|Download PDF of this full issue: v46n1.pdf (21 MB)|
Meeting The Enemy: A Marine Goes Home
By Aaron M. Davis (reviewer)
Meeting the Enemy: A Marine Returns Home
by Suel Jones
(BookSurge Publishing, 2009)
Aaron Davis in Vietnam, 2016.
Combat is best described as hours upon hours of boredom fractured by moments of complete insanity. At this time, we were praying for some period of boredom, but we knew an offensive probably was building against us. We didn't know when they'd hit. All of the probing, sniping, hit and run tactics, and shelling were to wear us down, so they could catch us exhausted and with our guard down. We'd been in the bush more than a month, and needed relief badly, but it seemed that every unit along the DMZ was under attack, taking casualties, and short of men. We had to do with what we had.
The Marines wanted tough kids who didn't understand they weren't bulletproof and were straight off momma's tit, so they were easily disciplined and were malleable. All of us always thought it would be someone else. I suppose that's the way the mind works, or insanity would take place.
I had put off the draft as long as I could and turned 24 in Vietnam. I was the oldest in my platoon including the LT. I was twenty-four-years old, and a father figure to a bunch of teenage killers.
When I returned to the US in 1969, I couldn't get Vietnam out of my mind, and I didn't understand our involvement. I knew the story line about fighting for freedom and democracy for the people of South Vietnam. After a short time in Vietnam, I knew that line was unadulterated bullshit! So begins the journey for Cpl. S. Duane Jones USMC in Vietnam 1968-69.
He went to Vietnam, Duane and came back Suel Jones. I've known Suel since I met him at a VFP convention in Boston 2004. His Texas drawl is fun to listen to, and as nice a fellow Marine as he is, he will not embellish or gloss over the truth of his combat experience in Vietnam.
"Meeting the Enemy: A Marine Goes Home" was not only a catharsis for Suel, but for him a "truthful and honest" story of combat, PTSD and eventually, in 1998 returning to Vietnam to live. I want you to read the book, not just because of it's brutal truth, but because Suel donates 50% of the proceeds to Vietnam Friendship Village, Project Renew and other Agent Orange remediation projects benefiting the Vietnamese people.
OK, so let's give you a taste of the book:
We had been moving a couple of hours, when I suddenly dropped to one knee, raised my hand for the company to stop. I wasn't sure, but I thought I had seen a movement in the brush down the trail...could have been an animal, a man darting or just the breeze fucking with my mind. I crawled forward...the gooks could be watching me...waiting for the right time to take me out...or let me go by and hit the main column as it passed through.
Heat exhaustion was a daily occurrence...the temperature over one hundred...flack jacket and helmet held the heat in like a fuckin' wool blanket...arrived in country weighing a solid 170 and now 145.
Identifying fellow Marines
I lost most of my squad while they were landing in a hot LZ...I was in 3rd Med with malaria...the CO came to get me to identify bodies at Graves Registration...that's when I knew most of the guys in my squad had been killed...sat on my bed wanting to cry...
Living in the bush while surviving on C Rats was never good...only with tabasco sauce...toasting it with a heat tab or C-4...I pinched off a bit of C-4 to cook a can of spaghetti...Every Marine's dream: pound cake, mixed fruit...
The gun was set, camouflage and cover...my legs and back cramped...had to sit motionless with sweat streaming down my face...
Aaron Davis next to a picture at Khe Sanh
museum in Vietnam, March 22, 2016.
Bitten by a Rat
(I had trouble believing this one)
We dug in shallow and tight inside the DMZ...the last night on OP, I had crackers and peanut butter. I didn't feel the little fucker until he bit my hand. I woke up screaming...a fuckin' rat had bitten me and now I was dying of hydrophobia...Doc Foreman laughed his ass off...
I sat in the foxhole...listening to his prayer to guide us in the insane killing and dying. I couldn't condone a preacher praying to God to help us kill...I was raised Southern Baptist...I was a christian before coming to Vietnam...God taught "thou shall not kill."
Kit Carson Scout
Suel asked him,"Are you a communist or a capitalist?" Kit replied, "neither, I want to survive"...A well educated Kit continues, " It's all about money...War is good for the rich in America... while you fight, they drink and play with the money you die for."
Kids/Waiting for ride to 3rd Med
Kids walked 6 miles from Tin City...they walked toward me...probably only wanted candy, gum or cigarettes...I saw them as the enemy...I kept yelling "di, di mau"...I locked and loaded...I didn't want to kill them...I fired above their heads and sat down shaking as they ran away...
I was laying on the ground...something slammed into my back...like a shock of 100,000 volts of electricity. I blacked out. Doc told me the wound was superficial and he would pack it then got me on the chopper. The flight to 3rd med was short...my war was over...triage doctor said bullet missed my spine by less than a centimeter.
Had some rough times which ultimately led to his returning to Vietnam in 1998.
I was halfway around the block...a Vietnamese man stopped me and said, "Hello sir, where from?" in broken English. I said" USA." He said, "you been Vietnam before?" I blurted out, "yes, 1968 with the US Marines." Oh," he exclaimed, "you enemy!" Then he threw his arms around me, and with a big hug while laughing, "welcome Vietnam!" The Vietnamese forgive and move on. The Vietnamese seem to be able to forgive us. While in Vietnam...I thought of them as ignorant peasants...After living here for a few years, I learned that poetry, art and music are the soul of Vietnam. A great part of their ability to forgive and move on, is due to the deep spiritual side of the Vietnamese.
Built by Vietnam Veteran George Mizo...opened it doors in 1998 to 10 children...now serves 120 kids and around 40 Vietnamese veterans. As a veteran, I felt I owed the Vietnamese people. I felt as a warrior...I was not complete until I returned...to help heal the wounds of war. This small project, some 16 kilometers southwest of Hanoi, seemed the perfect place to return something, to give back, to start the process of reconciliation.
Aaron M. Davis is a former Marine and Army Officer. Now retired, he is a Veterans for Peace Activist and VVAW contact for Utah and Arizona.