13 karma

22 magazines!!!! Holy lead Batman!! Do the marines make it a habit to give jack shit to their soldiers? I mean you had to steal all your gear...

sonofvet29 karma

(He laughed.)

Up to 22. I got braver the longer I'd been there. You were issued six. As people got wounded or rotated out, you'd grab their gear before they turned it into supply, and we were so short of shit nobody was allowed to leave before we ratted through their gear and got what we needed or were short of. There was one cleaning rod for every five rifles.

(I asked: How many did you usually carry?)

At least 12, I never carried fewer than 12 after I - what was the saying on Little Bill's thing where the guy had like eight guns on him, if I get shot at I don't want to be killed for lack of the ability to shoot back.

sonofvet22 karma

(That was from Unforgiven, the Clint Eastwood movie, btw)

sonofvet24 karma

Yeah, pretty much. They cut corners. Their budget restraints, even in wartime situation, was get by with as little as possible. It was available, so what they were doing was making you scramble for the waste, the leftovers and the discards. I don't know, I don't fault the Marine Corps for it. There were times when I did but we bitched so much it didn't really matter. But it is no longer like that from what Josh (my cousin who served in Iraq) has said.

sonofvet22 karma

(Sorry for slow reply, you've got to make new replies dude, I don't get notifications for edits! Favorite piece of equipment:)

Blooper - 40mm mortar.

Justascienceteacher12 karma

Some people say your era got the worst GI Bill benefits. Did you end up using them and how do you feel about the current Post 9/11 GI Bill? I used the GI Bill myself and get a lot of flak from older vets.

sonofvet32 karma

I don't begrudge anybody the benefits they accrued. I used every bit of my benefits on education that were available for education. I bought my first house with my VA loan entitlement and may buy another before I'm through. You earned them, use them.

allstarbo11 karma

any proof? What do you think about the movie apocalypse now? is it a good depiction of how it was?

sonofvet39 karma

(Is it a good depiction of how it was:)

No. I have no background in intelligence, military intelligence or - way too over-dramatized. Although the smell of napalm in the morning does smell like victory.

Canadian_Infidel6 karma

Are they any movies that do it justice in your opinion?

sonofvet23 karma

Platoon's good. It's entertaining, and it does it a good degree of justice. They, you know, they've got their protagonist, antagonist and everything that puts a good story together and you've got to pick and choose reality from theater. But there are a lot of real points projected.

(He has said in a few other questions that Full Metal Jacket was a pretty good representation of boot camp during that time, also)

phonein11 karma

Ever meet up with any australians? Also, any residual shit like PTSD? If so, how do you cope? My father has PTSD (not from Vietnam) and I never know how he's coping with it. Thank you.

sonofvet17 karma

No, didn't. We were isolated. We were in a free-fire zone in northern Quang Tri province (I Corps) and we saw very few people other than those in our battalion. We'd get air support, outside artillery support, but other than that we had very little contact with anybody but our immediate outfit members.

Never been treated for anything, and I feel like I've had some problems. Tend to drink a little too much. But all in all I think I've dealt with everything that's bothered me and I kind of credit my age with that. I think I was too young for it to be taken seriously enough to throw me out of kilter forever. But I do understand that it's real, it happens, and people are affected in different ways. And good luck to your dad.

orthogonality11 karma

Were you in-country July 22nd, 1969? How'd you hear about the Apollo 11 landing, and how was it received by those serving in MACV?

sonofvet11 karma

Yes. Heard it all over armed forces radio. Nobody believed it. We can't be here while someone's actually landing on the moon. It's all a lie. (Lots of laughing). We can't even get hot chow once a month. And we still believe it's a lie!

(Me: Do you?)


PandaFluff11 karma

My grandmother was a civilian in Hanoi during the Vietnam War; she told me that my great grandmother adopted her when she was crying outside after real her parents had died. Just thought I'd share.

sonofvet19 karma

One of the many sad stories and part of the regrets.

bwilkes10 karma

During that time, how many times did you return to the United States? Upon your return to the United States after your service, did you feel like more than 5 years seemed to have passed, in terms of the societal differences you observed?

sonofvet23 karma


I went home regularly after my overseas duty (he was only in Vietnam for '69, remember).

(I asked: Did it seem like there was a difference...)

