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Vietnam 1968-1969 Or Was It Yesterday?

Vietnam Blues

Some of this was written years ago. Some of it was written more than eight years ago, actually. So much has changed, like my address. I no longer own a bike shop or an inn or a home. My address has changed. Some of my intimate friends have changed and my family has changed.

I guess this is a "work in progress". I forget things and add them. I've just added tattoos. I assumed I'd never get a tattoo. Since I turned 60 I've gotten three so far and want another. Some people think I'm just into tattoos for the pain. This will always be an "incomplete story".

All the pictures are mine as well as the words.

Micky Dee At Camp Pendleton, California

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My name is Micky Dee I was in the Marine Corps. I entered the Marine Corps Dec. 28th, 1967. This was after my high school graduation. I was the youngest in my class. I turned 18 August the 20th, 1967.

My MOS, which means job, was 0351. I was basically a grunt, which is what all Marines are required to be actually. My MOS was anti-tank assault man. My “job” covered demolitions, the LAAW (light antitank assault weapon, a descendant of the bazooka), the flame thrower, and the 106 recoilless rifle.

I was jetted to Da Nang. We then took a C-130 to Dong Ha. This was referred to as I Corps. This was the DMZ. This was the furthest point north in South Vietnam. I was with the Headquarters and Supply, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.

I spent time at CampCarroll, atop Dong Ha Mountain, below Dong Ha Mountain at the “Washout”, C-2, Con Tien, The Rock Pile, LZ Stud (or Vandergrift), above Khe Sahn on what was dubbed Mt.McClintock, Mutters Ridge, and other places I can only guess.

I got dysentery at CampCarroll.

I contracted 2 types of Malaria at C-2 and carried it with me to Con Thien.

I was on mine sweeps carrying an M-60 machine gun.

I sat on perimeters with a 106 recoilless rifle. I was named gunner on the 106 after I used Kentucky windage to hit my targets.

Kentucky windage is simply: when you’re aiming dead center and you’re continuously hitting a tight cluster above and to the right of the bull’s-eye, you aim low and to the left.

I went on ambushes and listening posts. This was with a handful of other Marines.

I did reconnaissance.

I walked point in Laos for the entire battalion.

I stood watch everywhere.

I always felt as though we were pawns, to draw fire from the North Vietnamese.

Cam Lo Bridge

vietnam-1968-1969-or-was-it-yesterday

2001 Speech to Sue Ledford’s English Class


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It had taken most of a day to put my thoughts together about my "visit" to the Mitchell High School English Class. The morning started off as usual with a visit to the P&R convenience store where I had my newspaper crossword puzzles every day. But today I had pictures of "Nam" that I would show the guys that I visit with each day. The last person that was shown the pictures said "I didn't know. I want to thank you for going." This was the 5th person in 33 years to tell me that spontaneously, without a prompt of any kind. When each of the previous people told me "Thank you." I wept. Not today though. It's time to get focused. I'll possibly be speaking in a few minutes as the high school is right behind P&R.

I was in retail for many years. I have given classes or seminars to groups of people without any trouble. Although I assumed that there would be parts of my speech that would be difficult. I had prepared several pages of "stuff" to read and to remind me of the thoughts, feelings, and happenings 33 years ago. It never occurred to me that I would be unable to speak from the beginning and that I would have as much trouble as I did.

My eyes were faucets throughout the entire visit. Tears flowed while walking away from the teacher, Sue Ledford. I actually thought about bringing a bandana in case of other "leaks" but felt pretty well this day as for colds or flu. Sue Ledford's class was wonderful. I believe all thanked me for coming, many coming to me, thanking me, and shaking my hand.

Although I was truthful I would have answered a few things a little differently if I had time to think. I don’t speak that well, but can say what I am closer to meaning, with writing.

Sue Ledford hugged me, thanked me, and her words and actions were very sincere. She gave me Kleenex tissues. I held it together pretty well walking down the halls and out to my vehicle. From then on I was a mess. Looking in the rear view mirror I saw that I had the tiny white pieces of tissue in my mustache and beard. What a geek.

