American Dream: Thoughts, images, songs, links to places near and dear, and whatever else (a work in progress - like I am) Last update 7/2005
To Dwight Laws, KIA 10/30/66 inside the C Company perimeter near Hill 55; to Lurch Donohue, KIA 3/1/67 in a deserted ville near Route 4; and to Jerry Georges; KIA 3/23/67 at the Hill 55 bridge. They were good men. We were young. They could have lived a long time.
Do not wait for leaders. Do it alone, person to person. Mother Teresa
Photo: Me, Mike Noumov, and Jeff Wiseman at the rear on Hill 55 on my return (bearing gifts) from R&R. Over and over again we were playing the Byrds album with Turn! Turn! Turn! on it - "a time to be born, a time to die; a time to kill, a time to heal; a time to laugh, a time to weep; a time for peace, I swear its not too late." Do you think that wasn't blowing our minds?
Here is the whole story of how Donohue was killed. For the first ten years after I came home, there was never a day that I did not run this through my mind at least once like some kind of video. It had a name: How Donohue Got It. Then in 1978 I spent a week in a retreat with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Stephen Levine, and others. That was the first time I told this story aloud. After that, I ran it through my mind less. The second time I told it was in 1998 to my brother, Jeff (who identified Donohue's body back at battalion). This is the third time.
We were on patrol north of the bend in Route 4, the dirt road that went by C Company's position. There were no civilians left in this area (where 1/9 got its name, The Walking Dead) - a ghostly overgrown area of deserted villes and fields. Donohue was my A-gunner. We were digging in the first night of the patrol and he seemed down and wasn't doing his part of the digging. I asked him what was going on and he had trouble answering, but finally said he wasn't going to make it. He was really sad. I said something like, "Bullshit, man - we've been here too long to not make it." I dug us in and gave him a smoke (though I don't remember that he smoked - I'm not sure about this - maybe I just wish I'd given him a cigarette). But he was inconsolable. He knew.
The next day we saddled up and I gave him my machine-gun (photo is of my gun). Not too much greater love than to give up your gun for another man - because my M-60 was my hope, my ticket home. I loved that gun; and I was pretty good with it. Please allow me to introduce myself ... We moved out, into a deserted ville. I was walking left flank point and came to a hedgerow of bamboo with a closed gate the only way through. Going through that gate was death - there was no question that there was a mine somewhere with the gate. I was crouched down trying to figure out a way to stay on line without dying when there was a powerful explosion off to my right and someone started screaming "Corpsman! Corpsman!" In a heartbeat I knew Donohue was the explosion.
I took off up the trail and there was a man standing frozen in the trail still screaming for the corpsman and my recollection is that I ran literally up and over him (though how could that be?) and there was Donohue. He was on the ground with his legs blown off. I ran up to him and saw that one short stump was left with shattered bone sticking out and his guts were spilled out of where the other one had been. He was still alive! He was moaning and moving around a little bit. I was on my knees beside him and we were receiving fire by then. I was struggling with whether to go ahead and finish him off, because he was definitely going to die and even if he didn't die, what was the use of going on like that. Then he died. I'm grateful I didn't kill him. We returned fire and then it was quiet; and then I had to find my gun, as it wasn't by the body. I remember walking through the bushes and trees looking for the gun and there were little pink/gray gobbets of Donohue everywhere and on my face and hands too. The smell. I found one of his feet before I found my gun. The foot was heavy and the gun was out of commission. For some reason, this whole deal was the last straw - just too much. I mean, what for?
I didn't have much hope after that. We had been in the field about eight months: Out on patrol 3-4 days, back to company for a day, out for a night ambush, another day in, and back out on patrol 3-4 days - week after week, month after month and every day, at least one casualty. I realized there were hardly any of the original men left. It was a company of mostly FNGs and there was nobody I wanted to even talk to.
