Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest superhero of them all?

Smithsonian.com published The Psychology Behind Superhero Origin Stories by Robin Rosenberg.

Rosenberg says, “As a clinical psychologist who has written books about the psychology of superheroes, I think origin stories show us not how to become super but how to be heroes, choosing altruism over the pursuit of wealth and power.”

Rosenberg says, “I’ve found that superheroes undergo three types of life-altering experiences that we can relate to.”

1. trauma

2. a life altering force is destiny

3. sheer chance

“At their best,” Rosenberg says, “superhero origin stories inspire us and provide models of coping with adversity, finding meaning in loss and trauma, discovering our strengths and using them for good purpose.”

Reading Rosenberg’s piece in Smithsonian after watching “To Whom it May Concern, Ka Shen’s Journey” the previous night helped me understand his explanation. Ke Shen’s Journey was a documentary on the life of Nancy Kwan.

You may remember Kwan in “The World of Suzie Wong” (1960), or “Flower Drum Song” (1961). And in 1961, she won a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer in film.

In fact, Kwan’s father was a hero. During World War II, he was a spy for the British and when the Japanese discovered what he was doing, he took his two, infant children and fled Hong Kong disguised as a Chinese peasant. Another Chinese spy working for the British in Hong Kong wasn’t so fortunate. He was caught and beheaded by the Japanese.

For Kwon, her life altering experience was the loss of her only child, a son from her first marriage. Bernie died at age 33 in 1996. He contracted AIDS from his girlfriend whom Kwan had cautioned him to avoid.

Bernie had unprotected sex with the girl he loved. He didn’t use a condom. The girlfriend died of AIDS first and Bernie stayed by her side and cared for her to the end. Eventually, when the virus threatened his life, he moved home so his mother and stepfather could care for him, and they watched the son they both loved die slowly over a period of three years as he wasted away.

Today, almost age 75, Nancy Kwan actively supports the study of AIDS and the promotion of AIDS awareness.

I think Rosenberg is right, because I’m convinced that what he explains is one reason why I joined the U.S. Marines and later became a classroom teacher in a barrio high school populated by violent street gangs. I made a choice. We all make choices, but why do we make such choices?

For me it wasn’t trauma—at least I don’t think so—that motivated me to join the U.S. Marines. I think it was the role models I saw in Hollywood films. For example, John Wayne’s movies. By the time I joined the Marines in 1964, John Wayne had been in 158 films. A few that stick in my head are: The Fighting Seabees; Back to Bataan; They were Expendable; Fort Apache; She Wore a Yellow Ribbon; Sands of Iwo Jima; The Horse Soldiers; The Alamo, and The Longest Day, etc.

Of course, no film compares to the reality of combat and coming home from war with PTSD and/or recovering from a severe combat wound. Those factors are also a life altering force.

It seems to me that there are a lot of people in America that are not inspired to be a hero or altruistic.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says that 8.1% of the U.S. population are veterans. In addition, the NY Times reported that less than 1% of the American population is serving in the active military.  What does that tell us about the rest of America—not counting the physically and mentally disabled, police, teachers and firefighters?

Discover John Kerry, Purple Hearts, PTSD and WMD


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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

PTSD and Homeless Veterans

In the Marines, we learned to never leave the wounded or dead behind.

I have lived with the symptoms of PTSD for forty-six years. I was fortunate. I was capable of holding down a job. I haven’t forgotten the homeless veteran I met in an alley early one early morning in Pasadena, California. I wrote about it in A Prisoner of War for Life.

The key is to learn how to cope. If you have PTSD, you will never get rid of it as if it were a cold or the flu. PTSD stays with you for life.

USA Today reported, “War might be making young bodies old. … The tragic signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or battlefield concussion are all too evident. Even more alarming for researchers is emerging evidence that these newest American combat veterans — former GIs and Marines in their 20s and 30s — appear to be growing old before their time. Scientists see early signs of heart disease and diabetes, slowed metabolisms and obesity — maladies more common to middle age or later.”

Some veterans are so damaged from combat experience, that they become homeless.

The population of the United States is more than 314 million people. The US Armed Forces that protects America’s civilians numbers 1.458 million—less than one-half-of-one-percent of the total US population. In addition, there are about 860 thousand military reservists.

In fact, the number of military veterans in the United States in 2012 was 21.8 million—6.94% of the total US population.

It doesn’t matter the reason a US citizen joins the military—patriotism or a financial need—and fights in one of America’s foreign wars. The fact that he or she served and put his or her life on the line or risked serious injury in combat,  I think that the ninety-three percent of the population that never served and risked life and limb owes those veterans an obligation.

That also means supporting homeless veterans with jobs and shelter.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness says, “The nation’s homeless population … went from 643,067 in 2009 to 636,017 in 2011. … The only increase was among those unsheltered.”

However, “The national rate of homelessness was 21 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population. The rate for veterans was 31 homeless veterans per 10,000 veterans in the general population.”

PBS Documentary on Homeless Veterans – WORTH WATCHING if you have the time.

The Veterans Administration is the only federal agency that provides substantial hand-on assistance directly to Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Veteran homelessness is a problem of national importance. According to a count on a January night in 2011, there were 67,495 homeless Veterans. And an estimated 144,842 Veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program in a recent year. Because of this, in 2009, President Obama and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced the federal government’s goal to end Veteran homelessness by 2015.

An estimated 144,842 Veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program in one recent year.

Many other Veterans are considered at risk of homelessness because of poverty, lack of support from family and friends, substance use or mental health issues, and precarious living conditions.

