An Average Day in Vietnam
In September 2017, I talked on 15 national and regional radio shows. The expectations were that I would speak about my experiences in the war and as a Vietnam veteran and about my book When I Turned Nineteen. I spoke for 5 to 30 minutes on each show. All the talk-show hosts were gracious and treated me with respect.
On the radio interviews, the hosts asked the same question, “What was a typical day in Vietnam?” At first, my mind raced through many scenarios, searching for the best answer to describe an average day.
I answered, “Each evening when we stopped for the night, I prepared my dinner meal of canned beef with spice sauce, crackers with peanut butter and jelly, pears, and kool-aid. As I ate, I looked around at my platoon brothers and thought, Who’s going to die tonight? Once I finished my meal, I rolled into my poncho liner, and while lying on the hard ground, I felt the fear rush over me as the darkness approached. I closed my eyes for much-needed rest that seldom came. “When the sun rose, I got out of my poncho liner, thankful I’d survived another day. I made a breakfast of pound cake, peaches, and hot chocolate. Sipping my hot chocolate, I looked at my platoon brothers and thought, Who’s going to die today? After breakfast, we slung our 60-pound rucksacks onto our backs and started walking, with slow, deliberate steps, through rice paddies, hedgerows, and fields, and into the jungle. And with each step, I wondered, Who’s going to die today? All the while knowing the platoon was bait to draw the enemy out into the open. This was a typical day in Vietnam.”
Sitting on the ground left to right was James Anderson, Danny Carey, Bill Davenport, and Ray (“Alabama”) Hamilton. Standing to the rear of the seated squad members, left to right, was Mike Danker, Ronald Owens and Jerry Ofstedahl. Unknown to us, during the next three days, three squad members in the photograph taken that day would be killed and three wounded.
When I Turned Nineteen Soldiering After the Vietnam War