Monday, April 6, 2009

Reflecting in Wonderment

We bought a new computer. It’s another Mac. The features are great, and this one is lightning fast in everything you do with it. The monitor is 24 inches! It's huge! The built-ins are the fun part. iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, iThis and iThat and iThe Other Thing. Can’t wait to dive into Garage Band.

Our old Mac had been upgraded about three years ago. But now that operating system was outdated. I added memory and an external hard drive, but that didn’t speed things up much. There were so many things I just couldn’t do with the old one. This new model makes messing around with pictures and files a breeze.


It really does look something like this.

I hooked up the scanner last night. Lately, I’ve been in touch with some old comrades from Vietnam. Guys I haven’t talked to in 40 years! One in particular I remember well. His name is John. John called me out of the blue the other day. Left me a message on my cell phone. All we have is a cell phone these days. We use it as a home phone and have been for the past two years.


My friend John circa 1969.

When I answered his call, we talked for about ten minutes, then decided to keep in touch. I was driving, so, I gave him my e-mail address instead of trying to write down his. The plan was for him to e-mail me, then I’d have his e-mail address. I was going to send him some of the stuff I wrote about the trip down to Clarks Hill, SC and the Veterans Program down there when I visited the family of a fallen comrade. That was Wednesday. It’s early Monday morning and I haven’t heard anything from him. Maybe he lost the e-mail. Maybe I’ll call him and see what happened. I still have his number.

Another guy read the newsletter of the Vietnam Triple Deuce Association. I had written about the trip to South Carolina there and he saw it. He remembered Frazier Dixon, our friend who was killed in action on December 3, 1969. When he read the story, he remembered me and called me. Now, he calls me often. When I least expect it, the phone will ring and there’s Bob. Bob lives in Louisiana, somewhere near New Orleans.

Bob will call and talk to me like he’s been my closest friend for the past 40 years. The first time he called, he started right in talking about what is happening in his life right now, like I knew his family. It didn’t matter if it was a problem with the water heater or his son trashing the house, he’d tell me about it in a matter of fact sort of a way.


Larry N, My friend from Memphis.

Yet another friend, one of my Larry buddies, ( you know, I have about a dozen friends named Larry, this is the one from Memphis), also e-mailed me. We’ve been e-mailing regularly now for years. We touch base now and then and just say, “Hello”. Seems all these guys want to get some pictures they have held on to all these years and pass them around. I have a bunch of these old pictures and even some movie camera footage from the Fall of 1969. Larry, Bob and John all want me to get copies of the movie and send it to them. I mentioned including the still camera pictures I have and make a neat DVD out of all of it. I’ll include some other pictures from another guy who made them available some time ago. His name is Bill and he is from the Bay Area in California.


One of my Larry pals, Larry C. from Wyoming.

So this new computer is making this kind of project easy and a lot of fun. I’ve been scanning the pictures and watching the film I have, getting ready for editing. I’ll be putting something together soon. Maybe a couple of Youtube videos as well. The best part is, when Bill put some pictures on a CD, he had a cassette tape recording that he saved all these years. The recording was made in a bunker in August of 1969. Some of it is guys singing and laughing and joking around. On another part of the cassette, there is the actual sounds of war. Bill simply put the tape recorder on the ground and turned it on to ‘record’. The result is indescribable.

At first, I thought these memories would be terrible. The recall would spark terror or result in a major flair-up or intensify the PTSD symptoms, whatever those might be. But it wasn’t like that. It was more like thinking, “My God, I was there. I WAS THERE.”

The memories were not so terrible. Turned out that after the initial excitement of hearing the guns firing, I settled down, remembered, then put it all away. I don’t want to forget about it all. It is a part of who I am and why I do what I do now, all these years later. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t pull out the CD and listen to the American War in Vietnam like I might listen to Clapton, but I listened once, and now it’s over. It was more of a cleansing, a closure, a completion. The event had passed, like the pain of a sliver, the pain was gone. Only the sorrow remains. I’ll never get rid of the sorrow and wonder if I ever should.



There is an overlook on Minnesota Highway 23, way up North near Duluth, MN. It has a flagpole and some plaques in a circular fashion around the cement platform. On one of these plaques, there is a saying that touches me. It is the Special Forces motto. Here it is:

“You haven’t lived.....Until you almost died”

“To those of us who fought for it, life has a meaning the protected will never know.”


I mention this motto because I know there are many that don’t understand. I didn’t want to be judged for going to Vietnam. My own motto is that I accept the inevitability of loneliness as I struggle to be understood. It used to fry my ass to wonder what people thought of me. Now, I know it’s none of my business. The bottom line is that I didn’t like war back then, I don’t like war now, I don’t support war or violence of any kind and hope and pray for peace for all humanity. But war is a part of me, and a big part in thinking the way I do now about the subject. Nuff said.