Everything seemed like it changed every visit home because everyone was progressing, going on with their lives and I was kind of on hold in the military. I mean, I made rank, went to different duty stations, met new people, but still my life was totally involved with the military.

(I asked: Did it seem like things changed a lot between leaving for Vietnam and getting back?)

Yes. Tons. Only because totally undeveloped third world country, fifth world country, at war, and the US was called by everybody as "the land of the big PX" or "the world," going home was called going back to the world.

sonofvet22 karma

That was the biggest change. Shit, I only spent five months in Vietnam. Spent a month in the hospital. Then time in Okinawa, Japan. Went to Panama to make sure the right guy got elected. But, the time I spent in Vietnam, the five months, was totally in the bush. Our rear areas were under constant rocket and mortar fire. There were many times where you were more at risk in a rear area than you were in the bush.

heyallsagan7 karma

I think we would love to read about your tour in Panama to "make sure the right guy got elected." We always read about how military actions are clandestinely oriented towards affecting the outcome of an election. Reading about how that was done from someone in intelligence would be very interesting!

Edit: I read my internet here.

sonofvet23 karma

(He was not in intelligence, but I asked him anyway.)

(Me: So yeah, you weren't in intelligence, but do you want to say anything?)

Well, they sent two regiments, one from the west coast, one from the east coast, and one company from each of those went ashore and I was in the company that went ashore. We went through a portion of Army Ranger school and jungle warfare school around the canal zone and at Fort Sherman, Panama and we were kind of the sacrificial lambs. If anything took place, we had to hold the fort until the regiment could be landed from the ship standing by offshore but it never occurred, and it's the first time in my life, riding the train, the canal zone train, from Balboa on the Pacific Coast over to Colon on the Caribbean coast, I ever saw "Yankee Go Home" signs. I thought they were like a movie thing. I didn't know it was for real, and I was only 20 at that point.

But here are a bunch of dumbass 18, 19, 20 year old Marines with M16 barrels pointed out the train windows trying to scare the assholes with the Yankee Go Home signs, but what would we do if they were in our country?

James_H_M9 karma

What were some of the tricks-of-the-trade for a seasoned Marine in Vietnam? (I have no clue what an example might be for this question)

sonofvet28 karma

God, its been so long it's difficult to think of the little things that you knew then. One of the number one things was if you were in a night perimeter and you had movement and you knew there was somebody out there creepy-crawling towards you, never fire your rifle first. You throw a hand grenade. That way they've got no way to pinpoint your position and zero fire on you.

If you throw a hand grenade you had to yell the callsign. Ours was 69, so if you heard someone yell 69 you better get your ass down because someone was about to throw a grenade.

Always tape your hand grenade spoons, that way they don't accidentally get a branch or a twig stuck in them, pull the pin and blow your ass off.

(Me: What do you mean?)

Like you used to clip hand grenades, like tie them on, and the spoon, you had like a pin with a finger pull ring and the pin that went through and you'd bend the wire out on the other side of the pin so it wouldn't come out easy. You actually pretty much had to straighten it out a little to get the pin to pull relatively smoothly, but going through the jungle if you're squeezing through vines and branches and something snags that pin and pulls it, the spoon, the handle, is spring loaded, and when it pulls you've got five seconds, and that spring loaded section is what fires the detonator. So to keep that branch from pulling the pin accidentally, everybody would get electrical tape from the supply outfit or have your parents mail it to you and wrap it around the spoon so even if the pin got pulled you wouldn't just get blown up.

Rumsquall9 karma

What was your "Holy shit this is real" moment during the war? Thanks for doing this AMA. Sorry if the question was insensitive.

sonofvet16 karma

I'd have to refer back to the point where I was hit (that's in another question). Shit, it was real when we flew into the country at night and I saw flashes of artillery rounds going off from 30,000 feet on a clear night.

sassr9 karma


sonofvet4 karma

I haven't read it but I will look for it. Is it available on Kindle?

(I showed it to him on there, thanks!)

[deleted]9 karma


sonofvet18 karma

Yes. I was wounded two days before my 19th birthday someplace in northwest Quang Tri province at the same time 21 were wounded and three were killed in my company.

[deleted]11 karma


sonofvet24 karma

Yeah, they had. They hadn't totally solved it but we were prepared for it and kept the things just totally slathered in what was called LSA. It was like a real lightweight but heavy substance, lubricating oil, that was more like a gel than oil, and I just kept mine packed in it. Like the first couple of rounds you fired the bitch would catch on fire. But it was pretty well corrected.

