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R. Christopher

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A Year... and a Life
by R. Christopher   

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What went wrong in Viet Nam and now, in Iraq.

Entry for 27 August 2006 magnify



(Excerpt from a personal non-published book)



“South Vietnam is beautiful, a quintessential paradise, without war of course.  I'm glad the war is over so that the Vietnamese can live in peace. They've been fighting for centuries. I loved Vietnam… and its people. I even loved my enemy. I prayed over each one. But I particularly fell in love with one Vietnamese child from one of the villages we protected.  His name was Toa' and he was about ten or eleven years old. Everyday he would find me no matter where we set up in our Day Haven Site. He would find me and get what ever I needed from the village or town. We were very close. I was sure he loved me too. At times, we would even take naps together in my hammock. I'd pay him a few dollars a week, assuming it went to the support of his very poor family. I guess this love was somewhat a replacement for the son I had left stateside. But I loved Toa'… with all of my heart.


Two weeks after I rotated back to the World, one of my friends wrote and told me that Toa' had been killed… as part of a Viet Cong insurgency group a few days after I left. Along with the fall of Saigon in 1975, I don't know what hurts worse: the hundred or so lives I was directly or indirectly involved in taking, the loss of our entire ten year effort (58,000 young men, 350,000 wounded and maimed), the loss of my best friend Ansel Morse or finding out that Toa' had been killed--sucked into the jaws of the beast.

Upon my return to the states, the sadness and anger only continued. I rotated back with a Marine that had lost an arm. As we disembarked from the plane in L.A. and began to walk the corridors for our connecting flights home, we were cursed out by six stewardesses who began to degrade us in the worse way. We were called everything from "Baby Killers" to "War Mongers." When I arrived home and went to see my brother Randy (who incidentally opposed the war), he was quick to call me a "Murdering Fascist Pig." And then a fist fight broke out in the jail where I was visiting him. A couple of nights later, my wife and I went looking for some old friends. I wore my uniform out of pride and honor for those who had given so much. We found some of those so-called old friends, now, part of the anti-war, dope smoking, "Flower Power" generation. After a few cold shoulders, I was told by my best childhood friend that we had nothing in common anymore. So we left. On the way home, I started crying so hard I had to pull off to the side of the road. I could no longer see to drive.  Fifty-eight thousand young, dedicated men had given their hearts, lives and souls for what we thought was honorable--to protect the South Vietnamese. Another 350,000 had been wounded, "For what?" I asked.  As many that died in the Vietnam war... twice as many have since committed suicide. I would imagine for the same reasons that haunt me and all who served. So, I have tried to put the experience on the back shelf. I've tried to be quiet about things--through isolation. But invariably something always comes along to remind me that for all of our valiant efforts, it may have been in vain. God, I pray not. But it certainly appears to be the case. I don't think I ever received a "Thank you" for our sacrifice until some thirty years later.

This, my friend, was the Vietnam War--why so many have taken their lives, lost their wives and families through divorce, why so many turned to drugs, why so many are in prison, homeless or insane. As much as the battles and loss of life hurt, it may be that our lack of a homecoming played even a larger part in why we are so desperately different and all alone.

We did not lose the Vietnam war militarily. We lost the war because politicians succumbed to the protesters who preached peace… but acted out their protestation in massive violence.” 

Author: R. Christopher (Southern Baptist Pastor and former Marine Combat Vet).

Name of  personal non-published book: "A YEAR… AND A LIFE"  (One Marine's Experience During the Vietnam War.)  Comprised June, 2003.

Other Info:

Former Marine Sgt. Ronald C. Gometz,

2476574, IIIMAF, 2nd CAG / CACO 2-4 / CAP 2-4-3,

Republic of Vietnam, March 1970-March 1971.

"MARCH 1970

March 30th, 1970, the author supposedly arrived in country (Vietnam) and traveled some twenty miles S,SE to 2nd CAG Headquarters (Combined Action Group, Hq.)We arrived at Hq. in a 6x6 (truck). I did not serve with CAP 2-4-3 (a unit in the bush) until October / November, 1970 Up until that time, I served with 2nd CAG Headquarters in the COC bunker(Communications Operations Center)for all of our units in the bush. My job was to call in whatever these units in the bush needed--from Naval Gunfire, to supplies, medevaacs and everything in between ("Beans, Band-aides and Bullets).

In the Command Chronogies, there is no mention of an African-American Sargeant rotating back to the World (USA) who committed suicide at 2nd CAG Hq. sometime between March 30, 1970 and the first of April, 1970. The author's DD-214 records that the author did not arrive at 2nd CAG Hq. until March 30. This suicide incident occurred within four feet of me--on my first day in country or within the first few days of my arrival.

According to the Comand Chronolgy for either March or April, 1970, the closest Sargeant dying near March 30 was Sgt. Kenneth Whitmer, KIA, March 24, 1970, 2nd CAG Hq. In the Command Chronology for March, Sgt. Whitmer is shown as KIA after his jeep hit a mine.

Now, either my entry into Vietnam is wrong on my DD-214 or, they did not mention the person or his death anywhere or, they hid the suicide by tying his death to the mine event a week or so earlier.

I do not know if Sgt. Whitmer is the same man who committed suicide, all I know is that I was a personal witness to the event. The man who committed this act, came right down the middle of the hootch I was in and sat down on the rack in front of me. He took out his M-16, rotating it to automatic--placing it under his chin and said that he was 'sorry man' (he and I being the only ones in a 50 bunk hootch). He then pulled the trigger. Three rounds were expended before he fell onto the mattress. His brain and pieces of his skull were strewn everywhere--all over the ceiling, the floor, the bunks and me... and this guy was headed home for good. His 13 months were complete.

My tour only got worse from that point on."

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