Heavy Drinking and Flashbacks Sink a Marriage

In December 1966, I returned from Vietnam.  For fifteen years, I didn’t think about the war or talk about it to anyone, at least not on a conscious level.

Instead, I drank—a lot. Beer, wine, mixed drinks. It didn’t matter. I grew up with an alcoholic father and older brother. My fraternal grandfather was an alcoholic and so was my father’s older brother James. Alcohol almost ended the marriage between my mother and father. After an ultimatum from my mother, dad quit drinking to save the marriage. By then I was twelve. He was a great guy sober.

Due to that childhood environment, I swore I would never drink.

The war changed that. Before shipping out to Vietnam, I started drinking twenty-five cent pitchers of beer on base in Okinawa to fit in since so many Marines drank. There was nothing else to do when off duty. Once, we were so broke, several of the Marines in my unit pooled pennies, and I went into the village across the street from Camp Hanson’s main gate and bought a cheap bottle of Japanese slow gin.  After the first glass, you lost the feeling in your nose, fingers and toes. When you woke up twelve hours later, you were still drunk. The hangover came later. I discovered that codeine or some other drug was part of the mix in that slow-gin bottle. The cheapest drunk was rubbing alcohol mixed with Coke or Pepsi. We filled a helmet and passed it around until the mix was gone. The next morning, some guy would be sitting inside my head pounding on an anvil with a sledgehammer.

During the fifteen years between 1966 and 1981, I often relived the war in surrealistic flashbacks where Vietcong would be in the house, and I went on patrol with a Ka-Bar or a twelve -gauge shotgun. One night in 1977 at 2:00 AM, my first wife left the bedroom to get a glass of water. She returned while I was fighting ghosts.

To me, she was the enemy, and I pushed her against the wall in the hall outside the bedroom and held the tip of that seven-inch blade against her throat. She calmly talked to me until I was somewhat aware of my real surroundings, and we went back to bed. She never mentioned that scene during the remaining years of our marriage, but I have never forgotten.

In 1981, I stopped drinking and soon was talking and writing about the war. I woke this morning thinking about that moment in the hallway in 1977. The war is always close.

Discover A Night at the “Well of Purity”

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is 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 trained to hate and kill Americans.

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R&R and the Ladies of the Night

It has been said that the world’s oldest profession is prostitution. That is wrong. The oldest profession is motherhood.

The second oldest profession belongs to warriors leaving home to fight in foreign lands. That may make prostitution the third oldest profession. It all comes down to what came first, the chicken or the egg.

When warriors leave home to fight in foreign lands, the hormonal drive to have sex does not go into hibernation. That has been true for thousands of years.

I am sure that Alexander the Great’s army did not become celibate all those years away from Greece while conquering so much of the known world.

Soldiers have two choices to take care of the sex drive: commit rape or turn to prostitutes. Celibacy is usually not the choice most young men in the military make.

The Vietnam War was no different.  For each tour served, the troops were given five days of R & R. It was called rest and recuperation.

Most married men flew to Hawaii for their five days to spend time with the family. The rest went to places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Bangkok in Thailand.

Bangkok was the desired location for most Marines.

I spent my R & R in Hong Kong, and I did not rest.

Another Marine in the communications platoon I was in went to Bangkok and returned to Vietnam with more than one unwanted gift.

He had crabs, syphilis and gonorrhea. When he had to pee, two of us went with him to hold him up. The pain was so intense he passed out.

Another young Marine in the Communications platoon couldn’t wait for R & R. He found a woman while still in Vietnam. He swore that he paid her, but her father caught them naked in a rice paddy and the Marine was on top. She accused that Marine of rape, and he was court marital and sent to a military prison for twenty years.

Going to a foreign land to fight for his country changed his life drastically.

Years later, in 1981, I wrote a short story about one night in Vietnam that has to do with the need for sex and food.

For the next twenty-five years, I worked on that story. Eventually, A Night at the ‘Well of Purity’ was a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. The story is fiction but is based on fact. That night did happen, and I have never forgotten it.

I am sure the male sex drive had an impact on most of the young men that went to fight in America’s foreign wars.

Discover A Night at the “Well of Purity”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

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