Homeward Bound Sept 19, 1967

    It has been a long time and I feel funny lying up in this hospital bed all safe and secure trying real hard to put yesterday’s events straight in my head. I remember going down to the South End of the Pontoon Bridge and talking with the ARVN Di-Wee [Captain Vietnamese Army] He was a little frantic and kept saying Boocoo VC come [many Viet Cong Soldiers]
    He had the fear of many campaigns inset deep in his eyes, and the fear of this being his last was there for me to see.
As I turned around to go to the Radio to call for all available Fire Mission on the Village the last of the hard liners came screaming running from fear of Death.

    I got to the Radio and told our FDC [Fire Direction Center] of our problem when the small Arms fire broke out. This is when I saw the Di-Wee get wounded. I fired over the retreating ARVNS [South Vietnamese Soldiers] heads and made them stand and fight. Like I said before I crawled out to pull the Di-Wee to safety.

    You must understand that for over thirty years I have been living with my actions on that long ago morning.
I remember that after being in the MEDEVAC Hospital for three days I had to take a crap in the worst way. I remember coming back from the crapper [toilet] and seeing the Di-Wee sitting in a wheel chair outside his Ward. We spoke of the fight and he informed me that the Artillery I adjusted on the incoming NVR’s [North Vietnamese Army] had stopped a major attack on the Supply Depot and the Air Base there at Tuy Hoa .
    Years later I had all of this confirmed by the Recon Sergeant who took over as my replacement on that fateful day. Things pop in and out of my sub-conscious of many things that happened while waiting for my MEDEVAC Home. I remember a guy coming into the Ward that had shot his big toe off with his Pistol, swearing it was an accident. I also remember this kind of tall Brunet Nurse holding my IV Bottle and taking me for short walks. I remember a week later that while on a short walk the Battalion XO [2nd in command of my unit] came in to take my picture for Stars and Stripes [Military Newspaper] to tell my story of repelling the Viet Cong and saving the area from devastation.
     I like so many others was just doing what I was Trained to do.
Yes all the hard work from the six years of training was paying off. I reacted as thought, “ Observe the situation and react accordingly” The first years of the Vietnam War the Armed Forces lost a lot of their elite men and women. These were mostly volunteers or what we called The Regular Army, along with some Draftees.
Later would come the much younger men to fight a very un-popular war that instead of being run by the Generals it was fought from our White House in Washington DC.
Me like so many others could not understand this.

    Like the Veterans of our other Wars you cannot explain how you react to staying alive. The hardships of each war are different but the same.
    Vietnam we had a higher survival due to the Helicopters [Dust Off] and the Brave men that flew and manned them was nothing short going above and beyond what could be the most Heroic jobs on the Battle field.
I was forty or so minutes away from 91st MASH Hospital, but the Pilot had me there in less than fifteen minutes.

    Maybe a lot of my story seems Trivial but to a twenty-year-old career soldier, with family things are much different. You have added worries of their well being after you become a WIA [Wounded in action].
I see men turned down for treatment by the VA everyday because they say you can’t remember the names of the ones you saw killed. What names after you see someone you were friends with die you get to where you don’t want to know names. This may be hard and callous but it is part of Survival.
You go into The Armed Forces under the premonition of freeing some country from their aggressive enemy and in fact you end up fighting just to save each other from death.
    I float in and out of thought like so many of my friends who suffer from PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] so you must really pay attention to my humble attempt to tell our story.
No matter what your MOS [job name] was you were subject to loose your life in any undetermined manner.
Some were in hotter locations and MOS’s than others, but death does not go by gender, religion, race or creed.
    I like many of my friends now must go to group therapy weekly in order to help each other through our hard times. Non-combat people tell us that we must forget the war and move on.
Some of us do it without a hitch but there are ones of us that still can’t get the stench of death out of our nostrils.
There are still ones of us that have severed physical pain due to wounds received in combat.
         I have a life long friend who while on a fishing trip began telling me how he would have been one of the meanest killers over there. I just looked in disbelief of what he was telling me.
For one thing I’m proud of the job I did in Vietnam, but I am very sorry for the men that was on the other side that lost their lives due to my actions.
The only reason we fought so hard was to keep each other alive.

