This week’s “Here’s To Your Health” is a continuation of Steve C’s story. Steve is a Vietnam Veteran who sobered up in 1990 and this is his message of hope that no matter who you are, or how far down the scale you’ve gone, you can climb out of all that and create a new kind of life for yourself by working the Twelve Steps and getting the right kind of help. Steve is living proof you don’t have to stay there any longer in that living hell of total alcohol and drug induced despair.
We ended last week’s story with…I left Tent City, went to Saigon and stayed drunk for two weeks until my orders arrived. I was sent north to the Central Highlands to a mountain above the town of Dalat. My assigned duty was perimeter guard and at that time, Dalat wasn’t a “hot spot. We dug in around our compound and made sand bag bunkers. Besides being a perimeter guard, some of my other duties included re-con patrol; local sweeps; search/seizure and riding gunner on re-supply convoys back and forth from town.
Most of the time, while on convoy duty, we only received sporadic small arms sniper fire. We were allowed to drink as much as we wanted and it didn’t take me long to discover drugs. My personal drug of choice was marijuana and my favorite was “Cambodian Red,” because it was cured in opium.
After my first tour at Dalat was finished my commanding officer called me in and asked if I would consider “volunteering” for another tour of duty with a raise in rank? I agreed to re-up if he would guarantee that I would be returned to the same base after a stateside leave. I returned to the states for a thirty-day leave and stayed drunk the entire time.
When I arrived back in Vietnam they sent me back to Dalat as promised, but about thirty days later orders came through for me to be moved further north to a place called Quin Nhon. That was in 1968 at the beginning of the Tet Offensive and although I had the same job at Quin Nhon as Dalat, the circumstances were a lot different. We cleared away the jungle for a communications installation at the top of a mountain. We hacked and chopped out an area with machetes in one hand and a gun in the other and while we cleared the jungle I saw cargo planes dropping what I thought was fire retardant. It was sort of rust colored, a dark orange and I later learned that it was called Agent Orange. (An ominous sight, the memory of which was to pray on my mind many years later, when all my children were born, one-by-one, with various serious birth defects.) We laid land mines, strung rolls of barbed wire, dug trenches and bunkers with sand bags around their sides and especially on top. We installed micro-wave dishes, and set up electrical generators for flood lights, radio and television transmitters, for relaying signals from Saigon further north. Two men were assigned to each bunker, one stood guard while the other slept and our mission was, if attacked, we were supposed to prevent that communications facility from being over-ran.
I don’t remember the specific date, but I’ll never forget that dark night the North Vietnam Army came calling, I was off duty sleeping in my bunk at about 0200 hrs. when all hell broke loose. To be continued…