- Jeffrey Denning (WarriorSOS.com)
- I'm the author of four books: Warrior SOS, The Work of Death, Together Forever, and Leaders Wanted. I'm in the doc film Please Remove Your Shoes. I've blogged for The Washington Times, and I write for Guns.com. I've worked for the high-profile U.S.-led Roadmap to Mideast Peace in Israel and Palestine. I've also worked as a SWAT team leader, a Federal Air Marshal and a sole-source training instructor on a classified contract with a U.S. government customer. My master's degree is in Military Studies and terrorism. I'm a former noncommissioned and commissioned Army officer, with service in Iraq. I've been Scuba diving and skydiving; I have trained with members of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team, and I'm an FBI-trained crisis negotiator. My interests lie in helping others and in strengthening America through inspiring moral courage, government fiscal responsibility and accountability, and maintaining principles that have made--and will continue to make--the United States of America a blessed and prosperous country. I'm a father of six, a husband, and a police officer. I reside in Utah, and I'm a Mormon. See also www.WarriorSOS.com.
June 11, 2011
Have you ever killed anyone before? Interview with a Vietnam Vet
Taken from Hawaii Army Museum Society online photo
Our guest today wishes to remain anonymous for personal and professional reasons. He enlisted in the Army Security Agency (ASA) in summer of 1967. The ASA, which was absorbed into Military Intelligence in 1977, reported directly to the National Security Agency (NSA). After Basic and Advanced training, he went to the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) just in time for the Tet offensive of '68. He stayed until Tet of '69 was over. During his time in Vietnam, he was awarded FIVE Campaign ribbons. After Vietnam he was transferred to Asmara, Ethiopia, where he stayed until late 1971. He served in Heidelberg, Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), Fort Carson, CO, and Stuttgart, FRG, from 1972-1980. He also received advanced electronics training in Fort Gordon, GA. Instead of reenlisting, he went to work for Boeing Services International where he was stationed in Sinope, Turkey. His first marriage dissolved, at least in part, from all the third world travel. He traveled much of the world and transferred to Incerlic AFB to finish out his contract. He was also contracted with McDonnell Douglas to work in Taif, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for three years. He's sold vacuum cleaners, worked for a car dealership, and has built houses. In 1990, he moved to Utah and became a "ski bum," working at Dear Valley and Park City Ski Resorts until the spring of 2002. By that time, his Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) had progressed until he was almost completely debilitated. He now resides elsewhere.
Warrior SOS: Although I know some things about your background our readers do not.
Frankly, when interviewing warriors like yourself, it seems like the elephant in the room is the question most people hesitate to ask. The questions might be difficult for you to answer or discuss, but my hope is it will offer peace and help rather than anything contrary to that. Here it goes… Have you ever killed anyone, and what does that feel like?
Yes. At first, during the Tet offensive of 1968, I never had a chance to think about it. It was all them or me and so fast I never had a second to think on it. I was so busy and new things happened on and off for the next two months until I found myself in the Army Security Agency's Radio Research Field Station, Phu Bai, Republic of Vietnam (RVN), cover for a spy shop of sorts. After a short time there, I began going with a friend from a unit down the road attached to MAC-V [Military Assistance Command-Vietnam] on Tuesday afternoons and evenings. On the third or fourth ambush we laid he had advanced intel that a certain Colonel of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), who was our target would be there in the late afternoon or early evening. As I lay under a bush 70-80 meters from the small village up the road from Phu Bai, watching through my scope, five armed VC [Vietcong, the Vietnamese word for communist], or NVA came into the village. They lined up the residents, started screaming at them and beating them with their gun buts. I had never actually witnessed this type or level of violence in my life before that minute. TV does not count when compared to real life. My friend and leader told me to "Let it go and wait for the Colonel". I was awestruck or dumbfounded maybe? Then the leader took out his machete and slashed at the breast of a young woman holding a baby! She bled profusely and screamed the scream of one absolutely terrified to the point of death. I knew for the first time in my white bread, upper middle class, suburban life that true evil existed and it was right in front of me. When he raised the machete again, I did not think at all, I just knew that I had to stop him from hurting that young woman. I shot him and the two subordinates next to him as they watched him fall. Then I shot the last two in the back as they ran from the village. I was over come with relief that they could no longer hurt the poor people in the village. The exhilaration and relief that came from that knowledge washed over me like a huge wave. My friend had to grab me by the collar, let's go before they figure out where we are. My rifle had a silencer and I also knew that they would not find us. The nine of us withdrew. That cost me two stripes for disobeying an order and letting the Colonel off the hook, but all I could think of was that the villagers would be safe now. That knowledge, that I could stop evil animals from hurting good people, was like a drug that colored and changed the way I though at the most basic level of my being!
