I Survived Vietnam. Will I Survive This Pandemic?


“SARNANO, Italy — A very long time ago, I was one of more than two million American men and women who served their country in Vietnam. We fought; too many of us became casualties and died. We were gone from home and half forgotten, living and dying in an alternative reality. It was chance that determined survival: which unit required replacements, what transportation was available that day, where the fighting was heaviest and needed support — as random as a typewriter keyboard strike, the list of names carried in a sergeant’s shirt pocket, even a person’s height, which might determine the weapon you carried and where you were placed in the line on patrol. Some of us felt friends would get you through; others knew that being alone was safer, with less feeling and connection. In the end it was chance. The numbers could be improved but not enough to offset random death. The process of division created us and them, those who walked home and those who were carried. Now I live in a small hill town in Italy, constructed with old walls to keep out strangers and the Black Death. The country, like the United States, has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, and I cannot help thinking how much the experience echoes Vietnam — a comparison brought sharply into focus in recent days, as the number of Americans killed by Covid-19 shot past the number killed in Southeast Asia, a half century ago. … It was the same in Vietnam. I remember nicknames and, sometimes, the last names of people who fell and left the war, the war we owned. Today I see images on a screen, dates on taped paper scraps with details fixed to coffins and body bags or bedsheets wrapped about bodies. The coal darkness of a closed refrigerated trailer; the dead laid on the floor in an empty hospital room. I am more separated than sympathetic. All this caused by a cough, a touch on cloth. Accidents and chance. These things I remember. Walking down a street in Saigon, listening to silence, waiting for a sound to tell you someone was approaching with weapon in hand. Fear rising in your throat as you decide where to move. Lying on a beach, looking at the sky and wondering if something will kill you from the blue. Looking at the child approaching, carrying a knife, a grenade or just hatred. …”
NY Times
The Intercept_: In Just Months, the Coronavirus Has Killed More Americans Than 20 Years of War in Vietnam


A woman visits an empty Vietnam Veterans Memorial on April 14, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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This entry was posted in Henry Kissinger, Italy, Lyn. Johnson, Nixon, R. McNamara, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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