Vietnam: Transferred to A Village Platoon

This is where I stored my gear and shared meals with a Vietnamese family. It was your typical bamboo hutch. I never slept here though. Every night we went on night patrols, and that is where we slept–under the stars.

The more I thought about what was going on down below in the village—how they were under attack every night from the Vietcong (Communist guerillas)—the more I wanted to be down there to help out. And I have to admit that it wasn’t just my compassion and good will showing; it was also my desire to fight. I had been in Vietnam for almost six months and I hadn’t been in a good battle yet. I wanted more out of that war. Maybe I was guilty of being too aggressive and a war monger. But then, I think God has gifted some of us with that war-like desire—in order to fight the enemy.

So, anyway, I prayed about it; and I felt a peace to put in for a transfer from where I was, at hill 52, to the Marine unit below us in the village. And to my surprise, my transfer came through very quickly, in about a week. I don’t remember how I got there, but I probably just walked; the village was only about one-half mile away by the main road (a gravel road).

The Marine unit in the village was a lot different than on hill 52. They weren’t all dug in and they didn’t have bunkers or barricades of any sort. Most of them were living in their own make-shift shelter in the middle of the village, and a few of them were scattered around among the village people.

While I was pondering where I would unload my gear (the little I had), a young Vietnamese girl grabbed my hand and started to pull me. She wanted me to come to her hutch. I could see that there was no objection among the Marines to go where I wanted, so I followed her to where she lived. There I met her mother and father and they gladly welcomed me. It was immediately apparent that they wanted me to stay with them. Communication wasn’t the best with the older folks, but I surmised that they felt comfortable having Marines living with them; maybe they felt safer. The little girls name was Sum. She was friendly, but at the same time very shy. Her mother and father were also very friendly and welcoming; but, unlike Sum, they hardly knew a word of English.

Since servicemen, both Marines and Army, had been in Vietnam for about ten years, the kids knew English almost as well as their own language.  All the older folks didn’t bother to learn English; but of course, they had the kids to translate for them. We also depended on the kids to help us communicate to their parents. And that was helpful when we needed to relay important messages to them, like when we needed them to stay in their homes at night and not to go roaming around. That was critical, especially when we knew that the enemy was close by. We didn’t want any of the villagers to be hurt. And that was the main function of our unit—to protect the village.

This is Leam. What a great kid.

Besides Sum, there was also a boy about the same age (about 10) that came up to me asking if I needed any help. His name was Leam (pictured). He was also kind of shy, but not as much as Sum. I didn’t need too much help, but he did help me wash my clothes and a few other things.  Of course, the kids all wanted to be paid for their work, and I was glad to pay them.

One of the greatest blessings I received from my transfer to that unit and from my stay with Sum and her family, was my fellowship with them at meal time and the sharing of food. Typically, most of what they ate was white rice (which they grew in their own rice patties) and just a very little bit of fish or some kind of meat mixed in a hot fish sauce called nuoc mam. Well, since they have so very little meat, they were quite grateful to me when I offered some of my meat from my c-rations to them. Eventually, I decided to just share all of my meat (whatever it was) with everyone, and they in turn gave me as much rice as I wanted. I felt so blessed to share meals with them.

A Marine getting help washing his clothes in the river.

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