My posts for the last two days stressed the pain so many veterans suffer as they recall what happened in combat. What most noncombatants don’t understand is that in combat, in those moments when men fight one another to the death, those deaths are grisly. I’ve confronted my memories, but I still have experiences I can’t talk about. Men died by my side in hideous ways. Why them? Why not me?
The other side of the coin is intense pride. We risked out lives, willing to die for the good of our country. We didn’t question our orders or shirk from mortal danger. That’s why the jeering crowds who spat on us and called us butchers and baby-killers hurt so much. I was shamed. I didn’t speak of Vietnam for many years after the fall of Saigon. And my writing about what happened in Vietnam was uniformly rejected by editors.
But my pride and my love of the men who fought at my side survived intact. Soldiers and Marines don’t use the word “love”—it’s too sentimental. But that’s what it is. The strongest bond I know of is between men who fight side by side. We share a pride and honor totally unknown to the vast majority of Americans who have never seen combat.