John Kerry, Purple Hearts, PTSD and WMDs

John Wayne movies molded my young brain, and fired my imagination. As a child, I dreamed of being a hero. Then at nineteen, I went to war and my thinking changed drastically. Narrow escapes from death ended my hero dreams, and I was fortunate to arrive home from Vietnam without a Purple Heart.

They say close only counts in horseshoes. I say it also counts in war. This morning, I awoke thinking about John Kerry and how his reputation was smeared during his presidential campaign.

 John Kerry fought in Vietnam. He was wounded three times. They were not serious wounds, but they drew blood. Even flesh wounds earn Purple Hearts. One wireman in my communications platoon was awarded a Purple Heart. While in the field sleeping in his shelter half, his unit came under attack. Mortar rounds dropped in like hail. Half asleep, he scrambled out, tripped on one of the lines that held his shelter half up, fell and hit his head on something.  He needed stitches. His sergeant put him in for a Purple Heart.

One of the tankers in that action was scrambling to get into his tank. In his rush to get inside the protection the tank offered, he slammed the turret hatch on one of his hands and crushed all the bones in it. He was also awarded a Purple Heart. He earned a ticket home too, and was discharged from the Marines with a VA disability for the crushed hand.

Bob, a history teacher I taught with, was in the Navy and served in Swift Boats like Kerry. Bob was the mechanic that kept the twin engines running. He told me once that the safest place in that swift boat was between the twin engines. On the water, the swift boat was an easy target and the metal hull was thin.

Those of us that did not bleed during combat and never earned Purple Hearts were still changed by narrow escapes from death. I had several and came home with a case of PTSD that still haunts me decades later.

John Kerry’s flesh wounds show that he came close to death. Yet, during his campaign for president, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth cast doubt on his courage, and George W. Bush, the man who used family influence to get into the National Guard and avoid combat, somehow became a hero, walked into the White House and served as president for eight years starting two wars. I have no idea what kind of president John Kerry would have been. I wonder if he would have used bogus evidence for WMDs and invaded Iraq.

Abraham Lincoln said “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”

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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.

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

Vietnam Rations and Nutrition Today

There was a mess hall in Chu Lai, Vietnam inside the company area and, of course, I ate there but not often. That mess hall served three companies. Except for Thanksgiving, the food wasn’t that good. It was powdered eggs for breakfast and similar chow the rest of the day.

Most of the time, I ate C-Rations and heated them with a can of Sterno. If I didn’t have Sterno, I opened a can of crackers or chocolate, took out the contents and vented the bottom, stuffed the can with dirt and soaked the dirt with gasoline then lit a fire and heated the main course on that makeshift stove.

When I was in the field driving a radio Jeep, I’d pop the hood and set the can on the manifold until the food was bubbling. The engine was kept running to power the radio behind the front seats. My favorite C-ration was the ham and limas. Since few in my platoon liked that flavor, I usually ended with more than one can. The chocolate was horrible–not sweet by today’s standards.

Since GIs were eating that chocolate in World War II, there must have been a lot less sugar in candy then. I’ve seen movies where WWII GIs are rolling through towns in Europe or Japan handing out United States military chocolate to kids. That C-ration chocolate wouldn’t sell well today—American kids would throw it in the trash.

Today, the average American eats (156) one hundred and fifty-six pounds of sugar per person annually, that’s thirty-one, five-pound bags. The high school where I taught installed soda machines a few years before I left in 2005. I was told that two thousand sodas were being stocked in those school machines twice a week and there were only two thousand students. I read that in 1600, sugar consumption in the UK was seven pounds per person. In 1850, that was up to fifty-two pounds. In America, diabetes has jumped more than five hundred percent since the 1950s, and kids are getting adult diabetes. Need I say more?

The C-rations I ate in 1966 were stamped on the side of the box with 1945.  Every box of C-rations came with four, free cigarettes. I smoked a few but didn’t like what it did to my taste buds, so I gave the cigarettes away. I imagine many young American men were hooked on cigarettes fighting America’s modern wars until the day came when tobacco was removed from military rations. At nineteen, I didn’t know a thing about nutrition. I’ll bet there wasn’t much health left in those cans after sitting for more than twenty years.

Discover Eating out in Vietnam 1966

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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.

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

Eating Out in Vietnam – 1966

Today, many Americans eat horribly and are willing to die for food. The result, lifestyle diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are killing hundreds of thousands yearly. Those bad habits were in Vietnam too. One Saturday, I became the designated non-eater when several Marines from my company wanted to leave the bunker and concertina barbed-wire safety of our base camp and walk into the nearest village to eat something other than twenty-year-old C-rations, reconstituted eggs and drink the daily ration of warm, canned Budweiser beer.

Before we left Okinawa, everyone in our company watched films about the dangers of having sex or eating native food in Vietnam. We were told there was a risk of being poisoned or having ground glass sprinkled into the food. After all, we were fighting a war with a phantom enemy, farmers by day and warriors at night. The cook could have been a Viet Cong who couldn’t miss the opportunity to kill a few enemies by adding something to what he or she cooked.

Since I refused to eat native food, I was asked to come along. If any Marines eating the Vietnamese food got sick or died, my job was to shoot the Vietnamese that fed them and any suspects. Six of us went to the village and five ate. The five that ate stacked their weapons and sat at the table eating what was put in front of them.

