Plus 40

People are talking about the big round number anniversary here, and it occurs to me I was operating under a math to year dissonance, and unawares that I was.  I associate the end of the Vietnam war with the conclusion Kissinger brought to it, what they say in textbooks, like January 1973.  That’s 42 +  years.  But that helicopter photo is from 1975, that’s 40 years.  Are we saying Vietnam ended in 1975 now?

My textbook understanding is also that ’68 election turned somewhat on who was thought most credible in claiming a plan to end the war.  And when you understand Republicans by today’s terms, it’s hard to figure that man was Nixon.  But the alternative I guess was Humphrey, LBJs VP.  Not terribly credible.

My own family, those that were of voting age, were I think conventionally anti-war by ’68, and my father and uncle were just back from Vietnam.  Everyone voted for Humphrey anyway so far as I know, that being a Minnesota thing paired with a Roosevelt-ian revulsion for Republicans.

“The Marines’ initial assignment was defensive. The first deployment of 3,500 in March 1965 was increased to nearly 200,000 by December.”  My father was not yet 21 and been a Marine for 3 years by 1965.  He was deployed to Vietnam end of 1965, so we are going on his 50th year anniversary.  He set foot in country via the old Higgins boats to seashore that they ran out from troop carriers.  There’s probably an operation name associated with that, as it seems something more purposeful than landing at an airstrip that was available, and the country was not overrun in that area at that time.  I do not know what the operation name was.  I believe he was rotated out in fall of 1966.  He was a bone fide infantry rifleman out doing guerilla interdiction via helicopter drops and was in ‘action’ over 9 or 10 months.  Were they battles?  Skirmishes?  He got malaria in Vietnam and recovered in Manila for some weeks before being sent back.  I do not believe the malaria ever affected him since.  I think I recall that he got burnt badly on his left forearm by a hot rifle barrel while hunkered down in a ditch or behind a downed tree during some event.  Burn scar is still there, mighta been as big as an Eisenhower silver dollar originally.

In terms of tropes and stock characters…. He had quite a few chaotic years when he got back, which extended well into our family life once there was our family, starting 68… that’s one way to say it, having to do with how to manage how much one drinks beer.  He didn’t quit beer, but he ended up managing it, and if he wasn’t naturally one he ended up this kind of guy with a pretty absurd work ethic.  Ya know, a diligence, and did well with his own professional services shop.  That came about just as he was going to get into his 40’s.  He is not quite retired yet.  He has prostate cancer now, which he’ll probably recover from, and it pisses him off but his stoicism is such that he crabs about other things.  There’s a prostate cancer to Agent Orange correlation, and I think he’s getting some VA disability comp for that besides VA health benefits.

I think I got 5 Vietnam era veterans among dad and uncles, 3 of them were in Vietnam.  I think their service remains a curiosity to all the aunties and us kids who came after.  Ya think, or at least I do, its very weird in some ways that all these average dudes had to be kinda herded up to do this, and they did it…and it is their own thing that no one else can ever really get if they were not there.  And I wasn’t of course, I didn’t live that. The shadow is robust enough to have a material presence though in the life of someone like me, born to the new adults of the 60’s.  Not to be too melodramatic or wordy.

The Deuce

Yeah, I can see that this is the case….

I said that:

I said that:  Works great, shockingly so.


One thought on “Plus 40

  1. pm1956

    I graduated from high school in 1975. Had to register for the draft, which ended in 1973 (but no one was sure for how long). Saigon fell in 1975, so that was when the North Vietnamese finally took complete control of the entire country. Knew a bunch of people who served there. Knew a bunch of VVAW guys, who had interesting stories to tell. interesting, in that they tend to either be really quiet about what happened to them, or else almost hyperbolic in terms of the stories they tell. But maybe that is just my experience.


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