I was also having weird thoughts. Like maybe I could just walk out of the perimeter a couple of klicks to a ville we'd been through a few times where a one-legged girl lived (lotta one-legged people in them parts) and I could take her an adjustable crutch so she wouldn't have to walk in the bent and twisted way she walked with her too-short stick of a crutch. A time to heal. Or maybe I could slip out and maybe run across a VC or two and instead of killing each other we could sit down in a clearing somewhere and drink a bottle of whiskey together and have some smokes and talk about our girlfriends. You know, have a good time. Be normal. A time to laugh. These sounded like really good ideas to me and I was thinking about them a lot - all the time. Now I realize that I've spent much of the past 35+ years taking a crutch to that girl - and I have miles to go before I sleep.
A few weeks after Donohue was killed we were out on a night ambush and ran into another patrol from our company. The word had not been passed that we were going to meet. I was on point and when I saw the first man in the dark - like about 10 feet away, man - I started shooting. I shot the point man of the other patrol in the leg, hip, and chest (lucky for him I was carrying an M-14 instead of the 60); and the man behind me shot him in the chest with a grenade launcher. I remember watching one of my rounds (tracer) hit and fly off at an angle - which was pretty far out. We were so close that the M-79 round didn't spin enough to arm, hence didn't explode and ended up lodged in his neck. Incredibly, he lived. There was an article in Stars and Stripes about the surgery to remove the M-79 round. I don't remember the name of the man I shot, except that we called him the Red-Headed Mexican and he was a good guy. I remember (before I shot him) him going crazy in Dodge City (Thuy Bo) and charging a VC position right after Zamora was killed. Three helicopters shot down right there that day. 13 KIA and 66 WIA that operation. Keep on rockin in the free world. And now I know his name because I read the article about the incident! Raymond Escalera. The article said I shot him only once. There was an investigation and not long after I was transferred out of 1/26.
Thank you Jeff. To everything, Turn! Turn! Turn! there is a season, Turn! Turn! Turn! And a time to every purpose under heaven, Turn! Turn! Turn!
Sometimes, in a dream
I started at MCRD San Diego, then Infantry Training Regiment & Machine Gun School; Camp Pendleton & las Pulgas for Special Landing Force training. On to Subic Bay & Olongapo (oh, how we partied, like doomed youth) in the Philippines; first landing southern South Vietnam (1st casualties); second landing Deckhouse & Prairie for serious battles (photo at right from Prairie - yeah, man, it's real); Hill 55 & Dodge City (snipers, mines, occasional firefights & some battles - see above); Dong Ha & Hill Fights (168 KIA, but it took awhile); also at Con Thien, Gio Linh, and Khe Sanh, though not for long in these last three. If there was a sound track to this section it would be Sympathy for the Devil, maybe Gimme Shelter. We won every battle and beat back very attack, but America lost its will and lost the war. Nice work, so-called "greatest generation." All told, 13 months in combat (well, you know, not every day) in the two provinces (Quang Nam & Quang Tri) accounting for 25% of the US KIA (I think there are 20 or more provinces in VN); Danang, The World. God. I'm alive. The Hill Fights history and an account written by someone else (I was attached to 1/9 there). This Iraq deal really has me going. From war to this: Stories from la clinica and now this: A return to Southeast Asia.
Leslie. What does it mean to be married to someone who really does do miracles? I can tell you. We started when we were 16 and here we are today, 44 years later. This from the dedication to my book on palliative care: I lay dreaming that I was in an outdoor marketplace, watching a group of musicians set up to play. One by one they began to tune, softly. Then in a soft clear voice, a woman sang the words, "Who knows ... where the time goes ..." and at that moment I awoke and said, "To Leslie." A true vision. Our life of love and growth. Photo: Leslie making it happen at Agape. Maria with Luvia (fast asleep) next to her; Lupe in blue & Roxanne in dark red top.
