A Minnesota PBS Initiative

48 years after Vietnam

The time is June 1968 and having just landed in Bein Hoa airbase in Vietnam and having heard my first words from a soldier in charge. "I'm short and your going to die."

Well, I didn't die despite the shit I when through with my division, (101st Airborne), and 366 days later I was one of the lucky ones to get on and airplane and return to "THE WORLD as we called our freedom flight.

48 years later I still have PTSD as the VA calls my situation.

Being 23 years old in 1968 I was looked up to the young GI's would I served with just 18, 19 and 20 years old. I also was a college educated draftee thanks to my friends and neighbor of Yellow Medicine County and a quick learner with some luck to survive this inhumanity called WAR.

I got to witness this young men die or be wounded for life. To this day some of their faces and voices are still a part of my life.

So who did the dying? The blacks, the browns and the poor whites that's who. I never meet the son of a "one percenter" or Harvard Dude. Just the Average Joe as always is the case in war.

Our current "hardcore" President Trump couldn't go because he had "bone spurs" in his poor "little feet". Their are many more who bought off the draft and every time I see someone I know that did I get this feeling of sadness.

What right did we have to go 12,000 miles from my home and kill over one million men, women and children in their country?

The question still comes to my mind, What right did we have to go 12,000 miles from my home and kill over one million men, women and children in their country?

The smell on coming onto a site of a week old B-52 bombing and have been told by those in command that we needed a body count just for "the records" tells just how heartless this undeclared war was in reality. I for all eternity will have "blood on my hands" as does everyone would was involved.

Just how stupid this war was can be told when our division made the famous assault on Hamburger Hill. Over 200 of my comrades were killed and hundreds more were wounded. Six days after the hill was taken, WE LEFT that ground and on that day I was on my "freedom flight back to THE WORLD. The this day I still wonder if I knew anyone that died.

A stark painting of a crying woman, a bloody infant, against a black backdrop.

THE INNOCENT by Kenneth J. Scowcroft, CAT III, 1967, Public Domain Courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Army.

My second day back in THE WORLD I was walking through the airport terminal in Portland, Oregon humping with my duffel bag trying to avoid a war portest in the terminal when a young lady came at me and spit on my uniform and called me "war monger". From that day on until I die I will remain in the "shadows" in my own personal war having been apart of the "Shadow War" called Vietnam.

I also wish to tell our story of the warriors who fought in the Shadow War and raise money for the thousands of Vietnam veterans that still wonder our highways and sleep under our bridges. I want to tell our story but, Hollywood is not interested. They being "one-percenters" did not go the Shadow War and be part of the dying that is war. Maybe it's their turn to help our needy veterans.


David Nelson, warrior

Biographical Details

Primary Location During Vietnam: Saigon, Vietnam Vietnam location marker

Story Subject: Military Service

Military Branch: U.S. Army

Dates of Service: 1968 - 1970

Veteran Organization: VFW, Life Member

Unit: 101st Airbourne

Specialty: soldier

Story Themes: 101st Airborne Division, 1968, BIen Hoa, Classism, Combat, Coming Home, Death and Loss, Dissent, Draft, Hamburger Hill, Politics, PTSD, Race, The VA, Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW

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