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 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.
Later 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.