Born: Peoria, Illinois, 1950 Served in Vietnam, U.S. Army Medical Corps 8th Medical Detachment, 155th Assault Helicopter Company Ban Me Thout, Central Highlands and Cambodia Medic, 1970
From the Artist
From a letter, 1981: Our cause was not clear to the people over there or here. With no cause and no purpose and no welcome home, we suddenly had no country either. The scar that war left on this country is obviously obnoxious to everyone, and so Vietnam vets are a cause for embarrassment....After the Americans accept us for being Vietnam vets, they'll have to accept us for what we did there. I would like to inform Mr. and Mrs. America that when I came home I hated you. I watched Joe Blow Jr. bleed to death there and here.
I never heard John Wayne or a movie director say "cut" after my combat scenes. A lot of your sons are dead in Cambodia, reported as missing in action.* My biggest crime is that I can't remember their names. No war can be glorious when young men get trashed to keep a few fat capitalists in good cigars.
I went to Vietnam as a medical corpsman with ten weeks of training; five weeks of that was learning how to make beds and wash hands, I was nineteen years old, naive and ready to save the world from Communism. The medic training was a gas. It started out as basic first aid and progressed to basic first aid. I'll tell you this; I was nervous....So Vietnam became on-the-job training. I was assigned to an assault helicopter company. My job as a medic was to be on call. We went by helicopter, ambulance, or jeep; or we ran.
In Vietnam I used to drop people because they became too heavy to carry, and I watched a lot die because I wasn't God. This is not an apology or a confession; it is a worm that has crawled into my head to live and serve as reminder not only on Veterans Day but every day of my life.
*Legally, no American troops were supposed to be in Cambodia or Laos. The United States government did not officially acknowledge their presence in those countries.