After receiving my Medical Discharge in 1969 I spent the next twenty or so years going from job to job trying to raise a family the only way I knew strict discipline and hard work with out questioning rhyme or reason, just do it.
    When we got on that MEDEVAC headed for Japan it felt as if it was not happening.
No matter where you fixed your sight you automatically were looking for Charlie {Vietcong} and expecting to be shot at mortared, and even a possible ambush.
You looked around corners over steps looking for the suspected booby trap.
You were taught to be hyper vigilant and suspect any and all movement.
    When we landed in Japan the Marines were given fresh Class “A” Uniforms and then put back on the MEDEVAC fresh and looking sharp. The Army, oh well we were given stale Doughnuts and day old coffee.
We thought this was bad but bad was yet to come.
Like this that I am writing I have been doing since 1969, and have hopes of completing it one day.
From Japan we went to Walter Reid Hospital in Washington D.C.
    It was around ten at night when they put us on our Bus. I was tired so I slept most of the way to the Hospital.

    The Nurse’s calm and relaxing voice telling us what to expect upon our arrival at the Hospital. We some twenty or so walking wounded off loaded from the Bus and when checked in everyone went to this one Ward and I was told to go to a Ward two buildings over. Upon doing this I walked into a dimly lit Hallway with lights coming from the room on my right. I went through the double doors to where the Nurses Station was but there wasn’t anyone there.
The beds were all made neat and orderly.
I walked back and saw a piece of paper with my name on it SSG Charles Maskolunas and only then did I realize I was back on friendly ground.
I decided to check the room across the hall and was shocked out of my skin for here was a naked woman lying on a bed covered in plastic without any sheets. I stepped back in total disbelief when I looked again to reassure myself that what I saw I did see the lady was banging on the door and making weird sounds.
    I couldn’t get back to my room quick enough.

        I lay there on the bed trying to make since of everything when an Orderly stuck his head in the door and told me to grab my belongings and follow him. Without any belongings it take me but a heartbeat to be out of there.
Went down to the original Ward and was assigned a bed.
My wound in my hip had started bleeding again and I requested a plastic bag to wrap up my arm so I wouldn’t get it wet while washing a years worth of jungle off.
Went to the John [toilet] after my shower to take a wiz.
The next thing I knew the Orderly had me by the arm saying that’s enough, and led me to my bed.
Seems like I was standing there flushing the toilet watching the water disappear it had been over a year since I seen one of these luxuries and was fascinated with it’s function.
I guess I had turned into some kind of animal after all the time I spent in the Jungle squatting to relieve myself of human waste and then covering it so the enemy couldn’t find it.
I guess my survival skills were staying with me.
        Once you depend on acting or rather living in fear and watching out not to make any mistakes or let any of your men make a regretful mistake you go into the Hyper Vigilant Mode of Survival.

        The next morning I along with one other guy was put on a small Aircraft heading for Ft. Gordon Georgia Specialized Treatment Center.
The Bus ride to the Airport was frightening .
No screen on the windows to keep the grenades from being thrown in, no Jeep with Machine Gun for escort in front or back. Really nerve racking.
        The Hospital at Ft. Gordon was old and the first up was a physical and removal of the sixty some stitches in my left wrist and fore arm. The assisting Medic said it would always be a problem due to the remaining shrapnel left in the wound, I quickly told him they got it all out, but he was right some thirty-five years after the fact I still have four pieces in side me.
The journey to recovery begins.
I Was placed on Ward A-13 in a private room.
The Nurse and I bumped Heads a lot cause I couldn’t sleep at night and would wonder around checking the parameter. I was like a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Second day back Red Cross Doughnut Dolly came around to offer assistance. I was given a free three-minute call to anywhere in the USA.
I called my Dad at work and the first words out of his mouth were where is my F---ing money?
I told him they cleared me in finance the day before I left Saigon .
He was very belligerent and hateful over the phone.
You see we had a deal he was to get paid 100 bucks a month for my wife and son to stay there while I was over seas well it was the forth of October and all he cared about was his money, my health was of no concern to him. The other thing was he was going to make furniture payments for us so that would be paid off upon my return.
Well needless to say it wasn’t and they were hot on my trail so I had to take an advance on my pay in order to pay them off. With my brains scrambled from to long in the Jungle and no R&R [Rest & Recuperation].
You know even with all the Extra Hard Knocks my wife the Angel that she has stood by me and helping any and every time she could. Without her I know I would have punched out a long time ago.
Even now to this day I fight to stay alive.
I hurt from physical and mental wounds. I when laying down to my drug induced sleep at night I ask God to forgive me and to take me so I might find the painless sleep of Death there in permitting I might join the others who left before me and maybe ask my Dad what I did not to have him not Love me and my wife and children.
I know this is selfish to think such a thought, but I tried very hard to gain their [mom, dad & siblings] understanding and Love.

