My life, my story: Honoring the voices and experiences of Veterans


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The “My Life, My Story” project lets Veterans share what they would like their VA care team to know about them as a person. After a story has been approved by the Veteran, it is added to their VA medical record. Here is Veteran Richard Brye’s story.

“Somebody boil some water!”

Following college, I enlisted in the Army and was selected for a top-secret mission in a new unit within the Defense Department.

“I was presented with the Chief’s crossbow and arrows which I still have.”

I was assigned to an operation in Vietnam where I developed a cover as an agricultural advisor. I was able to establish a covert intelligence collection operation working with an indigenous, primitive, mountain people called Montagnards who also provided security at my compound.

In December of 1966 a dental technician was sent to treat some of our personnel. A few days before Christmas, when the technician was to leave, monsoon rains developed and prevented him from returning to his ship. On Christmas Eve, we were getting ready to shut down operations. I had already prepared some vodka gimlets and put those in the fridge, when my interpreter informed me that a clan of Montagnards were heading toward our compound bearing a litter with a girl who was attempting to deliver a baby in the breach position.

When the chief of the clan said he needed my help my first thought went back to my younger days when I used to watch cowboy movies. Whenever a woman was about to give birth they always said, “Somebody boil some water.” That was really the first thing I thought. I was stuck. Then I remembered the dental technician. We frantically got on our shortwave radio to contact his ship. We were told we would have to perform a cesarean section but the only equipment we had were several scalpels and a little bit of Novocain.

We agreed to attempt an episiotomy. Our generator didn’t have an extension that would allow us to use it in the annex where the girl was so we had to use flashlights. While the technician was performing the procedure I had to run back-and-forth, between the annex and the radio, relaying information. Eventually she delivered a little boy. For antiseptic I used the contents of a half a bottle of vodka.

A ceremony to thank me

A month later the entire Montagnard clan was heading up towards the compound. The men were dressed in full military regalia. They wanted to perform a ceremony to thank me for assisting with the birth of one of their clan’s people. More specifically, the chief wanted to make me a blood brother by slitting both his wrist and mine and co-mingling our blood. There was no way I wanted that to happen because my first thought was of contracting any of the diseases they may have – the hepatitis alphabet came to mind.

I asked if he would consider an alternate ceremony whereby we would place several drops of our blood into the soil of the compound’s garden.  Luckily he agreed and removed his ceremonial sword, slitting his wrist and mine. He then removed an arrow from his crossbow’s quiver and stirred our blood together in the soil. I said to him, “This way, my blood and your blood will forever remain in the soil of your homeland.”

As a token of their appreciation, I was presented with the chief’s crossbow and arrows, which I still have to this day.

We were essentially sent to South Vietnam to eliminate an enemy.  I never once thought I would be sent there to assist in helping to deliver a baby. That certainly was an unexpected consequence of war.


About the author. Rebekah E. Rickner is a writer-editor with VHA in Madison, Wisconsin. The primary goal of “My Life, My Story” is to honor the voices and experiences of our Veterans by sharing their stories with their VA care team and families. 

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VAntagePoint Contributor

-- VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you'd like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Daniel C Crawford    

    I would love to do an Interview. I served in Vietnam 3 tours and with my twin brother who was A Marine and I was a Seabee. My baby brother served on Nam 1971 and died of Agent Orange induced lung cancer.
    All three of us were p r out to serve The US Navy

  2. ron belin    

    i am a veteran, a combat veteran, and i don’t exhaust a lot of effort in the thin if not rare air remaining where the VA’s general council leaves disabled vets clawing for deeds like enlisting a dental technician to deliver from the enemy’s ranks for more potential loin cloth donners. this is not all this soldier began to do in his service and embarassing to find it coaxed out of him. ron belin 1st of the 12th, 1st cav air mobile

  3. Victor Sellers    

    I have a story I would like to tell you, but it is all about the treatment I received while hospitalized in Vietnam, but the VA would deny it. Luckily I have some of the records, but the VA destroyed the others or just won’t release them, which was done to cover up the facts of Agent Orange Exposure, and what it really does to you. Not the watered down version fed to the public to disguise it’s devastating truth, but most people don’t give a crap unless you know someone that suffers from it, or your child that is ruined by it. My records were withheld all my life, from the time I was 19 years old and evacuated out of Vietnam until last spring when I was 64 years old. The VA withheld medical evidence that could have made a difference in my life span as well as quality of life, but that wasn’t important. What was important to the VA was a reasonable excuse to withhold any benefits I deserved and they simply stated that Agent Orange is not known to cause any disabilities, and that was the end of that. I never received a diagnosis, even to this day in January 2017, almost 46 years later. I never received an answer why some records are still withheld, just that they can. The corrupt VA officials will always run the VA, because they can,,,and do!

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