The VA has a hot line to support veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. That number is: 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-4243-838) Source: VA.gov/Homeless

In recent months, I have been editing a novel about PTSD and homeless veterans.  It isn’t my work. It was written by Alon Shalev, the author of  The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale.  His next novel is titled, Unwanted Heroes (to be published soon). It’s a story about healing and/or the failure to heal from PTSD. A love story is part of the mix too.

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

Low-Def Kindle Cover December 11His 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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

One Never Forgets

It has been forty-six years since I fought in Vietnam, and watching two movies rebooted my PTSD interrupting my sleep pattern. For years, I usually wake at least once a night and listen. However, since watching the movies, I wake every hour and listen to the night sounds.

In Brothers, one of the two brothers, a captain in the US Marines, goes to Afghanistan on his fourth tour of duty and becomes a tortured and abused POW.  After he is liberated and his captors killed, he returns home suffering from severe PTSD trauma. Tobey Maguire plays Marine Captain Sam Cahill and does a convincing job playing a veteran that is severely damaged by PTSD symptoms.

Watching Maguire act his part reminded me of my first decade back from Vietnam when I drank too much and often woke once or twice and carried a loaded weapon around the house checking the doors and windows.  More than once, when overwhelmed by a burst of anger, I punched holes in walls with fists.

The anger comes fast—one moment you are calm as a rusty doorknob and an instant later an exploding fragmentation grenade.

In the Valley of Elah, Tommy Lee Jones plays a father, who was also a Vietnam combat veteran, searching for answers to explain his son’s death soon after returning from Iraq. In this film, we see how war strips young men of their humanity—that thin veneer that comes with so-called civilization.

From Brothers, I was reminded of the homeless Vietnam veteran I met in an alley in Pasadena, California one early morning. He had been a prisoner of war and similar to the character Tobey Maguire plays, was severely traumatized with PTSD symptoms.

The VA rated the homeless vet I met in that Pasadena alley as 100% disabled by PTSD possibly explaining why he was homeless—not because he could not afford an apartment.  The disability from the VA was more than enough to support him.  However, most of that money went for drugs and booze for him and his homeless buddies.

Then there was another vivid image of a Vietcong POW being tortured by South Korean troops during a field operation I was on.  The South Koreans hung that Vietnamese POW by his heels from a tree limb and pealed the skin off his body while he lived.

In the Valley of Elah reminded me of an ambush where a team of Marines I was a member of went out in a heavy rain at sunset and after an hour or so of slogging through the gloomy downpour, we stopped in a rice paddy with water to our necks and stayed there for more than an hour waiting for complete darkness before moving into position. We shared that rice paddy with a very large king cobra.

In the Marines, one does not question orders—we do or die—so we stayed in that paddy knowing a king cobra was in the water with us.

Both of these films are dramatic examples of what war does to young men and their families.

Some combat veterans avoid seeing films such as these two. However, I do not. I do not want to return to that time where I avoided talking and thinking of my part in the Vietnam War, because at night when we struggle to sleep there is no escape. We cannot hide from the monster that came home with us living inside our skin as if it were an unwanted parasite.

Discover A Prisoner of War for Life


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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

From Memoir to Novel – the metamorphosis of a manuscript about war as hell – Part 1/3

I started writing my next novel “Running With the Enemy” in 1981 as a memoir of an American Marine serving in Vietnam in 1966.

In 1981, I was working toward an MFA in 20th century American literature/writing at Cal Poly Pomona where I earned a teaching credential in 1975 – 76.

I never finished the memoir and only wrote about 200 pages. In fact, the first forty pages took several months to write. It was on page forty-one that I arrived in Chu Lai, Vietnam by climbing down a boarding net into a landing craft in one of the Marine Corps last major amphibious landings.

However, later in the 1980s, I brushed the dust off that unfinished manuscript and enrolled in UCLA’s extension-writing program. My workshop instructor was Marjorie Miller and she recruited a few of her students into her off-campus workshops held in a small room above an Italian restaurant in Westwood near the UCLA campus. For several years on Saturday mornings, I drove 135 miles round trip to attend Miller’s workshop

There was a big difference in the quantity and quality of writing among twenty or more students in a UCLA classroom and the five or six writers around that table in a rented room above an Italian restaurant—same instructor with fewer writers meant more time for each writer.

After I read the first chapter of my Vietnam memoir, Miller said it was not going to work and I should consider writing it as a novel.

Miller was a tough taskmaster with a short fuse. She was NOT an advocate of fluffing up a sense of false self-esteem with warm fuzzies and was not into, “Let’s all have fun and follow our dreams.”

She was a tough and sometimes harsh critic. Miller understood that for most individuals to stand a chance to achieve his or her dream would require dedication and discipline in addition to never stop learning the craft of writing.

I recall that I revised one chapter more than thirty times and Miller lost patience more than once with me for taking so long to fix the problems in that chapter.

Moreover, I wanted to include as much reality as possible in the novel, so I borrowed from my experiences in Vietnam, the experiences of my fellow Marines, and what I discovered about the war later.

For example, early in 1966, a Marine in my unit, a cook, murdered the father of a Vietnamese adolescent that he either raped or paid to have sex with him. The cook claimed that he found the girl working in a rice paddy and offered her fifty US dollars to have sex with him. He said she agreed and while they were in the act, the girl’s father caught them. Later, the girl would identify the cook as her father’s murderer in a lineup, and he was convicted and sentenced to twenty years to life in a federal prison. At least, that’s what we were told, and then the cook was gone—shipped out.

That cook wasn’t the only American soldier to rape and/or murder innocent Vietnamese citizens.

