In My Blood, Mind, and Soul
By Albert Hernandez, Navy
Writing Type: Prose
By Albert Hernandez
From Da Nang to Khe Sanh, from Hue to Saigon, from Phu Bai to Con Thien, and
countless villages in between, we pushed through jungles and rice patties, heat
and monsoon, diseases of all kinds, fighting all the time heroically to protect
the ideals we hold dear as Americans. It's what we do; we fight the fight over
there so that it will not be fought over here.
The Vietnam veteran faced three major challenges: the war, an inept government, and a hostile nation. It was hard. We felt betrayed and hurt. While no words will ever be worthy in praise of the Vietnam veteran, nor any honor truly befitting of his/her service, we must remember that it is never too late nor too much to pay tribute to the men and women who answered the call of duty with courage and valor. For I have seen true heroes in Vietnam. I have seen things you wouldn't believe. My duty as a combat medic with the Marines is a heritage and legacy that only a few can claim. But that's in the past. I must now live the present and look to the future. As Vietnam veterans our days are numbered, a reality we don't like to admit or acknowledge. But for those who did not come back and died a brutal death, their sins are forgiven for they have already been in hell. Yes, "war is hell."
As a grateful nation it is time to honor those 50,000-plus names etched in black granite who sacrificed all they had, their lives. The Wall with all those names is a painful thing to see. It will make you weep. We draw inspiration from those who suffered unspeakably as prisoners of war, yet who returned home with their heads held high, for the greatest fear we had was not losing our lives in battle but being captured by a ruthless and cruel enemy. That was a terrible fear. For those of us who did make it back, it is our duty and responsibility to tell our story, the whole story, so that those who did not come back did not die in vain. I refuse to believe that they died for nothing.
For those Americans who fought in it, and for those who fought against it back home, as well as for those who merely glimpsed it on the nightly news, the Vietnam War was a decade of agony, the most divisive period since the Civil War. Vietnam seemed to call everything into question: the value of honor and gallantry, the qualities of cruelty and mercy, the candor of the American government, and what it means to be a true patriot. Those who lived through it have never been able to erase its memory, have never stopped arguing about what really happened, who was to blame, why everything went so badly wrong, and whether it had all been worth it. Nevertheless, they served with honor and pride in a time when it was not popular to serve. Maybe we didn't win the war, but we won many hearts. It's the only consolation I can find.
Yes, it's been a long time since Vietnam. I'm 75 now. I have a story to tell, one that has never been told before. I dare not forget. I cannot forget. I cannot keep silent. If I do, I'm already dead. I will have lived in vain. You see, it's in my blood, my mind, my soul.