Truth Doesn't Always Set Us Free

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

War is always ugly and unclean. The Vietnam war was no exception. However, there was one major difference with this particular conflict. There never was, nor had there been, an intention to win. And, unfortunately, it was evident to the boys and men in the fields, swamps and jungles of Vietnam.

TRUTH DOESN’T ALWAYS SET US FREE

By Al Garcia

Who were the young American boys and men who were fighting and dying in Vietnam in the 1960s?  Who were these “soldiers” who were protecting the homeland and advancing democracy? 

I got to meet them, and talk to them, and even served with them.  And, what I saw and what I learned was no surprise.  Yet, back home in America, there was a different picture of these boys and men.  A picture of strong, dedicated and resolute soldiers doing their job.  And their job was killing and maiming Vietnamese for the glory of the America way.  And, as I learned, that could not have been further from the truth.

War is always ugly and unclean.  The Vietnam war was no exception.  However, there was one major difference with this particular conflict.  There never was, nor had there been, an intention to win.  And, unfortunately, it was evident to the boys and men in the fields, swamps and jungles of Vietnam. 

Almost without exception, every soldier I spoke to and met was of the same opinion, “Why won’t they let us do our job and get this war over with?”  It was universally felt that America was “holding back.”  We were not pushing or rushing to “get the job done.”  To every man I met, it seemed that we were merely standing in place, marching to nowhere – not moving, not advancing, not getting the job done.  And yet, back home in America, we were winning the war.  We were advancing.  We were pushing the enemy back.  And, for those of us in Vietnam, it seemed just the opposite.  And we were in just the right place to know. 

It is hard to fight for what you don’t even know you’re fighting for.  It’s even harder to believe that your own country would deliberately put you in harm’s way, simply for politics and not for a true and just cause.  American soldiers in Vietnam did not want to believe that.  We couldn’t.  We were there.  We were fighting for our lives.  Yet everyone I spoke with felt confined and restrained, and unable to advance against the enemy, as they felt they should and could.  Orders were orders.  In this case – there were no orders to advance, or to win the war. 

As I traveled the Mekong Delta, I became disillusioned with what I was seeing and what I was hearing.  If I felt that way this way myself as I visited the boys and men at different outposts and camps throughout the area, I could only imagine the feelings of the men who were living that disillusionment every single day, and every lonely night.  I was able to move around and go from place to place, while they remained in place, getting shot at or worse, on a daily basis, if not on an hourly basis.

As a writer, I wanted to scream out.  To yell out.  To do the job I was tasked with doing, to write about what was going on in this undeclared war.  But I couldn’t.  Just like the soldiers in the field could not advance or do the job they wanted to do.  It was against policy.  It was not what we were there to do. 

In my mind, we lost the war long before 1975, when it finally and officially ended, in our defeat.  I say “our defeat,” and not the defeat of the Vietnamese, purposefully.  It ended way back in the early 1960s, when our soldiers in the field realized it was all a political game and not a war of substance or principle.  It was a political war.  It was a money war.  It was never our war.  And yet, thousands upon thousands died, and our President, our Congressmen and our Senators, kept telling the American public – “We have to continue the fight so that our soldiers will not have died in vain.”  How many times did we hear that?  How many times did America believe it?  They were hollow, empty words.  In Vietnam, we heard those words and recoiled at the thought that they would be believed back home – and they were. 

This was the war that I saw and heard first-hand.  These were the soldiers that were in harm’s way day in and day out.  I found that these were strong, dedicated and patriotic boys and men, that for some unknown and unfathomable reason, were not being allowed to do what they were there for – to win a war.  Every single boy and man in Vietnam knew deep down inside, that given the opportunity and the order, they could do the job, do it well, and end the war.  Instead, they sadly realized, it was not to be. 

And in the end, America walked away.  However, the boys and men who did return, came back disillusioned and betrayed.  They knew the truth of what they had seen and what they had not been allowed to do.  And deep inside, they knew that they had been deceived just as had the American public.  For them, simply walking way did not end the war. 

And they returned home.  Not everyone.  Just them.  Just the lucky ones, me among them -- the lucky ones who would always know the truth.  A lingering truth that keeps haunting them to this day – because truth doesn’t always set us free. 


Submitted: June 12, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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