Mosquitoes Before and After the bloodsuckers Attack

For a few days, some of the Marines in my company, including me, were sent to a hill on the perimeter at Chu Lai to watch over an infantry company’s equipment while they were in the hills chasing North Vietnamese ghosts.

There weren’t many of us–just enough for two Marines to man each of the smaller bunkers near the foot of the hill.

Rice paddies surrounded the hill. When night came, the hum of mosquitoes sounded like waves of alien flying saucers, then the rest of the night was a battle against the bloodsuckers.

Several Marines scrambled into the largest bunker at the top of the hill—a two-story model with iron boiler plate for a roof.  They thought they would be able to escape the bloodsuckers in there. But as fast as they went in, they came out screaming. The bunker was full of rats and as the first Marine put his boots on the floor, the rats started climbing his legs.

During my watch between midnight and four, I heard a rustling noise near the wire. There would be long stretches of silence (if you don’t count the sound of distant firefights and flares), then another rustling as if someone were crawling up the hill. I couldn’t see anything and thought it might be a small animal.

When my watch ended, I had to visit the latrine. It was a screened, plywood box with a four-hole plywood bench inside. It was black as ink in there. Under the bench were four half-empty, fifty-five gallon metal drums with several inches of diesel fuel in each one. In the mornings, the drums would be dragged out from under the plywood bench and set on fire. When day came, hundreds of columns of black smoke would drift lazily into the morning sky over Chu Lai.

I had cramps—what I call green apple trot.  I leaned my weapon just out of reach against the three-foot high plywood wall in front of me and sat. Above the plywood was a screened in open space that allowed air to flow through. There was a tin roof. On both sides was a line of tents where the grunts (infantry) kept their gear and slept.

That’s when the grenades started to go off.  I glanced to the left to see a shadowy figure running along the line of tents tossing a grenade through each opening. I reached for my weapon as a wave of cramps doubled me over. I thought I was dead.

No one died on that hill that night. The tents were empty because the grunts were in the hills and we were in the smaller bunkers near the concertina wire. I was closer than anyone in my unit but was fortunate the latrine was ignored.

How many events like this does it take to acquire Post Traumatic Stress? What happened to you? What do you remember?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

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~ by Lloyd Lofthouse on December 17, 2009.

23 Responses to “Mosquitoes Before and After the bloodsuckers Attack”

  1. I don’t think I am the right person to answer that, but PTSD is a different kind of memory that kind of gets caught in your cell memory. And it will continue to trouble you as long as you don’t leave THE PAST behind you, with the power of your own will.

    One has to be very strong mentally to do so, but if your physical health is bad of poor sleeping for example it can be almost impossible to have the energy to it.
    One also has to go through a huge emotional trip to get rid of the worst memories, no matter what they are. The body memories are there to remind your brain to think over and it will not be over until you have changed your thinking, attitude and emotional ways.

    Stress causes emergency situations and becomes strong memories in battle for example in order to survive. You know this. But when the real situation is over you just simply have to train your brain to the very opposite again so you will be able to give your thought a brake, a chance to learn otherwise. It’s mostly about make it possible for your brain to do this WITH your own will power. Easies said than done tho.

    Very basic info, but it’s good to repeat some things over and over again.

    It takes much longer to heal than destroy. It can take only seconds and a human brain get chemical imbalances for a long time. It’s simply about getting it right again. The bigger the wound is the longer it takes to recover, just as a shark would have bitten your leg, it takes longer to heal than a mosquito bite. Right ?

    You write very well!
    Forgive me my English. Good night.

    • Thank you. Yes, the more traumatic the experience, the longer it may take to deal with it mentally so one may live a somewhat “normal life” if it is possible to live a normal life in this world. By the way, is there a definition for what a “normal life” is? Maybe shelter, food and no fear of an invasion and becoming the victim of violence either physical or mental.

  2. “if it is possible to live a normal life in this world.”

    Well, it’s not so easy when you once have got sick. It’s the same all over the world I think. I’ve struggled with that too and still do sometimes. But I begin to be so tired of it so I don’t give a shit of what others think or say about me and my illness. I realized that I have to let that hatred go and do what I can on my own, only. This is my personal battle and I won’t longer let people in to say what I should or not do. They don’t know anything about it anyway, they never will.

    No, in reality there is even no country borders as on the map. So just relax ! Don’t listen to all the fuckheads with ideals out there, just do you thing and feel good about your self to have survived the Viet Nam war. I do personally appreciate your voice that let us other know how it really was. Your voice is more real and important than a movie about the war. I saw “Apocalypse Now” that is said of somebody to be the best movie in the world. Well… I strongly doubt it really was like that in real. I understand the cruelty, but I don’t think you marines really where like in the movie and some things were highly dramatized in it. It was the worst war movie I’ve seen.