[deleted]17 karma


sonofvet33 karma

But it never jammed!

BossTwitch6 karma

LSA is still used in humid environments today, or at least it was in Liberia '03, and Haiti '04.

sonofvet7 karma

Huh. Interesting. Thank you.

[deleted]7 karma


sonofvet12 karma

(He nodded.)

Lucky. Could have been killed.

James_H_M9 karma

I have always been a big fan of Billy Joel since I was a young kid, He made a song called "Good Night Saigon" although it was released many years after the war.

What do you think of the music that have been about that period of time?

My uncle was drafted but never was sent to serve overseas he was down in Texas if my memory serves me correctly.

I glad you were able to make it out alive and your life has been as good as it has been!

sonofvet8 karma

I love the music of that period. The music about that period I'm really not that familiar with and I'm not familiar with that song by Billy Joel, so I really can't comment on it.

[deleted]8 karma


sonofvet18 karma

I've taken every virtual tour known, but I have never been to DC physically to see it, but it's one of my must to-dos. I have a lot of friends on the wall.

MrChildren8 karma

If you get a chance as well. Get up to Museum of The Marine in Quantico. It's quite amazing. My grandfather just went (He is a WWII Marine) and he was awed by all the history of the Corps they managed to cram into it. I myself went in 2007 and was stunned as well.

sonofvet14 karma

Thanks, I will make a point of it. It is now on my bucket list.

isMilk7 karma

Have you ever read "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'brien? I'm fascinated by literature about Vietnam and haven't had the time to find a good list. If you have read any books can you recommend some for me.

sonofvet13 karma

It was good, I really enjoyed it, and it was actually referred to me by my oldest daughter a number of years ago.

(He's actually getting up to go grab some books to give you the titles and authors. He's big on his reading.)

Vietnam by Stanley Karnow ----- The Hill Fights by Edward F. Murphy ----- Valley of Decision by John Prados and Ray W. Stubbe ----- (He said this is one of the best he's read): Operation Buffalo, USMC Fight for the DMZ by Keith William Nolan

They're almost done in a documentary style with places, things, very little rhetoric in it, straight to the point, factual. History. It's a short list, but they're good ones.

(My bad, don't know how to do the line breaks)

derpyourself7 karma


sonofvet16 karma

When I got wounded. The fact that if I don't find some cover pretty quick I'm not going to be hurt, I'm going to be killed.

thejagmachine517 karma

What do you think of modern day Vietnam?

What do you think about people making Vietnam based video games?

Thank You!!

sonofvet14 karma

I'd like to go there. It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen during the daytime. And what little contact we had with the people made me think they would - firstly, it made me think it wouldn't matter to them whether they were communist or capitalist, it never trickled down that far in the northern rural provinces, so I just thought it was kind of horrible to put them all through that for something that didn't really matter to them one way or the other. But I would like to go back. I think it'd be a very, very satisfying trip.

It's a game. If it doesn't engender - is engendering hatred the proper phrase? If it doesn't do that, it's a game. Big difference between reality and a game.

morbid1267 karma

How difficult was basic training. Any advice before.

sonofvet17 karma

Get in the absolute best shape you can. Quit smoking, quit drinking. Long-distance running. The better shape you're in, the easier it'll be to cope with all of it. Physical conditioning, because boot camp is 20 percent history, 20 percent technology and 60 percent conditioning.

evanstewy7 karma

Did you know you can get treatment for PTSD from the VA now? They will take you without having to fill out any paper work. My father was a former Marine in Vietnam. He just started going for treatment and has helped him a lot even after so many years of just dealing with PTSD on his own. They also gave him a hearing aid that restores his high frequency hearing and also blocks out the ringing in his ears from shooting so much without ear protection.

sonofvet12 karma

Shit. Right now I've got this "weeeeeeeee." Thank you for the information. I just might take them up on it because I sure could use a hearing aid.