         The gunshot wound to my left wrist ached all the time, even with taking Darvon [pain killer] They pushed me to use my left hand instead of my right hand and I do believe to this was the direct cause of making for a solid painful wrist.
The wound in my hip seems to be improving but the pain is still there and makes sleeping almost impossible.
Life is really weird I will be sitting watching TV and is back in Nam at the same time. Asked friend about it and it’s the same with him. Go before the board tomorrow [Medical Board to Determine Fit or not fit for Duty]. I am getting sent back to Limited Duty, Non-Combatant will be Teaching Land Navigation [How to Read Maps].
I really try hard to stress this necessity for it might be the deciding factor on not only your life but also the ones that might be depending on you for leadership and survival. Been going to Physical Therapy for over six months still no gain in movement on left wrist. The bone has all fused together, and arthritis has set in. During rehab reality hits you as you work to gain movement and you watch warriors beat on stumps of flesh with a hard foam roll where there once was a leg or a hand. We were disfigured for life, but the real pain came with the loss of friends in combat and more important the ridicule you must endure being called a looser by people but most of all by World War II Veterans.
The Korean War Veterans understood where we were coming from for they too fought a very questionable War.
Now my thoughts are mostly of home and that daughter I have not had the pleasure to hold and tell her how much I love her. I worry about my wife and if she still loves me.
I hope my son will forgive me for leaving him for such a long time.
I just want to forget this past year and try and start a somewhat of a normal life what ever that might be.
It has been four months now and my parents have not even bothered to try and contact me. My wife has written with longing to be back together as a family. Today is Wednesday and the Ward Doctor comes for Grand Round to check out our progress, and I’m going to lower the Boom on him and try to get out of here on a convalescent pass to go see my family.
Well the Doctor put an OK on a pass if I build one of those Plastic Model Ships with sails and string rigging. I told him I would have it ready by Friday he agreed to stop by and see my Progress Friday morning.
    Well the Red Cross Lady just got back with my Ship to build. One of the guys that has a leg wound and is in Traction has offered to help me, what luck we Grunts [infantry soldier] have to stick together and get things done. Have to report to Hospital Supply Office to be reissued my Class A Dress Uniform, [cheaper to Travel in Uniform].
    Boy what a maddening escapade that fitting was.
The Jerk said I was wounded on the 19th of Sept. so I only was going to get one Combat hash mark [yellow cloth bars worn on right sleeve 1 Bar = 6 months combat zone]
     I told him I had pulled a full tour plus a day, and he could stick the whole Uniform where the sun doesn’t shine. The Hospital Sergeant Major was behind me without my knowledge and the next thing I knew he had that Pfc [lowest rank in Army] standing locked into a position of attention, chewing his young butt out like a Red Headed Step Child.
    Well as regulations were read he owed me both Hash Marks.
This was the beginning of my fight for the right of all Veterans, no matter what war.

         The flight from Augusta, Georgia to Tampa, Florida was a long Hour and Thirty some odd minutes. Got to Tampa and all I had was an AWOL Bag [sports bag] with a few changes of shorts and socks, and some perfume for Mom.
I Got off the Plane with no Fan Fare, thank God.

