Select a veteran:   

Lance Johnson - U.S. Army

My gunners and loaders were well-trained, seasoned combat veterans, but on this day asked to accomplish the impossible, even they struggled to stay in the fight.    

DusterI moved my Duster to the line and joined in firing.  Five Dusters put out a combined thousand rounds per minute, softened the enemy position and after what seemed an eternity, began gaining ground.  I cursed the airborne commander for his stupidity in misplacing his artillery.  He must have slept through his infantry training classes.  Besides, we’d been in contact with the enemy over an hour.  Where the hell was air support?  Who the hell was running that mess? 

We moved forward by inches.  Finally, I saw the infantry fall back – a good thing, because both my 40s suddenly jammed at the same time. 

Only twenty meters from the tree line, I opened up with my .50 caliber.  Then, I heard the other Dusters crank up their .50s and figured they were jammed or out of ammo, too.  The .50 caliber machine gun is a popgun compared to the 40mm, and I knew it was past time for us to get the hell out of there.  I gave the signal to withdraw, but I stayed to cover the others backed away.  Determined to leave nothing in the jar, I fired until I overheated the barrel of my machine gun, and it jammed, too. 

Then, a really crazy thing happened.  I can’t remember every detail of the incident, but I can’t forget it, either.  When my gun fell silent, an NVA soldier popped out of a spider hole to my front and leveled an RPG right at my Duster.  I don’t know what fraction of a second it took for me to draw my .45 and fire.  It happened so fast, I hardly remember doing it at all.  Like a scene in a bad war movie, I pulled the trigger, and the guy slumped dead into his hole.  I say this was crazy because in my life, I’d never been good with a pistol  – I barely qualified with it in ROTC – but at that moment, when it really counted, I pulled it out and put a bullet square in the middle of that man’s forehead.

  • When face-to-face with instant annihilation, Lance reacted instinctively to save his life, but this time, he chose fight over flight or freeze, and the bullet hole in the enemy’s forehead punctuated the final blow to Lance Johnson’s ability to cope with traumatic stress.


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