To Serve and protect the military motto of the United States American Armed Services, will forever be a part of American History and the History of many who choose to serve. This is a life many choose to live, to protect the rights we were given under our constitution and democracy in the world. Freedom is what keeps us going and the military is the way we ensure it. Those of us who have served, do not do it for our own personal welfare or wants, we do it to protect the rights and privileges and the families we left behind so they can grow up peacefully and safe. We do what we do in the military to protect home and family.
I served in three different branches of the United States Military, I started in The U.S. Army, but did not like it, nor did I last in it, I ended up leaving it due to immaturity. Then, went on, to join, the Connecticut Army National Guard, and then finally serving in The United States Navy for 12 more years. So Military life, was and is ingrained in me as a Disable American Veteran.
Naval stories I tell all, the time and people laugh at the ones I tell. I have been told some are good enough for publishing. SO I thought I would attempt to tell a story from my time in the Army and Army National Guard. My first job in the Army was as a M-88 tank retriever driver. I hated it, sloshing through mud to tow out broken tanks. My second military experience was in the Connecticut Army National Guard and I became a Machine Gunner Scout then. I learned many tricks in warfare and field experiences from some of the best in the business in my mind, who, were actual Vietnam Veterans. These men were the best America had in my book and helped me mature and grow as a man I served proudly with them in the Guard and would do so again if I could, for they represent the best there ever was.
But like many Veterans, these proud men, suffered from the same thing I now suffer from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Nightmares, flash backs, inability to sleep and certain circumstances that will make grown men not be able to sleep normally. And yes, I say men, but as we all know, the fact is women are included all so, so I shall say my fellow military Veterans of all sexes and ages and races. Sadly, war, and military life can affect all of us and in the end it also proves we are all equals no matter what gender, race, nationality or any other damn thing.
The National Guard Unit I served in is a small one in a small Connecticut town. We were called weekend warriors, playing war games in case we were ever attacked on the home front. But each, drill meeting or two-week camp, each year brought all in the unit closer together and we depended on the senior members to lead and teach us. Among these men, were two, who to this day stand out in my mind and will forever more. Armand and Louie I call them, they were two Sergeants who served in Nam, and knew the ways of war, and suffered for it in many ways.
Once a month we would meet at the Armory and drill and take apart and clean our weapons, and clean jeeps and equipment. Listen to lectures and lessons in war and learn tactics we would need if anything occurred. A typical weekend drill would start on a Friday night for many of us, we would meet at the Amory, and hang out together even sleeping there. Fridays were for the men of the company to get together and have fun, card games and drinking than war games on the weekend. It was fun indeed at times and at other times very serious indeed.
For Armand and Louie, the drills were serious things and put them back into war mode when the real war games began. I remember starting one such weekend on a Friday evening and learning more than I needed to know about these two men who served so proudly and took the time to teach us younger solders things that would save our asses later. It began on a Friday at the Armory with beer, and drinks and cards. As I said we all stayed there together and had fun.
We gathered and ordered in pizza for the evening, laid out our equipment for the next day, and settled in playing poker. As the evening wore on, I lost money and they laughed about it and I didn’t care I was with real men who had served and I learned from them even at cards But I learned even more about these men by the things they mentioned about being in Nam and the nightmares they talked about at the time. At first I didn’t believe them and thought they were messing with my mind till that Friday night.
As the night wore on, we slowly got drunk and the card game ended. We all decided morning would come soon enough for us, and we cleaned up all the garbage and headed for the old sleeping bags and rest. We all slept in the same locker room and it was a team thing.
As we settled in to sleep I remember seeing Louie in his special hat. It was unusual and different than all the ball caps we wore, I only saw it in shows on tv, in movies and that was it, it was a camouflage hat with a wide brim. Louie loved that hat and even slept in it and I wondered why. I found out that night.
We all fell asleep around 11 pm, drunk and out of it. But, we didn’t sleep long. Around 2 am it began, first with shouts of Run, Down, Hurry!. I woke in a flash when I heard it coming from Louie that night, but I didn’t move,.Louie, was asleep, his hands grasping his hat down over his head laying there, his legs moving like he was running in place. The sweat was running off his forehead, and the lights were on. I didn’t know what to do, he got louder and louder and moved more and more. It had woken me but it also woke Armand, his friend. Armand waited a bit longer laying there like me in silence watching Louie. He told me don’t do anything, don’t get close and whatever you do don’t try to wake him. So, I watched Louie run and then finally wake up in a cold sweat, trembling and soaked in sweat. His eyes popped open wide and he jumped straight up out of the sleeping bag ready to kill someone!. I was scared and shocked, but he opened his eyes and I could see it dawn on him slowly as to where he was. He finally relaxed and started to calm down. When he was normal I asked if he was ok, he said yeah, happens all the time and climbed back in his sleeping bag and fell fast asleep. I looked at Armand who, gave me a grin and said I will tell you later sometime.
That weekend we went North to New York for training in the field, as we drove up, we managed to take a side trip at Armond’s suggestion. The neighborhood package store, we took an army trailer pulled by a jeep, loaded it with ice and beer. We had to have something to drink after war games. We set the tents up and lit fires that night and gathered round before sleeping. Drinking the beer and booze we each bought, relaxed us to sleep after training all day. And I was about to get Louie’s full story that night.
Turns out like this, in 1968 in Vietnam, Louie was in his base with his unit. All was quiet and fine in the field that nite according to Louie and no one knew what was coming. So, they set out the guards for the night, and all went to sleep. Louie was in his sleeping bag in his tent when it all occurred. He never knew it at all. Till he awoke and came out of his tent he had no idea.
At dawn the next morning Louie awoke and climbed out of his sleeping bag all dressed and grabbed his rifle to head out. When he came out the tent flap, it hit him, he was alone it was dead silence. Scanning around there were bodies everywhere, his whole unit was dead! Louie had slept thru a slaughter of his whole unit and he was the last survivor!. Sadly, the unit was wiped out, while Louie slept and for some reason they missed him!. Louie survived yes, but would never be the same.
In the end, this is why Louie could not sleep in the dark at any time. He had to have light at all times when he slept or he would awake thinking he was under attack. Armand had known the story far before me, because they were both Vietnam Veterans, Armand told me now that Louie told me his story, he now trusted me and all would be fine, next time. I learned then as I know now, military life can get you in the end and affect you forever.