This lead to the physical exhaustion of some to varying degrees. You had to get your sleep when ever you could. The normal routine had been broken in the normal course of life cycles. The days would soon blend together into one long string of events and happenings. The psychology of the situation led to underlying insecurities that came into the mind. There were days on end when only a few hours of half sleep would accommodate. You said to yourself that this was war and that sacrifices had to be made in your life.
The job in the tower continued in a routine manner as expected. The flow of traffic could be predicted by the time of the day. The names of different aircraft became know and familiar to you. The call signs had there own designations. It would tell you if it was a transport, cargo or gunship along with dust-off a medevac for wounded or dead. The gunships would usually go in and out of golf-course. Inside yourself you realized there was massive killing and destruction going on. The blank voices of the warrant officer gunship pilots, told you in their voice over the radio ,about the full story of the war in the munitions they expended. The war was becoming more and more of a reality and real life to this 21 year old high school college drop out from New York City. Coping with the war and its being were coming into the thought process even deeper than before.
The work loads and other duties persisted for weeks on end. The work details, guard duty, K.P. sandbagging and of course shifts in the tower. Reality was in my mind, deeper in thought, along with the now semi-F.N.G.s that we became. Factorsthat would play deeper rolls in our lives. Realization that we could be killed or wounded to varying degrees. The words were hollow but cold in there stature. They were the cold reality of war and the time that was present. Everyone that came to Nam had to face that fact at one point of time. It slowly creptup on the person and became reality in ones mind and being.
Stress was a factor that played into the advantage of the Viet Cong. Heat and frustrations of hot days beat down on you just like the inner thoughts running through ones mind. It was a demoralizing process that worked on the person and built a structure of inner fears and paranoia. At first the new adventure clouded the real issues but soon that inner sun beating on the minds thoughts took its toll. All that served had experienced this change to different degrees, depending on psychological makeup of the person. The constant thought of hostile fire remained in the subconscious mind but it always remained in the mind. The pressures of all the duty only compounded the problem further in the mind. Then the factor of emotional release was suppressed from the normal every day life, adding to demoralization. It seemed there was no warmth, love, or true real laughter and smiles. The war placed a mask over the inner person, all the inner pressures were suppressed, no outlets. Again the thoughts of loosing a limb, an eye, maybe the testicles between your legs all pounded with that inner sun heat.
The saying that "war is allhell"by W.T.Sherman was no lie and he was even talking to the guys in Viet Nam one hundred years latter. Time started to become your enemy. The days started to drag out into hours and minutes. The second hand on the clock took on the meaning of getting shorter every second. Then war realities would seem to cancel out that one ray of light. Yes, the whole process was becoming the reality of the Viet Nam experience. It just seemed everything was working against you. Soon the only thing was to stay cool and stay in one piece. The whole air of AN KHE ARMY AIR COMMAND was taking on a new meaning to me and everyone else.
You started to understand the psychology of the situation that existed. Sometimes people you disliked in company became your potential enemy. In the split moment for unknowns kill you. You tried to become friends with all that was the only thing to be. Again you remembered that each person had the power to kill in the war zone. The M-16 rifle was a reality and each person had one in their possession at all times. It was known that at times in firefights guys were killed by their own guys due to really nothing but that inner sun. Fragging was know to occur in Viet Nam and was widely used to eliminate hated officer, Sargent's and common troops. Every so often you would hear of a guy opening a door and it had been booby-trapped with a grenade.
Deeper was the true reality of the war, to the fading F.N.G. labels. The Viet Cong were all around you. They seemed to lurk inside and outside. It was known that HONG KONG mountain, inside the base was honey combed with tunnels and caves that the Viet Cong occupied. Every so often a satchel explosive was placed inside the base by a piece of hardware and the Viet Cong let you know they werepresent and accounted. It instilled a thought of fear and paranoia to all things that were about you. You yourself might have been in a truck with a timed satchel under its frame.
What could a person do in this situation. There was no escape, from the mobile of bombs, duty, war and reality. You were a landed space ship, part of the crew, in a hostile alien world. It was once television news to you and now it was reality on the soil of Viet Nam. The past was the living room rug and this was the jungles of Viet Nam. At times guys would seem to isolate themselves from others. It was sort of an avoidance reaction to all around. Others would take to the dirt road, go down by the river and smoke grass. Some would drink alcohol and spend their time in a half drunken stupor. As time passed it seemed that the only thing to do was either drink or smoke grass, from what was now Viet Nam AN KHE. It seemed like the only release from the inner tensions that built and built with the constant flow of time.
Back in the states, I would only drink alcohol. It was legal and the thing to do. Any mention of grass was totally rejected by my mind and up bring. It was a the idea of being labeled a drug addict and having that about your neck. The pressures of Viet Nam had just about reached its boiling point for me. There was beer at the base in the small social club run by the company for the enlisted persons. During one of my periods of free time from all duty, I went to the club and got half drunk. Intoxication set in fast, with all the rest at the club.
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