Long Term Effects of the Vietnam War Essay Example
Both Craig Higashiyama and Robby Robertson are Vietnam veterans, yet their experiences from the war were very different. Both joined the armed forces at a young age, Mr. Higashiyama joined the Marine Corps, and Mr. Robertson the Navy. Both of these men have endured their own trials and tribulations and both have a very unique story to tell.
Craig Higashiyama enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at eighteen and had his first kill at nineteen. He then stated that he “Did three tours, a lot of things I’m proud of, a lot of things I’m not proud of, so were just gonna scratch the surface”. This is a perfect example of the importance of understanding the context of people’s environments. From the point of view of a current eighteen-year-old, there is no current volatile war in effect, nobody is being drafted into the armed forces. For Mr. Higashiyama, this was his experience. War became his reality. He explained this by recounting sitting on a plane en route Vietnam: “what do you do when you’re sitting in the airplane looking and you go – is he coming home? Is he coming home? What part of him is going to be left in Vietnam?” he continues with “I had no concept of what the war was all about, how it was, what the smells were, what the sights were”. Me listening to his experiences, being forced to look at life from his point of view, reminds me of how lucky I am to have been born when I was.
While at his first duty station, in the most dangerous part of the county, Mr. Higashiyama and the other soldiers went on a mission to make a deal with the chief of a local village. They offered money in return for information. The following day the chief of the village was assassinated and everyone in the village avoided all of the Americans “like the plague”. Stories like this help to bring me into the mindset of the men who fought in Vietnam. It makes perfect sense that the lead of the village would be assassinated for talking to the Americans and then the village people are going to be unwilling to talk. This however is so far from the life that I and many other Americans live that to hear stories such as these highlights human nature when extreme situations are happening.
Mr. Higashiyama’s Theory
According to Mr. Higashiyama, the Korean marines do not take prisoners, they would take enemy POW’s up in a helicopter and even when they complied fully, they are still thrown to their death. While traveling with a Korean marine convoy, they come across a group of protestors in the road. The Korean commander commanded the crowd to clear the way. When they failed to comply, the order was a given and a pair of fifty caliber machine guns mowed down everyone standing in the way. The convoy then proceeded forward with the road obstruction cleared. This is profound. Living in a place and time where life is so extreme that mass murder is considered normal. Mr. Higashiyama explains that the realities of war cannot be understood unless experienced, he states that he was a kid “just like all of you”, and that the military uses kids. “The government gets all of the young men rallied and motivated to fight the enemy”, Mr. Higashiyama says “There is no stronger unit than a pissed off bunch of kids”.
The unique experiences that Mr. Higashiyama has had allow him to seemingly effortlessly speak hard facts of life that he has been forced to learn. When speaking about morality he said: “If there is no one talking, then in the eyes of the world there is no knowledge that the Geneva Convention isn’t being followed”. The fact that Mr. Higashiyama makes this point known is scary. It seems to me that some people assume a type of blood thirsty mindset. Choosing to kill when it is not strictly necessary. Living the rest of your life with the knowledge that you have done a horrible thing is a disheartening thought, once innocence is lost, it can never be found. According to Mr. Higashiyama, “The realities of war aren’t written in books, because they won’t tell you, is that you have to live with that trauma for the rest of your life. I just turned fifty and I’m still thinking about that stupid war”. This sentence was extremely eye opening to me. Even with many years having passed since his relatively time in Vietnam, it seems that there is still healing to be done.
Master Chief Robby Robertson has a very calming and rational demeanor. Immediately I could tell that everything that this man said was the truth. He started out his almost thirty-year enlistment in the Navy following his dreams. Mr. Robertson will say quite openly that some of the decisions that he made in his early adulthood were to seem “cool”. Making the decision to get involved in a war in an attempt to get a date may seem strange, but to Mr. Robertson, this was enough. Following basic training, he was stationed in Japan where he worked in intelligence. He describes his rating, “you’re gathering – you’re spying is what you’re doing, and you’re reporting this information”
Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. The communications tower overlooking the bay, this is where Mr. Robertson found himself in 1966. He worked as radio man, following eight weeks of training in Coronado, CA. The radioman, the member of the team in charge of holding the radio antenna he was lucky enough to avoid any firefights. Incidentally, according to Mr., Robertson, the man with the radio antenna has a huge target on his head. Ambushers would want to prioritize the commissioned officer to remove the leadership, and the radioman to eliminate communications. Despite the increased danger associated with his job, Mr. Robertson managed to make it through the Vietnam war without encountering a firefight.
Mr. Robertson left the Navy in 1968 and rejoined in 1970. Stationed right back in Vietnam. Years later, when his time in Vietnam was finished Mr. Robertson applied to be part of White house communication advance team, where they “Go off and set up communication devices for the president”. Upon being passed over for this opportunity Mr. Robertson elected to be stationed in Spain where he was in charge of communications in the back of an aircraft. The sudden onset of sickle cell disease caused Mr. Robertson to no longer be able to fly. He was then stationed in Homestead Air Force Base in Homestead, FL. Tired of working in buildings with no windows, Mr. Robertson made a career switch from communications to human relations. This caused him to be stationed on the USS America. In 1979, at the same time as his advancement to Chief, the Iranian Crisis happened and caused his ship to stay offshore, on standby for 79 days.
As the last job before his retirement, Master Chief Robertson was the force master chief of Navy recruiting command. This meant that he was in charge of all Navy recruiting across the country Master Chief Robertson retired from the military in 1968. Initially he didn’t want to have a retirement ceremony, until his wife helped him to realize that the ceremony really wasn’t for him, but for the people who helped him along his thirty-year journey.
The experiences from these two men of the same war appear to be night and day. Mr. Higashiyama speaks about the war with a solemn heart. He had to endure unspeakable atrocities, while Mr. Robertson managed to avoid combat entirely. It is amazing how two service members involved in the same war can have such a different perspective. This is largely in part due to the inherent jobs associated with both the Navy and the Marine Corps. I served for eight years in the Coast Guard and have seen first-hand the differences amongst branches. Every job is necessary in the military, some people must be foot soldiers. Unfortunately for Mr. Higashiyama, the reality of a foot soldier during the Vietnam war was miserable. Mr. Robertson has a very practical approach to the world, and is full of useful advice. In his closing statement Mr. Robertson said: “Be careful of blindly following people into war, and that’s what my generation did”. While Mr. Higashiyama has been through such an extreme situation that he knows as well as anyone the horrors of the world. It is not an easy task to measure the value of a man, yet it is safe to say that the country is lucky to have men such as Craig Higashiyama and Robby Robertson.