War to me means pain 24 hours a day for the past 12 years; it means a wheelchair existence; it means wearing a urine bag and a colostomy bag and see a "shrink" for the rest of my life; it means surgery over and over again till I can't take anymore. War to me means always living with death.
I joined the Marine Corps on 9 September 1966. I was wounded on 16 March 1967 while on a "search and destroy" mission with Bravo 1/9 Third Marines near the DMZ. We had been without food for three days when a plane dropped us provisions. We started back the next day. My company was directed to go to a hill to pick up dead and wounded, but when we got there, there were no living. We found only dead bodies. A chopper to remove them.
As we were preparing to set up a perimeter on orders from the young second lieutenant, a blinding flash and explosion let loose shrapnel, wounding me and the others. I remember screaming in pain and hearing the screams of others even aboard the med-evac chopper. First we were flown to Khe Sanh and from there to the Naval Hospital in Da Nang where, over the noise of the landing choppers and the screams and curses of the wounded, I screamed and cursed for relief from the pain - even though I had already received two morphine shots.
When I saw the chaplain, I thought I was going to die and told him to get away from me. At times I would go unconscious and wake screaming. Eventually I awoke in a quonset-hut ward. Everybody there was screaming. I remember looking around and seeing my friend Chico all bandaged up like me. There were others there burned and mutilated. The man in the bed next to mine was without legs, an arm, badly burned and blind. All I could do was cry. Sometimes now, all I can do is cry.