What do you say to us Blogging friends having a few moments of real heart-felt honesty.
Was it General Sherman, who conquered and burned the South (my birthplace) that said “War is Hell?” Was the General going for the understatement of the century or looking to land a role on Celebrity Apprentice? In the interest of full disclosure I’ve had two drinks and I’ve been reading about Staff Sgt. Robert Bales being charged with seventeen counts of murder. When I’m stone cold sober I almost never think about Vietnam and absolutely never talk or write about it.
What do I know that you don’t know? What life experience do I have that gives me any right or authority to speak to this topic? In 1969 I went to Vietnam as an Infantry Staff Sgt.- the same as Robert Bales. On my first Hot CA – with all of two weeks experience – the Huey’s that flew in our platoon approached the LZ and began to take enemy fire. The chopper I was on – along with the 1st Lt. Platoon leader was hit and we all bailed out a few feet above ground level. As you can imagine the exit wasn’t calm or coordinated and the 1st Lt. had his head cut off by the Huey blades as it tilted to his side on exit. Here I am – rawer than uncooked Cowboy Ribeye at Ruth’s Chris and I’m the new Platoon Leader.
Fast forward the mental and emotional video a few months later and “my” Platoon has been CA’d into a South Vietnam Village in the Central Highlands near the Cambodia border. Army Intelligence (no jokes intended) tells us this seemingly tranquil Village is a refuge for “Black Pajama’s” operating freely in the area and regularly harboring NVA Regulars and ambushing US Army troops on Search and Destroy Missions.
We arrive and encircle the Village at dusk. Sometime during the long, hot and steamy summer Vietnam night mortar rounds are lobbed at our positions from inside the Village. A few of our men are injured but thank God no one is killed.
At dawn – on my command – we open fire on everything that moved. Mostly we kill Water Buffalo and farm animals but we light up every “Hooch” in the Village. I don’t know who died. I don’t know that anyone died – be they men, women or children. On that day – in my mind – every person in that Village was responsible for wounding and attempting to kill the men in “my” Platoon.
Was my command a bad call – an immoral decision? Only God Himself is going to judge me on that one.
What do you think? What would you charge me with today if it were your decision? What if I had served three tours of duty in RVN like Staff Sgt. Bales has served in the Middle East?
The Army has charged Staff Sgt. Robert Bales with the “murder” of seventeen “innocent civilians.” Maybe they were and maybe they weren’t! I wasn’t there and I’m not about to render judgement based on the reports in the Media and the Politically Correct Department of Defense.
If Staff Sgt. Bales went off the rails and killed seventeen Afghanis then I trust he will receive the very best defense we, his fellow Americans can offer.
In the meantime – like 43 years ago for Staff Sgt. Larry Stephens in Vietnam – when are we going to wake the hell up and get our young men and women out of this God forsaken pit of a country called Afghanistan?
Then again – that’s just my opinion.