The Baltimore Orioles won the world series? I was eleven years old when the St Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and took the name of the official State bird. They resided in the cellar of the league standings every year thereafter, until I left. I was an Infantry Officer Candidate when the World Series rolled around that year and I asked if anyone knew who was playing. We didn't get much in the way of outside news. I thought they were joking when they told me the Orioles. I've felt like a jinx ever since. Was it my fault they never amounted to anything until the year I left Baltimore?
Even more changes would come to America in the following year while I was stationed in Vietnam, even more cut off from news of the “real” world. More change came during the following three years while I was stationed in Hawaii, almost as remote from the “real” world as Vietnam. I suppose this is why I escaped the change that seems to have characterized the national psyche ever since. I will reserve those observations for my weekly opinion piece each Sunday.
Beginning next week, I will share my journal of the events in Vietnam. I served thirteen months in the war zone as a member of the Adjutant General's office of the 9th Infantry Division. My position gave me a broader view of the war than I might have had as an infantry platoon leader. I was able to travel throughout our division's tactical area of operations and mingle with unit commanders. During the first couple of months of my tour of duty, I supervised the processing of battle casualties and corresponding with their next of kin. Later, I was assigned to help manage and then took over the Awards and Decorations Branch where I investigated and processed recommendations to cite acts of valor. I was a platoon leader for the division's base camp defense force. I was the division's duty officer the night that the Tet Offensive of 1968 began.
Guilt at surviving the war without facing the hazards of the infantrymen I had trained with drove me to take unnecessary risks. That guilt remains with me to this day.
My objective over the coming weeks is to document the war as I saw it, to rebut the propaganda that antiwar factions in the media and at home propagated - propaganda that has filtered its way into lesson plans throughout American schools. If America is to overcome and cast off its guilt and self-loathing, then its citizens must come to understand the true nature of our actions in Vietnam. I am especially concerned that those veterans who returned from Vietnam and cloaked themselves in guilt and self-loathing to disappear chameleon-like among the anti-war protestors, will find peace within themselves.