So I have a lot of projects going on. This seems to be the usual case in my life. Moving and all that is needed to set up the new diggs as well as maintain a home, craft projects that I actually feel like working on, working out at the YMCA pool, taking a walk or riding my bike, riding my motorcycle exploring new territory, playing with Grandkids and getting involved in their lives and now making videos, DVD’s and CD’s and playing on the computer organizing all the pictures from the past. Our life.

All this and trying to write the occasional blog post as well. It’s a tall order. I have to make sure I put in some time to relax too. I guess playing with the Grandkids is relaxing. They were over yesterday and I had such a great time with Gracie. She’s the littlest one, just turned two. I realized that she screams for everything. Joy, anger, hunger, comfort or discomfort, makes no matter. Her first reaction is to scream. As I watched her and made the observation that every time she screams it isn’t that she is hurt or needs attention, but that it was way of expression. I open my mouth and elicit a silent scream of my own. She smiles at me and laughs. Then I laugh. That’s relaxation, to be content in the company of someone you love.


All the Grandkids. Gracie is the little one being held by Abby.

I’ve rambled on a while. Now I’ll post a few pictures from Vietnam. All were taken in 1969 during my tour of duty there. I served in the 25th Infantry Division, the same division that Oliver Stone served in. The impetus for the movie “Platoon”. My unit was the Triple Deuce. The 2nd Battalion of the 22nd Infantry Regiment. As I see these pictures again, I have no memory of when I took the picture, but rather what I remember, or forget, about the people and places I’m seeing. HERE is the link to the site gallery where I have the pictures posted.

As always, Peace to all of you.


The caption on the back of the picture says her name is Nguyen Lin Yon and was taken in October of 1969 near Dau Tieng, Vietnam.


Yours truly with Sgt. Jennings, the squad leader, holding a Russian made RPG, Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher. Taken soon after I got there.


A bunch of guys, acting goofy.


Another bunch of guys, celebrating Thanksgiving in 1969. L to R: Micky, Steve, Bill, Spadoman and Wilson.


The artist from California, a guy named Miller. The Spadoman logo has been around for 40 years!


Where I slept. On top of the 50 Caliber ammo boxes in the APC, Armored Personel Carrier. Quite comfy, but not too safe in the oxygen department.


Not only the medal, but the proverbial chest to pin it on.


Spadoman

19 comments:

fjb said...

Okay, it must be because spring is in the air. My new computer arrived last Friday and I've spent the last three days installing programs, transferring files and de-crapifying the Dell. I didn't get a Mac but I did manage to put together a pretty slick little hot rod for myself.:)

Looks like you've been having some fun. It's kind of shocking to see yourself so young and remember what you were doing at the time the pic was taken, isn't it. We're just turning into old farts, aren't we.:)

Annie said...

Amazing photos, Joe. Other-worldly. Thanks.

Beth said...

ahhhhhh I have a Mac as well but am getting 'new Mac fever'. I'm trying to decide if I want to go notebook or desktop. They ARE expensive but worth every penny!

Whimsy said...

The photos are compelling, amazing, and as Annie said - other-worldly. Thank you for sharing them, and for sharing your thoughts.

I think I like Gracie a lot.

Border Explorer said...

The photos...I'm lost in the photos. Thank you so much for sharing them. I really just can't express myself right now. I was never in Viet Nam. But I know so many vets over the years. The war exacted such a price from them. It is jolting to see the war here in personal snapshots. Again, I don't have anything to say, I'm just drawn into them, and I wanted to tell you that.

Spadoman said...

My goodness, I never expected anything like that! I mean, these old pics have been in a plastic bag, not even a Ziploc they're so old, it's one of those fold over sandwich baggies, the ones you had to lick to stick when you were storing your stash.

Anyway, thanks so much for coming here and for your comments.

fjb.... Yes, old farts we are, with new electronic tools to make trouble for ourselves. Thanks for stopping.

Annie... You started all this. remember I mentioned to you that I looked at your old photos and connected? See what happens. Thanks for stopping by and seeing me long ago.

Beth.... Mac is the only way to go. Spousal unit works at a college. We got an educators discount and saved a couple of hundred bucks. Thanks for coming to the Round Circle.

Whimsy... You know, I found your blog by going to the little icon next to the name on my own blog where it says, "next blog". Yours came up and I entered the poetry contest about breakfast food. I like your spirit. Thanks for stopping by my place and spending a moment or two.
I like Gracie a lot too!

Border Explorer.... I am honored, to say the least, that you wandered over here. I have read your work on Siren's Chronicles before and you do a great service to blogland, as does Beth above. I guess I know the feeling you describe, but I know it from looking at other peoples photos, not my own. My own are still a little unbelievable to a certain extent, especially when they were taken so long ago, so far away and in such circumstances.

Just thanks very much for gracing my site, all of you.

Peace to all

Fran said...

A nice blend of the new & old.

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