Continued on June 21, 2012 in From Memoir to Novel – the metamorphosis of a manuscript about war as hell – Part 2


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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

The Recon

I was one of four Marines in two jeeps. We were Marines but we were not Recon Marines. Two of the four were officers. One was a staff sergeant, and I was the radio operator with equipment so old that the three spare batteries had a better chance of being dead before me. Heck, they were feeding us twenty-year old C-rations. The sides of the boxes were stamped 1945 and it was 1966. Proof that the Marines don’t waste anything.

What was more dangerous? The food we were eating or the Vietcong. It’s good to be stupid and nineteen—not knowing about botulism. Besides, I liked the ham and limas.

The 1st Marine tank battalion was involved in a field operation with a South Korean unit—the kind of soldiers you want on your side. The US Marines and the Koreans, along with an ARVN unit, were forming a box to trap a regiment of North Koreans.

We drove ahead of our troops to check the depth of the rice paddies making sure our tanks wouldn’t be bogged down. Every mile or so, we would stop and the officers, a major and a lieutenant, would take a long pole and poke a paddy.

Once we were fifteen to twenty miles ahead of our lines, I lost contact with our people.  I switched batteries until I’d tried them all. Then we rolled through a recently deserted village where I saw the Vietcong flag and radio antennas sticking from the top of a tree.  Food was still cooking on open flames inside empty huts.

I pointed them out, and the staff sergeant said, “Don’t tell the officers. They don’t need the worry.”

Thirty miles in front of the lines, the officers were busy poking a rice paddy when I spied a line of muscular men in peasant clothing coming toward us. I was squatting behind the second jeep watching our rear holding a fifty-caliber Ingram submachine gun. I was dressed in camouflage, the jeep was olive green, and I was squatting in shadows. These guys were approaching from the rear and the staff sergeant and officers didn’t know.

I felt like an orphan about to be molested.

When that line of men reached the dirt road and climbed from the rice paddy, I stood so they could see my weapon and me, the skinny Marine who had gained twenty pounds in boot camp and was no longer invisible if he turned sideways.

A fifty caliber Ingram submachine gun with a fifty-round clip will cut small trees and men in half. Once you pull the bolt and let go, the entire clip empties.  There was another clip taped to the first one. It’s a quick change.  You aim to the left of the target and the recoil swings the weapon in an arc to the right.

They saw me and, still walking military fashion, crossed the road, went down the other side into the next rice paddy and kept going. No one shot at us on that recon, but this kind of memory causes you to wake sweaty at three in the morning listening. I remember thinking that maybe my hands were too slick with sweat to pull the bolt and fire.

Discover The ambush; the king cobra and the water buffalo


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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

The ambush, the king cobra, and the water buffalo

Often, the memories wake me in the dead of night, and I listen carefully to every sound. Sometimes, I remember one rainy night with the King Cobra and the water buffalo.

If you have never been in combat, you may not understand what happens for a soldier to develop PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress). I wrote about one event in the short story, A Night at the Well of Purity. I’ve written about others here and in a few of the poems I’ve posted on Authors Den.

It was 1966, and the rain was coming down hard as we left the safety of our base camp. The First Tank Battalion sat on a hill centered on the First Marine Division’s perimeter at Chu Lai, a spit of sand jutting into the South China Sea. Concertina wire, bunkers, and a platoon of flame tanks protected the camp. There were two adjoining hills. One held an artillery company. The third held a company of Ontos, a self-propelled, lightly armored anti-tank vehicle that mounted six M40 106 mm recoilless rifles.

Military intelligence had reported that there might be several boatloads of Vietcong moving down a canal that night near our hill. On our way to set up the ambush, we avoided the villages and moved through rice paddies instead of walking on land. The idea was to stay out of sight. As the radio operator, I was situated in the center of the column of poncho clad Marines.

When a Vietnamese farmer was seen working in an adjacent rice paddy, we squatted with the dark paddy water to our chins and propped our weapons on our helmets. The rain was coming down in sheets. That was when I saw the full sized King Cobra. It was moving parallel to our column about ten feet from my position. Its hood was open as if it were ready to strike. I watched as the head dropped into the water among the bright green shoots of rice and vanished. The King Cobra is the world’s longest poisonous snake and can reach a length up to 5.6 m (18.5 ft). It can easily kill a man with a single bite.

We had to stay submerged in that rice paddy, so I imagined that King Cobra moving below the water toward me. Every inch of my body tingled, and I wanted out but I did not move. Time slowed to a snail’s crawl.

Later, we slipped into position on the dike that ran along the canal with a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) on each flank. Hours went by. Marines fell asleep, then the world exploded with the roar of those BARs. Everyone joined in, and the night was filled with glowing tracer rounds.

At dawn, we discovered one tough water buffalo staggering around full of holes. There was no sign of any dead Vietcong, but that was not unusual. The Vietcong often took their dead with them.

Discover A Night at the “Well of Purity”


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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Booze, the Veteran and coming home

I drank a lot after returning from Vietnam. One night during the thirty-day leave home, before reporting to my next duty station at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego, I stopped to buy a fifth of cheap vodka at a local drug store. I drank that vodka straight from the bottle at a friend’s apartment waiting for him to get off work at two a.m. He was a cook at a twenty-four hour coffee shop in West Covina.

Around two, Doug called and said his car wouldn’t start. He asked if I would pick him up. By that time, I’d finished two thirds of the vodka and was feeling no pain. I hadn’t had anything to eat for hours, and I’d already made two trips to the bathroom to dry heave before drinking more vodka.

Doug lived with his six-month pregnant girlfriend. Luckily, she went with me.

At two-thirty in the morning, I was driving on the San Bernardino Freeway through West Covina having trouble staying in one lane. Speed wasn’t a good idea, so I kept the car between twenty-five and thirty while weaving back and forth across three lanes. No one was passing me.

