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Marlin Jackson - United States Marine Corps

When we finally arrived in country, we laid off the coast of Chu Lai for a night before we landed.  I sat with a buddy on the bow of the boat and watched flares, explosions and tracers light up the dark sky over the hills beyond the coastline.  My buddy and I looked at that shit and thought, wow, a real war zone. To us, it looked like the Sands of Iwo Jima

The next day, the LST motored up to a sand ramp, the bow doors opened, and we assaulted the beach with full field gear – but no ammunition.  I felt like a God damned idiot.  What the hell was going on?  Did they think we needed more practice?  When I hit the beach, I saw a navy guy sitting on a little bulldozer wearing shorts, sandals, a straw hat and sunglasses drinking beer with a Vietnamese girl on his lap.  As we stormed the beach, he waved and lifted his beer can, a salute to the FNGs, Vietnam style.  The girl waved too, and when she smiled, I saw an ugly row of teeth stained black as tar.  Later, I learned Vietnamese women chewed betel nut as an appetite suppressant and because they believed it prevented tooth decay.  The downside (for me, anyway) was the black teeth.

What the fuck?  That whole scene was too unreal.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if the navy guy had tossed me a football or the Vietnamese chick spread a picnic blanket.  I felt like a fool lying in the sand with an empty weapon, but apparently, the guy next to me hadn’t caught on by then, because he looked up from beneath his helmet and said, “Who’s that dude, and where’d the war go?  I know it was here just last night.” 

The first moment I set foot on Vietnamese soil, I experienced the endless dichotomy that was the Vietnam War.  Things never entirely what they appeared, you never knew what to expect next or what reality would unfold before you.


1. "What the hell do you want in life?"
2. Marine propoganda
3. A surreal landing
4. Empathy for the enemy
5. Serious trouble
6. A messy situation
7. My time in Vietnam
8. Drugs and alcohol
9. Nightmares and Flashbacks
10. Beyond therapy