    I appreciate your blog and your personal words. Just as I appreciate some Iraq marines video diary on youtube where one get in touch with the reality.

    Stop that fear thing. You are safe now! :-)

    • I’ve seen most of the Vietnam movies and Hollywood has crept into many of them ruining the real story.

      After fourteen years when I started to face what had happened over there and stopped drinking, I started to read about the war and see the movies. I agree about Apocalypse Now–stupid movie. That was not the Vietnam War I was in.

      There is another movie called “Hamburger Hill”, which is more accurate and the best book I’ve read is a memoir called Chickenhawk. There was also a movie with Mel Gibson in it called “We Were Soldiers”, which was close to reality and less Hollywoodized.

      We Were Soldiers

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0277434/

      Chickenhawk

      Hamburger Hill

      I’ve found that the best way to deal with what caused the PTSD is to write about it. That doesn’t mean we have to share what we wrote with the world. Robert Hart, the man I wrote about in my first two novels kept journals.

      During the last few months of his life, he burned about three years worth of his journals that he didn’t want anyone else to see and left instructions to have the rest burned after he died but when he died, his family turned those journals and all the letters that he had written that still existed over to the University of Belfast. In the 1970s, Harvard University Press published his journals and letters and when you read them, it is obvious that he was writing for himself and not others.

      However, Hart’s experience in China became an important part of China’s history and helps others understand a culture so different from most of the world. In that way, it was good that the rest of his journals were not burned as he wished.

  3. Thank you, I’ll look after those movies. I want to get the big picture of all wars in general. But of course I’m more in to the European WW2 because my grandfather and some others died in it in Finland. You perhaps recognize the soldiers with the Molotov cocktails ? *lol*

    “I’ve found that the best way to deal with what caused the PTSD is to write about it. ”

    Yes, that’s very good! You seem to have a natural gift to write and the world need to hear of it as well. I do also write personal diary with stuff I’ll never show anybody. It’s not that important but for my family and relatives because I’m not military.

    “However, Hart’s experience in China became an important part of China’s history”

    Yap, there you see. That’s why it’s important to peak out sometimes.

  4. I saw Hamburger Hill today. My uploading take 100 years sometimes, but the beginning of We Were Soldiers looked good. I’ll have a look at that one some day as well.
    Hamburger Hill was very focused on that Hill yes. I hope the conditions with the weather, nature and the rest was as close reality as possible. It’s sad all this war, but it was a good movie I think more for you who has been there.

    • War is always sad but sometimes necessary. President Bush made a horrible mistake taking the war against terror to Iraq. He should have focused on the Fundamentalist Islamists and Afghanistan. If he had, this danger might have been better controled. What the second President Bush did in Iraq was motivated more by politics than logic or strategy. When politics and policital agendas make decisions like this one, almost every loses excpet those who make the bombs and weapons.

  5. “President Bush made a horrible mistake taking the war against terror to Iraq.”

    So right, the economical benefits rules and war gets dirtier than dirty. God will not bless America, but his people, all the victims to this war, soldiers as war victims. Now we all must actively not to feed the bastards pockets, find a more balanced way of living. That’s cool with me, but hard for them who lack understanding for the problem.

    Other movies I saw was “Full Metal Jacket”, a classic one that was new to me. Funny in the beginning, but all right the rest. And then another of the war in middle east “Hurt Locker”. Just so that I get a bigger picture of some complications, mostly to understand how you marines get your PTSD. Just some details of the whole problem. Alright… Have a nice day.

    • Correct.

      Bush and the American neo-conservative movement were ignorant of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. They made every mistake possible, which will lead the US to another horrible defeat similar or worse than Vietnam was.

      At least in Vietnam, America was not fighting religious Islamic fanatics with a goal to destroy all of Western civilization. All the Communists wanted in Vietnam was to rule their country and be left alone.

      What Bush started in Iraq appears to have only made the enemy stronger. Only time will tell. It isn’t too late to change tactics and wage this fight correctly. However, fixing Iraq may be an insurmountable problem. The only solution might be to put another strong man like the last dictator, as horrible as he was, in charge and get out.

      Saddam was a brutal leader and a horrible person but he did not support the Fundamentalists, who want to destroy Western civilization–that, we know.

  6. Well, I don’t have all the facts but I’m pretty sure that they used Saddam as well before he was in their way instead. There is no way you can put western mathematic on other countries with so much more different problems since thousands of years. We shall not forget that they have the same goal as in west to be strong as a country when we have mass destructive weapons and start to lack the very basics for living like water, energy sources and so on that now will cos a hell lot of more.

    Not too late, but something must change and very soon.