Then the flashing red lights came on behind me, and a West Covina police cruiser pulled me over. When the officer told me to step out of the car, I admitted I was drunk and said I would have trouble standing.

However, the officers wouldn’t let me stay in the car. Once outside, I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket. My military papers were there too and they fell to the ground. I didn’t know I’d dropped them, but the second officer saw the papers and picked them up. While I was leaning on the hood trying to steady the dizzy world around me so I wouldn’t fall over, the second officer was reading that I had just returned from Vietnam.

The officers talked while I leaned against the car to keep from falling over. They asked Doug’s girlfriend if she could drive, and she said yes. They didn’t ask to see a driver’s license. That was a good thing. She didn’t have one. With her driving, we got Doug and returned to his apartment where I crashed on the couch.

It was early January, 1967. No ticket was written. All these years later, I think those two West Covina Police Officers understood the kind of trauma war dishes out and must have felt that one drunk Marine just back from combat didn’t need to end up in jail on a drunk driving charge.

During all those years of protests against the Vietnam War, I would see this type of behavior from the police in other cities. I don’t believe many police sided with the war protesters. They understood what it was like to be under fire and how it messed with your mind.

Discover A Night at the “Well of Purity”


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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

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”


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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

A Night at the “Well of Purity”

This is a short story based on a real event that took place in Vietnam in 1966.
This story was named a finalist in the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.

 There wasn’t much that surprised Basarte, but the girl did. Her appearance was like magic. There was no other explanation he accepted. He was still alive after three tours in Vietnam because he heard or saw everything coming his way. Until that moment, nothing had surprised him. He swore that no one had been approaching their position. He was sure of it. His first response after he saw her was to look and see if anyone was pulling strings.

Basarte was exhausted from booze and whores and needed a week just to get his breath back after five days of R & R in Hong Kong. His platoon sergeant had accommodated him by assigning him guard duty at the ‘Well of Purity’ with a squad of strangers. Although he was twenty-four, he felt sixty. Donald Basarte didn’t know it yet, but he was about to learn how insidious the devil could be. When he could not corrupt you, he bruised your soul through the depravity of others.

“I fix everyone for one dollar each,” the child said with a voice that sounded as if it had been scuffed with sandpaper.

An armorer from Basarte’s battalion, a corporal like him, yelled at her with some Vietnamese tossed in, “Di di, go away! Jesus Fucking Christ, how can anyone call this place the ‘Well of Purity’ when filthy beggars show up looking for handouts?”

“Go easy on her, Colby,” Basarte said. “She’s a kid.”

She was barefoot, and her grimy toes curled and dug into the dirt. She had round eyes that were deep like the paddy water Basarte had spent a night in on an ambush, but her bone structure was delicate like a Vietnamese. She was an Amerasian, and countries like Vietnam had an invisible code that half-breeds were not welcome.

She looked down at the ground as if she didn’t know how to respond. She was about nine but could’ve been older. Her black blouse and baggy trousers were worn thin, and through the filthy cloth you could see patches of dirt stained skin. “Look, kid,” Basarte said, “come over here and get a bite to eat. You’re skinny as a stick.” He patted a spot on the log telephone pole beside him.

“She’s probably infested with lice and fleas,” Colby said. “Keep her away from me.”

Basarte shook his head in disgust.

“What’s with you?” Colby said.

“What I’m thinking is none of your fucking business.” Basarte replied. He kept his eyes on the girl. “Come on, honey. The food’s not that great, but it will take away the hunger.”

She didn’t move.

His hands kept working the sharp, inch long beak of the metal GI can opener as he cut through the tin lid of the ham and lima bean C-ration. The date on the box said 1945, and Basarte was sitting in December of 1967. The Marine Corps never wasted anything.

He looked up, and the little girl still hadn’t moved. The lid came off, and he held the can over the flame of the Sterno.

“You dinky dow, you crazy!” Colby said, sounding like a dog barking. “Get out! You number ten! You no good!”

“I give you number one blowjob,” she said, and her empty eyes stared at him.

Basarte stopped stirring his beans.

“What did she say?” Colby asked.

“She wants to suck your lizard,” Basarte said, surprised again. Colby burst out laughing and the crudeness of it soured Basarte’s stomach.

When Colby sputtered into silence, a dozen pairs of eyes were examining the shapeless child. The sun slipped away, and the sky went from pale blue to deep blue. When the sky turned black, it robbed them of the ability to see much beyond where they were sitting. The collective hum of the mosquito horde could be heard. They were on their way from the rice paddies to assault them. Further away there was the rumble of artillery firing a mission toward the jungles of the Central Highlands. Closer, on the other side of the hills south of them, a flare shot up and lit the landscape with an eerie light that hissed and sputtered as it drifted back to earth.

Basarte had shared a rice paddy with a cobra once. He felt as if he were in a similar situation now. He looked into the dusky shadows around the position imagining Vietcong slithering in on their bellies, just as he’d expected that snake to come and find him in that black rice paddy water. To offer a smaller target, he slid off the log to sit on the dirt. Picking up his M3A1 Grease Gun, he rested it across his lap.

They sat in a flat depression with hills threatening them on three sides. Prickly brush surrounded their perimeter, and every bush could hide sudden death.

“What did you say you charge?” Colby asked the little girl.

“You can’t be serious,” Basarte said. “We have to secure our position before it gets dark. Besides, she’s a kid.”

Colby dismissed Basarte with the flap of a hand.

“I give you number one blowjob for one American dollar.” She pulled back her shoulders, thrust her chest out and took a step closer. She had no shape and no breasts.

