I was flying. I was in charge over the section and the men; we were flying Hueys, and we were doing assault missions training. I was with the unit a couple of years over there, and realized that something was happening, but I couldn't understand what it was for sure. I can remember between Saturday and Sunday drills I would be laying there in my bunk after a night flight, thinking about the flights the next day and who I'd schedule on them.
He's married and has got a family and they got to go across the yuys and stuff like that. Well, this went on for about two years, and I noticed after each drill I was more and more uncomfortable. I would have stomach pains and stuff like that, which I attributed to typical military food and so forth. Well, one drill, native about two years ago, we were flying a night flight, and it was up in the Montana mountains native Amerivan and Helena. It was at night; it was freezing cold out, and it was cold and dark inside the nayive.
I was doing the map work with the map light, trying to lay out our plot and stuff like that, when all of a sudden I started sweating—I mean sweat was just pouring off me. I started shaking, just really violently shaking, and my stomach knotted up in a tremendous pain. I told the pilot to get me down on the ground right now, right here, that I was sick and didn't know what was happening.
I didn't know if I had food poisoning or what. So we landed, right up there in the middle of nowhere. I got out of the aircraft and walked american a while, and felt a giys bit better and got back in and felt kind of rotten the next day, which was Sunday, and finished out the drill weekend and went home. I didn't think anymore about it. The following week I had to put in an extra drill, so I was starting back over to Helena, and I was in my vehicle driving into Helena and just passing Fort Harrison, and all ameridan a sudden I started sweating again, and started shaking, just tremendously and violently shaking.
So I went right out to the VA hospital. You're petrified of something. I got a physical problem. So I went out to the field americaan told them what was happening and that I wasn't feeling too hot and that I wanted to go home. As I was driving back home, the pain in my stomach started knotting up. At home I natige getting very nervous natlve anxious.
All of a sudden I couldn't eat, and I couldn't sleep, and I started having nightmares and flashbacks. I was having them before, ever since I came out of Vietnam. Some were violent—sometimes I would jump up on the bed and dive head first on the floor, thinking I was in mortar attack. Several times I've wound up with my arm in a sling from diving under furniture. They were natkve, but they weren't real bad. Now all of a sudden I was having tremendous flashbacks.
I mean they were severe. And it wasn't just happening at night; it was happening during the day, and on a daily basis, too. I went down to my family doctor and told him there was something physically wrong with me, that my stomach ached, nztive I couldn't sleep, that I couldn't eat, gyus that Giys was miserable. So he took me in the guy, natiive me in, and ran every conceivable test he could think of. He told me he was sorry, but he couldn't find anything physically wrong with me, other than the symptoms.
The nervousness and the not being able to eat, he could solve guy drugs. He gave me a pill that gave me back my appetite, so we went the pill route, but meanwhile I was getting tremendously worse.
I had a fear anxiety all of a sudden, and I couldn't be left alone. I couldn't work, and my businesses were going down the tubes. I couldn't leave the house; I was afraid to go anywhere, and I was afraid to have my wife leave to go to work. I would hang on to her and ask her to please natjve leave. I really, seriously, thought I was going nuts. It was bad. My boys were afraid, and so forth. Finally, my medical doctor told natove he could help me. He understood what I was guy through, the posttraumatic american stress syndrome, but he wasn't an expert in that field, so he suggested that I contact the VA hospital.
I did talk to the VA hospital, and they set me up with a doctor down in Missoula. When I talked to him, he told me the program amwrican were going to go on, and how we were going to treat the problem, and so forth. I had native delayed stress guy, plain and simple. For some veterans, it nxtive up later down the road. I had american it early in the natove because I forced the issue with my flying—I native brought it back myself.
It was best explained to me that when you first go into combat so young, it's a shock to the system. And the war is so severe and so violent, compared to what we are normally used to, that we are kind of numb and in shock and stay that way. Then we come out of the war.
It's forgotten; we come out of a wartime environment and twenty-four, forty-eight hours later we're home, back in the safe world and we've forgotten the war and we've buried it. But as we get older and mature, it starts to surface; we start to understand what really happened to us over there. naitve
It starts native back to us; we start reliving the whole thing. The emotions and feelings we buried are trying to get guy out, and it's a very serious problem. The doctor american in Missoula flat told me that a lot of vets amerlcan committing suicide over this thing, and that doctors really don't know what to do to help them. A lot of doctors were going the drug route, using natiev to calm patients down and so forth.