My son, David's site (writing) and his other site (memorial). David's former orchestra: Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra - David played viola in GDYO, the St. Mark's orchestra, and The Institute for Strings. Beautiful sounds. Now he's at Rice, playing in the non-music majors orchestra & a quartet. Photo: David & me, Christmas 2003
Common Grace Ministries: Partners on the streets - Alison, steadfast love - and Beuy, Martin, Mike, Han, Nehemiah, Junghoo, Chris, Kara, Jenny, Mark-O, Julie, Allison, and behind/above/through it all, our Savior. Wednesday morning Bible study at First Presbyterian Church (our church in Dallas).
A message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps: Our proud legacy of sacrifice, courage, and victory against any foe. Always Faithful & First to Fight. Full text listing of all Medal of Honor citations.
Links and thoughts on Israel, Palestinians, the Middles East, and Terrorism. "The Day of Jihad is the Day of Blood."
Blessings International: Wonderful source for medications for missions. Faith in action counting boxes, loading pallets, etc. Chris & Kara Wynn - important in our life. Friends overseas: Jim and Melissa Neathery in Albania - now they are back in Dallas. Serious Bible study tools at Crosswalk. Check out John Gill's exposition under Commentaries.
Cambodian Outreach Mission: Mosquito nets, condoms, medications, education - make a difference! Lance Rasbridge (the man who makes the Mission happen) and I have worked together for many years. Small project. Photo below: CK, Khan Soeurt, Baylor student, & Lance at Community Garden, 2003
Gardeners in Community Development - Sorry, BU says I can no longer host GICD page. My friend, Don Lambert (of Borneo, Nepal, Berkeley, etc. fame) has kept on truckin' through a lot more thin than thick to make this beautiful place happen in our community. A time to sow and a time to reap. The coolest nursery is Doan's, 622 E. Beltline Rd., Irving - 972-790-3500. No website. North Haven and Nicholson-Hardie are good - Good rose and perennial selection; knowledgeable staff (especially at NH). Rohde's is good place for organically grown. Great organic fertilizer at good price. Good prices on old garden roses. My Cottage Garden, which is also kind of a slow-moving gardening journal - maybe its a blog!
Ross Avenue Center (at Ross Avenue Baptist Church) - Ross Avenue Center, Ross Avenue Baptist, ESL, CHM clinic site, more. Church burned, site down, onward.
Vietnam War Photographs - Good photograph site. Inside the Cone of Fire, others . . . break on through, to the other side . . . through these fields of destruction . . .
At the Hill Fights with 1/9 (168 KIA, Arc-Lights all around - that's a B52 crater behind the men coming up the hill)
Brothers in Arms (Dire Straits - better music than poetry - Our Song)
Photo: CK toward the end of Prairie
World War I Poems: "For an old bitch gone in the teeth . . . liars"
Widows of War - Women tell their war stories in this living memorial. Thanks Alison and Chath.
A Common Reader - Lovely, stimulating books for people who love books.
Old East Dallas Restaurants and Other Places - My recommendations - A lot of work left to do on this page, but it's not bad.
CGFA Art - The best art site I've found. When you find a picture you like, right click on it and select Set as Wallpaper. Also check out Quang-Tuan Luong's site for great photographs of Vietnam, U.S. National parks, and climbing in Yosemite.
Fighting against child predators - The Preda Foundation: Grass roots organization (grass roots page, too) in the Philippines fighting against the sexual exploitation of children. Aso see Initiative Against Sexual Traffiking site.
No Quarter - No quarter means no prisoners. Neither side took very many. This site is about American casualties in Vietnam.
