American Dream: Thoughts, images, songs, links to places near and dear, and whatever else
(a work in progress – like I am)
To Dwight Laws, KIA 10/30/66 inside the company perimeter near Hill 55
To Lurch Donohue, KIA 3/1/67 in a deserted ville near Route 4
To Jerry Georges, KIA 3/23/67 at the Hill 55 bridge
They were good men. We were young. They could have lived a long time.
Here is the whole story of how Donohue was killed. For the first 10 or so years after I came home, there was never a day that I didn’t run this through my mind at least once – like some kind of video. I gave my compulsive rumination a name: How Donohue Got It. Then in 1978 I spent a week in a retreat with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Stephen Levine, and others. That was the first time I told this aloud. The second time was with my brother, Jeff (who identified Donohue’s body back at battalion). I seldom think of this now.
We were on patrol north of the bend in Route 4, the dirt road that went by C Company’s position. There were no civilians left in this area (where 1/9 got its name, The Walking Dead) – a ghostly overgrown area of deserted villes, fields, and woods. Donohue was my A-gunner. We were digging in the first night of the patrol and he wasn’t doing his part of the digging. I asked him what was going on and he had trouble answering, but finally said he wasn’t going to make it. He was really sad. I said something like, “Bullshit, man – we’ve been here too long to not make it.” I dug us in and gave him a smoke (though I don’t remember that he smoked – I’m not sure about this – maybe I just wish I’d given him a cigarette). But he was inconsolable. He knew.
The next day we saddled up and I gave him my machine-gun. Not too much greater love than to give up your gun for another man – because my gun was my hope, my friend, my ticket home. I loved that gun; and I was pretty good with it. Please allow me to introduce myself … We moved out, into a deserted ville. I was walking left flank point and came to a hedgerow of bamboo with a closed gate the only way through. Going through that gate was death – no question about it, there was a mine somewhere with the gate. I was crouched down, trying to figure out a way to stay on line and not be killed when there was a powerful explosion off to my right and someone started yelling, “Corpsman up! Corpsman up!” In a heartbeat I knew Donohue was the explosion.
I took off up the trail to the right and there was a man standing frozen in the trail still shouting for a corpsman and my recollection is that I ran literally up and over him (though how could that be?) and there was Donohue. He was on the ground with both legs blown off. I was beside him and saw that one stump was left with shattered bone sticking out and his guts were spilled out of where the other one had been. He was still alive! He was moaning and moving around a little. I was on my knees beside him and we were receiving fire by then. I was struggling with whether to go ahead and finish him off, because he was definitely going to die and even if he didn’t die, what was the use of going on like that. Then life went out of him. I’m grateful I didn’t kill him. I joined in on the firefight and then it was quiet; and then I had to find my gun as it wasn’t by the body. I remember walking through the bushes and trees looking for the gun and there were little pink/grey gobbets of Donohue everywhere and on my face and hands too. The smell. I found one of his feet before I found my gun. The foot was heavy and the gun was out of commission. For some reason this whole deal was the last straw – just too much. I mean, what for?
I pretty much lost hope after that. We had been in the field for about eight months: out on patrol 3-4 days, back to company for a day, out for a night ambush, another day in, and back out on patrol 3-4 days – week after week, month after month and every day, at least one casualty. I realized there were hardly any of the original men left. By then it was a company of mostly fucking new guys and there was nobody I wanted to even talk to.
I was also having weird thoughts. Like maybe I could just walk out of the perimeter a couple of klicks to a ville we’d been through a few times where a one-legged girl lived (lotta one-legged people in them parts) and I could take her an adjustable crutch so she wouldn’t have to walk in the bent and twisted way she walked with her too-short stick of a crutch. A time to heal. Or maybe I could slip out and maybe run across a VC or two and instead of killing each other we could sit down in a clearing somewhere and drink a bottle of whiskey together and have some smokes and talk about our girlfriends. You know, have a good time. Be normal. A time to laugh. These sounded like really good ideas to me and I was thinking about them a lot – all the time. Now I realize that I’ve spent much of the past 40 years taking a crutch to that girl – and I have miles to go before I sleep.