Colby examined her as if he were at a rummage sale. “You ain’t worth no dollar. You are worth two bits.” Colby put aside his can of food and stood. He was a tall, lean man with freckles scattered across a face that looked as if it had been squeezed into its thin, narrow shape by two slabs of rusty steel. Between the freckles his skin was sallow colored, and there were baggy shadows under his eyes. He ran a big, bony hand through his close-cropped red hair.

He grinned showing off a silver frame around one of his cigarette-stained teeth. “You can get more than one dollar, but you’re going to have to suck a lot of lizards. You will earn two bits each.”

“Don’t be a fool,” Basarte said.

“Who the hell are you to tell me what to do?” Colby said, and glared at him. Colby studied the name printed above Basarte’s left breast pocket. “I heard of you,” Colby said, and his eyes went to the automatic weapon on Basarte’s lap. “You were decorated—a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster.”

Basarte wasn’t his actual name. When he’d joined, he used his mother’s maiden name instead of Casanova, his father’s name.

“You don’t know shit,” Basarte replied. His right hand sought the comfort of his submachine gun and stroked the barrel as if it were a woman’s leg. He’d been wounded twice. During his first tour, shrapnel from a mortar round had ripped into his right shoulder. The scar looked like a snowflake. The man next to him suffered a serious head wound, and Basarte carried what was left of him to the medic through heavy sniper fire. Compared to that Marine, Basarte’s wound was nothing. It took a dozen stitches to sew Basarte up after the jagged bit of metal was removed. The other Marine was a vegetable. His next wound arrived during his second tour. Sniper rounds were zipping by his ears when the right rear wheel of his radio jeep ran over a landmine. The jeep was blown off the road and rolled over. He was tossed from the vehicle and gained a concussion and a huge bruise on the left side of his forehead. That wound sent him to the division hospital for more than a week.

Colby’s eyes retreated from Basarte, and he looked at the girl.

She held out a hand for the money. Six of the men, including Colby, dropped coins into it. She slipped them into a palm-sized, cloth purse that looked like the color of old dried blood. She then moved toward the corporal and knelt in front of him.

“Not here,” Colby said. He turned to those who hadn’t paid. “Come on, Marines, chip in.” His eyes were on Basarte as if he were issuing a challenge.

“Leave me out of it,” Basarte said.

“Maybe you ain’t the man they think you are,” Colby said.

“Coming from you, I’ll take that as a compliment,“ Basarte said, and winked at him. Colby led the girl out beyond the telephone poles into the brush until only the top of his head was visible. He ducked out of sight. The others looked back and forth at one another. No one spoke.

One by one, those who had paid stood and walked into the gathering darkness. That left six sitting on the prone telephone poles.

A lance corporal from the Ontos battalion cleared his throat, and after he spit, said, “Shit, I’m growing calluses on my right hand. I’m going to watch and join in if it looks like fun.” Three more stood and followed him into the night.

Basarte remained with a typist from the tank battalion’s headquarters platoon. Acne scars cratered this man’s face, and his hair was the color of dead straw. His blue eyes darted in a panic toward the bushes. His hand went to a compact black book jammed into his left breast pocket as if he were seeking answers from it.

They should’ve had razor wire and a few Claymores. But out here in this parasite-infested crotch nestled between hills, there wasn’t much of anything that offered protection except one sloppily built bunker with a rusty tin roof. They were here to protect the fresh water well that three battalions depended on.

“What are we going to do?” The typist’s eyes were busy trying to see through the darkness. The book was in his hands now, and Basarte could see the gold lettering of the title. It was a Bible.

Basarte’s mother had more than twenty Bibles. She’d been a Holy Roller before he was born and a Catholic while he was in a parochial elementary school. Before he graduated from high school, she’d converted to become a Jehovah Witness. To her religions were like lottery tickets—you had to have more than one for a chance to win. When Basarte joined the Marines right after two years of college, she cried because she feared that if he were killed, she’d never see him in the next life.

“Is that book the reason you didn’t go with them?” Basarte said. He pointed at the Bible.

“It wasn’t right,” the typist said. “What about you?”

Basarte’s hunger had vanished into that Bible, so he pushed aside the last of his ham and limas, slipped the can opener into his top pocket and picked up his gear to move inside the bunker. “Never mind about me,” he said. “Come on. It’s not a good idea to be out here.”

The typist made a face. “I saw a rat in there,” he said.

“Don’t tell me you want to be stupid like them,” Basarte replied. “Look, I haven’t survived three tours in this place for nothing. Do you drink the free beer rations they hand out?”

The typist nodded yes.

“Well, I don’t, and I like beer. I stopped drinking inside the combat zone after my first wound. It doesn’t pay to be drugged out when someone comes to punch your ticket. You got that. Now get up.” Basarte walked into the bunker.

The typist followed.

“Sit with your back to mine,” Basarte said. He slipped his finger into the recess of the bolt of the M3A1 Grease Gun and pulled it back to cock it. Sensing that somehow God was going to come out of the typist’s mouth, Basarte said, “What’s your name?”

“Thompson.” The typist leaned his back against Basarte. There was a sharp metallic sound as Thompson chambered a round in his semiautomatic rifle.

“Aren’t you the radio operator?” Thompson asked, and pointed at the PRC Ten leaning against the sandbags. “You’re a corporal too. Why didn’t you stop Colby?”

“He’s been a corporal longer than me.”

“But you’ve been in the Marines longer,” he said.

“How did you know that?”

“I saw your name on your jacket. They say you signed up for a third tour before your second ended, and that you go on missions with ARVN rangers from their Thirty-Seventh Battalion and sometimes you go out alone. I was told to never wake you, because you sleep with a round in the chamber of a forty-five. Heck, most guys can’t wait to get out of this hole, but it doesn’t bother you.” He twisted around and looked over Basarte’s shoulder. “And what is that gun you got there?”