Would you mind elaborating?
Aside from the NVA cutting that woman, I've seen IFTs do terrible things, not just cutting off peoples heads, but real torture of such gross and maniacal nature that you can not avoid the realization that evil does exist in this world. Not just one two or five, but fifty or a hundred times in east Africa! I have night mares of that and the fact that I can't stop it terrifies me in the dreams. My partner was the guy who found the terrorist training manual that paraphrasing said:
"Tape two magazines together top to bottom so that you can reload quickly with out fumbling. Then take a hand grenade in each hand, used the index finger of the other hand to pull both pins. Walk into the market square and throw the grenades as far as you can toward the other exits. Start shooting to make them run toward the grenades. Aim low so that you hit the children and women first to maximize the publicity of your attack."
Our translator was reading the Arabic doc in English and when I heard that, I lost my temper and started to wail on the helpless prisoner. That cost me two stripes. We really do not torture our prisoners. But "Aim low to hit the children and women to get the best publicity!!!" That is evil if ever anything was.
I know several veterans who've been in fights and have lost their tempers. Some of them fight a lot when they come home. You don't come across as a person with a temper to me – not at all. Are you normally aggressive or do you have a history of fighting? What does war and the stresses of war have to do with anger, if anything?
I used to have a shorter fuse than I do now, not that it was a problem more than two or three times in my entire life. I did not start fights, I had to get really angry before I started to hit back. It was just that two of them were while I was in the ASA. Except for our prisoner, I never hit anyone who was not trying to hit me first. It took me some time to grow out of it. ( The short fuse, that is.) After I married, I learned to control my temper. I could not afford to loose the money with a wife and kid. I was/am much happier for it.
My Father, the service and old sergeants in particular, taught me what was important in life. At first, I was the newbie. But the more times we went out and the more responsible I became, the less I worried about those things. I never had much stress in battle. Most of the time it was just waiting or sneaking around. Concentration on the task at hand took up my entire mind? Then when the [stuff] hit the fan, I just wanted to make every shot count and keep my friends alive.
One more thing, war taught me that I now have little or no tolerance for standing buy while others get hurt. You can ask George about how mad I get every time there is some new out rage on the news and we, our Government, Western Civ, choose not to do anything about it. They don't print my letters to the paper any more. It makes it hard for me to have liberal friends. I am working very hard on learning to control my contempt and mouth. I really am, just ask Ron and Jan, old friends who do not share my politics.
Taken from an image online
What did you learn from your father that helped you in later years as a warrior?
My dad was one of the truly good, kind and decent guys. When my brother and I were out running errands with him, we always stopped to help anyone we could. He taught us that helping others was something that real men did just because we were men. At 14-18 years old, it felt good to be included as a man. My dad also taught us how to shoot, I mean really shoot. We used to hunt pheasants and quail with an old .22 short rifle, shooting the birds on the wing. My dad also got me into the Cub Scouts. I believe that much of what they taught about God and Country helped me more than I knew. The Scouts also taught me about friendship and helping others. But most of all, my Dad taught me about history and how it underlies everything we know and do today. That foundation is the rock that that gave it all perspective and meaning.
What philosophies do you feel would help warriors today?
They have to know, whether they are told or not, that they are personally engaged in a vital struggle between good and evil at the most basic level! Nobody teaches History any more or the 1,400 year struggle between CIVILIZATION and EVIL in the form of Islamo-fascism is certainly NOT covered in the least. I like to ask if they remember the words to the Marine Corps Hymn that they learned in grade school. "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli" and what the words meant. They were written about our early struggle against Satan's minions back in the very early 1,800s when America sent old Iron Sides and five other ships to North Africa to fight the Barbary Pirates who were capturing Americans and holding them for ransom or selling them into slavery in the Arab world. The knowledge that they are part of the greatest struggle in history, going back 1,400 years and certainly the most important thing we, civilized people have ever done.
How did those views help you?
The idea that I am/was part of something larger and more important than myself and that my country is great, is good for your self image/psyche. That I am part of the great struggle between Civilization and Good on one side and Evil and anarchy on the other, even as if it was a mission from God? If it sounds crazy, it's because of my failure to communicate the big idea behind all of the above.
What, if anything, did you do for personal help and treatment?