A few weeks after Donohue was killed we were out on a night ambush and ran into another patrol from our company. The word had not been passed that we were going to meet. I was on point and when I saw the first man in the dark – like about 10 feet away, man – I started shooting. I shot the point man of the other patrol in the leg, hip, and chest (lucky for him I was carrying an M-14 instead of the 60); and the man behind me shot him in the chest with a grenade launcher. I remember watching one of my rounds (tracer) hit him and fly off at an angle – which was pretty far out. We were so close that the M-79 round didn’t spin enough to arm, hence didn’t explode and ended up lodged in his neck. Incredibly, he lived. There was an article in Stars and Stripes about the surgery to remove the M-79 round. I don’t remember the name of the man I shot, except that we called him the Red-Headed Mexican and he was a good guy. I remember (before I shot him) him going crazy in Dodge City (Thuy Bo) and charging a VC position right after Zamora was killed. Three helicopters shot down right there that day. 13 KIA and 66 WIA that operation. Keep on rockin in the free world. And now I know his name because a few weeks ago I read a copy of the article about the incident! Raymond Escalera. The article said I shot him only once. There was an investigation and not long after I was transferred out of 1/26.
Thank you Jeff. To everything, Turn! Turn! Turn! there is a season, Turn! Turn! Turn! And a time to every purpose under heaven, Turn! Turn! Turn!
Sometimes, in a dream
I started at MCRD San Diego, then Infantry Training Regiment & Machine Gun School; Camp Pendleton & las Pulgas for Special Landing Force training. On to Subic Bay & Olongapo (oh, how we partied, like doomed youth) in the Philippines; first landing southern South Vietnam (1st casualties); second landing Deckhouse & Prairie for serious battles (photo from Operation Prairie – yeah, man, it’s real); Hill 55 & Dodge City (snipers, mines, occasional firefights & some battles – see above); Dong Ha & Hill Fights (168 KIA, but it took awhile); also at Con Thien, Gio Linh, and Khe Sanh, though not for long in these last three. If there was a sound track to this section it would be Sympathy for the Devil, maybe Gimme Shelter. We won every battle and beat back very attack, but America lost its will and lost the war. Nice work, so-called “greatest generation.” All told, 13 months in combat (well, you know, not every day) in the two provinces (Quang Nam & Quang Tri) accounting for 25% of the US KIA (I think there are 20 or more provinces in VN); Danang, The World. God. I’m alive. From war to this: Stories from la clinica and now this: Return to Southeast Asia 2005-2009 and now, beginning in 2007, return to backpacking.
Leslie. What does it mean to be married to someone who really does do miracles? I can tell you. We started when we were 16 and here we are today, 45 years later. This from the dedication to my book on palliative care: I lay dreaming that I was in an outdoor marketplace, watching a group of musicians set up to play. One by one they began to tune, softly. Then in a soft clear voice, a woman sang the words, “Who knows … where the time goes …” and at that moment I awoke and said, “To Leslie.” A true vision. Our life of love and growth.
My son, David’s seldom updated site (writing) and his other site (travel, 2006). David’s former orchestra: Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra – David played viola in GDYO, the St. Mark’s School of Texas orchestra, and the Institute for Strings. Beautiful sounds. Now he’s at Rice University, (well, actually, he just graduated – 2006) & now at Berkeley in 2009.
Current journals are listed as years on the home page.
Common Grace Ministries: Partners on the streets – Alison, steadfast love – and Beuy, Martin, Mike, Han, Nehemiah, Junghoo, Chris, Kara, Jenny, Mark-O, Julie, Allison, and behind/above/through it all, our Savior. Wednesday morning Bible study at First Presbyterian Church (our church in Dallas).
A message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps: Our proud legacy of sacrifice, courage, and victory against any foe. Always Faithful & First to Fight. Full text listing of all Medal of Honor citations.
Links and thoughts on Israel, Palestinians, the Middles East, and Terrorism. “The Day of Jihad is the Day of Blood.”
