I was a Field Radio Operator with 1/8 (May – Oct '83). As I have read in many of the postings, just about everyone has some good and bad memories. Same goes for me. I was a pretty quiet guy, kept to myself, read books, drew a lot of pictures, and just kind of took it all in. I did my job, never really spent a lot of time goofing off and basically tried to just stay in one piece. When I returned home and recovered from my injuries, I ended up getting out of the Corps and basically just put it all behind me to try and get back into civilian life.
I was doing okay, didn't feel the need to stay in touch with anyone, or re-live all of the BS over and over by talking about it. (Not that I had anyone to talk about it with anyway). I spent my share of days sitting at the local VFW with all the oldtimers, mostly listened to their stories over a couple of beers, but pretty much kept my stuff to myself. Over the years, I had my share of things come up that triggered memories, but I just put it all away again and again, thinking that was the best way to deal with it. What I didn't realize was that I wasn't dealing with anything at all by doing that. I drifted around for a couple of years, not really holding any kind of steady job, couldn't get used to dealing with some civilian boss usually younger than me talking down to me like I was something he scraped off the bottom of his shoe, and didn't last too long after telling them where to get off. I finally got a decent job working with a company that installed alarm systems, the guy that hired me was a former Marine, he said he liked to hire Vets and he knew that he'd be getting good employees when he did. I was able to put some of my training to use from radio school and caught on pretty quick with the way they did things.
Anyway, I was working in this house one time and noticed a few photographs in the den. I was looking at them when the lady that owned the house came in. I must have been looking pretty intently at them because I didn't even hear her behind me. She asked if I knew where the pictures were from and after I jumped ten feet in the air, I said “Yes, Ma’am, Lebanon, I was there." She told me her son was a Marine Officer and served there as a Platoon Commander in 1982 and then again in 1984. She asked when I was there and I told her. She got this 'motherly' look on her face and then she gave me a huge hug and said "Thank you for what you did there and Thank God that you made it home.” It was the first time since coming back that I felt like someone really knew and cared about what we went through there or even remembered. That was in 1989. (Unfortunately I never got to meet her son. He had passed away earlier that year after a battle with cancer).
A lot has changed over the years since then. I still hadn't been in touch with anyone that I had served with. I tried a few times to look a few guys up, never had much luck though. I have never gone to see the Memorial although I've been down that way a few dozen times. I guess I just didn't really want to open up all those old wounds again. A few months ago though I reached out to one of my DI's. I don't know why, but I felt like I had to get in touch with this particular guy and just kept searching the internet until I finally found him. I called the number that I found and asked some questions unsure if I had the right person, he said “Yes you do.” I'm pretty sure he was wondering how I found him and why I was calling. I told him that I just wanted to thank him for everything he taught me as a recruit. It's what kept me alive. I guess I hit a nerve because he got really silent and then said, "You just made my day son, thanks." We talked about the Corps, where we both were over the years and he told me he got in country right after the barracks bombing, he was with 3/8. We threw a few names back and forth, some familiar, some not. The older I get now, the harder it is to remember the names, but I will never forget the faces, the sounds, the smells or the brotherhood. He and I are planning to get together one day soon, have some beers and some laughs, and maybe go fishing or something. We only live a few hundred miles away from each other and I found out we have a mutual friend that he was stationed with who lives near me and who was a Helo Pilot with HMM-261. It's good to have someone else close to home that remembers and knows what it's like to have those memories and thoughts.
I still can't believe it'll be thirty years this October, I wonder how many of the guys I served with will be at Camp Lejuene for the remembrance this year. As the Gunny said to me, " We were there, our memories are always with us, you don't need names on a wall to remind you of that, but maybe you need them to help you heal." Semper Fi to all my Brothers past and present, and to those Marines that returned and those who didn’t. I will be forever grateful and humbled for their sacrifice and the pride I feel every time I think about my time in the Corps and what a privilege it was to serve.