Songs from Vietnam

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I got out of the hospital in Saigon and was temporarily assigned to the office of the quartermaster. Our job, collectively to make sure equipment, materials and systems were available and functioning for missions. This was good, because I was safely out of harm’s way, but it filled me with survivor’s guilt.


As time went by, and the Vietnam War dragged on, I became increasingly uneasy. My anger at the U.S. Government grew sharply, while at the same time I felt embarrassed by the fact that I was ensconced in an ivory tower of privilege. The people fighting this idiotic war were uneducated, underprivileged, black or Hispanic. And while I felt some level of sympathy, it was nowhere near enough for to give up the comfort of my student deferment. I ranted, I marched, and I wrote letters to Del, mostly about music stuff.

Del: I treasured Greg’s and Cassandra’s letters, but my response weren’t very inspired. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them about life in Vietnam. It toggled between excruciatingly boring and terrifying. Like most everyone here, I got as high as I could as often as I could. My unit was out in the field, and getting shredded. I went through basic with those guys. If we were taught one thing, it was to have each other’s backs. I wasn’t doing my part.

Greg: I was a hypocrite, and proud of it. I ached for Del, but at the same time thought he was an idiot for his decisions. He could be drinking beer, smoking dope, making music and having sex like all the rest of us. Fucking, stubborn idiot!

Del: Life was getting pretty damn confusing.

Then things got worse!

Some asshole sitting behind a desk in the Pentagon thought it would be a good idea for the next of kin for every deceased soldier to receive a sincere, handwritten letter from someone who personally knew the deceased. Try telling a platoon leader in the bush that he’s got to write three condolence letters before going on patrol!

But, as with all “mandatories,” compliance was required, so who’s actually going to churn out these letters … what’s the name of that new kid in the quartermaster’s office ….?

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