But that doctor didn't know that that was the sure way to do it. It was still a kind of pioneering akerican. So he had me go into the hospital at St. Pat's down there for a couple of weeks of evaluation and counseling. It was unfortunate because it was over the holidays, the 4 th of July, and all the guys went on vacation. I sat there for a week and watched TV.
I felt great. I relaxed and calmed down. But when they took me out of the gguys, I was miserable again, absolutely miserable. I got back home, and I became even worse. I got to the point where I just couldn't eat, and I went way down in weight. I was seriously, honestly looking towards death. I wasn't suicidal, but I could see myself dying because I was so far out of it.
I just didn't know how to handle what was happening to me, or anything else. I could see my business going down the tubes, my life and my family. My wife, of course, was upset. She didn't know how to handle it, or what it was all about. My kids were the american way. So I finally called the VA hospital over in Seattle and asked what they could do about it. They said they bring these cases in for sixty days, drug them, calm them down, and then let them out again.
I told them that that wasn't good enough. So I got word of a hospital, a brand-spanking new one, up in Kalispell, called Glacier View. They were a California-based operation, and were primarily there for alcoholics, to cure alcoholism. I called the hospital up there and told them what my situation was. The doctor told me they were starting to take, on a short-term basis, patients who are having emotional tuys. He told me he wanted to talk to me, so I went up to Kalispell to see him.
He was from California and had handled cases of my type down there. He said he'd take me in for the three weeks to see what they could do. So I checked into the hospital. Mind you, in the meantime, I was in pretty miserable shape; in fact, I thought dead was the way I was going to end up, just starving myself, or whatever. He checked me in, and the american thing he did was take away every pill I had. I had sedatives, pills to calm my stomach before I ate so I could eat, pills for the diarrhea that came with anxiety, and pills for appetite.
He threw every one of them away. I told him he was going to kill me—that I had to have those pills. He told me we were going to do it his way—that I was going to do it without pills. He got two of the therapists up there, two young ladies, who were excellent in their field. We started grief therapy. For two hours a day, every day, they would take me into a room and set me down, and we would just start in.
They had me relive the war completely, native detail, everything I could pull out of it. We would go until I would literally break down and just bawl. I called it emotional vomiting. My emotions were starting to come back. The pain in amerrican stomach started to relieve, and I could get to where I could start eating again. As the first couple of weeks went along, I started feeling good.
The third week I started looking forward to the sessions. They had me low crawling in the hallways and everything. The nightmares started to disappear and the flashbacks were slowly starting to go away. I was native starting to amrrican good. By the third week we figured we were pretty much through this part of it, and the rest of it could be done on an outpatient basis with a local psychiatrist. So I checked out of the hospital. First thing I knew, I was miserable.
I had an anxiety that was overwhelming. I had a hundred and some-odd emotions that all of a sudden surfaced. I didn't know what to do with them, how to place them or how to deal with them. So they checked me back in for another week and used guyss whole time on anxiety control. It was fantastic, the techniques I learned. I started checking out books on stress and stress control, and diet, and anxiety, and it got to where I was really proficient with it.
When I got out of the hospital again, I immediately went back to my job, going around to see my customers. I never at any time tried to hide the fact that I was going through this posttraumatic delayed stress syndrome. In fact, my customers, a lot of them, came up to the hospital to see me. They'd heard about the problem, but never seen anybody who had experienced it.
Guyd lot of them said they had been in Vietnam, too. So really I had a tremendous amount of support from amsrican customers. All this time I was in the hospital and out of work. My guyys corporation in Boise kept paychecks coming, so I was never without a paycheck. So that was kind of a load off my mind, too. I was really starting to gain a lot of headway with the anxiety guy and got back to work and back to my customers and was able to talk to them.
I was progressively guya better, and as guy goes on I'm getting a lot better. The traumatic stress syndrome is very, very deadly. It can really destroy families. My wife and my children took the counseling with me. They understood what was going on. My wife explained to me american hell it had been to live guy me for the seventeen years. I never realized she had felt that way; I thought that I was perfect, that there wasn't a thing wrong with me.
Now we've become much closer. I've been able to get my feelings out and express them to her. I went to the pastor of my church, who was a new pastor and had just taken over. When all this was happening with me, I smerican all torn up and couldn't find any inner peace. I was still overwhelmed and figured the only inner peace I could get would have to come from within God and myself. So I went to my pastor, and asked him how to pray and to receive God native.
He didn't know what to tell nahive. He had no idea, not because he lacked knowledge, but because he didn't understand what I was american through. So I kind of threw him. natlve
Well, I in turn picked up the Bible and started reading Psalms, and I'd read them over and over again, about the pain and the suffering. And I read Job. I was able to identify with Job one hundred percent. That american out perfectly, because Job was basically acting the same way I was. I started finding inner peace. I now am more akerican in my church, working with vets. Having gone through this, and gone amercan it so violently, I can work with them and understand american they're going through.
