I just got through watching Episode 5 of the Burns/Novick documentary The Vietnam War. The title of the episode is This Is What We Do (July 1967-December 1967). I am only going to make remarks about this episode. Please keep that in mind. I have probably watched 7 episodes of this 18-hour series. I felt that Episode 5 had a tremendous amount of information in it, along with some powerful historical footage. You can critique that information and put it under a microscope if you want to. But, I want to refine what I saw to write this article. If I were a conservative Vietnam veteran, I would find this episode very disturbing. I have not forgotten my conservative upbringing, as I was raised in the military because my father was a career Army Officer and combat veteran in North Africa during World War II. The pathology of this episode was that the war was over by November 1967. Of course you could say the war was over before it started. As someone on the left, I think most of us know this. The United States was nothing more than the identical twin sibling of French Imperialism. It is not that complicated. So, I'm going to look at just this episode, as I'm going to put another hat on that says, “Proud to Be a Vietnam Veteran." If a Vietnam veteran is wearing that baseball cap when he is watching Episode 5, he might later become very depressed. If he was watching that episode with some other Vietnam veterans at a Vet Center, he might want to drive his car off a cliff when he left that Vet Center to drive home. Now, WHY would he want to do that? It's 1969, and this veteran is in the Central Highlands of Vietnam with an Army unit attached to the 4th Infantry Division. His platoon is caught in an ambushed in the mountains 15 miles South of An Khe. In a matter of minutes, 14 of his fellow soldiers are killed with AK-47 small arms fire. Four others are critically wounded, including both medics. Within minutes after the ambush, the Viet Cong vanished. The RTO (Radio Telephone Operator) calls in Medevac helicopters from Fort Radcliff. The Vietnam veteran who watched Episode 5, was on that mission, and lost three very close buddies, one of them on the helicopter during the flight back to 8th Field Hospital, who happened to be one of the medics. The two of them read each other's letters from home. They knew every member of each other's family, and had shared many pictures. When this soldier returned to the United States, he suffered from many years of depression and lost just about everything due to his alcoholism. Eventually, he was able to sober up, and joined three communities that saved his life. Between AA, church, and the Vet Center, he was able to put his life back together. Twice a month, he meets with half a dozen close friends who are also vets, who share similar conservative values. Now, let's go back to Episode 5, and remember all the dead Marines who were killed near the DMZ, called, “Dead Marine Zone," by one Marine who was interviewed in the episode.
Army Medic Vietnam