Corporel Cortez

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After Class

I went for my 6 mile run to hopefully vacate my mind. I knew I'd have to. I was slow and my legs were tight and a little sore. I had run 6 miles 2 days before and again 2 days before then. I usually didn't run 6 miles every other day. I will run today. I had to do something but I didn't know what.

Almost home, I stopped on the ridge above the house, and sat on a bale of hay. I looked out at the mountains- the Pizzle, the Narrows, Spring Creek, Cane Creek and nothing came to me. There was just a huge void of reason. I don't know what I was thinking about other than I was amazed at my lack of control in what seemed like a non-threatening environment. Maybe I'm over-analyzing and I'm not qualified to analyze. Long afterward, I was more depressed than usual.Go figure.

I was hit a bit hard by a few other incidents. In each case I was honestly trying to do the right thing and have no doubts. I wanted a project that I would not profit from come to its fullest fruition. I had no other agenda. How's that for saying so much and nothing at all? My mind was taxed all week with different things. But I think I was unattached from my decisions, was fair in those decisions, and acted accordingly.

So I stood my ground and took the incoming assaults once more.

But there I was once again, no pat on the back, or “way to go Michael” or “I’m proud that you stood up and were counted Michael”. In fact there was almost total resentment.

The NC motto is "To be rather than to seem" but I had surely run into "To seem is everything".

Micky Dee And The 106 Recoiless Rifle

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What does this Vietnam Vet say to students today?

What is "the beginning"? And why were we there?

Quite simply- we were lied to. You'll have to look up the Gulf of Tonkin affair. The US was engaged in covert operations against North Vietnam as it had been against South American, Central American, and Caribbean countries as it had been for a hundred years or so. It's all too sordidly long to write here. Suffice to say- Robert McNamara, President Lyndon Johnson, and Henry Kissinger were liars and murderers.

The beginning could be the glamorizing of wars such as the way the characters are portrayed in movies. Things are rarely as they seem. Growing up I was completely sold on every sport that I could get into. Do well, receive applause. I loved the sense of accomplishment and because I thought of athletes as heroes I thought I could be thought of as a hero. I wanted to be a hero. Athletes are not heroes. I graduated high school. I believed that it was impossible for me to go to any institution for higher learning. What's next? There's a war. We're keeping the communists from taking over the world. If Vietnam becomes totally communist, then next is Laos, Cambodia, Thailand- the "domino theory". I'll be a hero.

Decades later I would come to believe that it was a war for the rich. It was a war for resources. It's hard to sell the idea to our friends or relatives that members of our government (the government of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, etc.) could be as devious and heinous as whatever wild story you hear whenever you might hear it.

Did Lee Harvey Oswald kill President Kennedy or was it the CIA, the mob, the Cubans, LBJ, or all of the above?

Was Vietnam about "freedom" or was it about tungsten ore that's used in manufacturing steel that's buried in a 30 mile long, 100 feet wide berm that surrounds Fort Rucker in Alabama?

Was Vietnam about freedom, the free market system, capitalistic democracy? Or was it about keeping the rich, rich?

As often as you can - question.When time is allowed, if the person being questioned is truthful, thoughtful, and sincere, you will get your answer. The time to find out if you're fighting an unjust fight is not when you're thousands of miles away from home in the midst of exploding enemy rockets, land mines, snipers, and hand-to-hand combat. At that time you're concerned with the survival of your own "team-mates" and yourself.

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How has it affected me?

The USA has had great success in war. Vietnam is supposedly the blemish on the perfect record. Vietnam has been known as the war that America lost. Our soldiers were considered the "losers". More North Vietnamese were killed in one day than the USA lost the entire war. We, our team, the USA, killed over 3 million Vietnamese. The Vietnamese killed 50,000 of our boys. I say boys because that's what most were. Most were not eligible to vote. We certainly kept Vietnam a third world country. We may have taken their most valuable resources.

