“Red Dog” ~ David T. Roberts
Diana and I were watching a NVA attack on the history channel last night. Feelings of being attacked by the NVA and VC has been with me all month because it was 17 May 1966 that Delta was hit and I was wounded along with 12 other guys and two KIA’s.
I kinda mentioned this to Diana and she made the remark; yes I know, 40 years ago, and gave me that look. I said yes it was 40 years ago to you and most others that don’t know but it is today, tonight, and tomorrow for me.
Although she knows all about that time she still can’t understand the feelings I go through when I have to remember times like this, our battles of so long ago because I hid them from her for so long. There is no one that can understand but combat Veterans.
I wish sometime there was no such thing as PTSD. I wish sometime you could shut off feelings you don’t want to have but every time I close my eyes to sleep and find myself in battle, see the face of a lost brother in the horror of killing and dying, I know I need this thing called PTSD because it keeps me in touch with a part of my youth that was filled with trust, knowing, brotherhood, and because of it I can hang on to what I am truly missing in my life. I know if I lost one minute of the dreams that come take me away I would be a very hollow man indeed.
I don’t need a pat on the back or encouragement but please don’t belittle me if I say something about the war that is still going on inside me, a war which you didn’t fight, don’t understand, or if you were there it just doesn’t bother you, never did never will. I’m not saying it bothers me either but I am saying I can’t give it up and won’t.
It is times like this when my mental wounds take over and I remember men that were lost. I remember their teenage laughter, their stories of home. I remember reading their letters from home and them reading mine as we shared a picture from home. I remember them calling me RED DOG when they came to me needing something and I would go to the LT or Gunny and request this or that, then seeing the joy on a face of a man who was my age, because I could hand him that bar of soap or a pair of boots that he needed.
I also remember the pain on this same face when he was wounded or the blank look in his eyes as he lay dead on a jungle path or in a rice paddy. I remember the hate for the enemy that just caused this and the little power I had to bring down all the hell, death and destruction I could on the enemy that caused this Marine to fall.
I remember after the choppers had come and taken all the dead and wounded off the battlefield, dropped supplies and disappeared again we would set in a good perimeter and again it was time to eat chow which consisted of c-rats, build small fires and make up songs or jokes about the day’s battle and yes once again share some new mail that came in with supplies or an old picture and letter you carried in a pocket of your utilities. All this helped you get over the men that were lost that day, not forgotten but tucked away in a spot in your brain where you hide things for the time being.
It is also a time when my physical wounds start hurting more than the days before. How do they know when to start hurting? I can’t really say they hurt this much when I got them but here they are reminding me of the very moment I got them. Along with the pain come the dreams at night that seem so real they wake me up and I have to check my surroundings in the very home in which I live.
There is also that other kind of pain you feel knowing your not going to share these feelings with your family, that you will try and find a place to be alone and un-interrupted with it all because even though to you it is today, tonight, and tomorrow, to them, it is old stories that happened forty years ago today and because you hid them for so long, they just can’t understand.
©Copyright May 16, 2006 by “Red Dog” ~ David T. Roberts