Pine Nuts: A short history of the Vietnam War |

Pine Nuts: A short history of the Vietnam War

McAvoy Layne

Staying at home alone gives one time to pause and ponder. Today I’m evoking the war in Vietnam.

This was an American boo-boo that was partly my fault. I was in college, 1966, majoring in pizza and beer, when I received a lottery number in the mail. This lottery number was not notification that I had won $7,000 a week for life, no, it was notification that I was about to be drafted into the Army to fight in a Vietnamese civil war on the side of the south.

“Huh? Say what?!”

My first reaction was, “I don’t want to kill anybody, and even if I knew how to shoot a gun, I couldn’t hit a tent from the inside. So if I have to go, I better get some training.” I joined the Marine Corps.

The day I stepped off that yellow bus and stood on those yellow footprints painted there on that parade field, I heard a little voice deep down inside of me start to sing, “Help Me Rhonda, Help, Help Me Rhonda!” The haircut they gave me happened so fast I could hear my hair hit the floor, and that was just the beginning …

A drill instructor, who claimed to be our mother and our God, taught us how to shoot a Colt 45, and I thought we were done and ready for action, but I was wrong. We were taught how to shoot an M-14 rifle, an M-60 machine gun, an 81mm mortar, an anti-tank 106 recoilless, and a flamethrower. I could not imagine myself shooting anybody with napalm, a person I didn’t even know, and I put that thought out of my mind.

In three months time, that drill instructor turned our little herd of cows into a fighting unit to be reckoned with, Devil Dogs, United States Marines. Next stop Vietnam.

Our drill instructor advised us before we left, not to make friends. He didn’t want losing a pal to break our spirit. But that advice fell on deaf ears. We did lose pals of course, and it broke our damn hearts, yet we soldiered on …

When you first land in a combat zone, your first thought is, “Mama!” At least that was my first thought. And I asked myself, “Are there really people out here in this jungle whose only ambition in life is to make my girlfriend back home cry?” Though as fear is an exhausting emotion, within a fortnight I had to let it go …

Over the next 13 months we would learn things about life and death that cannot be learned in books, things that each generation seems to have to learn for themselves. Will this next generation be the first to say, “Enough!” Let’s hope so…

Yes, Vietnam was a big American boo-boo that was partly my fault.

I do have a few friends however, all these years later, that I do not think of as friends from Vietnam, but think of as bricks of solid gold from Fort Knox.

And this is where my short history of the Vietnam war comes to a close …

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