It happened so long ago that you would think I would have forgotten it already, but it always seems to pop back into my mind. A little foot, a little human foot.
The first place I was sent to in Vietnam was Phu Bai, a small village just south of Hue City which is north of Da Nang. I remember we were set up in a cemetery which had some pretty big concrete and stone dragons for tomb stones, and how when the Vietnamese buried somebody they were put in a round hole in a sitting position. This area was just past where the Seabees were set up.
I guess I remember that place so well because it was my first taste of the Nam. Other places are kind of a blur to me. Actually, if I sit here and close my eyes I can see just about see every sandbag on our bunker at Dong Ha, and I can look down at LZ Stud from up on Signal Hill. I can see the Rock Pile and what it looked like from a chopper as we flew by. Enough of that though, I don't enjoy thinking back on very much of my time there.
Some memories are with me all the time, and no matter how I try, I can't get them pushed to the back of my mind. That is where that little foot comes in. It is always kind of there ready to spring out at me.
I know we weren't in Phu Bai, I believe we were in a little village called Phu Loc, but when I looked it up on the internet it was the District of Phu Loc, and Phu Bai was in that District. Who knows? I might be mixed up about the name of that village.
Now, so as not to disappoint you, this isn't some glorious war story. I was riding in a six by truck, and we were going to a dump that was on the other side of that little village. I was riding shotgun, and we had to wait as they were dropping artillery on that village, and we went in with some Marine unit to see what was left. Not much. However, when we were actually in the village, the Marines had us hold up as they went out and around a rice paddy.
I got out, had a smoke, was talking to some guys, and happened to look down. There was a foot. It was almost like a piece of unfired clay, and it was perfect. It was chopped right off above the ankle, and there was no blood on it.
I remember just staring at it trying to carry on some conversation with those Marine grunts. Like I said, I was pretty new in country, and I had to ask. I remember saying, "Look at that; it is a foot; what do we do with it?" One of those Marines looked down to where I was pointing, and he kicked it like a soccer ball, and it flew about twenty feet away and out of sight.
That little foot was out of sight, but it has never been out of mind. After being there for over a year I learned that that little foot was probably all that was left of some child, somebody's child. The rest was probably vaporized, or the pieces were blasted into such small pieces you wouldn't recognize them as body parts.
I have always wondered if a mother or father came back looking for their child and found that foot. Maybe everyone in the family was blasted to small pieces. Who knows. We are now told that we killed over a million innocent civilians in Vietnam, and I have no doubt that is true. I know for sure that I saw a lot of dead women, dead children, and dead old people. For a while, you might tell yourself that they were probably VC. I bet the troops in Afghanistan are saying the people they kill are probably Taliban or al Qaeda.
It is the same in any war. The troops who are forced to do the killing play mind games with themselves making up stories so they don't go totally nuts. At the same time, from the President on down, the troops are told what a great job they are doing and how they are "protecting our way of life in the United States," but you know what? They are lying, because, face it, they don't want the troops to go nuts either. If the troops go nuts, who are they going to get to do their fighting and killing?
It's OK though if, after you get home and have time to think things out, you realize that you were part of a mass murder machine. Washington doesn't care. In fact, they will give you a disability check and tell let you to talk to a shrink. Oh, and your neighbors who have never been to war will put a yellow magnet ribbon on their cars that tell you they support the troops. They don't.
However, as you get older you realize that there is a new group or new groups of younger veterans who need that shrink more than you do, because their troubles are just starting. So you quit going to make room for that new guy or now, woman.
The politicians could care less. You did what they needed when you went to war, and paying you off is cheap compared to the billions the Defense Industry made. However, now that payoff is really adding up. Today, there are more and more troops seeking help for what they can't get out of their minds, but the politicians have to keep them quiet, so that they can have more wars, and the Defense Industry can make more money, and they can get re-elected.
I just wish those who send the troops off to war would get a little bit of that war stuck in their minds, too. Believe me, after that happened to enough of them, we wouldn't go to war anymore.
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