"We Gotta Get Out of this Place"

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

In 1965 The Animals had a hit song entitled “We Gotta Get Out of this Place.” A specific verse in the song quickly became an anthem for soldiers serving in Vietnam. That particular verse or stanza from the song was almost certainly the ending lyrics sung by most performers entertaining troops in Vietnam. The lyrics were simple and profound for every soldier listening and dreaming -- “We gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do. We gotta get out of this place. Girl, there's a better life for me and you.”

“WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE”

By Al Garcia

In 1965 The Animals had a hit song entitled “We Gotta Get Out of this Place.”  A specific verse in the song quickly became an anthem for soldiers serving in Vietnam.  That particular verse or stanza from the song was almost certainly the ending lyrics sung by most performers entertaining troops in Vietnam.  The lyrics were simple and profound for every soldier listening and dreaming -- “We gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do.  We gotta get out of this place.  Girl, there's a better life for me and you.” 

This song usually brought the house down, when every soldier in the audience joined in loudly and meaningfully.  It was the soldier’s freedom anthem.  And the words and the music seemed to make the whole room vibrate in response.  It was always an electric moment when I heard “We gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do.”  It sent a chill through me.  It was a powerful message we were singing.  It was a powerful idea and a moral dilemma, particularly for soldiers to have and to feel in the middle of a war.

Back home, we heard of student protests and demonstrations on streets across the nation.  We heard their voices across the great expanse of Vietnam, and secretly and sometimes even openly, supported and even celebrated their efforts and their stance. 

For those of us in Vietnam, there was no delusion, and certainly no fallacy, that most of us already knew that the war was hopeless, pointless and in vain.  We were there, and we saw the writing on the wall.  It was all simply a diversion and subversion of the truth.  We were not sent in to win a war, or even rescue a broken nation and a people.  Years of struggle and strife had already made it clear this was a fight for a country’s very soul.  So how could an invading force know the depth and passion of a people we never took the time to know or even understand?  Only the people who knew and loved their land, and understood the character and essence of their antiquity and their chronicle of time, could possibly have understood the inevitability of what was to come.  No military strategy or policies conceived in the halls of Washington could begin to change the hearts and minds of shattered and forgotten lives in a nation that Americans only saw as killing fields, where their sons and daughters died hopeless and alone.  It was never about freedom.  It was always, and foremost, about power. 

It was 1969 in Vietnam, and I, like my fellow military journalists and soldiers serving in the Mekong Delta, went about our tasks.  I traveled throughout the Mekong interviewing soldiers, writing stories and waiting out my time like all the rest.  In the United States, 1969 brought the massive Peace Moratorium.  In towns and cities throughout the country, students, working men and women, school children, the young and the old, all took part in rallies and meetings, religious services, and other gatherings geared toward sending a loud and clear message to the powers that be – give peace a chance! 

A symbol of the Moratorium was the wearing of black arm bands to signify their dissent, and to pay tribute to the soldiers killed in the war. 

I remember hearing about the planned Moratorium.  I was in the Public Information Office that day.  Knowing how most of us agreed with the protests against the war, I suggested we too wear black arm bands on that particular day, as a show of support.  Obviously not a good idea!  At least not while wearing a military uniform, and certainly not while in an actual war.  Of course, I knew this.  But I was thinking it and I said it. 

The Deputy PIO officer heard me speaking about this to a couple of my fellow journalists, and he said, “Sounds find if you want to be court martialed.”  And that was the end of our participation in the 1969 Peace Moratorium.  At least we were with them in thought and in spirit, like so many other soldiers who fought and died on October 15, 1969 – the day America spoke up and stood up against the Vietnam war. 

I can still hear the words and feel a jolt of adrenaline just thinking about the profound lyrics, “We gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do.  We gotta get out of this place.”  How many young men had to die, before they stopped writing such songs? 

For too many, it was the last thing they ever did.  They got out of "this place," but they never saw the green, green grass of home again.


Submitted: June 18, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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