Rage Against the Machine - Against the Culture of Death - Remember Kitty Genovese - Rage Against the Machine - Against the Culture of Death - Remember the Girls in the Birmingham Church - Rage Against the Machine - Against the Culture of Death - Remember Thich Quang Duc - Rage Against the Machine - Against the Culture of Death - Remember the Warsaw Ghetto and Birkenau and Auschwitz and Buchenwald and and and - Rage Against the Machine - Against the Culture of Death - Remember Viola Liuzzo - Rage Against the Machine - Against the Culture of Death - Remember Oscar Romero - Rage Against the Machine - Against the Culture of Death - Remember Tienamen Square - Rage Against the Machine - Against the Culture of Death - Remember Tuol Sleng - Rage Against the Machine - Against the Culture of Death - Remember Todd Beamer - "I love you. I will never forget you. I will tell my daughter about you when she grows up and can understand" written on the coffin of a woman murdered in El Salvador - Rage Against the Machine - Against the Culture of Death - Brothers and Sisters - Rage Against the Machine - Against the Culture of Death - and . . .
Let's Roll - you know I mean it, too
A Poem for Good Old Goldy
Goldy, David, & Judo (aka Buddy)
A House Dog's Grave
by Robinson Jeffers
~ A Shrine ~
Awhile back a woman brought a 22 month-old girl in to our clinic. The child had two problems: (1) a rash that turned out to be genital warts and (2) a prescription for a medication for the warts. The medication cost $140+ and the woman could not afford it. She had been given the Rx at a clinic (the Reach Clinic) that treats children and infants who have been sexually abused. Dr. Garcia called the clinic and was told that the prescription can be filled there and an appointment was made for the woman to bring the child in next week.
We followed-up and discovered that the woman did not keep the appointment. Reach staff are working on this and so are we. One way or another, working together, we'll see the problem through to resolution and medicine for the child. Some other things may also need to happen. If needed, resources from the men in my Bible study group will be used.
The woman is a relative of the girl and has custody of her - or maybe not - there is a lot here that is unclear. We'll see how this unfolds. Regardless, this shrine is to that woman, to others like her, to the child, to the Reach staff, and to the staff at Jonathan's Place. Sometimes I could cry.
Now (beginning 2003) we are providing intake exams for children going to Jonathan's Place - where children go when they really have been removed from parents.
Rock & roll has been important in my life. Lot of falsity in it, of course. But a lot of truth and a lot of catharsis, too - and sometimes that catharsis is the greatest truth needed. Here's to you, beautiful lady taking care of the child.
You are the salt of the earth . . . you are the light of the world
I usually depend on my own thoughts and words, but this says so clearly part of what I want to say to you. And of course, I know how fond you are of Bob Dylan . . .
May God bless and keep you always, May your wishes all come true, May you always do for others And let others do for you. May you build a ladder to the stars And climb on every rung, May you stay forever young, Forever young, forever young, May you stay forever young.
May you grow up to be righteous, May you grow up to be true, May you always know the truth And see the lights surrounding you. May you always be courageous, Stand upright and be strong, May you stay forever young, Forever young, forever young, May you stay forever young.
May your hands always be busy, May your feet always be swift, May you have a strong foundation When the winds of changes shift. May your heart always be joyful, May your song always be sung, May you stay forever young, Forever young, forever young, May you stay forever young.
At the end of spring break, 2004:
It was wonderful to see you, to be with you. Oh, my son, I love you. I cannot love any more than this. I understand that part of the nature of life is moving on. It is the way of all living things. I see you unfolding, growing, becoming & I am filled with joy – and sadness, too. It is the way of all sentient beings. Not too hard to understand, I expect. So I’m trying myself to grow. But I know that these were the best years of my life. Its okay, though – a few steps down takes Mom & me to a pretty good place! I am so proud & grateful you are my son.
Fall, 2004 - from an email to David
... also, I was talking with the night chaplain at Parkland (yeah, that's right, the night chaplain, i.e., they really do have a grand total of one!) a couple of days ago & he brought up the idea of talking with one's son about "things I meant to tell you." What a wonderful idea. I just wanted you to know that I cannot think of anything I have left unsaid to you (that should be said). Of course, there are many things I would love to talk more with you about, but really, I do not think I have much in the way of unfinished business.