    I Was met by my Brother and father both seemed upset cause they had to make the short forty-five minute hey hard to drive to Bartow. To this day I can remember a look of fear and worry in their eyes, like a kid caught with his hand in the Cookie Jar. I couldn’t understand this but later in years my Son and wife would enlighten me on their long year of Hell while staying there at home with my family.
     I have told you some of my tales of woo from Nam that I remembered but not all cause some I still repress for fear of what could and might be thought of the Men and me I served with and under. The Hell I had been through was going to be a Hell to suffer with until I depart this Old World.
My wife came into my open arms and almost squeezed the breath out of me.
All mom said were Hi no Hugs or Kisses.
Dad made a remark to the effect that somebody must go to work to earn a living for the family, and left without a handshake hug, or welcome home, as did my brother leaving to finish his school day.
    Our Volkswagen we had bought before Leaving Germany was shot.
I guess they [brother & father] drove it without checking the oil or having the engine tuned up or anything along with burning out the clutch, and wearing the breaks down to metal on metal rubbing.
A long line of disappointments in family members to follow us through the remaining years of our lives to come.
    I remember being broke on our wedding day, but we received over two hundred dollars from the Men in our Artillery Battery. The day it comes to mind I'm on sitting on the front porch with the old man and clear as a bell he asked what I did with the money collected from his work personnel for our Wedding gift?
    I was dumbfounded with this question until mom stuck her head out the door and screamed you had to tell him you couldn’t keep your mouth shut.
At this point we didn’t know which one of us the reply was addressed to.
Well as need and fate would have it my brother had gotten behind in his payments for his car and our money was used to pay the car off. If we had been asked to loan this money for the car it would of happened without any grief from us, but my mom in her Robbing Paul to Pay Peter ways paid his car off.
    The kids in our family always spoke of mom as “My Mom the FBI” .

        I received my Medical Discharge on May 29, 1969.
I was up for Sergeant First Class SFCE-7 and was headed over to the hospital for a check up cause with the Rank came 3 more years of Service and this required a physical. While taking the Physical the Doc grabbed my left wrist, which was sore from, a piece of shrapnel had worked up to skin level like a big old Boil festering up.
Well he took the shrapnel out and had me discharged from the ARMY due to wounds received in combat.

        Being away from the men like me caused Beer and Whiskey to become my confidant. They made it somewhat easier to sleep at night.
I went from job to job, like Vacuum Cleaner Sales Man, Filling Station Attendant, Land Overseer, Portion Control Meat Cutter, Meat Product Salesman, Meat Department Clean up, and many others.
Trying to raise three children was hard for I tried to solve all problems with using strict discipline, along with lots of hard work. The results of this were my oldest left home at 17 not to be seen again for almost seven years.
    At which time I had been diagnosed with 100% Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
After going on the Drugs Prozac, bus bar, Glib ride, Met Forman, Valium, Rouse done, I was able to keep my whit’s some what grounded.
Agent Orange [a jungle defoliant] later caused my full-blown Diabetes along with other nerve damage causing me to shake like a leaf in a windstorm.
My daughter was next to go.
I guess the way I treated her caused her two failed marriages and her inability to function with others.
My youngest son was lucky his time around I was drugged to where I was mellow like Jell-O.
  He skated by without a problem.

        The flash backs, of the horrors, of war along with the many horrors of a father who could care less and a mother forced to live at poverty due to fathers drinking and adverse living ideals.  There are many bad memories I must contend with in order to remain somewhat sane.

        They say to forgive and forget but who can forgive a father that tells your son his first grandchild that his daddy doesn’t Love him nor want him and that he’s the daddy now. How can you either forgive or forget how a mother locked your wife up in 100-degree hot room with a bucket to pee in. with a child crying from the extreme heat.

