Awarded: May 9, 2008During those horrible days in August, 1968 I had resigned myself to my fate. I sincerely thought I was going to be killed and I didn’t care. Before I accepted that fate, I went through every emotion of one wanting to hang onto life. I shook with fear and cried deeply, I prayed for my life and I begged for my life. I thought of family, friends and loves, and prayed and begged even more. I don’t really know who I was begging to, but I begged for my life. I prayed to this so called loving God I had been taught to accept. I prayed and I prayed – not only for myself but also for the Scouts around me. I prayed the killing would stop and I would live, they would live. The killing and suffering didn’t stop, it got worse.
It seems that the killing went on and on but for some reason the praying and the begging stopped and I accepted my fate and went into a mode of saving my Scouts. Nothing else mattered. I didn’t care about myself, only them.
Later it was over, I lived and most of the Scouts lived. Many suffered horrible deaths; many suffered horrible wounds and lived, some died. Some lived but barely existed. I lived, but I was never the same. I learned that this God I was told was loving and caring didn’t give a crap. I learned that in horrendous battle, those next to you, those fighting with you, mean more than your life itself.
Now, years later, I wonder, what if I had died back then on that mountain. Of course, my children and my grandchildren would not have been born. I would not have known my loving wife. Those good and wonderful points in my life all came after, and if I had died, they simply would not have happened. I end up feeling guilty for even thinking about dying back then.
Now years later, children grown, grandchildren happy and doing well, wife involved deeply in a rewarding career, I think back and wonder. By most standards, my life is good – great kids and grandkids, wonderful wife, big house, enough money set aside for a comfortable retirement. My life is good but the pain and suffering, not evident to others, didn’t end with the battle in August 1968 or with my leaving Vietnam in December 1968. It still thrives and still hurts terribly and I think back and wonder. Does anyone have a clue or really care??
If I had died back then, I wouldn’t be suffering now, I wouldn’t have the terrible nightmares, wouldn’t be torn because of a lack of good friends, deeply torn by the guilt for living and the guilt for killing. I sometimes wonder if I would have been better off if I had just taken a bullet and died back then. Sometimes I think that would have been the easy way out. Sometimes I wonder… sometimes I consider……
©Copyright May 6, 2008 by Charles Schwiderski