Who is the rightful loser? We all are. I was unwittingly involved in the destruction of a country and the deaths of millions of people. What our country did was no different than other acts of genocide that have been perpetrated around the world, such as with the American Indian. Until about 1500 AD, this entire hemisphere was isolated from Europe and Asia. For thousands of years The North-Americans and South Americans were here. But the "new white European Americans" (that have only been here for a few hundred years) feel that their lives and livelihoods are threatened by the original inhabitants. Our Mexican friends have been in this hemisphere tens of thousands of years before white people decided they were aliens.

Vietnam was a thankless war. It was more than 20 years after coming home from Vietnam that I was thanked for being there. In all there have been only 5 people to sincerely and spontaneously thank me for what I did. Uncontrollably I cried all 5 times. Upon returning home I was not greeted as a hero. When I called girls for dates I was often told by parents to not call again. I began to think that there was something wrong with me. I was not as morally fit as others. I'm not sure of when it started but I was actually mentally and spiritually ill. People were going to the movies, the beach, or whatever, and the war was to be forgotten.

For as long as I can remember I've kept busy to keep my mind busy. It continuously returns to some un-pleasantry about Nam or life since. I usually work or play until I'm exhausted. Every morning or when I have any spare time, at all, I do cross-word puzzles.

Micky Dee At The Washout

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I have taken it personally if I or anyone else was treated with disrespect. If I’m treated badly, someone else is being treated badly. I despise bullies. How could anyone be treated disrespectfully, especially when the history of an individual is unknown?

In Vietnam I slept on a rock in the middle of a mountain stream with a black friend named Rodney Watson from Baltimore. Rodney and I went back to help stragglers who had been injured. In one small group of stragglers that we came upon, there was a misfire that almost killed Rodney or me. We went as far back as we could go. The rock in the stream was as safe as anywhere. It was cold and we slept next to each other to retain heat. We trusted each other. Back in the forward rear of Camp Carroll, Rodney had coached us to sing the background vocal as he sang the lead for the “Duke of Earl”. There was no way that I would renege on our pact of brotherhood. Rodney left Nam before I did. Rodney went nuts, in layman’s terms. If Rodney was not “off”, he was the greatest actor that ever lived. I could depend on Rodney and Rodney knew he could depend on me.

I spent my entire tour with all races; I took offense and still do when I hear racial slurs. Racial slurs are from bullies and fools and quite often there's no cure for the person making the slur. For all the reasons one could come up with to hate, racial hatred is absolutely the most idiotic. Hatred kills. If you hate long enough you make yourself sick. If you cannot feel the plight of another’s anguish, regardless of their origin, you cannot properly love your own family.

To give in to emotional rage is debilitating. There were too many times when the screaming rockets, mines, or other means brought death and maiming, I would have joyfully thrown my life into the whirlpool just to take some of the enemy out, being little different than a rabid animal.

Mt. McClintock- Micky Dee and Jim Fields

Mt. McClintock- Micky Dee and Jim Fields

Back In The USA

Our adversaries were not miscellaneous targets. They were people with families. You can bet that they too, after days of war, were ready to go home and see their moms and dads, watch TV, hear some music, eat a home cooked meal, and sleep in a warm, soft bed. I wanted a cold Coca-Cola and some ice cream as well. Believe it or not, our enemies are humans. They laugh and love just like we do.

When I returned to the states, I couldn't believe that anyone could be treated as I was. I remembered that in Vietnam I didn't let my fellow marines down. When put in dangerous situations, when there was time to think about the situations, I would say to myself, "What if "so and so" were here, what would I do? How would I conduct myself if they were here?" Our platoon was tight. When one of us was sent on an ambush or listening post, it was easy for some of us to step up and go as well. This was family. It made no difference what vile reason was made up for us to be here. We had to get ourselves back home. If one of us didn’t make it, we failed.