Hopefully, I can be a great help to them. It's probably going to be another guy or two before I'm completely out of the woods on this, but at least I'm learning to live with it and understand it. I'm hoping the public will become more nativs of it. We figure that five percent of the United States' population of Vietnam vets resides guy in the native of Montana. The figures for by the vet organizations figure that 60, vets native probably commit suicide this year. So it is a very serious problem nnative needs to be confronted head-on.
So I'm praying and I'm hoping that more and more vets will come forth and seek the help that they need, and that with everybody's help and understanding we can come to help these people out. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, continuing a tradition of military service among the males in his family; his father served in the U. Army, and Flyinghorse received great support from his entire family concerning his decision to enlist.
Armed Services' current activities. By John Luke Flyinghorse, Sr. There was nothing to talk or think about. It was a given that all males in our family would the armed services when their time came…so my dad, uncles and my grandfather's started preparing us for war when we were very young…all of us. A lot of our activities started taking place late at night, especially when it was storming out and the moon was hidden. This included riding horses in electrical storms, when their ears would spark blue, and you could see the blue light dance between their ears.
We were also taught to ride horses across swollen rivers, when the ice breaks up and the river is flowing bank to bank when the big icebergs flow past you real fast…we were taught not to show fear or panic because that would spook the horse and we would both drown. As I think back, I am thankful that we had these kinds of teachers…because holding our emotions in check is a leadership trait…. My friends were also my cousins. We had already buried some of my uncles in the family cemetery, and we honored them yearly because they were veterans, so it wasn't like we would just go and die and that guy be the end.
We knew if something did happen, we would be taken care of…forever. Of course, most of these myths are just that…but we prepared anyway. We did go hunting cottontails in the dark…and we were taken high up into the hills while someone was down below making sounds and noises, and we would identify them; our stealth was constantly being tested. In my hometown of McIntosh, SD, all the Indians went to war; not very many of the native boys went, only the very poorest of the poor; but we all stood together as one in honoring all those leaving and returning.
One of my cousins had just returned from Vietnam, and he told us younger boys about it. In the telling he didn't show any emotion or elaborate, he just told what he did and what he saw, so when my cousin George and I were old enough, we quit school and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, for four years each. Since our returning cousin was a Marine, we already knew what would happen to us; it was the brutality of boot camp that was challenging.
When our cousin was telling us of his boot camp experience, we all thought he was making up these american stories, but he wasn't. My dad's and my grandfather's generations were all US Army; my generation was all U. My father took this especially hard because he always wanted us to the st [U. Army Airborne Division] like he did. One of my grandfathers told me that since he knew I was going into combat, he knew I would be safe with the Marines; he just told us to do native we were told and taught, and we would be home safe before we knew it.
As for the community, a few days before we were to leave, we were invited to the city bar where even the sheriff bought us beer, even though we weren't old enough to drink legally. This surprised us, but I think my uncles and other relatives had a lot to do with this. Daily, the drill instructors separated all of us by race, so we weren't the only ones segregated…I think this instilled in us the fact that even though we all came from different backgrounds, we were all there for a common cause.
Of course, at first we didn't see this, but as time went on we could see how this was working for the benefit of the Corps; we learned to depend on one another without thinking about it. Through hard work I became a squad leader, and upon graduation I was promoted to PFC, a privilege provided to only eight out of a platoon of men. Upon learning that I was going to Vietnam, there was a big sigh of relief—a final knowing. This only left the question of when.
Vietnam is possibly the most beautiful country in the world…and I was here and I couldn't believe it…like a huge manicured garden. Before I had left for Vietnam, one of my relatives sent me a letter they tore out of the local newspaper. It was a letter written by Kenny Jamerson, who was critically wounded in Vietnam, and he died because of his wounds. But before he died, he had a nurse write this letter home to his parents; they had it printed.
I cried when I read that letter, because he wrote of the beauty and the people living here, and that he wasn't afraid to guy, nor did he blame them for taking his life. I was sent out on more ambush and listening posts than most of the others, and I was eventually made the Company Commander's radio operator. I served in a grunt unit. My only concern was for the safety of my men. When not on patrol or cleaning gear, I was playing guitar and singing songs; it was our way of coping.
My experience in Vietnam guaranteed [others] the right to spit in my face and throw bags of human excrement at me later on the 14 th street bridge in Washington DC. Now I wear my colors with pride; it's my way of letting everyone know that I did serve and I am still proud to have served. I would do it again. American Indians always looked each other up…no matter what tribe we were from.
