Monday, December 20, 2010

'The Girl I Met On Christmas Day 1968-DaNang’ Revisited

December 20, 2010

Tues. 26, January 2010

'The Girl I Met On Christmas Day 1968-DaNang’

I entered the U.S. Marine Corps at age 17 within two
weeks of finishing high school (secondary school).
Boot camp was very much as depicted in the movie
'Full Metal Jacket.'

In all of my training the Vietnamese people were
referred to as 'gooks', slants', or worse, and
not to be trusted. During all of my training we
had a one hour class on what I would call 'Cultural
sensitivity.' Yet I believed the official propaganda
that we were there to help the South Vietnamese. And,
that is the way that I went there.

I became a rifleman; a 'grunt' in Marine Corps
terminology. I volunteered and went for combat
in Vietnam twice.

My first time to Vietnam I landed in Da Nang early
on Christmas morning 1968 between 2-3am is my best
guess. Later, that day, I would fly north to Dong Ha,
and hitch a ride to Quang Tri to join a rifle company
in the 3rd Marine regiment.

As we had time to spare we were taken into a militarized
part of Da Nang. We were warned to be careful of begging
children, and that they could be thieves and may use
razor blades to cut our pockets. We soon came upon a
group of 20-30 such children.. I had some sweets and money
to give. Most were under 10...small.

I gave sweets, mostly, whilst I looked the crowd over
for thieves. But, they just seemed like nice kids. It
felt good to meet, chat, joke and to give to these
children. But, I felt bad that they were begging. Why?
I thought that we were here to help them? And, why is
this happening, and on Christmas day? And why aren't
we (the military) feeding them? My first awakening
that things weren't right.

Some children had missing limbs. Some had scars, and
some had shrapnel wounds. I felt bad; very bad. Most,
most were okay. But, this is what this hard and tough
marine, so eager for combat saw on his first day in
Vietnam. My only thoughts were of killing people, and
winning medals for heroism. I had not thought of, nor
imagined that I would be seeing child victims of war...
our war. They don't teach you those things, and it was
a shock to see them.

I was naive and innocent. War destroys your innocence
first. And yet, these children were friendly, chatting
and smiling with us. Save one.

I felt someone's presence at the back of the group...a
couple or more steps behind the if she was
almost separate from the group. I could feel that she
was looking at me, and when I looked at her, I saw a
lovely girl of between 11-13. She was looking into my
eyes, softly, and for a bit, then she lowered (bowed)
her head. But, by then she had torn my heart out...
ripped it out.

She did not hold her hand out like the others. I think
that she felt different...not as young or cute as the
smaller ones? And, marred. I saw pain and hurt in her,
and I felt pain, hurt and agony for her in my heart
and soul.

She raised her head again and looked into my eyes for
a few moments. I had been frozen in place since I saw
her. But, as she lowered her head again I was wading
through the group until I stood in front of her.

She lifted her head, and we looked at each other for
a long moment. I nodded to her and she to me. Then, I
took her right hand (shy) and put all the money I could
get (mostly, if not all coins)into her hand quietly,
and covered it with hide from the other
children. I made gestures and nods to that effect.
She understood and nodded. I understood, then,
how cruel war is.

Then, we looked at (and into) each other for a long,
long moment. It was a very poignant and meaningful
moment in time and space that is forever etched
across, and in my mind, heart and soul.

Though, she was alone and apart from the group...I
came to her only. And, I have often wondered why
she was looking at me.

You see, this beautiful Vietnamese girl had no
right eye, nor even a patch. She only had basic
treatment...she did not wear an American uniform!
She may not have felt beautiful, but she truly
was. Her eye was so beautiful and
was her soul was and is. (Da Nang had no eye
hospital until 1998).

She may have appreciated what little I gave
her (I don't remember how much I had or gave),
but it felt completely inadequate to me. I felt
bad that my $ notes were in my boots (to protect
from child and other thieves). And, I felt worse
when I thought about how much money I spent getting
drunk in Okinawa, and to see a prostitute for my
first time with a woman just days before. I didn't
care if I had any money left after seeing her.

She took my heart and soul and humanized me in an
instant. As we looked into each other she melted
my hardness, toughness and brought tears to my eyes,
and agony to my heart and soul. Without speaking a
word she showed me what war is and does to people,
especially children. And, I would never, ever be
the same again.

I felt awful leaving her. I would have food, water,
and medical care, but she and the others? It hit me
like a ton of bricks that our (America's) war did
this to her. She may have been marred, but I saw the
whole her-a beautiful human being and soul. She has
been with me ever since, and I have wept many, many
times whenever I have thought of her.

I believe that our meeting was not by chance, nor a
coincidence, and I have always wondered what became
of her. And, I have never forgotten her. And, I weep
for her before, and on Christmas day, and after. And
I have tried to search for her with the internet; I
hoped that she survived.

War is horrible and criminal. It makes super profits
''for the few'' at the expense of ones like her and I.

But, she is 'The Girl I Met On Christmas Day 1968- Da Nang.'

It is those things-what happens to children, old people,
and (especially young girls and women), homes, families,
villes, cultures, societies, and also, to other Marines
blown to bits, maimed, traumatized for a medal that
hurts and causes pain most every day of my life.

I later met other Marines at hospitals that I was in.
Some had all their arms and legs blown off, or were
blinded at 18 or 19, or had horrible scars that
would make them want to say indoors.

Those of us who survived had to fight our own
government for recognition that their wounds/conditions
merited treatment. But,the children of Vietnam,
Afghanistan, Iraq, Lybia, Syria or any country
America wages war upon...have to fend for themselves.

War is a criminal enterprise! Or, as
Major-General Smedley D. Butler said,
'War is a Racket'.


  1. very well written ,i totaly agree
    i think every politician should read what you wrote and read the it over again everyday so that it really sinks into their brain and post it in their office
    it makes me also think of the song of John lennon
    "imagine "
    i am happy to see there are good poeple like you Paul

  2. Hello Tristan, and thank you very much. I am writing a novel of which a small part will be about Vietnam.

    But, I went to war gung ho and only thinking of doing good and being a hero....winning medals...

    I truly believe that God brought the two of us together so that she could show me what war does to people, especially children.

    Hardly any politicians fight; they use patriotism to get re-elected. And, if they did once go to seems lost on them as they are more concerned about their careers.

    The image of her is always with me; I have tried searching on the internet to see if she survived, but the chances of finding her are slim. but, I hope she survived and is well.

    For me what she did was help me not to become hardened like others I knew. I also wrote more about my war experiences further of my first ten posts.

    'What War Is and Does to People:'The Girl I met on Christmas Day’ Dan Nang 1968.'

    Before I could begin any stories towards a novel I had to write about her. I first posted it on January 6th 2010, but I began writing it in mid-late November 2009. 2009 was the 40th year since I landed in Vietnam.

    Again I appreciate the time you took to read and comment on it, and am glad it struck a cord
    Peace Be Upon You