Blessings International: Wonderful source for medications for missions. Faith in action counting boxes, loading pallets, etc. Chris & Kara Wynn – important in our life. Friends overseas: Serious Bible study tools at Crosswalk, http://www.bible.org/, World Vision (Right, we do have a vision).
Cambodian Outreach Mission (hey, how about an update): Mosquito nets, condoms, medications, education – make a difference! Lance Rasbridge (the man who makes the Mission happen) and I have worked together for many years. Small project.
Gardeners in Community Development – My friend, Don Lambert (of Borneo, Nepal, Berkeley, etc. fame) has kept on truckin’ through a lot more thin than thick to make this beautiful place happen in our community. A time to sow and a time to reap. The coolest nursery is Doan’s, 622 E. Beltline Rd., Irving – 972-790-3500. No website. North Haven and Nicholson-Hardie are good – Good rose and perennial selection; knowledgeable staff (especially at NH). Rohde’s is good place for organically grown. Great organic fertilizer at good price. Good prices on old garden roses. My Cottage Garden, which is also kind of a slow-moving gardening journal – maybe its a blog!
Vietnam War Photographs – Good photograph site (they’re missionaries, too). Inside the Cone of Fire, others . . . break on through, to the other side . . . through these fields of destruction . . .
Brothers in Arms (Dire Straits – better music than poetry – Our Song)
These mist covered mountains – Are home for me now – But my home is the low lands – And always will be
Someday you’ll return to – Your valley and your farms – And you’ll no longer burn – To be brothers in arms
Through these fields of destruction – Baptisms of fire – I’ve witnessed your suffering – As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad – In the fear and alarm – You did not desert me – My brothers in arms
Haiphong Red Famboyant: Women of steel
Photographs (and more) of Burma – We see the beauty of the land and people and we honor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (below to right, in better days) – who is paying a heavy price for freedom. Free Burma – Free Aung San Suu Kyi. Read about/see the Karen & Kachin (who fought with great distinction with Stillwell, Merrill, Slim and others against the Japanese – and now some seeking freedom in the U.S. Welcome!
Old East Dallas Restaurants and Other Places – My recommendations
CGFA Art – The best art site I’ve found. When you find a picture you like, right click on it and select Set as Wallpaper. Also check out Quang-Tuan Luong’s site for great photographs of Southeast Asia, U.S. National parks, and climbing in Yosemite.
Fighting against child predators – The Preda Foundation: Grass roots organization (grass roots page, too) in the Philippines fighting against the sexual exploitation of children. Aso see Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking site.
Rage Against the Machine – Against the Culture of Death – Remember Kitty Genovese – Rage Against the Machine – Against the Culture of Death – Remember the Girls in the Birmingham Church – Rage Against the Machine – Against the Culture of Death – Remember Thich Quang Duc – Rage Against the Machine – Against the Culture of Death – Remember the Warsaw Ghetto and Birkenau and Auschwitz and Buchenwald and and and – Rage Against the Machine – Against the Culture of Death – Remember Viola Liuzzo – Rage Against the Machine – Against the Culture of Death – Remember Oscar Romero – Rage Against the Machine – Against the Culture of Death – Remember Tienamen Square – Rage Against the Machine – Against the Culture of Death – Remember Tuol Sleng – Rage Against the Machine – Against the Culture of Death – Remember Todd Beamer – “I love you. I will never forget you. I will tell my daughter about you when she grows up and can understand” (written on the coffin of a woman murdered in El Salvador) – Rage Against the Machine – Against the Culture of Death – Brothers and Sisters – Rage Against the Machine – Against the Culture of Death – and . . .
A Poem for Good Old Goldy
A House Dog’s Grave
I’ve changed my ways a little; I cannot now Run with you in the evenings along the shore, Except in a kind of dream; and you, if you dream a moment, You see me there.
So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door, Where I used to scratch to go out or in, And you’d soon open; leave on the kitchen floor, The marks of my drinking pan.
I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do, On the warm stone, Nor at the foot of your bed; No, all the nights through I lie alone.
But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet, Outside your window where firelight so often plays, And where you sit to read and, I fear, often grieving for me– Every night your lamplight lies on my place.
