It begins

I’ve been threatening this for almost a year now.  I think the time has come.  This is the perfect place and time to kick start the “Engage Me” project.  I have access to all kinds of artistic talent and facilities here at Las Positas College and I intend to take advantage.

Since starting this Mass Communications class, I’ve seen some of the more extreme examples of social media’s effect on lives, companies, regimes et al.  It is both frightening and inviting at the same time.  My little world of beating up liberals on Facebook isn’t even a zit on the butt end of worldwide interconnectivity via this new media.

In class, we are learning to use some of the tools associated with the new media phenomenon.  The following is a presentation I created using  Prezi.com, a simple but truly amazing tool.  I’ve only incorporated the very basic components available in the interest of getting all my assignments done on time.  Still, this is a great starting point for my project and I can certainly build on this as I go.  It’s important to note that had I tried doing this several years ago, I’d have taken days to do so.  I finished this admittedly simple presentation in two hours.

Engage Me

God save me, but I can’t do this fast enough…

ENGAGE ME. I AM ONE OF YOU.

I’d meant to publish this in it’s musical format in memory of my Brothers, but I’m just not there yet.  My voice is still shot, my guitar work is shaky, so, I decided to let it go as is for today and I’ll get back to the musical version as I can.  They wont mind as long as I didn’t forget.

RIP Santi.  I know you’re watching.  I miss you Brother.  Hi to Prince and Rex.

Engage Me

What was the price I was supposed to pay?

What quest did I fail, to whom should I pray?

Did I come back too whole to warrant your greetings?

Was my soul not enough, or were your graces too fleeting?

Best friends dying, some gone in the head

Others are drowning in poisons instead

No one back home cares a damn for this mess

They wish it was over they do confess

 

Engage me

I’m not a name on a wall

Engage me

Just one little call

Engage me

Why do you stall

Engage me

This will end in a fall

 

If you live through the chaos and make it back home

They’ll think you’ve been brainwashed, a killer drone

If you don’t conform and act just like them

You’ll be banished for life, scorned and condemned

People will leave you without recourse

No one will show one bit of remorse

They’re done with you now, you’ve outlived your need

Move along soldier, we’ve got a new breed

 

Engage me

There’s a price on my head

Engage me

I’ve made mistakes that I dread

Engage me

I’ve been so scared that I fled

Engage me

Give me some purpose instead

 

Once you were golden, the cream of the crop

The best of the best that no one could stop

Your buds had your six, they kept you alive

Twenty-four seven, three sixty-five

Now you’re a nothing, you’re on your own

Left for dead in the VA zone.

Nothing can be done, there’s nothing we can do

Just roll over there, boy, join the twenty-two.

 

Engage me

I cannot live in this place

Engage me

So, I don’t fall on my face

Engage me

My choices end in disgrace

Engage me

Give me a chance in this race

 

Nobody warned us how you would turn

That in a moment you could burn

All that we gave, and all that we saved

You’d be happy to lend us an early grave.

What if we didn’t answer the call

What if we turned away from the brawl

How would your towers still stand tall

What good would be done if we all fall

 

Engage me

I don’t want to be through

Engage me

I am one of you

Engage me

Can’t you see that it’s true

Engage me

I bleed red, white, and blue

 

I am just like you

end

Just yesterday (for Santi)

I saw you yesterday

You weren’t so far away

Not as far as most

But still, not so very close.

If I could have touched you

The ripples would roll through

To the end of days

And in so many ways

Make our spirits one

Our time would not be done

You wouldn’t be so far away

I saw you, just yesterday. 

 

Please remember my brother with me today.  Santi gave all on this day in 1972.  We all lost that day.

SP4 Santiago Herrera Escobar, US Army Scout and Patrol Dag Handler, 34th Patrol Dog Platoon, 3rd Bde., 1st Cav., Bien Hoa, RVN.  RIP Brother. 

