Naval Security, South of Da Nang

Talked to Trout at length last night. He showed me some of his photos from Vietnam, including him looking 40 at age 18, various sandbags and weapons, and the view of the landscape south of Da Nang that he looked at from his guard post.

Bob's FaceI also saw the “welcome back” letter from Reuters giving him his job in Manhattan again, in March 1969. That didn’t last.

Bob saw a lot of stuff that stays, even now. Mostly kids. “Those little black-haired kids, I still see them.” He told me about an orphanage he and his partner went by a lot, run by a convent. They’d bring food over for the kids every time, huge quantities of stuff from the base. The French nuns would whack them on the head for looking at the teenaged girls, and everyone was delighted at the stolen food they brought.

One time they came by and everyone was dead and dismembered. The VC had made a point, as their guerrilla manual told them to. There were a lot of points like that made, and a lot of dismembered kids. After 30 years and lately, some happy pills Bob can tell that particular story without crying now.

Bob is LoveLater on he and his buddy were sent into the jungle, heavily armed but not uniformed, to “fuck shit up” within certain map quadrants. They were dropped by helicopter near some people who needed to be blown up, or by boat near some people who needed to find out how well our new night sniper scope worked. A lot of “heavy shit went down”, as they said.

But it’s the kids he still sees. When he got back to New York he didn’t last too long at Reuters. He got a job working construction because he’s a big strong guy who doesn’t mind picking up joists all day. And he drank for 30 years, and other things. By the time he came out west in ’75, Bob was in full swing as a PTSD poster boy. A lot of other “heavy shit went down” in those years.

Bob has some advice for guys coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. “Paxil,” he says, “therapy. Happy pills and talking. Don’t drink, don’t smoke. It’s hard to really enjoy cocaine and heroin without a drink and a smoke. Mostly don’t drink. I spent thirty years drinking and denying, but the kids didn’t go away.”

Bob’s house up in the hills has roses and razor wire around it real tight.

8 thoughts on “Naval Security, South of Da Nang

  1. That’s Bob?
    I’m so pleased to know that that’s your Bob avatar. It explains much about when you choose to use it. The OC Blotter post is a fine example, “What would Bob record in the OC blotter?” Suspicious roses and razor wire or something.

  2. I know you’ve stated before that being a professional writer is not something for anyone in their right mind to aspire to, and having tried my hand at it too, I’d have to agree. That said, I think Bob’s story needs to be told. It’s terribly important that stories like his outlive him. Have you considered taking it on as a labour of love? I don’t know of many other people who could really do it justice.

  3. It is the kids, really. My favourite picture from being over here is one I took of these four kids. I mean, it’s a National Geographic-quality photo. You see the kids and you have to hate grown-ups for tossing them into a hurricane as it has. Bombs would fall in the city we just left behind and I would always think about the kids in the back of my mind, and how they might be huddled and scared.

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