Select a veteran:   

Lance Johnson - U.S. Army

Now, the whole situation became very unstable, so I moved my Duster to the edge of the perimeter.  My big guns were inoperative, but I hoped to do damage with my .50.  Surreal – fascinating – mesmerizing to watch the NVA in gray uniforms and African safari hats swarm through our line, firing on the move.  Funny, as I think back on that moment, what I remember most is my surprise at how much bigger they were than their VC cousins, and I thought it curious to see women ammo bearers follow the men through the wire. 

I rotated the turret toward the biggest hole in our perimeter and fired my .50 at anything that moved.  Hard to say how long the fighting went on.  I fired hundreds of rounds.  The NVA were everywhere, and one must have moved in behind me, because his RPG hit my Duster, it blew me out of the tub, and I landed on my belly in the mud fifty feet away.

Dazed and in shock, my ears rang, and I couldn’t move.  I could not will my body to do anything.  Face pressed into the mud, I looked up, and when my eyes focused, I saw them run past me, saw their black sandals made from old truck tires, uniform pants muddy and stained, saw them fire their AK-47s, and then move on.  In the heat of the battle, they thought I was dead.  Sometime later, our guys got the upper hand and finally pushed them back through the wire.  I don’t remember any of that, but it was still dark when they found me and called for a medic.

  • The phenomena of fight, flight or freeze are part of what has been termed the “general-purpose defense response control network" and reacts in response to signs of danger encoded in unpleasant sights, sensations or smells.  Anger, avoidance and defensiveness are emotions activated by the amygdala, and all three are primary symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder..  It is believed the origin of the amygdala and its function began with the early fishes and activated ancestral signs of distress to facilitate rapid choices for action.  Lance experienced a major traumatic event that night on the Cambodian border, and his reaction was automatic and self-preserving.


1. Ordinary
2. Dating the class secretary
3. Artillery training
4. Special Forces Camp
5. Firing at anything that moved
6. You're not going ot believe this
7. Asked to accomplish the impossible
8. Welcomed by war protesters
9. Anger
10. Like a trapped schoolboy
11. Dissociative flashback
12. Still in love