“Gun!” Basarte said, challenging him. “You must have been drafted.”

“Weapon,” Thompson corrected himself, shocked at his slip. In boot camp, it was drilled into Marine recruits that a gun was your cock. You used it for fun and killed with a weapon. Thompson’s M-14 was a weapon. Basarte’s M3A1 and Colt Forty-Five automatic pistol were weapons. His favorite was the KA-Bar with its seven-inch blade. It was silent and deadly.

“You talking about this?” Basarte asked, holding up the Grease Gun.Thompson nodded. “I’ve never seen one before.”

“This is a submachine gun. It fires .45 caliber rounds. Its rate of fire is about 450 rounds a minute. Each magazine holds thirty rounds. Once I pull the trigger, I can cut a man in two.”

“No shit,” the typist said with awe in his voice. “You a lifer or something?”

“Don’t insult me with a question like that,” Basarte said. “It took me five years to become a staff sergeant. I got busted last year when I went AWOL to Saigon and shacked up with this woman I knew. I don’t see myself as a lifer. Men like that love the Corps. I hate it. I have one year to go.”

“So, why stay?” he asked.

“I stay because combat is preferable to barracks life in the states. I don’t like the discipline. Once I’m out, I’m going to college on the GI Bill.” His younger brother Dion, who wrote regularly, married his high school sweetheart right after graduation and was making a good life for himself working for a Ford dealership as a mechanic and going to night school at the local community college. Dion wanted to be a schoolteacher. In his letters, he was urging Basarte to do the same.

“How did you get your Bronze Star?” Thompson asked.

“Don’t you have anything better to do than ask these dumb questions?”

“If I had a medal like that, I’d tell everyone. I’d be a hero. They might have a parade in my hometown when I get back.”

“You sound like you want to be John Wayne,” Basarte said. “That’s a sure way to own a slab of granite with your name on it. Killing isn’t something to brag about.”

“What about that woman in Saigon? Is she something to brag about?”

“No, I got stupid.”

“I got stupid because of love once too,” Thompson replied, “so I had intercourse with my female German shepherd.”

“What!” Basarte said, as if the typist were insane. “You fucked a dog?”

The typist’s voice went up an octave and became whiny. “Don’t tell anyone what I just said. I was still in high school. There was this cheerleader I liked, but she didn’t know my name. Heck, I was fourteen. A guy who is fourteen will have sex with almost anything.”

“Wait a minute,” Basarte said. “I didn’t do anything like that.”

“I don’t feel so good,” the typist said. “I think I might get sick. I’ve been here for three weeks and have never been outside the battalion perimeter before. Are we going to die? I just turned nineteen. I only did it with the shepherd once. I never did it again. I’m not bad.”

“Probably not,” Basarte said. “Even God said that the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. You can’t be blamed. After all, you were fourteen.”

“God said that?”

“Genesis 8:21.”

“What are the women in Saigon like? I’ll bet they are sexy. Was your woman a prostitute?”

“You talk too much. Take a breath before you pass out.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No reason to be sorry. Just shut up and breathe.”

“Can you call for help on that radio?” the typist asked.

Basarte didn’t have the heart to tell him that the battery in the radio was as old as the food and was probably dead. “The woman I shacked up with in Saigon was no whore,” he said. “She was a nurse I met the second time I was wounded. She transferred to Saigon. I missed her, so I went.”

“You going to see her again?”

“No, it’s over. She rotated back to the states and is with her husband now.”

“Bummer,” he said. “You like married women?”

“I’ll never do it again.” Basarte noticed the weapons that had been left behind when the rest of the squad had gone off with the girl into the abyss. Their brains had dissolved into their pricks. Their weapons were leaning against the telephone poles next to the uneaten rations. Flies were spiraling in and out of the open cans.

Basarte recalled another, similar time when some of the others in the communication platoon had slipped out of the base camp and had gone into a nearby village to eat some of the local food. Eating something mysterious and strange was more important than life to them. Basarte went along but refused to eat. His job was to keep the flies off the food and to kill every Vietnamese in sight if any of his people died of food poisoning, ate razor blades or swallowed ground glass as they had been warned.

Basarte twitched when Colby’s broken laughter came out of the night.

“Your fucking cock is too big for that little bitch’s mouth,” a voice said.

“I’m getting my fucking money’s worth,” Colby said. “Come on, suck it back in!” The girl choked. “This fucking blowjob ain’t worth two bits! It ain’t worth a nickel. You ain’t going to cheat me!”

She screamed.

“Bend over and give me that little ass!”

The scream turned into a shriek and then faded to a whimper.

“What are you going to do?” Thompson said.

Basarte’s finger slipped to the trigger of his M3A1, and then he stopped. “If I shoot these bastards, can I count on you to back me up?”

“What do you mean by back you up?” The typist’s voice sounded nervous.

“It means that you have to shoot them too.”

“They’re Marines. I can’t do that.”

“I didn’t think so,” Basarte replied. “If I shoot them with this weapon, I’ll probably hit the girl, which will defeat the purpose of trying to save her. There isn’t much we can do.”

“I feel bad doing nothing,” the typist said.

“Then go over there and stop them. The odds are good. There are ten of them and one of you. You can easily kick all their asses, can’t you?”

“You don’t have to bite my head off,” the typist said. “I’m not over there with them.”

“That’s one good thing. Look, I don’t like what’s going on any better than you do. That little girl is traveling one hard road through life. If you can think of something we can do to help that won’t get us killed or sent to prison, you let me know.”

Basarte’s mother had traveled a hard road. In the few letters she’d written, she shared things with him that she’d never talked about. She’d written about the white KKK cloak and hood she’d found in the bottom of her father’s trunk. At fourteen, she ran away from the Black Hills of South Dakota and crossed half the country to support herself as a waitress in a town south of Seattle. Basarte wrote back and said it wasn’t her fault, but she didn’t see it that way. She carried guilt around like a two-gallon bucket full of wet concrete.