In the years after I left the service in 1980 and when became a "Civilian Independent Contractor." I was asked if I was depressed or had that post trauma stress syndrome, but all I could say was that I was happy to have had my small part helping in the struggle between good and evil. I think it is the bigness of the idea that gives you comfort against all the little things that wear you down.
How long do the memories last?
Until I came down with CFS, which destroyed some of my memory, I could remember almost everything down to the smallest detail. The secret of that is that every time I did, I could think "We are winning and the bad guys are loosing!" Each time that happened, it re-enforced my self image of a good guy, fighting the good fight against evil!
On the other hand, I think you may be asking about nightmares. If so, I had some of those too, but they were not about being scared, well it was about being scared, but not about the thought of injury of death, but of running out of ammunition or being helpless. I looked forward to the battles because they were the opportunity to help others, oppose evil, save some poor person's life because of my efforts. Sometimes seeing movies like Saving Private Ryan would trigger those bad dreams. But they were only one or two in any week's time and then they would be gone for months or years at a time. When I first came home from East Africa, I might have had one or two in six weeks, but they were never that bad. Just my opinion.
What kinds of nightmares did you experience and how often? Were they nightmares of situations you were in?
No, not really. They were never that big a deal to me. They were generalized by running in place going nowhere and running out of ammo. I suppose this is linked to my first night in Saigon at Davis Station where there were not enough rifles to go around and there were only 17-18 rounds for each. The VC were just down the way and in real force. I thought we were surrounded from the sounds of battle all around us. But we were not alone and Puff was overhead like an angel to keep the bad guys away.
Was there anything that made the nightmares stop?
Just time and the realization that we were winning and the bad guys were not.
You mentioned movies like Saving Private Ryan brought on nightmares. Is there anything else that brings them on?
9-11-2001 caused a bunch of them for a week or two, and the images of people jumping and the flames which caused me to feel helpless to stop the terrorists. That feeling of helplessness was made worse temporarily because they would not let me re-enlist. Again I felt powerless until I started teaching Ladies self defense classes. Having the mission and the power to help others gave me security in the fact that my help could make a difference in the lives of others. The President's speeches and letters from friends still in the sand box gave me confidence also.
You volunteer at your local military veteran nonprofit organizations and help serve people. How has that helped you as a person?
It is most rewarding and makes me feel like a million bucks! It adds value to my life. I do not feel so helpless/useless because of my disabilities. Multiple defects tend to pile up on you and wear you down if you let them, but all I ever have to do is put an add in the "free stuff to give away" part of the newspaper and I have a new mission and a new group of people who need my help.
What advice would you give to the next generation warrior?
Study history so that you will know that you are part of something big like saving the world for real. There is nothing like the sure knowledge that you are doing good deeds in opposition to real evil. Saving Civilization from Islamo-fascism. That sort of thing. Have faith in God. I did not have that as much as I should have when I was young just starting my career. But ten years after I left the service, I took some friends down to see the Temple Square in Salt Lake City. We were given tickets to a concert in the tabernacle by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Rice College Orchestra. We came back that night and sat through the show. During that show, the sound of the choir, music and over all ambiance caused the feeling of PEACE to come over me like a signal from God. I know it sounds hokey, but that is the best, really only way to describe it. PEACE. The overwhelming feeling that God is with you.
We should do everything we can to help new soldiers get that feeling, to know that you are not alone. Not that chaplains over the years did not do all they could to help me get that feeling, but commanders and others could have helped.
Is there anything else you'd be willing to share that would help us learn more about you and help warriors and their family members?
Have faith, believe in God and your mission in defense of Civilization, America, Life and Freedom.
Finally, would you be willing to give a brief summary of your patriotic feelings - for God and Country?
After living all over the world, I know beyond any doubt that America is the greatest force for good in history. America and Western Civilization and all that they imply, represents everything that is good and that we are the good guys fighting evil through out all of American history. World Wars one and two, Korea, Viet Nam, Somalia and dozens of other little skirmishes world wide are proof that were are the good guys and we are winning in the struggle against evil! The very idea that America represents individual freedom is a shinning beacon to people all over the world who want to live a better life than they have now is also important!
I cannot thank you enough for agreeing to do this interview. I thank you for your service. And, though it's a long time since Vietnam, I'm confident America thanks you. May the Lord bless you all the remainder of your days.
To read this and other amazing interviews, check out Warrior SOS, the book on Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Warrior-SOS-Military-Veterans-Emotional/dp/1462117341/
For Warrior SOS book endorsements from Glenn Beck, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and others, check out the author's link: http://www.jeffrey-denning.com/books/warrior-sos/