Britt W. and I walked into a bar on Decatur Street while they were showing films against the war in Viet Nam. They started out with local news, and then became like something from overseas and then View Nam itself. The thing ended with Cubans arguing about how they needed to fight against Communism. I thought nothing of the whole thing. I had no idea that the US Government was keeping track of all who went in the place.
Since I had a Security clearance, then next thing I knew, when I got back to the base, I was under investigation by the National Security Agency. Well, when they spoke to me, I was honest with them and volunteered to work for them.
I was sent for training, outside of Falls Church, Virginia. I drank most of the time during the training. But, I learned hand to hand combat. And when I was trained on the rifle again, they showed me how to fire a weapon from the hip, since I had had problems with rapid fire at the Naval Academy.
I also learned Survival…
We walked for miles looking for some place to lay down and get a nap. I was exhausted. My body was searing with pain and I was sweating more than I was drinking. The heat was unbearable as was the humidity.
Three days earlier I had been joking how it reminded me of New Orleans. Now I would have gladly be returned to New Orleans. I had no idea where we where headed the night we left….
All I knew was that I was outfitted with a radio and a M14.
I soon found out how screwed up this was. Half the guys were not combat trained. I thank God now that I had been. Frank was telling me how he had learned to eat snakes in his training, but that he had flunked the final test.
I got the impression that we were the flunkouts of the military. Each of us had something that we had walked into or were trying to overcome. All I knew I wanted to survive this. By the time we got to Okinawa, I traded the M14 for a pumpaction shotgun.
Buck was clowning around harassing the kid from New York by getting close to him with his breath.. The kid was real shaky and I suspected he was on something.
As we touched down in Danang, we were met by Maj. Tom. US Marine Corps. I thought I was hallucinating because he did not look like most Marines. His hair was long and he wore a bandana around it.
I wanted to drink so bad to make it all go away or smoke some pot. Major Tom had convinced me to keep myself straight while I was here. He and I would drink a little beer now and then. But, he told me I needed to slow down, and keep myself straight, and I would stay alive. He taught me how to listen to the sounds all around me and learn what was friendly sound and what was not.
It really tore me up the day they brought Tom in. The bastards killed him because he had learned about Air America and what they were doing in the drug scene. He was really pissed. There was so much that he and I had found out about, that we tried to pass on, that we found out that when we talked to the wrong person, then people would die:
I was walking point. I heard noise behind me then firing. I dove into the water in the pond that was nearby. For three days I lay there. Snakes crawled over me. Charlie (The VC) did not see me and walked right past me shouting and saying something.
Four days had gone by and I had no idea how many of us were alive. All I could do was dry myself off and try to stop shaking. I was cold and hot at the same time.
Focus, Bill, focus. Get the radio. Get the ammo. Get your ammo. I had been laying in the water somewhere in Southeast Asia while my unit got shot up. I was hot and cold, scared and tired and hungry and lonely all rolled into one.
I walked back to the unit and found bodies and parts of bodies all over the place. I wanted to puke, drink, get drunk, stay alive, cry, go home, all at the same time.
I found Jacob still alive and Buck was moaning loudly, “Medic.” I said, “Hush your mouth, boy, you want get us all killed. Then I went over to see what I could do for Jacob. But before I could even get to him, he died.
Buck, saw me and, said, “What you doin’ here, fool?” I went over to him and tried to stop the bleeding but it was too much. He told me to just hold him and, then asked if I knew Jesus. There was blood on my chest, and I had blood on my hand from trying to stop the bleeding.
It was after the unit got shot up, that I started keeping watch, and listening to the flow of traffic on the radio. I was transferred to a Comm Center back in Danang after that. I was burned out with the bush any way, and I was Navy to begin with. I was supposed to be working for NSA to start out.
I think it was a test or something. There was indoctrination in our original training, and I was already convinced that Ho Chi Min was a jerk, just by seeing what was happening to the people around the area. The communists had no regard for any of the people. But, when I found out that our own people were playing games with us, I lost it.
Then they started their petty shit with me. So I volunteered for every hairy assignment there was. I ran into Frank again. Frank and I got lost in the bush one time. Frank was the same one who talked about eating snakes in survival. But, when I ran into him in the bush, and he and I were lost, trying to find our way back to a pick up point, he fucking broke down crying, blubbering about apologizing for scaring me.
We ran during the day, and slept a little during the night what we could in the bush, then ran more the next day. I don’t have a clue how we made it to the pick up point when we did; but, some how we were there right on time when the fucking Huey showed up.
All I know is Charlie showed up, too. But, the gunner in the chopper, took care of him, all three of them. And they were just three kids. Three fucking kids trying to kill our asses. And all we wanted to do is get out of there. Frank and I got aboard and the stupid, pilot spins that sucker around and I am not quite in, and almost fall out. I could have kicked his ass, the mother-fucker. But, he was my way back to a shower and pack of cigs. Frank was already crashed out. And I was headed that way soon.
Finally, I am transferred to listening post south of Danang, near Chu Lai. A gook shows me around the post. By this time I am learning to accept almost anything. I really missed Major Tom. I was pissed how he was snuffed, but I was not about tell anybody what he and I knew was going on with Air America and the drug scene.
I quickly stowed my shit into a hooch and found the comm unit. All I was supposed to do was listen for odd ball traffic. I made sure I brought my .45 with me each day. Some of the guys would laugh at me because nothing had ever happened at this comm center.
It was like this was the place where the fuckups and burnouts were sent for rest. I could hear an occasional jet go overhead, Hueys going in and out all the time and the sounds of distance gun and rocket fire. But, nothing nearby.
It was on early morning shift I went in, and barely had finished my second cup of coffee, when I saw out of the corner of my eye, the gook came in carrying a grenade. I quickly reached up, grabbed my .45 and blew him away. All the guys thought I was a hero.
But, it was too much for me. I just shut down. I could not handle it. The blood all over reminded me of the unit being shot up. I just shut down. I could not talk, nor did I want to talk…
They all kept saying, “Did you see what Dunn did?” The gook was going to blow us away and “Dunn saved our asses.”
The only problem was I was not supposed to be there according to the NSA. So the chopper just loaded me up, and off I went.
First I went to Danang, then to Okinawa. We stopped once for refueling somewhere, then in Hawaii, then in San Diego. I was switched to a plane to Colorado and there I was “deprogrammed.”
After several days, then I was shipped back to NAS New Orleans. I got back and I thought I was still in the Comm Center there. I found out I was assigned to the barracks when I went to got to work and my keypad did not work. Before it was over, I was written up several times.
I decided I was going to get out of the Navy. I acted bonkers and they sent me to the Naval Hospital in Pensacola, FL.
I received more “debriefing” there from the doctor. By the time I got out, I did not remember having ever gone to Viet Nam at all. The memories came back after I stopped drinking.
I would up with a General under Honorable Conditions discharge. Then I moved in with my father, and later down in the French Quarter in New Orleans, then back with father.
This is all before the 4 failures at marriage, fathering 2 sons, getting my AAS in Radio Engineering, BA in Communication/TV Production, living on an Indian Reservation in South Dakota with the Lakota while working at KILI radio, starting recovering from alcoholism and addiction to marijuana in 1985. It wasn’t until the recovery that I started having memories coming back to me.
One morning I was taking a bath and flashbacked to the blood on my hands and chest. I have survived. Now what?