“We could introduce her to God,” Thompson said, and then kissed his Bible. “I love God with all my heart and soul.”

“Which god?” Basarte asked. “The Jewish one, or the Catholic one, or the Islamic one, or how about the Mormons or the Jehovah Witnesses. I don’t have any use for religions.” He didn’t give the typist a chance to talk. “God is not going to help.” He took his finger away from the trigger and arranged his grenades in a row in the dirt next to his right leg. Talking about religion or God made him thirsty so he unscrewed the cap on his canteen and drank half the tepid water.

“If you visit Saigon again, can I go with you?”


It must’ve been almost an hour before the first Marine returned like a pale wraith floating in out of the dark. Basarte almost shot him. The wraith sat on one of the telephone poles, relit his can of Sterno and started to reheat his C-rations. A few minutes later the others straggled in.

Colby came last. Flies coated the ground like black sticky pitch. As he walked through them, they swarmed around his legs and then settled back down after he passed. Once inside the perimeter, he stopped to fasten the buttons on the trousers of his jungle fatigues. He smiled and then picked at his teeth with a fingernail. When he glanced into the bunker, a frown wrinkled his face. “What the hell are you pussies doing in there?”

“Speak for yourself, asshole,” Basarte said.

“What is your problem?” Colby said. Then he looked startled as if he’d frightened himself. His eyes darted to where Basarte’s weapon was waiting on his lap. The muscles in his face quivered. Then he turned his back on Basarte, waved the flies away, took up his C-rations and started to eat without reheating the food. The others stared at their food.

“She was the tightest pussy I ever fucked,” Colby said, and the laugh that followed annoyed Basarte. “That proves there ain’t no pussy I can’t stick it to,” he continued. “Look, I got her wallet.” He held up his stained trophy, the little cloth purse.

“If she returns, you give it back to her. You hear?” Basarte said.

Colby torqued himself around to glare at Basarte. “And what are you going to do if I don’t,” he replied. Basarte thought of the brig time he’d spent after he’d been busted in rank for going AWOL the previous year.

“You are one stupid asshole,” Basarte said, and pointed a finger at him. “Don’t say another word.” Colby stiffened but didn’t speak. His eyes wavered, and he turned back to his food.

While the others slept inside the second skin of their green ponchos, Basarte stood guard. Occasionally there was the sound of someone slapping at a mosquito or the pungent scent of government issue bug spray. The glowing dial of his gold Hamilton self-winding watch said it was a little past midnight.

Franklin, one of the wiremen, had gone into the village a few months back and had bought some time with a whore. When he went into the hut, he’d been an E5 sergeant. The MP’s arrived, and the other Marines retreated out the back and escaped. But not Frank. He kept cranking out his swamp juice refusing to get off the whore. She was screeching like one of those scrawny village chickens before it ended sizzling in a wok.

That girl was going to become a whore if she lived long enough. Sometimes Basarte wished he could put his brain in a freezer and leave it there.

It took five MP’s to pull Frank off the whore. The colonel busted him all the way back to a private. Frank should’ve known better. The local whores were off limits because of the black syphilis. It could not be cured and swelled a man’s gonads so big that they’d look like an old milk cow’s sagging tits.

As much as Basarte didn’t want to think about that little girl, she was twisted inside his head like a piece of razor wire. His thoughts kept coming back to her dark, bottomless eyes and black purse.

A sudden, harsh wailing sound shattered the silence. Alarmed, Basarte sat up straighter. It was like some animal had walked into a trap and was chewing its leg off to escape. He glanced over his shoulder at the green mounds that showed where everyone slept. No one moved—not even Thompson. It looked as if they were dead and mold had grown over them.

To hear better Basarte left the bunker and crawled to a position behind one of the prone telephone poles. He took out his KA-Bar and stuck it in the dirt beside him. Phantom clouds were racing across the sky in a hurry to get somewhere and were breaking up the light from the full moon. With this broken light as a backdrop, the hills were blurred. Eventually, he saw the figure on a hill about half-a-mile from their position. He was sure it was the girl by her silhouette. He saw her long hair cascading down over her scrawny neck and shoulders. Her nose was pointed at the moon as if she were seeking sympathy from the only thing that might care.

Colby cursed and came out in his bare feet with his forty-five pistol clutched in his right hand. “Shut up! Shut up!” he shouted. He lunged into the darkness and fired a few rounds in her direction. He turned toward Basarte. “I ain’t got the range. Use your weapon and blow the little slut away.”

“Go fuck yourself,” Basarte relied. The noise she was making escalated.

The features of Colby’s face froze and his eyes stared at the barrel of Basarte’s weapon. It was pointed at him. “Get that out of my face,” he said.

“Imagine what thirty .45 caliber slugs can do to a body.” Basarte smiled, and Colby’s sallow complexion turned pasty-faced.

“This is your lucky day,” Basarte said. “I’m going to let you go back to sleep.”

Colby scuttled to his sleeping bag like a dung beetle on its way to bury itself in shit. Thompson was on his knees inside the bunker. He had taken off his jungle fatigues and was dressed in a white T-shirt and boxer shorts. The moon lit him as if he were a torch. He made an easy target. Basarte wondered why Thompson hadn’t dyed his underwear green. The typist’s hands were in a praying position and between them he clutched the Bible. His eyes were squeezed shut. His lips were moving in a prayer.

Colby sat up and stared at Thompson. “Damned Jesus freak. I’ll never understand you assholes. My mother was a born again Christian, and she beat the Gospel into me every chance she got.” Looking disgusted, he wrapped his poncho around him until he was just another mound.

