Danang Vietnam September 2nd, 1970

This event is what I thought triggered my PTSD. I know it changed me. I tell this story, not to help others; I tell it to help me move past it, to force my mind to look at it. By doing this you may be able to look at your triggers and do the same.

No detail here, just an overview and then a look at my thoughts, my fears and the new me that emerged from witnessing death closeup the first time.

I loved to watch the predawn flights take off. Like I said, the F4 Phantom is an awesome bird; the power mixed with grace is a wonder to me. I left Chu Lai on August 26th and was stationed in Danang for the remainder of my tour, about 25 days. I was short. I got my Sergeant stripes the day after arriving in Danang. Things were good.

When I got to Danang, I walked around a bit to see the layout. I found my way to the cold fuel area and that is where I met Santos. He was a Samoan, first one I ever met. I liked him ’cause he was always laughing. We hit it off from the start. I worked the night shift in Danang, loved to work nights. Just before dawn I would go to see Santos and tell him some Mary Jane Jokes. 

I just loved his laugh. What are Mary Jane Jokes you ask?

Mary Jane went to the movie one night and the guy next to her stuck his hand down her blouse; Mary Jane just laughed and laughed cause she knew there weren’t no popcorn down there. 

Mary Jane went to the bar and asked the bartender for a glass of bourbon and a glass of water. She reached into her purse and took out a worm; stuck the worm in the water. “See the little worm, happy little worm.” Then she stuck the worm in the bourbon; “ah poor little worm, he’s dead”. “See, just goes to show ya,you drink bourbon you won’t have worms.”

Those are Mary Jane Jokes.

Simple as they are, they made Santos laugh and that made me laugh. I was beginning to build a friendship.

On the morning of the 2nd, I made my way to see Santos. before I got there, there was a huge explosion. I ran to the cold fuel area and froze. There was nothing I could do. I see this in my nights and it holds me cold.

Santos and two others were gone

The disconnect from people started there. I can’t explain it; it changed me and my ability to attach to others. The PTSD, my childhood prepared me for, took over. I do not remember the rest of my tour in Danang, where I slept, where I worked, the people I met. It is all a blur now. On the 20th I made my back to the world. Vietnam was no more for me.

I left the Marines nine months later and headed home to start a new life. I was married and had a new son, I was cold inside and disconnected from the bonding most fathers feel. Work became my safe haven. Take a job, hold it for 3 or 4 years and then move on to another, sometimes two at a time. Nothing seemed perminate to me. I was afraid they would try to attach to me and that was the last thing I needed.

Well there you go; as for me I see more now than when I started writing this. More to come. Take a minute and sigh up to follow my blog. Thank you for reading my story.

Rick Sweeting

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