(Editor’s note: Following is a chapter from the new book “Days” by Don Place. Don wrote this book partly to get his message about Vietnam out, a voice he felt was not being adequately expressed. His stories from 1967 and 1968 are harrowing. After reading “Days,” a reasonable person would be inclined to put away the happy talk about veterans and our wars to work on veterans issues, particularly on treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. No parade or recognition ceremony is adequate compensation for what veterans like Don did under orders from our government).
Suicide by Don Place
Sometimes in this country of Vietnam, the weight of our duty becomes more than we can stand. The rain is now relentless, it’s been raining for a week, its monsoon season, the rainy season, no matter what you call it, it is hell on earth. We have to conduct ourselves as if nothing is wrong, the patrols, search and destroy missions, ambushes, all go on unchanged. However human beings aren’t meant to live day in and day out soaked to the bone, in constant heat, under extreme stress. Our unit, the 101st Airborne Division is the best, but even with all our training we are still human beings. I am currently in a position on patrol somewhere between Cu Chi and the Cambodian border, the absolute most dangerous part of Vietnam.
We have stopped for a break, my legs are on fire. The medic told me it is jungle rot and ring worm. I have a fever and have a bad case of diarrhea. I think I am going to die, but I will not be on any list to go back to camp or be considered in any jeopardy, I am still moving and able to fight, like a boxer knocked senseless but still on his feet. I won’t say anything to anyone, this is my duty, I signed up for this, I can’t have them think I’m a coward.
I think the next fire fight I’m going to get shot, I can’t take this pain, the rain beating on me is driving me nuts, the same sound over and over, this ankle high mud, the leech on my face, but I know God doesn’t like cowards either. Catholics have to suck it up and die the right way, we don’t believe in suicide.