From Montezuma to Helmand


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Since its inception 235 years ago as a Naval infantry auxiliary, the United States Marine Corps has been held in high regard throughout the world as a highly adaptive combat force. Allies and belligerents for over two centuries have come to understand that there is no greater friend or worse enemy than a U.S. Marine. The Department of Veterans Affairs wishes a Happy Birthday to all Marine Veterans who have served during peace and war. If you served in the Corps, we encourage you to share some stories of your time in the service.

Author

Alex Horton

Comments

  1. Mike M    

    Bill,

    You are a survivor, man. The warrior in you can overcome any obstacles that are put in your path. Keep talking to the Vet Center and your friend at the County and get hooked up other Vets who have been through what you are going through. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 for Veterans any time 24 x 7.

    There are people who can help, and you are worth it. You have survived far bigger fights than this, and you WILL survive this.

    Semper Fi!

  2. Keith Allen    

    My father, a warrior in the Marines during the Vietnam war, has battled with PTSD for the past 30 some odd years. He was once too proud to admit that he needed the help but finally gave in after numerous failures in his life. Luckily, the VA was able to help offer him the help he needed. God bless you guys!

  3. Bill Bratton    

    Thank you Alex. I just don’t see the use any more.
    I went through the motions of getting help at the VA soon after discharge. Some guy who never left the states can go out on the weekend and get drunk and wreck his car and he gets a check for life and all the counseling he wants. I got hit in combat, stayed on the hospital ship USS Sanctuary for 15 days and was told they may not be able to save my hearing. I get home and continue to have problems and the VA doc says my issues are definitely directly attributed to me getting hit in Vietnam. I get the letter back saying my problems are NOT service connected. I let the guys talk me into applying for help a few years later. They say you always have to apply a second time. The doc at the VA is even more emphatic about it. He says he can even see the scars from the trauma in both my ears. He says my hearing has gotten worse since my last visit. He says he don’t know why it didn’t go through the first time. He says I will need a hearing aid soon and will definitely need one when I get older. He says there is no way they will turn me down after what he wrote. I get the same letter. NOT service connected. Now, 35 years later my life has fallen apart. I think PTSD is jumping at loud noises and having nightmares. I find by doing research that all the problems I have experienced the last 40 years are text book PTSD. I can’t sleep at night. I get up several times at night to check to see if the doors are locked. I can’t stand to be in crowds. I have little to no short term memory. I feel there is no reason to plan a future because I know I won’t be around much longer. The list goes on and on. I went to a few weeks of counseling at a local VET Center. The lady was very kind and understanding and said I had all the signs. I was supposed to go see a psychiatrist but never heard any more from anyone. I went to a friend who is the Veterans’ Coordinator for the county and he filed a claim for me for PTSD and another for my hearing. I have not heard anything except how they now have some streamlined process for filing claims. It must be so fast I missed it because I have not heard back from the VA. I don’t even believe any more that the VA actually exists. Now I am in the middle of a year long divorce and have tried from the beginning to give my wife everything but she hired a lawyer who won’t even return my lawyer’s calls to end this thing. He and the judge are in bed together so when I complained to the judge about not being able to find out what I am supposed to pay because her lawyer won’t return his calls, the judge says in a very sarcastic way, “Well, I was an attorney before I was a judge and we can get pretty busy some times.” So now I stand to go to jail for not knowing what I am supposed to be paying. I just say, What’s the use?

  4. John A. Fernung    

    I did a lucky 4 and look at signing up as one of the best decisions of my life! Second only my deciding to NOT re-enlist. Wouldn’t take a million dollars for the memory, wouldn’t pay a nickle to do it again!

  5. Bill Bratton    

    Does anyone know how to get help for PTSD? I just found out a few months ago that my failure at a 31 year marriage and other social problems is due to extreme PTSD. How do I get help? I went to a “Vet Center” and had counseling. I feel like I can’t go on any more. I have no reason to go on. I have no purpose in life. What can I do?

    1. Alex Horton    

      Bill, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) right away and press 1 for Veterans. Or you can go to the following link to live chat with a counselor 24/7. Click on the green rectangular button on the right side.
      http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans/

      Please get help. This country needs you.