You, man and woman, live so long, it is — Hard to think of you ever dying. A little dog would get tired, living so long. I hope that when you are lying — Under the ground like me your lives will appear — As good and joyful as mine. No, dears, that’s too much hope; You are not so well cared for — And never have known the passionate undivided — Fidelities that I knew. Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided… But to me you were true.
You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend. I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures — To the end and far past the end. If this is my end, I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.
by Robinson Jeffers
Awhile back a woman brought a 22 month-old girl in to our clinic. The child had two problems: (1) a rash that turned out to be genital warts and (2) a prescription for a medication for the warts. The medication cost $140+ and the woman could not afford it. She had been given the Rx at a clinic (the Reach Clinic) that treats children and infants who have been sexually abused. Dr. Garcia called the clinic and was told that the prescription can be filled there and an appointment was made for the woman to bring the child in next week.
We followed-up and discovered that the woman did not keep the appointment. Reach staff are working on this and so are we. One way or another, working together, we’ll see the problem through to resolution and medicine for the child. Some other things may also need to happen. If needed, resources from the men in my Bible study group will be used.
The woman is a relative of the girl and has custody of her – or maybe not – there is a lot here that is unclear. We’ll see how this unfolds. Regardless, this shrine is to that woman, to others like her, to the child, to the Reach staff, and to the staff at Jonathan’s Place. Sometimes I could cry.
Now (beginning 2003) we are providing intake exams for children going to Jonathan’s Place – where children go when they really have been removed from parents.
Rock & roll has been important in my life. Lot of falsity in it, of course. But a lot of truth and a lot of catharsis, too – and sometimes that catharsis is the greatest truth needed. Here’s to you, beautiful lady taking care of the child.
Let’s drink to the hard working people — Let’s drink to the lowly of birth — Raise your glass to the good not the evil — Let’s drink to the salt of the earth
Say a prayer for the common foot soldier — Spare a thought for his back breaking work — Say a prayer for his wife and his children — Who burn the fires and who still till the earth
(From Salt of the Earth, Jagger & Richards – best version is with Guns & Roses)
You are the salt of the earth . . . you are the light of the world …
Golly bum (as my friend Ron – warrior, sniper, cop, do-gooder – would say), here you are, apparently with plenty of time on your hands, wandering through this personal page and all of a sudden, finding the answer to the old forgotten question: do you know why you were born? And the answer is, to be healed and to live accordingly. That was easy, wasn’t it.
I usually depend on my own thoughts and words, but this says so clearly part of what I want to say to you. And of course, I know how fond you are of Bob Dylan . . .
May God bless and keep you always, May your wishes all come true, May you always do for others And let others do for you. May you build a ladder to the stars And climb on every rung, May you stay forever young, Forever young, forever young, May you stay forever young.
May you grow up to be righteous, May you grow up to be true, May you always know the truth And see the lights surrounding you. May you always be courageous, Stand upright and be strong, May you stay forever young, Forever young, forever young, May you stay forever young.
May your hands always be busy, May your feet always be swift, May you have a strong foundation When the winds of changes shift. May your heart always be joyful, May your song always be sung, May you stay forever young, Forever young, forever young, May you stay forever young.
It was wonderful to see you, to be with you. Oh, my son, I love you. I cannot love any more than this. I understand that part of the nature of life is moving on. It is the way of all living things. I see you unfolding, growing, becoming & I am filled with joy – and sadness, too. It is the way of all sentient beings. Not too hard to understand, I expect. So I’m trying myself to grow. But I know that these were the best years of my life. Its okay, though – a few steps down takes Mom & me to a pretty good place! I am so proud & grateful you are my son.
Fall, 2004 – from an email to David
… also, I was talking with the night chaplain at Parkland (yeah, that’s right, the night chaplain, i.e., they really do have a grand total of one!) a couple of days ago & he brought up the idea of talking with one’s son about “things I meant to tell you.” What a wonderful idea. I just wanted you to know that I cannot think of anything I have left unsaid to you (that should be said). Of course, there are many things I would love to talk more with you about, but really, I do not think I have much in the way of unfinished business.