Then the clouds, like a flock of silent black crows, blanketed the bright face of the moon and Thompson‘s glowing image vanished. Basarte heard him say, “Jesus died for our sins. Repent and you will be forgiven.”

Basarte’s mother was a gentle woman. She never beat him. Maybe it would have been better if she had. When he was relieved from duty, he rolled himself inside his poncho in an attempt to escape the mosquitoes.

Like a stealthy invader, the sun’s light crept over the horizon about five. The Marines left the bunker one at a time to piss or take a dump. With Sterno cans lit, they heated twenty-year-old rations.

Before Basarte or anyone else had a chance to start eating, there was a buzzing noise like an angry hornet’s nest coming from the direction of Highway One and the invisible village out there.

He recognized the girl as she came into sight. She was running and was pumping her legs hard and her mouth had formed a shocked oval. A mob of Vietnamese women with sticks and hoes were chasing her and the women were yelling.

The girl reached the perimeter and ran past Basarte straight to Colby. She stood behind him and hung onto his pant legs with her little hands. The top of her head was level with the Marine’s web belt.

The women, who looked like bitter, scrawny vultures, hesitated. They looked at the Marines as if they might eat them. Then they slowly crept closer. When Basarte could see their blackened, beetle nut-stained teeth, Colby pulled out his forty-five and cocked it. The women stopped and shouted what must have been insults in Vietnamese at the girl, who, penniless, had crept into the village to steal a bowl of rice.

Then they shifted into pidgin English and threw words at the Marines like grenades. “You number ten.” The boldest woman stepped past the telephone poles and pointed at her knee. “Fucky, fucky for one dollar, or maybe you like horny water buffalo.”

“Get the hell gone, you ugly God damned bitches!” Colby said, and jabbed his forty-five at them like a spear.

The women backed up but continued to fling insults. After the Marines drove them off, Basarte looked at the little girl. Without making a sound, she was crying—her frail chest heaving. Her small fists struggled to erase the tears streaking her dirt-stained cheeks.

He glared at Colby.

“What are you looking at?” Colby said.

Basarte shook his head. “You don’t learn do you? You’re about as stupid as a wet fart. What are you going to do to make things right?”

“You have no call to insult me,” Colby said. “She ain’t nothing.” They got into a staring match, but Colby couldn’t break Basarte. Colby’s eyes moved first. “I remember more about you now,” Colby continued. “You are one crazy bastard. I heard you ate a live snake for a twenty-dollar bet. When the guy wouldn’t pay, you bit his ear off. You don’t scare me.”

“This is your second lucky break,” Basarte replied. “I was drunk then, and I’m sober now. If I were drunk, you would be dead. You had better do something to make this right.”

The fight in Colby’s eyes fled and he bent over and looked at the dust where he shuffled his booted feet as if he were rubbing something out he didn’t like. After a moment, the expression on his face brightened. He straightened, reached in a pocket, removed the girl’s purse and offered it to her. She grabbed it. He found a few dollars in his pockets and gave them to her too. “Come on, jarheads. Everyone makes a donation.” He looked pleased with himself.

“This doesn’t make you a hero,” Basarte said.

Colby swallowed hard forcing the words he wanted to spit at Basarte down his throat. Basarte gave the girl all the money he had. It wasn’t enough.

Colby made her sit next to him while he heated rations. When the food was bubbling in the cans, he handed one to her. Occasionally his eyes glanced at Basarte, but Basarte ignored him. Colby was nothing but a blood sucking mosquito—one that should be smashed.

The girl ate with her mouth open and smacked her lips. Some brownish-yellow sauce escaped from the corner of her mouth, but she caught it with her pink tongue. Her rice paddy eyes had a spark of life in them now. After the Marines finished eating and started to police the area, she followed Colby around like she was a stray kitten hoping to be adopted.

The first of the deuce-and-a-half ton trucks, towing empty water tanks from the Ontos, artillery and tank battalions, rolled in and choked the Marines with dust from their wheels.

When the Marines started their walk toward the battalions in the hills, Basarte was last. He looked back. The little girl stood and watched as the Marines filed out onto the dirt road. She was sucking on a dirty thumb. A pile of donated C-rations sat at her feet. Her other hand clutched the cloth purse.

Basarte agreed with the World War II general and Thirty-Fourth President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Soon after that night, Colby was caught selling weapons to the Vietcong. He was court-martialed and sentenced to twenty years of hard labor in a military prison. Thompson earned a Purple Heart when both of his legs were blown off below the knees. He didn’t get his parade, but he did become a pastor in a church near his hometown.

A week after guard duty at the ‘Well of Purity’ Basarte asked an officer he knew from the Thirty-Seventh ARVN Ranger Battalion for help. They found the girl. Her name was Tran Bian, and she didn’t know how old she was. In English, Bian translates to hidden or secret. She didn’t know her father, and her mother had abandoned her. Basarte had friends, who owned a bar in Shanghai, and he paid them to take care of her.

During the Tet Offensive in 1968, Basarte received another wound and earned a Silver Star when he stopped a dozen Vietcong from infiltrating his battalion headquarters base camp. He killed half of them with one burst from his submachine gun and held the rest off until reinforcements arrived. During hand-to-hand combat, he had a knife stuck in his leg. He used the same knife to kill the man that stabbed him. When he was in the hospital in Saigon recovering, his colonel helped him get a visa for Bian. Basarte’s younger brother and his wife met her when she landed at Los Angeles International Airport.

Basarte returned to the states a few years later and changed her name to Nguyet, which means ‘moon’.

Return to R & R and the Ladies of the Night


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.

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And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

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