TonyPajaaamas7 karma

Did you and your fellow marines have a strong hatred towards the Vietnamese? if so was it before you went into the field or did in develop during fighting? semper fi

sonofvet15 karma

Not at all. Semper Fi. Before the tour was up, most of us had more respect for the NVA than we did for the ARVN.

silent_scorpion8 karma

I know there's a negative attitude towards the ARVN. But thought I'd throw this out there, my dad (and most of my family) was an ARVN soldier, he really believed in what he was fighting for. He wanted a free Vietnam. He was prepared to fight till the end in April 1975 until his commander ordered him and his men to lay down their arms to prevent any more bloodshed. After the Americans left, he was put in 'reeducation camps' for over 10 years.

Were there any personal accounts of why you had less respect for the ARVN?

Also I'm in the process of applying to be a Marine Officer Candidate, any advice on how to be an effective/respected junior officer?

sonofvet9 karma

Just to defend my ARVN comment, I really don't have a defense for it, other than we were aware of the graft and corruption that took place. Most of the ARVN units we dealt with were so poorly led and so poorly equipped that we had to provide supplies for them many times, and I believe corruption is what gave them the worst reputation rather than their effectiveness and commitment to duty. And if I offended you, I apologize.

To be a more effective junior officer, listen to your senior company level NCOs. They've got the time in and the experience and hopefully the OJT to give you the advice you're going to need to effectively lead.

frozenplasma6 karma

You don't learn much about Vietnam in school, unless you actively seek it out.

My grandpa is a Vietnam vet who flew planes, so I assume air force. He will not talk about the war. Knowing almost nothing about it, what is so horrible about Vietnam, compared to the other wars, that makes the vets refuse to talk about it?

sonofvet2 karma

I've wondered about that myself on occasion. I know that many people that had bad experiences just choose not to relive them. Some people don't talk about it because their idea is if you wanted to find out about it, why didn't you go, and other people just put it behind them. Hopefully that's what I've done, just it happened then. Take the good parts, utilize them, and put the rest in perspective and in the past, where it belongs.

fishforbrains5 karma

So, what is war, for you? Would you go back to Vietnam to fight now that you are older and more experienced?

sonofvet8 karma

First of all, that may be the most difficult question put to me tonight. Knowing what I know now, no, I wouldn't. Knowing only what I knew then, yeah, I would. And that's not really an answer regarding today, because all I'm doing is putting myself back then, separating it from now and then. But were I of the age to go to either Iraq or Afghanistan, same age now as I was when I went then, yeah, I'd go. Even though I do disagree with the politics surrounding the Iraq War, I would still feel kind of be duty-bound to do it, same way I felt then. I didn't fully believe in what was going on there when I went then, but it was the right thing to do... at the time.

(Me: Same age as then but what about your knowledge now? Would you go now, with your brain, but a more able body?)

Yeah. I'd still have to go. And that's not that I would encourage anyone else to go. Even during the Vietnam era, I had friends that would've preferred to go to Canada than go to Vietnam and I felt that took pretty much the same degree of balls that it took to go to Vietnam, not knowing that Jimmy Carter was going to provide amnesty to all of them 20 years later.

Seamus_OReilly5 karma

Where in Vietnam did you serve?

sonofvet10 karma

Northern Quang Tri province.

[deleted]5 karma

My Dad was killed in Quang Tri Province in '70. Thank you for your service!

sonofvet3 karma

Thank you and your father for the ultimate sacrifice.

Marylandman1015 karma

what are the most realistic vietnam movies, platoon? how much were you paid? whats your best story from the war? thank you for your service sir

sonofvet10 karma

Yes, there's a lot of reality in portions of Platoon. Full Metal Jacket had a lot of reality in the boot camp portion, and in some of the other parts, too. You know, the high rise buildings weren't necessarily a good representation of the city of Hue, but the sniper activity, wounding instead of killing to draw people out, that was a reality. But the war had been going on for so long before I got there that we were trained in the type of things to expect.

(He laughed, re: pay question). The only pay I remember when I was in Vietnam, I was paid my base pay for a Lance Corporal, which is an E-3, with combat pay and hazardous duty pay, and I don't have a clue how much that was because they lost my pay records before I got back to the states and we were only allowed to draw $10 in military payment currency, which looked like Monopoly money, so nobody would be killing each other over high stakes poker games. So they limited the amount of money you could draw. We had no use for it, anyway. I can remember being paid my $10 in MPC and finding it a month later completely falling apart in my pocket. But they wouldn't allow us to bring any American currency into the country because it was so valuable to the Communists. Vietnamese money, Chinese money at the time, even Russian money at the time wasn't worth shit outside their countries but the dollar was the basis of most currency.

