Historical Narrative – Vietnam War
My name is James, and I am a Vietnam War veteran. My father was also a WWII veteran. Although we never discussed how it feels to fight in a war, to fight for your freedom, to fight for your country, I always felt proud when he was hailed as a war hero. I knew that nothing could be more sacred than fighting for your country, risking your life, and dying for it. I was in college when I decided that enough is enough. I can no longer wait and see our men dying. I have to do something. I have to fight for my country.
I decided to leave the college and enlist in the army. Soon after my training, I volunteered for Vietnam War. The life in Nam was going to be hard, and I knew it as soon I came out of the plane and saw dead bodies of our soldiers lying in lines. Our unit in a Bravo Company in the 25th Infantry Division was operating near the Cambodian border. Most of the guys were from the underprivileged areas of the country, the areas you’ve probably never heard of. The first few days were particularly hard. The behavior of the guys in my unit wasn’t very friendly. They thought that I was just another piece of junk, a new guy who knew nothing. I started thinking that it was a big mistake coming here. However, the behavior of the guys changed within a few days. They became friends, and some of them mentors.
We used to go into the jungle, set an ambush, and wait for the enemy. We knew that the enemy was out there, somewhere near, even if we cannot see it. One day, as usual, we set an ambush and waited for the enemy. When they came, it was late in the night, and most of the guys were sleeping. We attacked and opened fire. They returned the fire, killed one of our guys, and seriously injured another. We only killed a couple of NVA guys before they managed to flee.
The next morning, we searched the surrounding area and found a village. They seem to be ordinary villagers, mostly children, women, and elderly. However, during our search, we found a supply cache with some ammunition and maps. We took the leader of the village and asked him about the other NVA people. However, the leader denied any links with NVA and told that they sometimes come here and hide some stuff, and told that he knew nothing about their hideouts. We tortured him and ended up killing him and his wife. We didn’t kill other people but burned their houses and stocks of grains. We continued our search of the surrounding areas and used dogs and the maps we’ve found in the supply cache to locate their hideouts.
I am not sure if it was due to the maps, the dogs, or our extensive search, we found a small hideout ultimately. There was an extensive exchange of fire, and we killed all the NVA soldiers. However, while conducting the search of the underground bunker, we found an NVA soldier severely injured, but alive. We asked him about other hideouts, but he didn’t speak anything. We started torturing him, but he was quiet. Before he died, he only uttered a few words in Vietnamese. I didn’t know Vietnamese, but one of our guys did. The few words he uttered before dying were “I will fight for my freedom; I will die for my country.”
Since that day, his words never stopped echoing in my mind—I will fight for my freedom; I will die for my country. Wasn’t this the reason I came here, ready to sacrifice my life. How is it possible that both our enemy and we are fighting for the same reason—to protect our country and our freedom? How we became the enemies if our goal is the same? I fought for one year and came back. I didn’t go again to the Vietnam. However, these questions have never stopped haunting me.