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Marlin Jackson - United States Marine Corps

We stayed in that Montagnard village twenty-five days before the NVA finally got sick of it and hit us two nights in a row.  I was God damned amazed.  What those bastards did wasn’t humanly possible.  From the floor of canyon below us, those sons-of-bitches actually scaled the rock walls of the hill that village sat on.  The bastards crawled up the side of the cliff, their weapons at sling arms, and when they reached flat ground were right in front of us lobbing grenades, screaming like banshees and coming at us.  Dug in, we had cover and concealment, so we just hunkered down and picked them off.  I don’t know how many of those poor fuckers stood up at the edge of that cliff, got hit, and then fell over backwards.  We were up half the night until they gave it up and things finally quieted down.

  • Even though in imminent danger of being killed or wounded, his empathy for his enemy was evident.  The huge number of NVA Marlin and his teammates killed were indirect threats to his own physical integrity and a traumatic stressor.

The following night, they came after us with an attitude.  Apparently, they’d had enough of us and our Montagnard friends, because they opened up with an 82 mm mortar and tried to dismantle our hilltop stone by stone.  Between incoming rounds, I looked across the valley and spotted the enemy mortar crew on a little rock outcropping.  I put a burst of .50 on them and took them out, but their buddies obviously had orders to follow the mortars in, because when the tube went quiet, the shit really hit the fan.

  • That night and the following morning, Marlin Jackson met both Criterion A conditions for posttraumatic stress disorder.  He witnessed and experienced numerous events involving the actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.  

Within seconds, the God damned NVA came at us from all directions.  We called for artillery and told them to keep tossing it in until we said to stop.  Four hours of the most intense, close combat I’d ever experienced, they crested the hill five at a time and came at us, and we clicked off just as many rounds as it took to drop them. The firefight lasted half the night, and who knows how much ammo we put through that .50.  The next morning, when the sun topped the eastern foothills, we stuck our heads up and took a look around.  Everything around us had been shot to shit, and I mean everything.  All the sandbags in front of us were torn up, and even the machine gun tripod had nicks in it.  Later, the Montagnard headman reported he lost a few people, but no American even got a scratch.

  • To permit Marlin to react in accordance to the threat, Marlin’s brain pumped large doses of neurochemicals throughout his neocortex.  However, the chemicals that motivated him into self-protective action had an immediate and deleterious effect on his still-developing brain.

On patrolWhen the clouds lowered, I took a couple Montagnards with me and patrolled the perimeter.  As we came across dead NVA, we tossed their bodies over the edge of the cliff.  I wondered how many more already lay on the floor of the canyon.  For all I knew, there could have been a carpet of dead gooks down there, but one thing was certain, I really didn’t give a crap.

  • The threat to Marlin’s physical integrity was reinforced when the lull in enemy activity and weather conditions made it possible to assess the battle damage.  Fear for one’s own life traumatizes as well as witnessing taking the lives of others.  This holds whether the maimed and slain are friend or foe, even when cognitively it is vehemently denied.  After this battle and even for the rest of his life, Marlin would not or could not acknowledge how the deaths of so many of the enemy affected him. 


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