(He's struggling to think of a good story right now, to be honest with you I've heard a million but he has to be in the right state of mind. We'll reply again as soon as he thinks of something, though. He suggested my mom might know better than he does - I might ask her.)

ThatGuyFromFark4 karma

Thank you for your service (Seriously, you guys probably are the least appreciated of our armed forces) How close was your experience to "Full Metal Jacket?"

sonofvet6 karma

The movie was based on reality, but fictionalized to some degree. There were items that came close, especially the portion in boot camp. That's about as close as I've seen Marine Corps boot camp in a film, but you'd still have to experience the real thing to know. Thanks for your thanks.

devotothemax4 karma

I am a Canadian machine gunner in princess Patricia's Canadian light infantry and have been on two combat deployments and I'm just wondering what are your views on the modern military and Canada's military?

sonofvet6 karma

To be honest, I know very little, if anything, about Canada's military other than their horrific losses on their raid of Dieppe and their landings on D-Day.

It's totally amazing, the transport and supply capabilities and the weaponry available and the speed with which it can be brought to bear totally amaze me any time I'm exposed to accurate information. I typically don't rely on the news for that, I look to the various documentary sources and things like that that tend not to have an axe to grind and generally just provide facts. But now that you brought it up, I will do some reading and investigation on the Canadian military and find out what's going on.

Are there any invasions planned southward...?

IBiteYou4 karma

Please tell your father I said, "Welcome home." I didn't know that my uncle had been a Viet Nam vet until about ten years ago (I'm 42.) He was stationed in the city doing communications, but he said the entire place was a war zone. You never knew if the kid walking towards you on the sidewalk was wired with explosives, or had a weapon.

He was a Marine. He said that whenever you met a Viet Nam Vet you should say, "Welcome home" because they didn't hear it a lot.

Thank you for this AMA...it's the best I have ever read on Reddit (though I'm new). Your father is a treasure.

sonofvet6 karma

Thank you, and thank you for your uncle's service. And we all heard the stories about the, you know, suicide people, kids, and in a way I felt lucky that we never had to deal with it in the area I was stationed. So it's - everybody has their own trials to deal with in a situation like that. Mine were somewhat different but a little more clear-cut.

Spider_Bacon3 karma

Thank you for your service, sir, and thank you for doing an AMA.

I am curious what your personal experience was when you came home. It seems that the general treatment of the veterans who returned home was cruel and rude.

When you arrived home, and got off the aeroplane, what were you expecting and what stood out to you the most of that experience?

sonofvet6 karma

I expected nothing when I got off the plane to come home, I'd heard all the stories before, but I was utterly shocked by the coldness of everyone around. During that era, to fly the cheap seats military standby, you had to fly in uniform, so you were standing out of the crowd pretty obviously anywhere you were, and your haircut was the other giveaway even if you were in civilian clothes.

But people were extremely cold. I didn't suffer a large degree of rudeness but I wouldn't have stood for it had it occurred.

frozenplasma3 karma

What are your thoughts on Agent Orange? Do you believe it affects you and your family at all?

sonofvet5 karma

I know that there are still people being affected by it and even dying in Vietnam, and that some of the biggest profiteers on earth were the chemical companies developing things such as Agent Orange, which wasn't considered a weapon but a - what would it be called? What it was was an herbicide and the reason it was called Agent Orange was they would overfly and spray an area and in two or three days it would be orange and dying. It was supposed to be used to provide a degree of safety for the troops operating in the area. Who knew it'd end up deforming their children, killing off the population 30 years after the war ended, and creating health problems for generations to come? Totally against it. Stuff like that should be outlawed in the Geneva Convention. You can dig up landmines, Agent Orange is in the ecosystem pretty much permanently.

I had rashes, those rashes I talked about, for, shit, 15, nearly 20 years after I got out of the service. Totally out of the service. But the worst effect I've had so far and, who knows? Your allergies (I have legitimately horrible allergies and a deviated septum) could be from it, who knows. I had an acquaintance in high school who was in the Marine Corps a year and a half before I was and he was totally affected by it. He had boils all over exposed areas of his body. His wife had five stillborn children with deformed fetuses, and it was all, according to the investigation, related to Agent Orange. He appeared in a documentary related to it. Scary stuff. It's not very well-understood. It shouldn't have been used and we should be in Vietnam today attempting to eradicate its effects.

