By Moon Day, July 20th, 1969 I was Rat Six, the leader of the First Infantry Division Tunnel Rats and had been for almost five months. My team and I were on a mission in the Iron Triangle. We were supporting an infantry company and came under fire near a rice paddy. Several of the riflemen were wounded and when they were medi-vaced word came down that Neil Armstrong had landed on the moon. Excitement spread through the lines at the news. That night we remained with the infantry as we were pinned down by the Viet Cong. Soaked to the bone we slept little as the mosquitoes buzzed and bit. But there was a beautiful full moon despite it all.
I remember cursing the whole war, wondering “Who in the hell is Neil Armstrong? Why is he on the moon and I am stuck in a rice paddy In Vietnam.” I made a vow. If I indeed survived this war; I was going to change my life. I was going to go back to school, get my degree in engineering from Rose Poly from where my father always wanted me to graduate, stop drinking, quit smoking and not fall in love with the first round-eyed girl I met when I got home.
A few months later I had returned from the war. I re-enrolled at Rose. On the morning of November 12th I woke up, hung over, and staggered to the living room where we had an old black and white television turned on. A fuzzy image on the screen showed the second moon landing. This time it was Pete Conrad. I thought back to that night in the rice paddy where I had vowed to change my life. I hadn’t. Here I was flunking out of school again, drinking and smoking, playing a lot of cards, rarely attending class and was engaged to a girl I had known for less than a month.
I quit school the next day, broke off the engagement and fled to Denmark where I lived and went to school four years before. Then I had fallen in love with a wonderful young woman named Lone who was opposed to our involvement in Vietnam as most Danes did. When I arrived in Copenhagen I was received with open arms by Lone and Ilse her mother. I intended to stay. Shortly thereafter at Ilse’s apartment something very bad happened.
I always slept on a fold out cot in her living room. One morning she woke me to say that she was going to be late coming home from work that evening. I had never slept very well since returning from Vietnam. That morning when she rustled me, I panicked and grabbed her by the throat. She screamed and so did I. It only took a second for me to realize what I had done. It scared her terribly but it scared me even more. In a cold sweat I apologized profusely as she tried to comfort me. Something was very wrong with me. The horrors of the war still dominated in my mind.