A good friend who lived through an experience I can never truly understand wrote this poignant story. I hope you enjoy it…
The year is 1955:
His story begins on a Saturday afternoon in the old Princess Theater in Paris, Tennessee. On the screen is a war movie about the defeat of the French in Indochina in 1954. Vietnam, Laos, Indochina; it is his first time to hear these words, but somehow he understands it will not be his last. That night, he has a terrible dream about being in the same place as an older man. But how? The war in Indochina is over. But twelve years later, fate, history and destiny will lend a hand.
Moving on in time, he awakens on a sunny day in 1959. On the radio, there is news of two American advisors killed in a place called Vietnam. There has been mention of this place in the news lately, but somehow this time, it has a different effect. That night in another bad dream he finds himself in the war again. But at the time, he is playing his last year of little league baseball, and there is no mention of a war.
This night is also a turning point in his life, as he sets a course to become a soldier, a crusader of sorts. He does this not for country – no flag waving, nor mom’s apple pie – he must prove something to himself. In his dream however, something that will occur in 1968 will bring him back to this night.
On a January night in 1966, he goes home and turns on the late night movie. He finds himself watching the very same war film he saw in 1955 about Indochina, and another bad dream comes in the night.
He enters the U. S. Army in 1966, and the war in Southeast Asia, as it is known now, has been on since 1964. His training is preparing him for a life’s experience he will never forget, nor as he says in life, does he ever want to. In what he calls an unguarded moment, he loses the love of his life, and this will haunt him to his dying day.
On a day in April 1968, while in Vietnam, an incident will occur that will turn his blood cold, and he will realize he has been here before in a different time.
On November 13th of 1968, he boards a silvery airliner, much like the one that brought him here, and heads for home. In this year he has come to know several things that will stay with him the rest of his life. Of these, that all men have their own reasons for living, as well as their own price for dying. Each time he goes to the refrigerator, he will know that even though he might have little to eat, someone somewhere has even less. He finds himself torn between two peoples and two flags.
As he boards the plane, he looks over his shoulder to see some of the people getting off the plane one of these has taken his place. He silently wishes them good luck. Once on the plane, he finds a newspaper that says returning troops are being spit on in places back home, and at this time, he makes up his mind that even though he is not a career soldier, for three years he has done nothing to dishonor the uniform an act such as this will not go unpunished.
The plane lands in Nashville, Tennessee, where the cold morning air feels good to him. With family there to meet him, it is no longer a dream: he is home, but the war is still going on inside him, and will for the rest of his days. In his mind and heart, he sometimes wonders even now if he did enough.
In time he will come to know a feeling that part of him was left behind, a bit of his soul perhaps, that will return when the last of those who were lost there return. By chance, in 2006 he is able to come in contact with one of the Legionnaires who was taken prisoner at the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
He sends the Legionnaire a letter as follows:
”To my french brothers in arms, I salute all of you as warriors from the first Indochina War from a sort of Crusader from the second. We fought the same enemy at different times in history. We faced the same hardships: the loss of friends, the horrible dreams that come in the night, all of us perhaps condemned by many of our own countrymen for things they knew very little about nor seemed to care. For the rest of our lives, we will be Brothers in Arms, and I salute all of you and the Legion that has stood true. God bless all of you, the Legion and the United States of America”.
– Freddie Webb