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Mississippi Boy
Remembers Viet Nam

by Clyde L. Boswell

USADEEPSOUTH editor Beth Jacks and I were discussing Viet Nam and she asked me to write about that terrible time in a country a very long way away from my hometown, Cleveland, Mississippi. This was a time and place many would just like to forget. I hope our nation and all Americans will always remember places like Da Nang, Saigon, Pleiku, Camron Bay, Nha Trang. Places where young men from America laid it all on the line. I shall never forget.

I spent approximately 16 months in and out of Viet Nam. I was assigned duty as a crew chief on Lockheed C-130 aircraft. I belonged to a troop carrier squadron. We hauled men and supplies all over South Viet Nam, so needless to say I pretty well covered most of the country below the 17th parallel. Someone told me that was the dividing line between North and South Viet Nam.

To say I could tell this in a couple of pages would only be stating a lie. It would probably take a lifetime to really and truly tell how I felt being there and how fortunate I feel to be alive today and in one piece, at home with my family. I think of all those who went there and all those who now rest quietly in some forgotten grave site or at peace at home. God forbid we should ever have that happen again. Please rest in peace, my brothers, as I shed tears of pain for you who gave so much.

I guess the hardest part about going to South Viet Nam was that I had only been married a short time and my wife Pam and our son Craig had not been long in joining me at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina.

I remember the day I went in for roll call and the squadron commander was handing out PCS orders. Clyde Boswell, Nha Truang AB, South Viet Nam. I was devastated. My whole world came tumbling around me. How would I tell Pam? Iíll be brave, act like it's nothing, I said to myself.

Well, I got home that day and walked into our trailer, walked over to my sonís crib and just broke down and cried like a baby. To leave Pam and Craig was the hardest thing. I could not bear to think about being away from them for so long. Then I realized I was not alone in this ordeal. There were men and women from all over our nation and our world that were having to do the same thing. Young men barely out of high school, leaving their families never to see them again. (I believe the average age was 19 in Viet Nam.) One day Cleveland, Mississippi, and six weeks later a rice patty or some remote village in South Viet Nam, trying to kill people with whom you have never really come into contact.

This is to take nothing away from all those men and women in all the other wars who sacrificed so greatly for our nation. Iím able to sit here and write these words because of those who made the sacrifices before us.

I believe the Viet Nam conflict, as so many referred to it, was a politicianís war and it cost us almost fifty-nine thousand young Americans. Young men who put their future on hold to serve their country. Young men who will never taste the green, green grass of home. Young men who could not understand what a nation of flag burners wanted from them.

So many people ask me why so many young men came back drug addicts or alcoholics. Well, I guess this was the only way many of us could cope with the killing and the long journey away from home. Remember, so many of these guys had never been out of their hometowns. Now they were being asked to leave and go thousands of miles away from home to fight against a people who have been fighting wars since their very existence. A country where the only friend you had was a can of Budweiser or a joint of Mary Jane. A country where everyone seemed to wear those ďdamnĒ black pajamas. I find no fault with the men and women who needed that kind of strength. I do however feel they should get help from the rest of us if they are still having problems.

I have a picture in my home showing the Vietnam Memorial in our nation's capitol. Everyone, if possible, should make the trip to D.C. and be healed by that moving memorial. I went and was humbled at the sight of that wall. All those names. All those lives. We should go, not to be haunted, but to say thank you from a nation that's finally come to grips with itself over a war that never should have happened. We shall never forget but we must forgive.

I love America, the greatest nation in all the world. With all my heart I believe that if those young men and women who served, who fought and died for those oppressed, had it to do over again, they would say, as Isaiah said, ďHere am I, send me." Yes, they would stand in the gap again. That's what makes America so great.


Mississippi Delta born and raised, retired postmaster Clyde Boswell says, "My life centers around God, family, and country. Throw in a little writing and gospel singing and that about does it." E-mail Clyde at: pbos65@tecinfo.com

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