MATURE SUBJECT MATTER, VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED: WEDU is honored to present the personal Vietnam War experiences of our local citizens. The stories presented here have not been edited and are presented as originally shared by the author. The content may contain coarse language, images, or remembrances that may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
Clifford M.’s Story
Shared on July 13, 2017
Excerpt from OUT THE WIRE, a Vietnam memoir.
It is difficult to explain to those on the sidelines why so many infantry soldiers struggle with guilt long after the cries of battle cease. In terms of the overall experience, you must eventually defend your existence to yourself, and survive your own survival. The dissonance of combat echoes when all seems safe.
My hope is that whoever shared the darkness with me believes they were represented fairly in this journal. That I could just look you in the eye, and here you shout. “I got your back Sarge.”
We were your brothers, mostly first born sons, shunned for years by a nation distancing itself from the mirror that reflected patriarchy devouring its young. I remember the half steps taken, and the measured truths told about us, but truth is always a work-in-progress, casting a different shadow as more information is revealed. My relevance now measured, not in battles survived, but in life more fully understood.
Despite four decades of sparring with the tattered remnants of a dangerous time, Vietnam remains a part of my daily struggles. Gossamer figures still sneak across a haunting watercolor backdrop, and visit my nights. Though the scattered images of war’s carnage are today blessedly less focused.
The Iron Triangle, Central Highlands, the A Shau Valley are where we lost guys named Joe or Jake, where Big John left a leg, where that cocky kid from the California beaches bragged about his ’67 GTO until he just vanished in the jungle. Black dots next foreign names on that familiar crescent-shaped map pinpoint our pain. It’s just safer to recall place, than the faces of those who will always be young to those of us who choose to remember.
Tears come more easily than anger these days, when reflecting on a troubled time in an impassioned America. Sadness is allowed of old foot soldiers as we stumble back in time.
Vietnam? Vietnam was bitter harvest. We the withered stalks turned under, look back, not in resignation, but hope.
Sponsored in part by
Retired Officers’ Corporation at Freedom Plaza
Production Credits: THE VIETNAM WAR is a production of Florentine Films and WETA, Washington D.C. Directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward. Produced by Sarah Botstein, Lynn Novick and Ken Burns.
Funding Credits: Funding provided by: Bank of America; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; PBS; David H. Koch; The Blavatnik Family Foundation; Park Foundation; The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations; The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; National Endowment for the Humanities; The Pew Charitable Trusts; Ford Foundation Just Films; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and Members of The Better Angels Society: Jonathan & Jeannie Lavine, Diane & Hal Brierley, Amy & David Abrams, John & Catherine Debs, Fullerton Family Charitable Fund, The Montrone Family, Lynda & Stewart Resnick, The Golkin Family Foundation, The Lynch Foundation, The Roger & Rosemary Enrico Foundation, Richard S. & Donna L. Strong Foundation, Bonnie & Tom McCloskey, Barbara K. & Cyrus B. Sweet III, The Lavender Butterfly Fund