  6. Bill Bratton    

    One day in Vietnam:
    LZ Kevin

    It’s 21:00 on May 21st, 1969. Scuttlebutt says tonight is our last night on LZ Kevin. We’re all glad it’s over. Way too close to the “D” for our comfort. We know Charlie’s got us dialed in with his mortar tubes. Rockets are expected any time. Hell, as close as we are, we should be getting artillery from across the “D”. Quiet night so far and plenty of stars. That means good visibility while standing lines. Something just don’t feel right.
    22:00. Night patrol going out through the wire. Good luck, Marines. Don’t bring anybody back with you. Let us get some rest tonight. Tomorrow we hump back to some hot chow.
    23:00. What in the HELL was that? Another freakin’ Beacon Op. Some Marine Phantom leaves Da Nang, sets his course, flies real high, radio signal drops the 500lb bomb, we never hear the plane and then, BOOM, right beside us. Try going back to sleep after that one.
    04:00. Night patrol coming back in. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, they all made it back. Didn’t bring any extras back with them. Good job, Marines. Now they say they saw a lot of sign. Looks like large troop movement just North of us. Gee thanks, any more good news?
    06:00. Eatin’ the last of my C-rats. Word just came down from Gunny and Gunny never lies. We got choppers coming in to get us any time now. Get your gear packed, fill those fightin’ holes, bury your trash and get ready to ride. No humpin’ today. Thank you, Jesus.
    08:00. Ok, where’s those choppers? Yea right, the general used them to go to the PX. I knew it was too good to be true. INCOMING!!! Hit the dirt!!! I heard the tubes pop. Sounded like three on the way! OK, move over Rodriguez; two of us have to fit in this hole. Well, I guess they just had to mess with us before we left. INCOMING!!! Three more on the way! Dig deep; I just heard the guns across the “D”. This ain’t good, ladies. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. That was artillery! Here come the mortars again! Somebody get up there and get a fix on those pops! Look for the fuckin’ flash and count to the pop. Give the 81’s some dope so they can fire a mission. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Damn, that was close. Corpsman Up!!! Hurry up, check him out! How bad is it? Come on, answer up back there! Mad Dog six, Mad Dog six this is Cougar six, DO YOU COPY? BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Now those were rockets! Have we got a fix on their tubes yet? I want to see your ass up there between rounds and you better find me a flash!! I don’t care if you have to run all the way to fuckin’ Hanoi, I want to know where this shit is coming from. Mad Dog six, Mad Dog six, this IS Cougar six, Do you copy, Say again, Do You Copy?
    Go Cougar six, we copy.
    Where are those damn choppers? We’re gettin’ our ass kicked here. We’re takin’ rockets, mortars and arty from across the “D”.
    Stand by Cougar six. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Cougar six, Cougar six, this is Mad Dog six.
    Go Mad Dog six.
    Choppers have been delayed. Call in location of tubes and we’ll run a fire mission. You copy, Cougar six? BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
    We copy, Mad Dog six.
    Skipper, we got a fix on the tubes! From Burma Shave, add 600, left 200.
    Good job, Marine, now get your ass in a hole. Mad Dog six, this is Cougar six, do you copy? BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
    Go Cougar six, you got a fix for us?
    Damn skippy, Mad Dog. From Burma Shave, add 600, left 200. One Willie Peter.
    OK Cougar six, shot over.
    Shot out.
    Talk to me Cougar six. Was it close?
    Hell yes, Mad Dog, right 50 and fire for effect.
    Roger that Cougar, right 50 and fire for effect. Shot Over.
    Shot out. Ok Marines, hug some dirt. Our Arty’s coming in.
    BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
    Did you see that? I think I saw the tube go up on that last one. Get Some, Arty!!!
    BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. It ain’t over yet. The guns at Dong Ha Mountain ain’t gonna reach across the “D” to silence their guns. Sgt. Reid, how many we lost?
    We got four KIA’s and three WIA’s, Skipper. Had two direct hits in two holes.
    Well, let’s get the KIA’s up to the LZ. Pass the word, we’re moving out in five Mikes. I want the squad leaders on me now!
    Yes Sir, Skipper.
    BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
    Ok Marines, gather round and stay low. I don’t want any more KIA’s. We’re gonna’ walk off of this hill and down that ravine over there. Tell the men not to bunch up and keep their eyes open. The night patrol saw signs of large troop movements to our North. Now get’em movin’.
    BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
    Aye, Aye, Skipper.
    First Squad! Saddle up! On me, now! Stay low.
    Second Squad! Get your gear and get movin’.
    Third Squad! You better not be fuckin’ last! Get your gear and start movin’!
    BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
    Cougar six, Cougar six, this is Mad Dog six, do you copy?
    Go Mad Dog, this is Cougar six.
    Cougar six, be advised, those choppers are inbound. ETA 15 Mikes. You copy?
    Roger that Mad Dog, ETA 15 Mikes. New LZ, Mad Dog six, you ready to copy?
    Roger Cougar six, send new LZ.
    New LZ is from Burma Shave drop 200, right 100. You copy, Mad Dog?
    Roger that Cougar six, New LZ from Burma Shave drop 200, right 100. You gonna’ be there in 15 Mikes?
    You just have those choppers there, Mad Dog, and we’ll be there! Over?
    Roger Cougar six, over and out.
    BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
    Ok Marines, get your ass off of my hill!!
    BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
    Ok, keep it quiet. We don’t want Charlie to know he ain’t got a target till we’re half way back to Con Thien. Pass it back, keep five paces between you and keep your eyes open.
    Skipper, Gunny says we got company. They’re looking for us.
    Ok, keep the noise down and keep’em movin’. Another five Mikes and we’ll be at the new LZ. Tell’em to keep on the South side of that hill. When we get there tell them to get the WIA’s near the top of the hill, but stay down. Got it?
    Aye, Aye Skipper. Will do.
    11:00. Skipper, the choppers are coming down the valley.
    Ok, get those WIA’s ready to load and the first three loads get ready. The faster we get these three birds out of here, the sooner they’ll be back for the rest of us.
    Damn, why didn’t they leave low like they came in? What are they trying to do, tell them where we are? OK, Marines, dig in. It may not stay this quiet. You can bet your ass they’re looking for us right now. Don’t make it easy for’em. Keep your asses down.
    11:25. OK, next three loads get ready. Oh shit, they found us. Incoming! Get on those choppers fast!
    BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
    They’re gettin’ closer, keep movin’.
    Now the time seemed to stop. Just when I started to step onto the ramp of the last CH-46 to leave this No-Name LZ, a round hit close to the front of the chopper. The pilot figured he’d had enough and he pulled up just as my foot was about to come down on the ramp. My foot slipped off the ramp and I fell with my arms stretched out across the ramp. Before I knew it, we were sliding down the side of the hill about 15 feet off the ground. It was all I could do to hang on. I finally dared to look down. Now we’re about 1000 feet in the air over the floor of the valley below and climbing. Now we’re at 1500 and I’m screaming at the top of my lungs. The Marines in the chopper seem miles away. They are just settling in on the side seats and checking each other for wounds. I can’t seem to make them hear me and I’m losing my grip on the ramp. Only my elbows are over the ramp now. One Marine finally looks back at me and grabs the crew chief’s arm, pointing frantically at me. The crew chief says something into his headset. Now the ramp begins to come up. If this ramp closes with me hanging on like this, all that will be left of me to send home will be my arms from the elbow down. The crew chief sees this and shouts into the headset again. Oh great, now the ramp is being lowered. Now they won’t even have any arms to send home. I look down again. Oh no, no rice paddy below, as if that would cushion my fall from 1500 feet at 40 knots. Finally two Marines jump up and come back to grab my arms. They pull me in and all is well. I guess I will live to eat C-rats one more day.
    The After-Op report on LZ Kevin says that there were 500 North Vietnamese Regulars surrounding our hill as we were arriving at our new LZ to be extracted. They were just five minutes too late. That would have been some battle. Five hundred North Vietnamese Army soldiers against eighty-five U. S. Marines. Of course, I’m sure some of them would have lived but we would have kicked their ass. After all, we’re Marines and that’s what Marines do. Semper Fi.