Santi.jpg

Last Days (Written on the 18th)

Most of you know I struggle with remembering “those bad days“.  Today I had another revelation.  It so happens that this is the anniversary of my injury date.  As has happened the last three years on or around this date, memories jump out at me.  Sometimes they come at me in droves.  Sometimes just one.  This year, so far, just the one today, but it’s a big one…and it’s early.

45 years ago, today (about right now, I think.  I was either injured on the 18th at 0300 and transported to Saigon later that morning, or I was injured at 0300 on the 17th and managed to suffer through an additional day in Saigon before shipping out.  I think that last is unlikely.

3rdFieldHospital

Welcome to U S Army 3rd Field Hospital. I read the sign sideways and realized I wasn’t on Bien Hoa anymore.  I’m on a gurney entering 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon.  I didn’t know it was Saigon at the time. I was still trying to sort out the ringing in my ears.  I’ve been in and out of it since cracking my head on the Tarmac at the 11th Cav’s Heliport on Bien Hoa earlier this morning, so I don’t remember a lot, but I remember rolling past that sign.

I’m lying on my right side, holding my damaged left one.  There’s a group of young Vietnamese women (girls, maybe) sitting under a large tree, in the shade, sipping tea no doubt.  It seemed like they were inside the Hospital compound.  I smiled when one caught my eye.  She smiled back, drawing her hand across her throat, the smile turning into a death’s head grimace.  I laugh and flip her off.  She feigns disgust and turns away.  An NCO is in my face screaming at me for messing with the locals.  I laugh and flip him off too.  Fuck it, I feel gooo-oood!

I think I spent at least two days here, though I can’t be sure.  It could have been one overnight and then across the street to Tan Son Nhut and home.  I just don’t know and there’s no fekkin records, of course.  I lost the Army when I left the 34th in Bien Hoa and they didn’t find me again, it seemed, until they discharged me 2 months later.  Things were so messed up, they paid me twice for my last 4 months, then took it all back before they discharged me…all that in about 45 minutes while processing out at Fort Devens, MA.

I do remember snippets at the hospital.  I remember looking out my window, I think it was my window or a window near my bunk in the hospital, though I don’t think I was able to get up then.  I was on the second floor.  The view was of the roof of a portico that stuck out from the hospital below me.  There was a sandbagged fighting position there.  I was suddenly thrust back into reality and fear gripped me.  I had neither Prince, nor any of my weapons.

I remember moaning.  Mine perhaps until I wake, but often, it comes from the fellow next to me who has no feet.  They must change the bandages every few hours.  He’s out cold and he screams through the entire process anyway.  I catch myself screaming with him more than once.  He doesn’t realize it, he just reaches out.  I reach out and grab his hand.  It’s a mistake.  He crushes my hand and there’s no getting it back until he finally gasps one last gasp and surrenders to what counts for his respite…an unconscious, raging, nightmare that never ends…and never will.

I look up from my bunk and someone is turning away from me, saying something about “sleepy heads”.  I feel a weight on my chest.  This man says something and my next-door neighbor moans, loudly.

“Hey! Can’t you keep this guy calm? I can’t hear myself think. Come on, now!”

“Yes, sir. He’s just very uncomfortable, sir. We keep him sedated but the pain still leaks through and his nightmares are horrendous, sir. He’s struggling.”

“I see, yes…”

My neighbor screams as his bunk is bumped with all the traffic.  There’s people all around.  WTF, over?

“Oh, hell.  That’s it.  I’m done with this.  Let’s go.”  The man turns from my neighbor to walk away.

“Sir?”

“I said, I’M DONE!  LET’S GO!”

I grab what’s on my chest and pitch it at the back of the jerk.  It connects.  The gent freezes.  Starts to turn, then freezes again.  He continues out of the ward with his entourage in tow.  Questions flying.  I’m disappointed the ass didn’t confront me.  I’m still feeling great.

Someone’s in my face in a minute.

“You better hope we can get you out of here, NOW, you idiot?  Do you know who that was?”

I’m not having any of it.  This was fun.  I laughed.  Whoever it was turned and walked away muttering.

I turn on my right side.  My neighbor is looking at me through drug crazed eyes.