Back in the states, I came to believe that there was indeed a parallel universe that I was not permitted into. Nobody else was suffering as I was, and for what reason? There must be some code to break and then things will be different. I never did break the code so I guess this is all real.

I wasn't spit on by war protesters. I was "spit on" by conservative hawks who saw something about me that I wasn't.

I couldn't get a decent job even though on my application I wrote that my ambition was to serve God.

I went to college on the GI bill and had behind me 5 quarters of drafting needing only one more quarter for a degree. I quit. I couldn't identify with the people in the class. They were too cold, mechanical. They were jerks.

I wore long hair and a beard because it was the truth. I despised lies. I wanted and had to believe that the world was more screwed up than I was. I became a vegetarian. I was considered a rebel, a nuisance, and an eyesore. I wasn’t treated as a Veteran of war with respect. But then again, everybody deserves respect.

Unable to get a job, I was thought to be lazy even though I’d work in gardens for old folks for free. I was thought to be the town’s drug pusher. I never was. I couldn’t get a job. I should have left, even though homelessness may have been next. I became more confused. I wanted God to have His will. Nobody was more honest than I. I became Job, except that Job had a brain.

I was talked into turning myself into the Linwood Veterans Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. This next sentence took a while to contrive because I wanted to put it cleverly, to mask the pain not from you but from me. My clothes were taken away. I was deloused. I was given pajamas for a wardrobe. I was locked up on Ward 15 East. I was diagnosed to have schizophrenia. It wasn’t true. I was medicated with Thorazine.

Day after day was spent with people who thought the showers were also the toilets. We had a TV and zombies. We got up. We were medicated and we walked around until we got tired. Then we walked some more. If I protested too much about my extended stay, I would be calmed with a “buffalo shot”. That would be enough so that the guards would just walk away because you would soon be on a floor and unconscious.

A day or two on 15 East was horrendous. I was there for eternity. Some people are still on 15 East. Some have died there. I could have been one of those.

They used us for slave labor. We pasted stickers on Proctor and Gamble packages of Tide and Cheer. We were paid a few cents an hour, enough for some candy I suppose.

I managed to get two buffalo shots and spent a lifetime there before I came up with a plan that wasn’t honest. I simply held the pills under my tongue. I could do it so well that even when I was told to lift my tongue I could hide them. I then admitted to being really screwed up, but I was getting better. It was my mantra. I was messed up, but I’m getting better.

My biggest problem was that I was always wanting to go home to that hot meal and warm bed. I wanted a cold Coca Cola and ice cream.

Micky Dee At The Rockpile

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The Turning Point

The turning point came when I was arrested for having grains of marijuana in my Prince Albert tobacco. Take my word for it. I have never mixed marijuana with tobacco. When I was in Nam I smoked pot. It was accepted. I was introduced to pot through being in the Marine Corp and a war zone. The beer was always hot. The drunks of our outfit were violent and prone to fight our own brothers. Never trust a drunk. They fall asleep or pass out on watch.

Parents the world over can lie about pot versus alcohol all they want. Not me. If there were no more alcohol today, and people smoked pot instead, there could never be the deaths attributed to pot as there has been to alcohol- not if everyone smoked till the end of time.

I didn’t introduce marijuana to the Marine Corps or Vietnam. I was introduced to it. When I was arrested falsely for cannabis I had not even taken an aspirin for 6 months.

I was framed by the State Law Enforcement Division and the town police where I lived. I was sentenced to six months on the "chain gang". I did not take any drug of any kind. This was my salvation. How can being in jail be my salvation? At this time I was seeking a spiritual life and had been for quite a while. Not just the "going to Sunday school" type of religion. I knew then without a doubt that my problems weren't coming totally from within. The father of all lies is Satan. It took me years to even visit that town in the light of day.

Through my spiritual search I've worked at many positions. I worked at construction where I was the only man that would swim into the dark river waters to tie the chain from a "drag line" on fallen trees to be drug out of the river. Let's call the owner Ralph Morrell. He and I were a great team. He could swing that huge bucket within a foot or less of me. I'd chain a tree or log up and he would pull it out. Others complained about not being paid enough. I never counted the little money I got. There were a couple days that I just paddled Mr. Morrell around on a lake as he pretended to fish. He never caught anything.

