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Everyone remained fidgety in their seats trying to make themselves comfortable under the gaze of the master Sargent. He maintained his composure looking at each one of us playing with his new cigarette lighters. We were all flicking them and opening and closing the lids. There were a few guys still talking but the slow semblance of quiet was taking notice in the room. There was a quiet soon that reminded you of a church, when mass was being said. Everyone soon was transfixed to the gaze of the master Sargent. The intensity seem to increase with the slow movement of time. The hush and the quiet was growing into a battle of nerve.
Then with a voice that rang out with thunder he said, that,"everyone that played with or flicked his lighter was dead or wounded."We all looked at each other for the present moment. There was more fear of the bellowing voice than the profound meaning that had been imposed to us. Then again in a different mannerhe said, that, "twenty of us would be either wounded or dead."
There was that gaze again that stared at each one of us. It was full of a past fury that had been called upon to make the point real. It spoke of the master Sargent's knowledge of Viet Nam. The past experience that his hash marks on his left arm presented. There was in fact that essence of the great warrior that presented itself. You respected the man even though you had never seen him before that day.
He leaned forward on the podiumand began to lectureus on Viet Nam. First of allhe began to explain why we were all either wounded or dead. The bluntness and the open frank honesty made you want to absorb every word he had to say. " This is VIET NAM and you better learn fast." Further and onward he began to explain the meaning behind the lighters. We passed them forward in a sort of solemn way. Sort of the way a dog feels after knowing it did something wrong but not what. No one couldreally comprehend the meaning the Sargent was trying to get across. Then he began to lecture us on the war. First you must always be alert to anything that seems unnatural. That which goes against your basic instincts. You must learn to live like an animal. Have that sixth sense at work all the time. This will help you stay alive.
The Vietnamese people are your enemy. They live their basic instinct of living food, clothing and shelter. They are not accustomed to the luxuries that the Americans brought over to Viet Nam. There is a simple genuineness about each one of them. They have the ability to make booby-traps out of almost anything that you throw away as garbage. They will make a very efficientweapon of war. Some will kill you immediately or others will kill you in a period of time. One item hementioned in particular. The cookie tins that were sent over in the care packages sent from the states. The Americans in there normal course of every day events, will through the cookie tin in the garbage.
Your enemy will gather that tin put a few pounds of explosive on the bottom. Then he will search further in the garbage and pull out all the metal you threw away. This he would make into nice missiles that could tear your inside out. Therefore out of what you threw away in the garbage, he sent back to you as his weapon. The same way he filled the lighters with C-4 explosives.
Any object, beer cans, nails,wire, glass, bolts & nuts, screws, etc. What he will do is bury this along a trail that he knows is used by the American soldier. Whatthe total out come is that he has made a very efficient land mine with which to kill you with some day. He went on to show us some of the booby traps. There wasa M-14 round of ammunition on top of a nail supported by three nails. What this would be used for is tryand wound a soldier through the soul or heel of the foot. It was another land mine. Then he would have to be shipped back to the states in all likely hood.
There was an underlying psychology to this also he explained. The Viet Cong always tried to inflict heavy casualties in this manner. It saved their man power and started to implant an imprint in the American mind. The basic psychology was to undermine the family unit of the United States. This instilled bitter hatred for the war and its results upon the young men who were sent back wounded or dead. Time and bitter patience were the two best allies of the North Vietnamese. They used these resources to there advantage. They knew the survival instinct of the Americans would come into play upon the casualties, killed in action, missing in action, and P.O.Ws issue, which was there main ace in the hole. They realized that the psychology of the American people is to get things done fast. The American society is built of convenience and time saving devices.
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