I went and saw The Hurt Locker, a movie I recommend to anyone wanting to see the reality of war without serving in one. This gritty, realistic movie reminded me of another incident I survived in Vietnam and the fact that Islamic terrorists in Iraq did not invent IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). IEDs have been around for a long time.
One day in 1966, I accompanied a platoon of flame tanks outside the Division area where a forward artillery battery was being located. The flame tanks were using napalm to burn brush off the hills near the site so it would be difficult for snipers to get close enough without being spotted.
The tank commander said, “Drive in our tracks. This road is often mined.”
I put one set of tires in the tank’s tracks, wider than the jeeps. The other two tires rolled in the center of that dirt road. We drove like that for miles into the hills watching the ground in front of the jeep for signs of digging.
The question I have been asked the most over the years from people that haven’t fought in a war has been, “Were you afraid.”
The only fear I had in Vietnam was that I wouldn’t be able to do my job, that I would let my fellow Marines down, that someone in my unit would die because of me. Now, I worry about my ability to protect my family.
It doesn’t help that I live in America where there are dangers besides our government taking away our liberties, which seems to be a constant misplaced fear for many. Over the years, I learned that the real threat to the American way of life comes from extreme idealists and streets gangs—not our government, which has checks and balances.
I taught in the public schools for thirty years between 1975 and 2005. The high school where I worked was surrounded by a barrio filled with violent street gangs. One day, I witnessed a drive by shooting from a classroom doorway. On another day, a student died outside my classroom when he was shot gunned by a rival gang. Every day, when I arrived at school, I resented the fact that I wasn’t allowed to carry a weapon on campus. The only threat to violent teenagers was expulsion, not the loss of a job or jail time.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.
His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.
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