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Lethal Betrayal: The Purple Heart We Never Got (poem)
By Mike Hastie
When I left Vietnam as a soldier, I processed out
at Cam Ranh Bay, like so many thousands of others
returning to the United States.
My group was assigned to a large transit barracks.
We were there for a couple of days dealing with
all of the paperwork, and we all had to be tested
for traces of heroin in our urine.
We were called out the next day, and those who
tested positive had to stay in Vietnam for a
couple of extra weeks to be treated in a shake and
bake addiction treatment program.
What I remember the most about the 2-3 days
we were in Cam Ranh Bay was the graffiti that
was written on the walls of that transit barracks.
It was written on every square inch of those walls.
American soldiers were expressing everything they
had stuffed during the year they were in Vietnam.
The anger and rage they had suppressed toward their
government and President Richard Nixon came pouring out
of their souls. Their truth was extraordinarily articulate as
any profound piece of writing I have ever read. They all
felt used by their government for absolutely no reason,
except for war profiteering. They all had hate for the
politicians who sent them there. This is a microcosm of
history that has long been forgotten. It is all down the
memory hole of the tragedy of the Vietnam War.
The last day I was in that transit barracks, a soldier in
the bottom bunk next to me, got up from a drinking
blackout and pissed on the wall against that graffiti.
For me, that was a powerful moment of encapsulating
the entire atrocity of the Vietnam War.
Far more Vietnam veterans have committed suicide
than were killed during the war.
Many of my friends did not die in Vietnam, but as
a result of being there.
During the year I was in An Khe, Vietnam, I not only
saw dead and wounded American soldiers being
brought in by helicopters, but I saw the end result
of US soldiers committing suicide and homicides,
along with rampant heroin addiction.
This is the legacy of that god awful war against
Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. For every US
soldier killed, there were 100 indigenous people
killed by the United States Government.
When I left Cam Ranh Bay, the graffiti and the
piss on the wall didn't lie...
Lying is the most powerful weapon in war.
—Mike Hastie, Army Medic Vietnam