“Fuck it, man. It don’t mean nuthin!” He was warning me.  I didn’t hear him.

————

My next memory is of sometime after that incident in the hospital ward. It could have been hours and it could have been days.  I’m back on a gurney being wheeled somewhere outside.  It’s blistering hot and sunny, I can smell diesel and Jet fuel.  I think I was headed for my Freedom Bird, a Medivac flight on Tan Son Nhut AFB.

I remember croaking something and trying to sit up.  Someone plants me back down and says, “Easy PFC, easy.  Don’t want another knock on the noggin, do you?”

“Where…” was all I could manage.

“Home, you lucky bastard, home that’s where.  Now, sit still and let me…”

I seemed to fade out for a while again then.  My next continuous spell of consciousness (lasting more than a few hours) occurred five days after I was injured, possibly 2 or 3 days after the incident in the hospital ward.  I was on a C5A Galaxy headed for Guam.  I had supposedly already been to Japan for a refuel and spent 2 days on Clark AFB in the Philippines.  I don’t remember anything but snippets of those times, if anything, but when I woke on that jet to Guam and had no Prince and no weapons, again, I went nuts.  I remember that because when the guy approached me with the needle to knock me out again, I begged.  He did anyway.

This is a bit of a breakthrough for me.  I hadn’t remembered much about the hospital until now. Tomorrow is the day I will have left Vietnam in 1972.  On this day, back then, I am trying to help my neighbor whose name and fate, I never will know while condemning myself to a difficult path out.  I wonder who that officer was and if he had awarded me some commendation????  No matter, I…ahem…promptly gave it back to him.  Lol!  The memory is worth twenty.  He was a shit!

Now to sleep

“Now,  listen up.  I’m not having you arrested because anyone would be out of sorts after the night you’ve had.  But don’t push me, soldier.

“This incident is being dealt with this way for a reason.  Unless you would like to join Lt. Calley in confinement?” He paused for effect.  The Major liked hearing himself, I thought.

“The thing is,  you won’t be under house arrest in quarters at Fort Benning like Lt. Calley is.  You’ll be in LBJ.  Do you think, PFC Hurder, for one minute, that you’d survive in there?”

I don’t remember my reaction much beyond an open-mouthed stare.  I started out this meeting with flames in my eyes, ready to rock.  Hours earlier I had challenged this guy when he told me that I should just forget we killed nine kids.  He steamed for a half a second, collected himself and said he’d be back to deal with this later.  He had every reason to nail me with at least an Article 15.  You don’t say to an officer, “Sure thing,  sir.  Anytime you need me to kill some kids,  just gimme a call. ..SIR!”  So,  at the minimum,  I deserved the warning.   He was being a good guy giving me time to cool down before, going further.

The mere mention of LBJ would melt the hardest of hearts.  Long Binh Jail, three of the most terrifying words having nothing to do with the boonies.  LBJ, were the roaches were only slightly smaller than the rats and the rats could carry a GI under each arm.  Nobody wanted to mess up that bad.  So, instead of further confronting another of these starched green pukes, I shut up while Donnie herded me out of Top’s office before I could regroup.

“Shut up, Shorty.  Just shut the fuck up, goddammit!” Joe told me back in our hooch.  “You got eight lousy months left.  Shut up before you really do stick your foot in it.”

I rallied, “Joe, he said,  ‘Forget about it son, it’s an ARVN issue.  It’s like it never happened!’ He said that to me,  Joe.   Are you shitting me?  Forget about it?  How do you forget nine slaughtered fucking kids?  Tell me that, Joe.  How?  Tell me!  Because I don’t fucking see it.”  As an afterthoguth I added, “SON.  He called me, son.  If he’s two years older than me I’ll eat his starched fucking shorts!”

I was in Joe’s face by then.  Well, as close as I could get with him being 6 inches taller. Still,  I was in his space and he wasn’t comfortable.  Joe was senior enlisted in our platoon after the Top and another Spec4.  I was pushing the limits.  The tears in my eyes and Jeff probably saved me.