CitrusAbyss3 karma

First of all, let me say that I'm glad that your dad made it back safely from Vietnam. Also, I truly respect him as the kind of man who would go to fight for his country.

My question is - if there are any - what is his most poignantly positive memory from the war? I know that he must have seen a lot of death and a lot of things he doesn't want to talk about, but I also hope that he saw something that gave him hope, or affirmed his conviction in the righteousness of America's involvement in the war, or something.

sonofvet7 karma

The younger kids, Vietnamese kids that we came into contact with, mostly on the US secure base areas, weren't the little thieves and hoodlums that you typically see portrayed in the movies or the fantasy world. They were people that actually worked for us, performed a function, and I got the impression that they were truly fond of Americans and what we were trying to do and there may be a generation there yet that has feelings like that for America, even after the re-education camps and the turmoil of the years following the war in their country.

I'm still trying to think of something more. I would guess one of the biggest positive things is the things you learn about yourself.

[deleted]3 karma


sonofvet3 karma

There was a major language barrier, and I rarely had contact with them. I kind of have sympathy for them because of the lack of equipment and other basic necessities which we all attributed pretty much to the corrupt leadership. I think as a fighting force they could have been as effective as anyone and we saw it on occasion when they were led properly, but more than the general soldier, it was more problem with effective leadership, and that's pretty much my opinion. I've got nothing more than a very old recollection of things that took place, so it may be very flawed.

terpes3 karma

In high school I had a teacher whose brother had served as a Marine in Vietnam. She said he had a group photo where he and his fellow Marines had posed with severed Viet Cong heads. Did you ever hear of or participate in this sort of thing?

sonofvet7 karma


[deleted]3 karma

How do you feel about the current usage/perception of the military and what do you see as the biggest change?

sonofvet5 karma

The biggest change, of course, is an all-volunteer military, in my opinion. I don't see the best use of US forces as an occupying army. I don't agree with the way they dismantled the entire Iraqi government and tried to come in and start all over again. We even utilized Nazis to help run Germany after we defeated them in WWII until replacements, conversions or reeducation was affected. Political error creates military need, and I think the politics in Iraq have created a military problem that has been alleviated temporarily but I feel we're going to be back.

[deleted]3 karma

What do you think our (United States) government could have done to help the war in Vietnam be a success?

sonofvet7 karma

In retrospect, more realistic negotiation might have done more to put a much better face on it, if not a better ending. I think the US learned through people like Colin Powell and Norman Schwartzkoff (however you spell that) who got their combat experience in the Vietnam era, I believe they learned as they displayed in the Iraq War, you either go in to win or you don't go.

towlie_the_towel2 karma

My Grandfather was a Navy doctor who was attached to the 1st marine division at Okinawa (ww2), and worked at Walter reed up till the late 70s. My family is Irish, so I have no idea what he went through beyond generalities.

What was your opinion of the Hospital Staff? Did you ever see a doctor break his composure? Were there doctors that would lose it like some combat vets do? Also, long shot but have you ever happened to see this study? Any chance of your wound being included?


sonofvet7 karma

(He laughed when I asked "What was your opinion of the hospital staff?" ...kind of ominously)

They were good. They provided the Marine Corps with a good service.

(Me: What was that laugh about?)

Aw, jeez. Early on, and even afterwards back at Camp Pendleton, most of the doctors you'd go see on sick leave - I had a rash, when you were in the bush you'd have either no sleeves or they'd be rolled up and your neck would be bare between your jacket and helmet. When I got exposed to whatever I was exposed to, when I got back I used to get these rashes on my arms and neck, wherever my skin was exposed. Whenever you'd go see a doctor, I was an E-5 and I wasn't used to being treated like the Privates or whatever, and there were doctors who would try to herd you through, treat you like cattle. Then you'd see doctors who would treat you like a civilian doctor, ask you questions, try to find an appropriate treatment.

Some were good, some were assholes. And I think a few of them afterward, as a Marine, would see just how far you could go pain-wise before you would ask for relief. I had that pulled on me with a doctor and a dentist. So I made a point of going absolutely as far as I could before I'd cave.

The bulk of my respect was for field Corpsman. They would do anything you asked of them.

(Me: But you never saw a doctor lose their composure?)

I was never around them much. The only real exposure I had was to the Corpsman.