Since Vietnam I virtually never have a bad meal. Meals and sleeping conditions as well as other conditions are compared to my experiences in Nam and of course 15 East. I can't see how I could ever show fear in any situation unless it would give me some advantage. Not that I was worried about losing my life but in every place I would go I would take inventory of “weapons of convenience” even though I believed in non violence more than anyone I knew. I kept this mindset, not for me but those around me.

As a result of my travels,leaders, and other suspects I've met, I can never fully trust anyone. I can believe in most conspiracies. You’d better believe in them as well.

I really know what violence eventually yields. It’s heartache for everybody. The biggest majority of people who have talked up war never participate. Never have. Never will. They will not allow their children to go to war. They know something we don’t.

Except for matters of the heart I could never be afraid of anything. Is that good or bad? We don't know. I feel that I should have died instead of my enemy. I feel that I should have died instead of someone. I feel that I've outlived my welcome.

I'd like to be able to say that no matter what happens to you, you can mentally and spiritually maintain but it may not be true. As for myself, I have been completely broken time and time again. Amazingly to myself, I have survived and have made tremendous progress. Because I am here at all makes me aware that I am the biggest success story I know of, personally.

Micky Dee and Company at Camp Carroll

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The closest person in a vet's life will not understand.

We've all seen terrible things. We all have seen movies and TV where people are in terrible situations. We see people killed graphically. We can see it up close. We can rerun it as often as we'd like. We can become calloused to it if we prefer. It's totally different when you live it. I don't watch war movies.

Part of my salvation has been the bicycle. I’ve ridden hundreds of thousands of miles. I’ve ridden the 34 year old Assault on Mount Mitchell 29 times which is more than anyone else. I may have ridden up to Mt.Mitchell more than anyone else period.

I’ve ridden the 750 mile Paris-Brest-Paris in France, the 750 mile Boston-Montreal-Boston, and the 570 mile Bike Across Missouri. I’ve raced countless races, off-road & on road. I have ridden the roads of kings with kings of the road.

When I ride my bicycle, I am not what people usually see me to be. I do not live down to their expectations. The faster and further I ride, the better I feel about me.

Most people don’t treat themselves to this therapy. Cycling is one of the lifetime sports. When you leave school, many of you won’t play ball again.

The suicide rate is high among vets. After hearing that my friend Stanley committed suicide, my first reflex was that it seemed completely feasible, unsurprising. He was a vet in a small town with PTSD. He couldn't keep a job although he was very intelligent. Stanley was homeless when he died.

Too many vets are in the streets. Too many people are in the streets, period. There is no excuse for it although you will hear a lot of the excuses. When you see a homeless person, don’t think less of the person. Have compassion. He or she may be a Vet. It doesn’t matter. Everybody has a story- the older the person, the longer the story. Some of their stories could be in books. They just don’t have a publisher.

Don’t get so caught up in the machinery of every day life that you can’t frivolously throw a buck or two to at the less fortunate. Leave a buck on the dresser in the motel room when you leave, for the maid.

When you have a rest stop on the interstate, occasionally slip an attendant a buck or two. When you see some rough looking vagabond standing beside the road, wad up a buck or two and toss it to him. What does it hurt? Do you tip 15% or 20% after a meal? Would it prevent you from adding to your CD collection or seeing another bad movie?

Would you like for this person to get a real job? Besides, you already gave at the office and the church. These people aren’t going by your office or the church. I’m just saying if it doesn’t hurt you, throw a buck at somebody such as the old man that cleans the bathroom at Wal-Mart. By the way, how many of you are peeing on the toilet seats?

It seems that the more a person has plus the easier life led, makes for a real infatuation with having everybody else work harder. There isn’t room for everybody at the top. Somebody has to dig the ditch, cut the timber, wash the dishes, and sweep the floor. These are more worthwhile jobs than many of you will be paid more money for.