Jeff grabbed my arm from behind and hauled me back, spun me around and said, “You maybe wanna fuck with me instead?  Joe be scraping you off his shoes in another minute.”  Jeff’s Pittsburgh accent and snarky smirk could pull me out of the worst funks.  It was no different this time.  Think of Cap’n America…before the injection.  That’s Jeff.  As I visibly relaxed and collapsed onto my bunk, the tension in the room dropped to near nil.

Joe was a compassionate Philadelphian.  He was still a bit miffed but he was more miffed at the callous attitude that seemed to permeate the ranks there.  Often what was of extreme importance to us, seemingly meant very little to others.  We should have become inured to it I suppose when no one wanted to help the old man Ì’d injured the week before,  and then were pretty much “ho-hum” about it when he died in our ambulance.  The longer one spent in-country, the harder hearted they became.

There was nothing to be done about it, though.  Nine children died because no one would do the right thing and keep that crazy Lieutenant from returning to the field. That I could have been hung out to dry because of my involvement in another incident involving an American and an atrocity perpetrated on the natives, children no less, was way more than any of us could process.  We got well and truly drunkified that night.

I was never right in the head after that.  I don’t know if I ever would have gotten my shit back together again.  I didn’t have enough time in-country left to find out.  I was hurt for the last time, five days later and it was more because I just wasn’t all there in the head than anything else.  Thank God Prince was with me.  Four legs never walked a harder path keeping a two leg upright.

My Memoirs:

This will be added to the chapter of my memoirs dealing with that incident.  Now that I’ve opened that curtain, it all came back to me, much like all the other remembrances, even when I don’t want them.  The only thing that really amazes me about this process still, is the incredible clarity with which I now recall those forgotten times.  For instance, I now remember this Major had a tic, the right side of his top lip twitched periodically and it got more pronounced with agitation.  He also had a scar running from behind his left ear down and across his throat almost to the other ear.  He had the deepest green colored eyes I’ve ever seen and they made me wary of him!!!!  I don’t know why.  He had a Mom tat on his right backhand.

Up until now, I was unable to figure out why the guy didn’t bust me.  I remember laying into him right after the incident when he took my report and then told me to forget about it.  But nothing more about him until this memory manifest itself.

This one came to me while stopped at a red light.  It is a notoriously long one that folks purposely avoid.  The beeping horn behind me got me moving to the side of the road while I processed the memory.  It all occurred in my head in just a moment while at the light, but I thought about it for a good half hour before I moved again from the side of the road.

Now, I know another secret!  One more down, about a thousand to go.  No, I really think I’m down to the nitty gritty stuff.  Minutia I think you would call it…the details.  I don’t think there are many more major revelations coming but then, I am still quite unsure about Santi now.  I think I have another revelation coming about my brother.  Sigh!

But, for now, I will sleep the sleep of the dead for a day or two.

Then Ah mayb’ gets back t’ Burtt!

PS:  I just scheduled my final appointments with the Compensation and Pension folks.  Finally, my service connected comp rating will be determined and we can make an educated decision on what to keep and what to unload.  Life will move on again.  YAY!

Write on ye lazy diamonds-in-the-rough!  I read you.  You inspire me to keep on, so keep on yourselves.  Write on!

Vietnam Helicopter Museum Support Needed

http://www.vietnamhelicopters.org/

I am a Veteran.

I ask not a lot.

A chance to get better, then

Take my best shot.

The few things I need

Won’t even fill a page

It’s nothing to do with greed

It’s all about a stage.

I’ve nothing more to prove

So, to move along is fine

But time denies our move

If the stages don’t align

Some of us need to keep on going

Right up to the end

Others of us are gently slowing

Even going ‘round the bend.

So why put obstacles in our way

When the right thing to do is plain

Why not write a different play

One with a brighter refrain

We are all veterans of these United States

We all left a part of us in some rotten, stinking place

All we ask is a little respect, some kindness and some grace

So please, let The Vietnam Helicopter Museum be our healing place.