When the Lights Went Out

Reads: 45  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

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

In Vietnam the days were long, hot and humid. The nights brought with it the shadows of despair and the sounds of solitude. Sometimes, when the lights went out the night unveiled the demons within for many of us.

WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT

By Al Garcia

In Vietnam the days were long, hot and humid.  The nights brought with it the shadows of despair and the sounds of solitude.  Sometimes, when the lights went out the night unveiled the demons within for many of us.

In the land that God forgot, an American GI’s top priority was simply to survive.  The body can show its strength and even excel beyond our own expectations, especially when pushed and shoved to the limits of human endurance and beyond.  The mind, on the other hand, is fragile and breakable.  And so, it was in the darkness of the night that many minds deceived the body and the passions of boys and men in uniform, and sought its own release from the fears, the doubts and the uncertainties of each day that seemed to extend and expand one’s inability to comprehend and accept the reality of possible finality.

For a great many, alcohol and drugs were the means to find an escape to the serenity of any place, anywhere but here.  It was never hard to find a group to fit into, because there were only two to choose from.  The marijuana smokers and the beer drinkers.  The marijuana smokers included other drugs as well, pills of every kind and of course opium and heroin.  For drinkers, there was always plenty of beer of course, but also the harder stuff like drinking cocktails or straight shots until the wee hours of the early morning or until sleep finally came.  And Uncle Sam?  He always looked the other way but he always made sure that compounds and outposts everywhere were always fully stocked with beer and booze and cigarettes.  And as for the drugs, the local Vietnamese dealers made sure everyone in need was taken care of as well.  It’s always been this way in war.  Demand and supply.  We demanded and they supply – be it Uncle Sam or local dealers.  Whatever it is we need, we get.  Vietnam was no different than any other theatre of war before or after. 

You always knew what group an individual in any camp belonged to, whether you found yourself in a more sophisticated military compound in the big cities of Saigon or Can Tho or a small mountain outpost near the Cambodian border.  I was with the beer drinkers, and my anesthetic of choice was vodka or gin. 

It was easy to spot the druggies anywhere you went.  When the lights went out you could see small groups of boys and men disappear into bunkers in groups to smoke their joints or indulge in other substance abuse.  Drugs were cheap and readily available right outside any base or outpost and certainly at any local bar off base.  Very potent marijuana could be had for about $1.50, a steal compared to prices back home in the U.S.  I guess you could say this was one of the “perks” of war.  Cheap booze and cheap drugs.  Add cheap women and you complete the picture of Americans at war.

When the lights go out the boys come out to play.  Most used the local canteens at the posts or camps to drink away their fears for another night, while others used and abused the booze and the drugs, and began down a spiral road that they could not leave behind.  They were another casualty of war.  A war lost to a mind seeking refuge from the anxiety and uncertainty of just knowing there would be another day. 

It's always when the lights went out that the demons came out, and for many young men in war, the demons this time were real and sometimes everylasting.


Submitted: June 06, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:


Facebook Comments

More War and Military Short Stories

Other Content by A.Garcia