        I know this is hard to believe much less understand, so I’ll try to be a little more clearer. You’ve already read where I got married and when. You know we after two years of marriage had a Son and not known to me on my departure to Vietnam my wife was carrying our second child, and she was only eighteen years old.
We like I wrote earlier decided that she would stay with my parents for they had an extra room, but we would have to pay a Hundred Dollars a month to cover her food and pay on the water bill.
Well as I found out in 1997 my mother had hit my wife, fed her as little as possible and when she would have guest over she would lock her and my son up in their bedroom so she might visit with friends, or just go to the store or maybe take a nap and with them locked up she was in peace of mind from danger of a grand child and his eighteen year old mother new to our American way of life.
Can you even imagine when being introduced to one of your husbands friends as an illiterate German girl?
What about Friday nights when my so called father would make fun of her by mocking her speech?
While he sat and ate a big Round Steak with French Fries while her and my son had tomato soup with plain noodles and bread with no butter.
    It makes me sick to my stomach that the woman I married by the Law of my Country and more important the Law of the Catholic Church and practiced since Birth? Was treated worse than a common criminal.
    This story of what happened to me along with the hardships of my wife and children gets difficult I guess because of the Trauma involved experiences of a difficult life giving suicide a tempting way out.
This may be difficult to understand at times and may cause you to go back and study what I have written. When I was assigned to the Hospital at Fort Gordon, Georgia life was fuzzy to me making sweating and shaking from nightmares so real you could smell, and feel the jungle growing around you.
I was able to talk to other veterans that had gone threw what I had, and by these talks everything seemed normal cause they were having the same problems I was.

        After I was discharged from the Army I had a job as a vacuum cleaner salesman for a while but because of my difficulty relating with people and their comments about the Vietnam War especially the one comment 
“You should be Happy, You made it out Alive”!
“Alive” what determines if your Alive? Breathing? Eating? Making Love?
You may well be doing all these things but you are always looking for what isn’t there.
No matter how hard you try you still must check and check again just to try to gain peace of mind, which never fully returns. You stand-alone in a room full of friends.
You try to take your wife shopping and the crowd gets so bad your Heart is trying to beat it’s way out of your Chest, your sweating, shaking and need air.
You want to run but where do you run?
My wife grips my hand and tells me “its going to be OK” I try to settle down but the person at the check out Lane gives me some crap about picking up something that she couldn’t read the price on.
The next words out of my mouth are F—k it keep it I don’t need it.
I hope and pray those who read my words don’t think of me but of all the Veterans like me.
Freedom comes with a price, like in taxes, death on a plot of ground far from home and family, but most important those poor lost homeless souls looking for reason for where they fought and what they fought for, and to those with the unseen and covered wounds of the mind and disabled body.
The ones that can’t work and have even a more difficult time in watching time pass them by not being able to enjoy the freedoms they fought and worked so hard to win for others to enjoy.
        This story is written with a lot of anger due to promises un-kept made by a Government that tries so hard to help but is miss led by those put in charge of the functions of the foundations set up to help the veterans that came home,
not the 19 year old that left,
but a man beyond his years from to much work for survival in combat and most important his fight for his rights to receive treatment for wounds and conditions caused by his fighting for Freedom.
        For over twenty years I like so many other men and women worked to meet the goal of having a happy life and family.
I have some fortune in my family because they read books to better understand me, and have forgiven me for all their hardships growing up with me, the problem is neither can I forget or never understand.
        My VA Doctor requested several consults to the VA Eye clinic in Tampa because of my diabetes and blurred vision caused by my excessive exposure to Agent Orange it took almost two years to accomplish this. I was wounded in the left wrist and right hip by 30 caliber small arms rifle. Along with other accidents mentioned earlier.
    You report on sick call and in a fifteen minute time frame a doctor you have never seen before must evaluate you and your ailment and then determine if he wants or can help you regain some what better life style.
    I have watched as men who have never pulled a day in a War Zone go in to get Medications for colds, back aches and trivial injuries just to keep from having to pay for meds.
     I picked up a skin rash in Vietnam by Agent Orange and after thirty years of trying got an appointment to see a Dermatologist and after waiting three hours was told that maybe in three more hours he might be able to see me. Six hours is a little long to wait to see any Doctor..
......... to be continued.

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