Summer of Our Discontent

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

The year 1967 is remembered as the 'Summer of Love.’ The hippie phenomenon was in full bloom, the youth culture had finally blossomed and found its voice, and people were wearing flowers in their hair. It was the long hot summer of love and peace and finding one’s self.

SUMMER OF OUR DISCONTENT

By Al Garcia

The year 1967 is remembered as the 'Summer of Love.’  The hippie phenomenon was in full bloom, the youth culture had finally blossomed and found its voice, and people were wearing flowers in their hair.  It was the long hot summer of love and peace and finding one’s self.

For soldiers in Vietnam, 1967 and the years that followed, each summer was a summer of discontent.  Each year advanced the war, or so we were told.  The things that bloomed and blossomed in Vietnam were bright orange clouds of chemical bombs and the sound and the furry of exploding shells, mortars and missiles dropping from the sky.  In Vietnam we too had our long hot summers – not of love, but of a final competition for life or death.  Soldiers were not wearing flowers in their hair, but heavy hot helmets on their heads with names of fallen comrades as reminders of the reason why, because there was no other explanation, motivation or reason why.

I arrived in Vietnam in 1969, almost twenty years after the beginning of our involvement in the war between the North and South.  I arrived a year after the infamous 1968 Tet Offensive, the simultaneous attacks by the North against five major South Vietnamese cities, dozens of military installations and scores of towns and villages throughout the south, resulting in hundreds of American soldiers killed and over 1,300 wounded.  It was like a volcanic eruption in hell.  But instead of lava, it was blood that flowed and American boys and men that fell from the sky.

In 1969 I found myself in the middle of a war being fought by an army of boys and men, disillusioned and discontented.  I was a part of America’s forgotten generation, and soon to be a part of the forgotten soldiers of a lost war.  I was now tasked, however, with writing about and recording the daily lives of an army of young, inexperienced and untested boys and men thrown into a hailstorm of political and hostile warfare, without strategy or direction, other than to persevere.  And I was one of them now.  It was very soon after my arrival in Vietnam that I learned just how prevalent the discontent was among the soldiers, young and old.  It was real and it was palpable wherever I went.  We were all soldiers, but we could still see and hear and feel the truth that was happening around us, and it was disheartening.  We were your sons, your brothers, your husbands, your fathers, your friends, or just the kids next door.  And no one had told us or warned us about the reality of war, other than to kill or be killed.  No one had prepared us for the emotional and mental assault we would experience and would haunt us to our dying day.

It is not easy to explain or describe the essence of war, much less the feelings and emotions that flood the mind and psyche of those that must confront its actuality each day for months and even years.  It’s not easy to put into words what fear feels like and even tastes like, when you feel a sudden dryness in your mouth and in the depth of you.  Words cannot capture, much less encapsulate, the hollowness one feels of loss upon a battlefield of any type at any time.  It is a feeling no one should ever feel, much less accept as part of having lived. 

The Vietnam War is now only history found in books or seen in films of long-ago times.  It is a war described in only words and numbers and nothing more, for the nation has forgotten the emotion and the pain.  For generations now, Vietnam is like the faceless names etched on a long black granite wall – a polished trophy, standing cold and silent with forgotten faces and disregarded dreams.  A monument to our wastefulness of everything and everyone we profess to hold so dear.  For those of us who experienced the war and returned to the emptiness that greeted us, Vietnam remains a part of us.  Each day we see the rising sun we are filled with sorrow and regret.  We question why we were left to see another day, when so many of our friends and comrades are now only names on a granite wall.  That is the true legacy of war.  Contempt and discontent. 

For many of us, Vietnam was the summer of our discontent.  So many of us missed out on the hippie revolution and experiencing the youthful indiscretions of being young and careful and alive.  The long hot summer of love and peace and finding one’s self bypassed us and forgot us.  Instead, it was our sweat and blood and even lives that defined our lives in that long-ago summer of our discontent.


Submitted: May 23, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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