Vietnam Stories: The harsh reality of what it was like

For the Monitor
Friday, October 06, 2017

I note that most of the letters in your Vietnam series are from people who never went to ’Nam or were rear echelon soldiers. For every 13 military personnel, only one actually fights. The others are support people.

This means they get dry beds, three hot meals, eight hours of sleep each night, and are in only minimum danger. The other one is a “grunt.”

An average day in the life of a combat infantry man means this – up at 5 a.m., eat fast, put on a 70-pound pack and walk all day in 100 degree heat with 98 percent humidity in either rice paddies, open land (easy targets), or through mountains so steep that one can literally step off the ledge and fall.

You do this from dawn until dusk, and then you go out after dark on an ambush, which means you get maybe three or four hours of sleep. Then you return to the nest of your company and do it all again. When it’s time to rest and it’s still dark, you could lie on a tarantula, a scorpion, a pit viper, or a footlong centipede, with no way of knowing. In the morning, you have to pull 8 to 10 leeches off various parts of your body.

Then there is “jungle rot.” Everything in the jungle has prickers, so you always have cuts all over your body. When you get really filthy (after a week or so), every cut runs thick with slimy green pus. This lasts for months before it goes away – until the next time you get filthy.

Every three weeks or so, they drop off new uniforms because the old ones literally rot off you.

The infantry is the dirtiest, nastiest, rottenest, most dangerous place to be. We’re the ones who do the killing and the dying. The longest time I ever did the above was 62 days.

I hear a lot of talk about, “honor our veterans.” How do you folks do that? Why do you elect rich, draft-dodging cowards like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Trump to the highest offices in the land?

The latter two are famous for yelling, “send in the troops” and “boots on the ground” while they wrangled five deferments from the draft when it was their turn to serve.

David Sanborn lives in Gilmanton.