There was that strangeness that followed me. Here I was a part of the war, yet, that full reality had not struck within my mind. As I continued to walk, there to my right I noticed a twisted form of metal lying within the grass. It had been bent in many different directions but still had the shape and form of a once brand new huey helicopter. I stood there and stared at the form for a good moment and let the thoughts ponder within my mind. There was the charred remains of a once beautiful tree near the wreckage. It had that black charcoal look of having been in intense fire. There were a few thick branches left but that was all that remained of the tree.
I began to explore the wreckage further to look for clues of it being. It seemed like it had been on the ground awhile. There was twisted vines growing up through the metal that gave it vintage. The instrument panel had been stripped clean of all the radios and navigation equipment. Reflection had made me think that it was left over from the initial battle for the AN KHE area. This had been the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the war in the 65 and 66 era. Know the action had been shipped up to the D.M.Z. area and surrounding. It seemed that over five hundred soldiers had lost their lives securing this area for the First Cav. Know it was the base camp of the Cav. but was only used as a staging area for the move up north.
The base itself was only an area of a few square miles. The price had seemed expensive with the quietness of the time and place. It just didn'tmake sense the loss of the lives and the securing of the land. Maybe this was my own naivety and lack of understanding of war and its real ramifications. Yet, the realities were starting to fall into place as the time went by.
Then, I had turned around to look at the river and the surrounding area that was outside the wire. It was an alien land a civilization of people that lived out there. They had a totally different life style than that of the United States. The homes were of a shanty construction and had the full pallor of slums and decay. The homes were made of mud and woven weed cloth of vines that had been picked locally. Sometimes there were the spotted resemblance of tin that had been pounded out of left over beer cans. These were flattened out to make a roof that was water proof next to the woven reeds. Yes, there was very little resemblance to the homes in the states. There was that lack of modern civilization that was so well known to me. It seemed like I was thrown back five hundred years in the past to some alien land. There was the lack of telephone poles that one took for granted. The paved streets with the hustle and bustle of cars was missing to the eyes and ears.
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All this was the illusion of the present moment. The now reality was the total abstract of the past. There was a gap between me and the Vietnamese people. There was that knowledge of instinct that gathers in ones mind when placed within an alien environment. It came from that deep part of the soul and instinct. The AN KHE base was becoming like a giant spaceship to me. We that were on the inside, were the aliens of the war. Why were we in this tightly knit camp. Outside was the fresh air and the open spaces. It was still all too strange to me. There seem to be that alien feeling of not being wanted. This seemed to emanate from the town that was outside of the green-line. Yes, the war was strange and the whole environment was strange along with it. It just seemed like the Vietnamese people wanted us to leave them alone.
The town of AN KHE was located outside the green-line. The river that flowed through the town also went through the base camp. The town itself was very small with one main street going through it. This street had been paved by the army with penoprime. The town itself was considered one of the larger towns in Viet Nam. Yet, it seemed small to me. Maybe this was because of my lack of travel and the complete domestic life of the United States. In the back of the town was a stretch of mountains that went southward. AN KHE itself was located in the central highlands of the country. The elevation of the land was in the neighborhood of two thousand feet. There was one mountain named four mile mountain that rose above the rest of the range. This by some strange coincidence was at the departure and approach end of our runway. The mountain was notfour miles high but gave that appearance when a planedeparted from the runway.
Off to my left there was a guy coming toward me. He was one of the F.N.G.s that had arrived in the country with in the previous week. He had that same lost and disillusioned look that all of us had at that period of time. He said, there was going to be a formation in about ten minutes. Well the army was still the same in Viet Nam, with its formations. It was to happen on theother side of the barracks in the clearing near the mess hall. Well at least there was going to be something finally happening. Maybe there would be a lifting to the cloud, that was in each one of our heads.
In about ten minutes, I wandered over to the area of the formation. There was about ten or fifteen guys all wandering around in that lost army fashion. It had a particular ring to it. You could tell all the guys were new by the new boots and army jungle fatigues, that hung in the new manner. There was also that crisp starchiness that rang of the changing times. It sort of felt like the day each one of us were first introduced into the army. There was that stoic unsureness and lack of confidence.
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