Flies and bugs buzzed around their food and mouths. There was no way to tell what kind of meat they were eating. The Vietnamese near our base camp ate anything that crawled, walked or flew like dogs, cats, snakes, rats, or monkeys. Hygiene was nonexistent. Human waste was added to the paddies and fields to help fertilize the crops. Even if there were no poison or ground glass added to the food, there was always the risk of coming down with dysentery or some other god-awful disease.

I didn’t sit. I stood in a corner with my back to the wall and held my weapon with both hands. I kept my eyes on the entrance and on every Vietnamese in the place. The safety to my M14 was off and my finger was on the trigger.

Chu Lai was not Saigon. The roads were dirt. The villages were small and the floors inside were also dirt. Those five fellow Marines that wanted to eat something “fresh” may have lacked common sense taking such a risk, but no one died or got sick that day. I watched them finish eating and drink the cool, locally brewed beer from glass bottles. I didn’t have to shoot anyone—not that day. I had no regrets.

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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.

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

“The Hurt Locker” and IEDs in Vietnam

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.

Discover One Reason Why “we” Wore the Uniform and Put “our” Lives on the Line

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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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Hearing Loss thanks to the M-48 Patton Tank and the 155 mm self-propelled howitzers

The quiet was almost total this morning at 3:00 AM.

There were no crickets, and there was no sound of intruders.  I lay in bed listening for a long time, maybe an hour before I drifted off again.

The familiar static was there that is the only sound when there is no noise outside my head. I’m not sure I’ve heard total silence since Vietnam.

During early morning moments such as this, I remember one night in Vietnam when I lost my sight and hearing.

In Chu Lai, Vietnam, I was a field radio operator in the 1st Tank Battalion, First Marine Division.

The M-48 Patton had a 90 mm cannon. The M-48 was separated into three compartments: the driver’s compartment, the fighting compartment where the gunner, loader, and tank commander [TC] fought, and the engine compartment.

Above the main gun was a 1 million candlepower Xenon searchlight. This light had both a white light and an infrared mode. It was bore sighted with the main gun and gun sights so that it could be used to illuminate a target at night.

Hearing those 90 mm cannons firing may have contributed to the static in my hearing today.

However, one night, a battery of  M-109 (called the Paladin), 155 mm self-propelled howitzers gets the most credit for that static.

That battery fired a surprise mission.

At two AM, I was standing watch in a hillside bunker above the M-109s, and I was struggling to stay alert and awake.

Without warning, the battery fired.

What little hair I had on my head stood at attention, and the combined flashes left me blind for a moment with dancing spots staying longer, but the loud buzzing in my ears stayed for hours.

My head felt as if it had been stuffed with cotton. All sound was dampened for some time.

By the way, field radio operators did not ride in tanks. We had a jeep with a canvas top. A large radio filled the space behind the front seats.

When we weren’t driving around in old WWII vintage radio jeeps, we hoofed it with a radio strapped to our backs and our old batteries were often dead before we used them.

The radio we arrived with in Vietnam with was a PRC 10. There was no armor to protect field-radio operators in the field. Field-radio operators were usually the first to be shot in an ambush.

The patrol leader was the second priority target.

Discover Children as Soldiers and Weapons of Death

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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.

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”

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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.

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

Ka-Bar Sharp

I do not read newspapers or watch the daily news. The news in America is too violent.

When I read or hear news that reminds me of the statistics that say one out of three Americans will be the victims of violent crime during their lives, that flips the PTSD switch in my head, and I go on uber-alert.

For readers that don’t know, PTSD is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Studies show that people from three professions can suffer from PTSD: veterans, teachers and flight controllers.

Since I served in Vietnam in the Marines, then went into the classroom for thirty years teaching in gang-infested schools surrounded by graffiti slimed neighborhoods, I qualify.

The thing is, I don’t have nightmares from the classroom. None of my tough students tried to kill me.

My flashbacks come from the rice paddies where I fought mostly on night patrols and ambushes.

Before I go to bed, I reach for the hidden Ka-Bar (Marine Corps knife) to make sure it was still there. I’d keep a pistol or riot gun close, but I don’t want to wake in the dark and shoot my wife or daughter before I have time to think, so I keep those weapons out of easy reach.

That brings me to what has kept me awake this week.

My teenage daughter broke up with her boyfriend for the fifth time. I hope this is the last time with this boy.

You see, I learned in Vietnam that every human is capable of extreme violence, and strong, negative emotions bring out that violence. When I feel there is any possible threat to my family, I don’t sleep well.

When I’m on high alert, I’m lucky to sleep an hour in one night. Sometimes, I don’t sleep at all. Every noise wakes me.

Before going to bed, I make my rounds. I check every door, every lock. I check all the windows to make sure they are latched. After I get in bed, I make sure that Ka-Bar is still there. Touching the handle of that deadly seven-inch blade reassures me. I also know where the shotguns are, my thirty-eight caliber revolver and the automatic with the ten-round clip. I have weapons salted all over the house hidden and out of sight but easy to reach.

It may sound strange, but I can watch violent movies like Alien or The Terminator and they do not set me off, because I know they are fiction.

However, the TV news is based on real stories, and that keeps me awake nights. I wish my daughter would find guys to go out with who aren’t so dysfunctional.

Discover the Sexual Revolution in China

_______________________

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!”