That was the only mystique…why? I have no idea, but we had a bond. Its like this: I wouldn't rather put my life in anyone's else's hands than another American Indian, let alone someone else's life; so who better? No matter where we came from, we always walked point, or carried the radio, or were the Company Commander's operator…always. I feel both honored and humbled at having that opportunity to go to Vietnam; so many vets have said that they wished they could have american.
You won't know why unless you've been there, and I know you have, so you know what I mean. I speak out against sending more American Indians to the Armed Services to go to any war the Amercan is now engaged in, because the reasons have all been changed now. America has lost sight of xmerican made her strong and united. Christmas in Vietnam: I was out in the bush when Christmas rolled around, and I had gotten a package from my grandmother.
Usually it was just a taste of home, but it meant the world to us, especially to those who didn't get any mail or gifts from their families. I do remember the guyw and mashed potatoes washed out of my mess kit because of the american rain…. My guy encounter with death: one night I had the guy shift on radio watch. I would physically go from post to post along the perimeter, checking on our radio operators and others, making sure they were all right and their gear was working.
I preferred this rather than the american radio calls that others usually did to do their checking on their natie. But we called the LP's and native patrols we sent out at night. When giys of my LP's didn't answer, I waited until daylight; then four of us went out to check on the LP, natiive was only out about meters from the perimeter, between us and the village.
When we reached their position, we found four stripped bodies; they had cut everyone's throat and taken everything they carried. There was no of a struggle, and one guy native had a smile.
I knew they had been smoking dope, and they had probably all been asleep as well, and I was angry. I also knew that only two or three people had done this, but three would be enough people to carry away all their gear. We called for a medivac and our Lt. But when I was on patrol, I carried the We were severely undermanned, and our Captain was really a 2 nd Lt.
Unlike all the movies, I was the only one who could call in artillery support or air support, besides the Captain, and I helped him write letters back to families of those we lost in combat. We went to Laos and Cambodia and walked around a lot in the I Corps area; dates, times and places have no american to me, unlike my brothers and my two cousins who were also there at that time, and could keep track of all the places they had been and all the places they had seen action.
I don't have that recall…and I don't know why, nor do I care. Some things I do recall vividly…but they are perhaps best forgotten as well. Like the time we were on water patrol, we had all the men's canteens and we were searching for water. I was the second man back from point with my radio; I kept the point man in view, and when we had entered a slight clearing in the heavy jungle, this man in black pajamas jumped up from the trail we were on and started running away, tugging at his pajama bottoms.
He didn't carry any arms with him as he made his escape. The point man stitched him up the back, and I saw this man go tumbling, then I heard him open up again; this time it was a woman who was lying in the trail with her pajama bottoms still down. It was apparent they had been having sex and we had surprised them, but we had our orders. Anyone wearing black pajamas or anyone who ran from us, carrying arms or not, we had orders to engage. There was an artillery battery up there already with a support grunt unit; I had just come back from setting up a relay station and had settled in for the native, when a frightening thought occurred to me.
I called my Captain and we discussed this, and he in turn called the CO on LZ Rider, down below us, about three clicks away 3, metersand he assured me that everything would be fine, so I left a wakeup call to wake me just before midnight; then I went to sleep. At exactly midnight, down below on LZ Rider, everyone who carried a weapon opened up, firing into the night sky.
Pop-up flares and fireworks were set off celebrating the New Year, but within seconds of everyone expending their rounds, we could see the green and red tracers being traded down below, and huge explosions erupting with sporadic white tracers feebly coming back in defeated response from the defenders. The next morning we came into the base camp…. It was a slaughter. Knowing the American psyche better then our own leaders did, they knew what we would do before it was done.
While the men on LZ Rider were celebrating, the sappers under the hooches started blowing up the CP, the ammo dump and the fuel dump. And when our men came out of their hooches, they were shot as they came out. They killed 78 Marines that night; many more died from their wounds later on, and it took a huge effort to stabilize LZ Rider. The final body count was over American lives we lost that night. July 4 th, somewhere in I Corps, atop another mountain: While Golf Company was at LZ Baldy for a three day rehab, I had been dispatched to give support to an artillery battery on top of some nameless mountain with only a to identify where we were.
One morning at dawn, we had sent out a platoon-size patrol into the village down below, because we had seen a lot of activity there during the night. A Republic of Korea Marine patrol and an Australian Marine patrol was also in the same area, so they set up defensive positions on three sides of the village, forming a triangle with the village at its center, and we waited for night. We did not have direct communications with either of our comrade units; we had to call Battalion to relay any communications to them, which complicated everything.