    • G. W. Bush’s father dealt with Saddam when he was the head of the CIA before he became the first Bush president. Then the father invaded Iraq too because of Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait. I’ve read that the son, G. W. Bush, felt that his father left the job undone and wanted to prove it could be done. IT was reported from a close friend of the father Bush that when he heard that his son had invaded Iraq, he broke down and cried maybe knowing what was to come. It seems the father knew that it was best to not get involved in the complicate political issues of Iraq–just get in and get out. It is obvious that G. W. Bush did not understand what his father did.

      The first Bush was also a World War II fighter pilot and he was in combat and shot down in the Pacific. There’s a book about his courage in combat. The older Bush was in a war. He knew how horrible it could be. G. W. Bush used his family influence to keep him out of the Vietnam War and he was never in combat. A leader who has never been in combat should never send troops into combat.

      Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War that war should be avoided at all cost unless there is no other choice. Then you must know your enemy. It is obvious that G. W. Bush did not do all that he could to avoid starting the war in Iraq and he certainly did not know his enemy and the complicated politics in Iraq or Afghanistan. I believe his father did know and that’s why he stopped short of Bagdad during the first Gulf War and left Saddam in power.

      Being the occupying military force in an unfriendly foreign country is not a good idea.

      Sun Tsu said that long wars were seldom won and sometimes both sides lose. He also said once you lose the support of the people or the moral of the troops, defeat follows. If you have no choice but to fight a war, you must end it as soon as possible.

  7. Yes, I’ve heard that too. I meant that I don’t know what it was about more in detail in the middle east to start with. The more exact economical interests and who benefit who in what way. What I understand it was a question of the oil, but I’ve also heard they want pipelines through Afghanistan and so on. I don’t know if I complicate the question. Arabs want more money for their oil and west don’t want to pay because they will loose luxury ?

    “A leader who has never been in combat should never send troops into combat.”

    Sounds logical and it’s surely upsetting everyone in military.

    “Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War that war should be avoided at all cost unless there is no other choice.”

    Sounds like my thoughts. That’s what we did in Finland, only defending. That’s also what makes people strong and succeed almost any war. We know this.

    “Then you must know your enemy.”

    That’s right.
    In our case Russians where our twins so… :-) haha

    “Being the occupying military force in an unfriendly foreign country is not a good idea.”

    I know :-) I keep laughing, Russians made the same mistake.

    “He also said once you lose the support of the people or the moral of the troops, defeat follows. If you have no choice but to fight a war, you must end it as soon as possible.”

    That’s right also. Sun Tzu is a wise man it seems. And you.

    • I had one comment yesterday on my China Blog where the guy hinted I was a traitor since I was pointing out things that America had done wrong to show that China wasn’t the only country that made mistakes or had corrupt people. In America, whenver a major media source writes something negative about China, it is never mentioned that the same thing happens in the US.

      Then another comment on the iLook China Blog also claimed China was America’s enemy. I replied that I hadn’t heard that the President and Congress had declared war on China then went into a long list of all the ways China and America are economically connected.

      There are many media “brainwashed” Americans (ignorant Americans)

  8. I just saw you on “The Authors Show”. Ah, I didn’t realize you where an author even if you told that haha. I have been wasting your time, you must be busy ? But it was nice to see moving pictures of you. For me you remain that old Viet Namn vet. man on your blog. Happy for your success, you seem to do well thinking of your background. Feels great.

    “I had one comment yesterday on my China Blog where the guy hinted I was a traitor since I was pointing out things that America had done wrong to show that China wasn’t the only country that made mistakes or had corrupt people. In America, whenver a major media source writes something negative about China, it is never mentioned that the same thing happens in the US.”

    For me as European I see it like this. USA is like China for me. Not that you are the same, you are not. But each country has its own ways. You have huge differences in many ways and and each of you have a long war history behind. It takes time to reach each other and both parts can be blinded for its own nature. You have done well in that way to open your mind and see possibilities, this is something that will happen more in future anyway because nothing will remain the same..

    “Then another comment on the iLook China Blog also claimed China was America’s enemy. I replied that I hadn’t heard that the President and Congress had declared war on China then went into a long list of all the ways China and America are economically connected.”

    Haha… it should be obvious. Well well well… I maybe have to win on lottery and send all the US marines a pokemon to play with on their lunch hour in Iraq. :-)

    “There are many media “brainwashed” Americans (ignorant Americans)”

    There is lot of patriotic lunatics over here as well and they love your western culture. Everything that is a sign of power is cool. Swedish “swats”, police, guards, military, sports like MMA, action movies, not to mention the pathetic Swedish movies try to look American. If there is a meditation flow it’s highly fashion, no real just another thing that’s cool.

