On 18 February 1970, as I helped sort through the piles of bloodied clothing and broken belongings, I made a silent promise to the guys who died and those who were injured in last night's two artillery attacks that the tragedy that shattered their hopes and wasted their lives would one day be told.
Originally, I had hoped that one of the war correspondents who visited our company the day after the bombing would write the full story and give it to the American people. After more than fifteen years of hoping and waiting, the story still hadn't surfaced. To me, even a decade was too long to wait. But as impatient as grew, I came to realize that the intensity of the incident would not have let the story be told any sooner. The war, and it's bad memory, were still too fresh in the minds of many Americans who just weren't ready to hear more bad news about the sacrifices their fathers, sons, and brothers had made.
When the fifteenth anniversary of the incident came and passed I decided that the story of the deaths of six men and the wounding of more than thirty could only be told by one who survived it. I realized
I had to accept what I instinctively felt since the morning of the 18th, that I would one day tell the story.
In beginning to write it, I found that I couldn't tell the story of all the guys who served with me without telling my own story. My story was their story. I came to realize that our lives together in Vietnam didn't start there, we evolved there. One of the things that helped me to write the story was my good fortune in recognizing on the day I enlisted that the Army wasn't what it needed to be in order to win the war in Vietnam, or anywhere else. By the time I got to Vietnam my disappointment in the Army didn't begin there, it only became reinforced.
In our story I have avoided expounding on the tragedies of war that we insanely subject ourselves to, we already have enough history books to tell us that. Instead, I preferred to focus on the people who went to Vietnam, their motivations, their thoughts, and their actions. It was not the tragedies that made Vietnam, it was the people who fought the war and the things they did.
Those of us who served in Vietnam were of no special breed. None of us were born soldiers. We were all just regular, everyday people who took a momentary interlude in our lives to visit another part of the world that turned out to be a mistake. Everyone of us who served in 'Nam came from all walks of American life. We could be the mechanic who recently fixed a flat tire on your car. Or the nurse who gave you your last tetanus shot. Or the Congressman you wrote to complain about your taxes.
It must be emphasized that no matter what job a veteran did in Vietnam no one veteran is fully qualified to give the entire picture of the war. All of us, whether we were Privates, Sergeants, Lieutenants, or Generals, can only share our own small picture of what we knew, what we saw, and what we felt while we were there. No one book, movie, documentary, or report can tell the entire story of the Vietnam war. Every year, every campaign, every major battle, and every job was different. Only through viewing or reading a collection of those experiences will one receive a broad perspective.
My strongest memory of the war occurred on the night of 17 February 1970. It's because of that memory that I wrote this book.
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