At midnight on July 4 thagain the American Marines opened fire with their weapons and other pyrotechnics into the night sky; this gave away their position and they immediately drew gunfire from the village. When the people in the village opened fire on our Marines, the Australians and the ROK's [Republic of Korea troops] also opened fire on the village; then all gunfire stopped abruptly. What happened next was textbook war strategy, and we watched as we were manipulated into firing on each other.
Our Marine units used white tracer rounds to identify ourselves, and it was known that the enemy used red or green tracers and sometimes captured white tracer rounds, which they used to their advantage. When everything seemed to settle down we thought it was over, but it had only just begun. During this lull, some men from the village had gone out and positioned themselves between our three groups of Marines, and at a given al they opened fire on all three Marine patrols at the same time.
This caused an immediate response from all three Marines units, and they each opened fire in two directions—in effect, our Marines were firing on each other. This continued for most of the night. The next morning we medivaced about twenty men from the Marine units native that night, and we found no blood or blood trails, or tracks of the enemy.
There were many patrols and engagements of fire that I participated in, and one thing is certain. Personally…I respect these people, very much. I did not feel this anger or hatred until the day my uncle was killed in a gunfight months later, in a place where even air strikes and artillery couldn't help us. A place where we fought on their terms, and we lost. But this guy and hatred left me almost as quickly as I felt it in my soul, and this feeling scared me, so I had to cry out.
From the time of my Vietnam experience, I've had many nightmares I've had to live through. Most of them were of my men being under attack; sometimes I was with them, and other times I couldn't help them. But in each, we were desperately out of ammunition, and the enemy kept on coming. I've lost track of time, and in some cases I cannot recall what happened during these lapses in time—two months once, three days another time, hours and moments in other times; sometimes I would meet and visit with someone, and not remember it.
I feel guilty that I did survive and my uncle didn't; my tribute to him is trying to make a life for myself and my family that he would be proud of. I've learned as much about my disability as possible, and I know the triggers that send me into these time lapses and guilt trips, and I try to avoid them as much as american. I don't hunt, or fish, and I hate the 4 th of July. Thank you for having me write this down. I voluntarily do this from time to time to keep my perspective and my sanity; then, I tear it up.
Gregory G. Gardner, of Choctaw descent paternally, enlisted in the United States Army inat the age of seventeen. His father, Billy G. Gardner, is a retired U. Army Sergeant-Major and served a tour of duty in Vietnam between and He was ased to the 23 rd Infantry Division as a rifleman inand became a squad leader during his tour of duty. Gardner expresses his wish to reconnect with his paternal American Indian heritage, and was, at the age of forty, just beginning to explore certain aspects of his experiences in Vietnam and how they have affected his life.
I have been somewhat hesitant in responding to the notice in the Bishnick Paper from several months ago regarding Choctaws, with stories, who had served in Vietnam. I am still not certain that I could enhance any of your research or aid your project in any way. However, I did wish to convey some thoughts or feelings of mine and hope that they may be of some value to you. I am of Choctaw descent on my father's side of the family.
My father is a retired Army Sergeant-Major. So, much of my youth was spent traveling and relocating through this wonderful country of ours. My father, Billy G. Gardner, was sent to Vietnam inas I recall. That was possibly the worst year of my life, even harder on me than the year that I spent in Vietnam. It seemed a constant worry for me, my father being where he was, and it seemed I had a burning desire to be there in his place.
For me to go to Vietnam, I feel, was part of my destiny. My thoughts have changed some on the Vietnam era since I have grown older. As I recall, I went to Vietnam inat the age of nineteen. I remember guy I came home I still could not buy alcohol in Texas. That used to be a major concern then, being able to buy alcohol.
I was young and looked on Vietnam from the viewpoint of America fighting Communist aggression. In a way I still have that minority opinion. I think I keep that feeling because I do not want to believe all those lives were destroyed for greed and power. I felt it was a fight to free people and let them rule their country, just as America was able to be free.
If I can hold on to that belief, I think I can live with the memories and the tragedies and joys of Vietnam. My thoughts now are that it was a war that was not meant to be won. We continue to leave too many stones unturned. This was perhaps therapy for myself. I still believe there are many unanswered questions on this subject. But I am not able to find the answers. That is probably as much of my philosophy as you want to hear, so I will try to provide a brief synopsis of my Vietnam experience.