    There is no dignity in anything in Europe left except Finland, my home country. We has been chased as dogs as well and been called communists still today even if we are the reason that Sweden exist at all. But that’s them. I will never be like them ever and 70 years later i finally can be able to proud of what my grandfather sacrificed with the other soldiers in Finland. God damn they fought for their life. They owe us everything in their heart today and that makes them feel bad, consciously or unconsciously.

    During my worse time with PTSD I had my thoughts many times in Asian culture. Not China except for the very impressive samurai skills among the Japanese Ninjitsu, or how you spell it. Not any deep studies, but just to find the deepest essence in one self during meditation. A gateway out of hell. Recognize it, the knowledge ? Hard effort and discipline with one self.

    Oh gosh. It’s getting late here. No, but I really think you should be very proud of what you are doing, life is individual and you are given a free choice to do what ever You want with Your life. But you know this already… just talking.

    • Consider getting out of Finland and visiting China as a tourist. Both the US and China do have a history of wars but most of China’s wars prior to the 20th century were rebellions except for the Yuan and Qing Dynasties, which were the Mongols and Manchu–minorities. They were very aggressive.

      Then in the 20th century, the reason Mao sent troops into Vietnam and North Korea was because he believed that the Western countires would invade China next. Mao said of both Korea and Vietnam that they were the gums to China’s teeth. What happens to the teeth when the gums are gone?

      Can’t blame him. Western invasions of China during the 19th century destroyed China’s last dynasty and America’s media and politicans were on a witch hunt for Communists.

  9. Oops. Almost a novel.

  10. I’m Sorry Lloyd, sometimes my thoughts takes to far roads to a more simple point. I was wondering if you where talking politics again, but you simply meant the stereotypes and the way Americans sees them selves. Is that why you where called a treater, not being 100% American ? That is ridiculous. I have not seem to many Americans or ever been in USA to be able to have more clear picture of this USA-China thing. But there must be conservatives as well as liberals in both countries. I think every country has its own struggles with this and if a country don’t have strong culture or identity it will become a problem.

    I was thinking of the American natives, that maybe you Americans owe to take a look in the past also. I don’t know how you Americans think of that ? I start to realize how little i really know about the people of USA.

    Also you know too little about Europe as well. But are aware of Stalin and the war crimes here at least ?

    • There are some Americans who cannot stand reading or hearing anything negative about their country and beliefs or they explode and start insulting you or calling you names. I imagine there are rigid people like that everywhere who cannot accept anything but what they believe.

      I believe that most Americans are moderate in their religion and politics (in the center) but they are not loud about what they believe as the far right and far left extremists are who get all emtional and loud about their beliefs and refuse to accept anything anyone says that does not agree with them.

      Sad to say, these extremists from both ends have far too much power in America today.

  11. I didn’t find any proper place to tell you this.
    There is some similarities with Finnish and Asian people. Some things in Confucianism reminds of how we Finns lived. The coexistence with Mongolian related people gave us what we have in our blood still today regardless the Tsars in Russia. Long we where nomads and get close the Lapps and had strong boundaries to nature and have still today. As Chinese, we don’t forgive easily. We are strong and stubborn in many ways and have much more discipline compared with Swedes and the Anglosax’s. We have similar problems with the question of west and east over here. The difference is that Finland is small and young as country. We don’t have much to offer in that way. Many think we are Jews of gypsies, but non of that is true. The real Finns, not those who coexisted with the Vikings long ago lived as hunters and fishers in forest land door to door with Laps. Norway, Sweden and Finland was long ago the same land or country. 600 years ago we separated and Swedes don’t longer after the Russian war want to remember us even if many of them have same blood. Sweden lost Norway as well Finland. They are one bunch of bitter barbarians that has no where else to go than west, it means America. Europe they don’t want to identify them selves with, except the extremes who still believes in a white elite. Sweden is multicultural today compared with Finland who have strong borders and kept its identity successfully with minimum of refugees.

    I also read a bit of Sir Robert Harts background and found out he is Methodist. And I came to wonder if you are ?

    My self I’m not bound to any religion, yet I’m not an atheist. I only talk things from the Christian perspective because I understand it easiest. I’m not sure of what I am.

    It’s interesting all this you bring up with China and the bridges you want to highlight, but I’m way too tired mentally to be able to bring up anything of value about it.

    • Today I was reading a magazine for small publishers and discovered that in America there is a small press that focuses on books about Finland and Finish people. If you are interested, I’ll get more information about this publisher. It seems that the Finish people in America are proud of their heritiage and buy enough books from this small American publisher to keep them in business.

      No religion for me. If anything, I’m a Deist like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Frankin and a few other America’s Founding Fathers.

  12. No, I don’t need to read about us. I am Finnish and know already. Just mentioned similarities with our social mentality and Asians.

  13. Are you a freemasonry ?

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