We’re all leaving people behind. We go to college or we go to war. Be careful how you leave someone behind.

Qua Viet

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Advice

     Don't let anyone make you think you can't achieve a better education. You will always be learning. When you quit learning and doing then you're dead. Never think that because you lack an education that you're inferior or that because you do have an education that your lot is better. Most education seems to amount to a lot of unproductive paper shuffling. It does enable you to get more money however.

     Question everything. Wars are always started by the rich and fought by the poor. Who decides who will be president? One percent of Americans own 90 percent of America. Think about it. Wonder about what makes everything tick. Know that the world's history is being rewritten to make it more palatable for the masses and wonder about who is rewriting and who is dictating the new script. Always feel regret when someone or something dies.

     I want to believe in something other than myself. My God is a creator not a destroyer. There were no carnivores in the "Garden of Eden". Man was not given permission to eat meat until after the flood. By this biblical evidence and the teachings of Jesus as well as other examples of great spiritual leaders of different paths such as Gandhi, check him out, it is very obvious that we should walk very softly in all matters. If God truly did make everything then everybody on this planet is related. None of us is really well or free if one of us is suffering or in prison. Know that you will remember the bad things that you do and they will haunt you someday. Fill your life with memories of good deeds and kindnesses that you've expressed to others. Try to have fewer regrets of things that you didn't do.

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Know that although this life is more physical than we'd like sometimes, it will always be more spiritual than we can ever perceive it to be.

I am not an advocate of one religion. Whatever religion you become attached to or imprisoned by you can pray the prayer that Jesus recommended. Dissect it. Especially:

"Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven."

Think about it.

Fill your life with creating.

How does God or the Earth need us if we only destroy or corrupt?

I’m not concerned with how large your recruiters are or how dangerous they may be to me. It should be against the law for recruiters to go onto a campus. They are no more than painted up prostitutes luring people to their deaths. It’s a job and one that needs down-sizing.

War is unacceptable.

Now it’s November 2009. It’s not 2005 or 2001when a lot of this was written. I’ve now ridden the Assault on Mt. Mitchell 29 times. Four more or eight more years have flown by.

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I give an interview to two students on Sunday. I have incredible anxiety about it. My girl-friend and I just broke up today. Did my thoughts about Friday or PTSD come into play and have much to do with it? I don’t know. Many Vets are homeless. Many Vets are divorced. Many just live alone. I just know I don’t feel “good for human consumption” right now.

I have a low tolerance for ribbons on the backs of new SUVs. I have low tolerance for government jackasses.

I don’t have a lot of tolerance for the Vietnam Vet look-a-like that I saw in downtown “Hootersville” a while back. He was wearing a Vietnam bush hat. I assumed he was a Veteran. I went up to him and asked about his hat. He snubbed me. I told him I was a Vet, that I used to wear that bush hat. As he sipped his wine, he said he bought it at an Army Surplus Store. He then turned his back to me and I suppose I was dismissed. Or was I diss-missed?

This college graduate asshole American and those like him can play “pin the tail on the ass”. Perhaps it should be “pin the patriotic bumper sticker on the ass”.

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One Family-A Century of Vets

For almost a hundred years my folks have been defending this country. I have a picture of my great uncle in his uniform circa 1916.

Now my grand nephew is at Camp LeJeune with the United States Marine Corps. He’s finishing with his training there.

So here I am. I trust no one. I believe in no one. I’m beyond jaded. I put on a “game face”. I take my true identity and bury it in a hole under some leaves, mulch, and then I put a rock on top of it.

But that’s no good. I haven’t cut my hair since 1970. I can’t. Just like Johnny Cash wearing black- I just have to. I should have died instead of the two brothers who were both down to a few days in Vietnam. I should have died instead of the guys in the truck that did flips after it hit a mine in the road. It should have been me instead of the children who followed us too closely.