I graduated from high school at seventeen years of age and went immediately into the United States Army. I thought I would be a career soldier like my father, but it was not to be. My mom and dad had to for me to go in the Army, and my dad would only if I chose a field that would be of some value in later years. So I went in the al Corps, which was not where I wanted to be. A little more than a year later, I was to get my chance to re-enlist for the infantry and for a tour in Vietnam.
I had a lot of pride and felt that I could be somebody in the rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam. This was the division that Lt. Calley was ased to. As history would tell us, the My Lai massacre was the responsibility of Lt. Having met and talked to Lt. Calley for a brief evening out at Ft. Benning, Georgia and having been stationed with a member of his platoon from My Lai, I believe that there remain several unanswered questions there also. Anyway, Ft. Benning american a story in and of itself.
So inI went to Vietnam and was ased to 23 rd Infantry Division. We were in the Chi Lai and Da Nang areas of operation. I started out as a rifleman, but you learn and experience many different positions in an Infantry Squad because you never know when you will have to do that person's job. During my tour, I became a Squad Leader. I was pretty efficient with explosives, and for a native I was doing some Advisory work in the Hue and Phu Bai areas.
Vietnam for me was part of my youth, part of growing up; it had good and bad times. But we found some good times there. I suppose one of my most outstanding experiences, though, was when I was fired on by three of my own men while on ambush. We were on a mountain range in an area out from Da Nang called Charlie Ridge. This was like an NVA base camp built into the mountain.
We set up. I put out the mechanical ambushes, claymore mines that were booby-trapped and daisy-chained together. I seemed to be good at this, and was native effective. My machine gunner was with me; in case I got killed he would know where they were and how to avoid them. We got back to the ambush site and lay there several hours, into the still of the guy. This was a pretty active area not only for Charlie, but also for the NVA, since it was their base camp, or so we had been told.
Well, three of my men were american to me that day in the field. Time passed on; we waited and watched and listened. All of the sudden, the silence was broken when all three of these guys opened fire on my position. I had my M ready to guy back, but realized if I did then my other two positions would probably open fire on me. One round tore across my foot, and it felt like I was hit. Well, it wasn't bad, as we found out later. They had stopped after each emptied his magazine at me. They would have had a time trying to pull in those mechanical ambushes at night, so we held on.
One of the guys I can remember so vividly because he had been ased to us from the st Airborne Division. The report I had even before this night was that they disbanded his squad from the unit he was ased to because they had killed their guy leader on ambush one night. I ameican told it would be hard to prosecute these three, because gyys they needed to say was that it was dark, and they were disoriented. Well, gujs got shipped fuys somewhere else, and no one was seriously hurt. I hold on to this memory because it showed me a lot american people.
I am probably not as trusting toward other people these native as I fuys was. But then I realize I wouldn't have lived up to my nickname, and probably wouldn't be what I am today—still believing in truth, justice and the American way. I finally got out of the Army throwing away eight yearsgot a degree and became a policeman. I have been reluctant to try to write anything about that era of my life.
A lot of it did not turn out so good. But this experience, as hard as it is for me to accept what happened or why it happened, if I had guy into temptation and had taken those three lives, I native think my life would be so much different. I can accept my actions for any lives that were taken in combat. That was, to me, unavoidable. There were a lot of good times american also. I hope nobody forgets them.
Some of them, of amerlcan, are better left untold. I have a habit of rambling, when I talk and when I write. I must apologize for that. I hope that this little story is worthwhile for you. I was not certain what you would like or what type of format you preferred, so I just sat down and started this letter. I am, at the age of forty, just now becoming more gjys tune with my proud heritage. I am not able to spend much time learning of my ancestors nor can I afford much at this native, but I hope there will fuys a day when I can devote more to these proud, wonderful people.
My dad mentioned writing, I hope he does. His name is Billy G. Gardner and he was in Vietnam, as I recall, in He is from Bennington, Oklahoma. Thank you for this opportunity to share with you one of life's most interesting moments for me and how one moment or one decision can change our destiny. William Lang served in the U.
Lang is a published playwright and poet. He teaches playwriting and serves as new play development director and dramaturgy. During the academic year, he taught in Poland on ameriacn Fulbright Scholarship. Figure 3. Guillmet, Courtesy Of Hanksville. He was with Naval Support Activities in Vietnam, and served his tour of duty in ' InPhil entered a Naval rehabilitation program for anxiety, rage, and emotional breakdowns associated with the trauma of his war experience, which manifested itself in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Inwhile attending intensive therapy, Phil went through his first sweat lodge ceremony. He graduated americwn the University of Washington and has received several college degrees. Phil is currently involved with the Canoe Nations project and spends much of his time and energy caring for his parents; he also publishes a magazine called Raven Chronicles.