    In loving memory of Ralford Jackson and Paul Speaks.
    KIA May 22, 1969 LZ Kevin, Northern I Corps, Republic of Vietnam

  7. jason Shattuck    

    I have several stories, some easy to talk about others not so easy to talk about. For me, my favorite story is when I was in boot camp. It was the crucible, I was tired, hungry, and flat out feed up with the D. I.’s yelling all the time.

    The obstacle was a rope climb, I climbed the rope every time in boot camp, but this day I just couldn’t do it. If you fail, your team, is slowed down and you have to “drag the dummy” I tried climbing the rope and slid right off, I tried another time, and no luck I feel down once again. The DI is now yelling, (letting me know how good I am..or rather not good) The DI ordered me to quit, and go drag the dummy. I said “NO-Sir this recruit will climb the rope!” Note to all Marines that will be, it is never a good idea to tell the DI “NO”

    With all my strength, with the DI now Irate that a recruit would tell him no, I grasp the rope, and inch by inch I made the top. I did not want to come down because I knew what waited for me as soon as my feet hit the deck. But I came back down I could see the respect with my fellow recruits and just then the DI grab me dragged me to the dummy and said “Good Job you will make a great Marine” “Then Yelled “DRAG THAT DUMMY YOU DUMMY AND NEVER TELL ME NO” For me, I knew, that at that point, I could do what ever I wanted to do, if I put my mind and heart into it.
    It meant so much to me to excel and pass boot camp. My whole life growing up my step dad made sure to tell me every day I was stupid and would never amount to any thing. When I told him I joined the Marines, he hung up on me, 3 weeks before I left for boot camp, he made sure to tell me that I would fail, that I was making the biggest mistake in my life. The day before I shipped out to San Diego, he told me once more, to get out of it right now, as soon as you get on that plane you will come back a failure.
    It was at that point on the rope, that I became a United State Marine. I only served a few short years, in the Corps, but there is not one day that goes by that I don’t miss my Marines. Happy B-Day Marines

    1. Alex Horton    

      Thanks for that story Jason. I don’t think there is a Veteran out there that isn’t better because of their service.

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