To the Editor:
In the beginning of 1973, I was in the U.S. Ramsey, in PIRAZ combat zone Tonkin Gulf, when they had the standdown, the ceasefire … the beginning of the end to our involvement in Vietnam.
Vietnam had been going on for so long, we didn’t expect much. Morale was so low it didn’t register. A world away, the antiwar sentiment and counterculture had sunk in, and we were affected. Meanwhile, the ’72 Christmas bombing worked, and the North signed on the dotted line.
It didn’t stick for long, and the impeachment of Nixon did not help. The country had changed its mind. Our peers thought we were stupid and wrong being there. We just wanted to get out, go home, and matriculate back into civilian life. The antiwar movement/sentiment made the biggest times of our lives invisible and meaningless. Faith, morale, and support — what oxygen is to air — were gone. A guy told me he was so tired of the demonstrations and bad vibes, when he got out and flew back, he took his uniform off and left it in the airport trash, and put on civilian clothes. I didn’t wear my uniform home either.
A lot of the guys got pretty screwed up. When we got back to home port, really strange things were normal. Drugs and alcohol didn’t help. I remember one guy climbed up on the radar unit and was trying to pull the sun out of the clouds. I talked to the guy who had to get him down. He wasn’t faking it.
In the ’80s, I spent a lot of time with people who had left Russia and other communist countries. What I learned was, there might be something worth fighting for. The losses and ugliness under communism were so off the charts it is unbelievable. The devil is in the details. My roommate Nickoli, younger than me, married an American who was visiting Russia. But when he asked to leave the country to be with her, they threw him in an asylum. He said, “They can do anything to you.”
Because after all, you would have to be crazy to want to leave the U.S.S.R., right? Now if you are an ideologue and went to the Sorbonne in Paris like Pol Pot, you might want to give communism another try, because after all, what could possibly be worse than capitalism? Turns out, a lot.
Thank you to all who served. And serve.