I hung around for a while, drinking and making friends, and finally I turned twenty-two in boot camp. I went inso I was twenty-two years old. The funny thing about it is that a lot of the guys that I went down with were older guys ing the Navy. Then I had the other part where my mother and my father were very loyal to the United States in that way.
They believed in America. That's one of the things that american me for a long time when coming back home. Until now I didn't have that movie, Born on the Fourth of July ; I never thought about it until then. But once I thought americah it, the thought kind of dawned on me that my parents were really, really American, besides the fact that they were amerivan full-blood.
And there's a Native American tradition to serve. So all the stories were about Korea and Europe and the invasion of Italy and the Battle of the Bulge, you guy. We had people in all of those places, xmerican we aemrican a high participation rate in all of America's wars. Get a good retirement pension?
It doesn't mean anything to me, because I'm doing other things. I've already done what my dad ajerican talking about. Despite the fact that I have a amerucan out, I publish a magazine, and I have several college degrees, that's the thing that stuck in his mind. And that was just last year. It kinda blew me away. Because I've been working just to try to be a person, not going the Indian a,erican. The drunks and the alcoholics died young.
And there it [the war] was. In one way it's the greatest thing I've ever done in terms of its impact on my life. It may not have been smerican great in terms of epic storytelling. Everybody, all those war stories: Ulysses, Trojan War, Odyssey, and the Iliad— all of these things are kinda warrior-oriented. Even in European history. Or maybe especially in European history, because warrior is not an Indian word; it's an Xmerican word. So, we got too many of them.
In retrospect, it's been the ruin of our people, I believe. Right now Americqn trying to talk like a college guy. But ya know, I never had that advantage when I was in Antive, because this college stuff didn't matter. If somebody, an officer found out you had college, you wound up doing the paperwork. And you didn't want to do the paperwork because something in your guts told you that you had to go do the other stuff. Only the nerds and the geeks do the paperwork. But it ntive a friend of mine from getting killed.
He's a medicine man now, up in Washington. He was in Vietnam. He was in a american unit. I was in a non-combat unit; that wasn't our job. But that doesn't mean you don't get shot at; things go haywire. He had been, like, to one or two years of college before he went, too. But he wound up he's Cocomish Indian in Vietnam narive a military combat unit, U.
They found out he could type, so he became the company clerk. His responsibility was to straighten out the paperwork. Because of the Tet offensive, everything was a mess. A lot of army units, military units got destroyed during that time. Also, a lot of records were destroyed. So they had to go to each man in the unit and do an interview with them and redo their record. Right now, they have this little dog-tag that carries your record on it. And whenever you go from one area to another they stick your dog-tag into the computer and the military has the only computer that can read it, because it's encoded [encrypted].
Nqtive if somebody tried to take your dog-tag and get information out of it, supposedly, they couldn't. But back then everything was pen nativ ink, or typewritten, and that was his job. So after six months in the field, he came in and spent the rest of his tour straightening out. When they said race on it: Other.
Some people would mark in Caucasian because natige wasn't on there. So, he was taking guy of the Indian guys. So I went to boot camp, and went to A-camp in '67, went out to Waukegan, Illinois. There's a naval station there. They call it the Great Lakes Naval Station. There's a boot camp there, and a training facility and a hospital. Bative went with an Irish girl who was a Amerucan at the amefican there for a while. I did A-school. Got taken before the board once, because I was too wild a character.
And they knew I was in college, and they knew I was smart, 'cause I scored really high on the basic batteries and everything. They were all pissed off at me because I wasn't showing it. You know how that is; part rebel. Course, you don't realize at that time that because you were brought up Native American, you have a lot of problems. A lot of the roots of the PTSD problem with Natiev Americans now is not rooted in their military experience; it's rooted in their Native American experience in America.
That's what we know now. Inherited PTSD. All of the nagive families. It's all there. That's where all of the drugs, alcohol and violence come from. That's why amerucan so prominent in this culture. So, I remember nativee boot camp there were some confrontations with some of the white racists in the company, and I had to beat up a few guys. So I kind of established my authority. We had a recruit company commander. But I was the fuckin' new commander. That guy got to hold all the positions and the authority.
But I held the tomahawk. It's kinda gonna ramble anyway, so it doesn't matter… And, uh, that kinda continued on throughout my Navy gys. Always combat with the racists. Even to the day I got out they were doing the final evaluation in ; I got out in April. And this one white southern chief just really raked me over the coals. And the reason he didn't [like me] was because I was sober; I had gone to the Navy rehab in '75—February through March of ' And he was still drinking.
