Viet Vet

Part of the Global Perspectives on War and Peace Collection. Subversive and strange stories from a Vietnam veteran.

0:00Copy video clip URL A man onscreen tells us his story. “I’m what’s normally termed a ‘war veteran’ whose still in the business. This is a picture of me, eight years ago when I returned from Vietnam. [Holds up a picture of him being restrained by police.] I was distraught. I’ve now found more of a sane, sensible way of living. I now understand that my country knows best. And I know how to live in my country. And I’m going to continue living that way.”

0:43Copy video clip URL Cut to closeup of a gun, being held by this man. He continues, “I’ve never had to use force. I’ve never had to harm anyone in any way – in fact, when I spent my time in Vietnam, I was a drug therapist. My job was to help. Many Veterans had bad experiences in Vietnam. They spent their days flying helicopters, carrying hundred-pound rucksacks, setting land mines, killing people. I spent my days smoking marijuana and helping heroin users get off by taking large quantities of barbiturates. Smoking marijuana was my job, basically. I smoked marijuana at the afternoon card parties where we played 500 bid, from about one in the afternoon ’till about four, when we would break to smoke drugs even more heavily apart from one another instead of all together. At about seven we’d get back together and start smoking again, ’till about eleven, when we’d go down to the enlisted men’s club, which by that time had been closed to the general public and was only open to the heavy pot smokers. We would stay there until about two in the morning, so as not to gain or attract attention. And then from two in the morning ’till anywhere between five, six, seven, or eight, depending on who’s going to jail the next day for a bust or for falling asleep on guard duty, we would play Monopoly or some other game like Checkers. Sometimes in the morning I would play Chess with the helicopter pilots – they were off in the morning, often.”

2:36Copy video clip URL Cut to a close-up of the embroidery on his shirt. “What can I say, some people brought home M-16’s, I brought home other stuff. I have my toy gun here, which was given to a friend who, after he was in Vietnam, he went in to selling toys in New York City. They’re in fact, not allowed to sell this gun in New York City because it looks so real. I have some other equipment which I use in my present employ which I will change into my work clothes and show you outside exactly some of the stuff that I use.”

3:15Copy video clip URL Cut to the man at his car, showing the “work equipment” he keeps inside of it, each item getting progressively crazier – a helmet with a face mask, Hawaiian telephone book, glasses with googly eyes, tambourine, etc.

4:40Copy video clip URL4:40Copy video clip URL');">Copy video clip URL Cut to shots of him pushing around a toy wagon, jumping through fields, etc.

4:40Copy video clip URL4:40Copy video clip URL');">Copy video clip URL Perched in a tree, reading somewhat mockingly from the newspaper: “A former army nurse could not talk about Vietnam, not for years. She felt guilty, tainted, frightened, and alone. Flashbacks and nightmares of the war haunted her. One morning, she grabbed a pencil. They saw these beautiful young bodies – eighteen and nineteen year-old kids – coming every day with sucking chest wounds and ripped-off flesh. And they had to hold their hands and tell them everything was ok.” He finishes reading and looks at the camera.

 

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