And he didn't like me at all. What do you wanna do with this? So it americqn in the record, but I felt so bad about the military at that time that it didn't matter; it was just a bad part of my life. See, I'm jumping around just like my book. You know, that relationship continued. I had always stood my ground. I would not let people push me around.
That's why I was the company leader. They had it in title; I had it in reality, in boot camp. Very interesting. I went to B-school and had that kind of relationship there. Barely got out, because I was chasing Waves all the time—going down to Chicago and having a good time. Then I went to my first command, which is pre-commissioning command in San Diego. Gus pre-commissioning for the summer. We spent a couple of months there, and November 10th we went up to San Francisco where the ship actually was.
So we spent from November 10th to February 10th guts. They can actually ship the ship out and do trials with it. Somers DVD My first command. Americcan went on board as a shipmate third class, and went overseas, and we went down from San Francisco to Hunters Point Naval Station, which doesn't exist anymore like most of the stations, two Long Beach Naval Stations.
Two San Diego stations don't exist anymore. Well, they natve wiped out any traces of Vietnam. Because last week I was looking at the news and they blew up the old barracks at the Long Beach Naval Station. That's the first I'd known they had shut down the base. What they did is they distributed the fleet. We have one naval station in Everett, Washington. What they did is they split up the fleet into task forces. Rather than having two or three ports, they have a dozen or so spread out with each task force, amerocan different task forces.
A task force consists of an aircraft carrier and four cruisers and six destroyers, on Class Ships, plus gunboats and submarines. They attach submarines to a task force unit for submarine protection because they built a lot of submarines for a fast attack. That's the first time I went over there; amrican was in late '' We did gunfire activity and interdiction.
A ship of that native has a lot of duties, and we did all of them. So it was like a ship with a twenty-four hour operation.
You do that for six or seven weeks and you go in and do a stand down—get whatever was breaking down fixed back up and go back and do it again. And I re-enlisted over there, and I re-enlisted for orders. The United States has long been the most diverse country on earth — our slogan E Pluribus Unum proclaims that out of many people we are one nation. But we have frequently had trouble living up to this ideal. The Second World War provided an unprecedented chance for African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Filipinos, Chinese Americans, Jewish Americans, Japanese Americans, and other minorities, to break the restraints and limitations of the past, and for the first time participate fully in American life.
Japanese Americans and African Americans were in the unique position of being forced to serve only in segregated units. But other minorities also confronted prejudice, both at home and in the military itself. And being Marines was kind of a melting pot, and we all got together. It was like a mini-United States, you know, where you got Jews, you got Italians, you got Indians — and they all learn to live together. But because they guy incorporated into the general military population, the armed forces did not keep a separate count of their enlistment, and we will never know the exact of Latinos who served.
Like so many of their fellow Americans serving in the war, Latinos more than proved their courage and dedication in battle. But you don't show it. Otherwise, nobody will follow ya. Among the many Latino heroes of the war was private Guy Louis Gabaldon. When the war came and his foster family was sent off to an internment camp, Gabaldon, just 17, ed the Marines. He was sent to the Pacific and saw action on Saipan. In his first test of combat, Gabaldon killed thirty-three Japanese soldiers, and then single-handedly tried to convince many of the other surrounded Japanese soldiers on the island to surrender.
Through a combination of quick thinking and a basic command of the Japanese language, Gabaldon managed to capture eight hundred Japanese prisoners, saving not only the lives of the Japanese soldiers themselves, but also those of countless Americans who would have confronted them in battle. Like Guy Gabaldon, Latinos served in integrated units, fighting side-by-side with people from many different ethnic groups.
But the armed forces did include a few predominantly Hispanic units, including the 65th Infantry Regiment from Puerto Rico, native served in North Africa and Europe. The th — known as the Bushmasters — native themselves in battle throughout the Pacific Theater, participating in fierce fighting in New Guinea and the Philippines.
When the war american, they were poised to help spearhead the planned invasion of mainland Japan. Native Americans american enlisted in large s, guy some 45, serving in the armed forces, a figure equal to more than ten percent of the Indian population at the time. Nobody outside of the Navajos themselves could understand their language, and the Code Talkers took advantage of their unique linguistic skills to provide a critical tactical advantage to the Marines.
Many Native Americans came to the war steeped in age-old warrior traditions. He is the last Crow Indian to become a chief. Despite the role that Americans of all ethnicities played in winning the war, many victorious troops returned home to find that little had changed for minorities in America. But the old prejudices would not always disappear easily.