|Journal of Stephen Anderson|
June 20, 1998
The time came to send the kids back home. Sasha and April went first. They had already extended their stay once, and needed to get back. That was a very hard night for me. I do remember the drive home that night. It was very painful. I had a hard time driving home with my eyes full of tears. The thing that helped me get threw it was I still had the boys for a little longer. It was good the way that it worked out as now I could work things out with them. Stetson was full of love and wanted Debbie and me back together at any price. He was full of hugs and I needed them.
Tyson was struggling inside he had a hard time getting the things that were on his mind out the best he could do was in a song or poem that he wrote. It was deep and full of meaning. We couldnít believe that it came from him. It showed his kind heart. To this day I donít think Tyson has completely dealt with the effects that it all had on his life
The time came for me to take them to the airport. The night was long and hard. When I got back to Longview I wrote a song. It was good therapy.
It was hard for me not to get on the plane and go with them. I wanted to so bad, but there were still some things that I needed to do for me. I still had to learn to live the rest of my life clean and sober. This was going to take a lot of counseling. I needed to find the answer to some very important questions. Like why did I need to do anything to change my mood? What happened to me and how did I become the person that did not like. To live my life clean and sober I needed to find the answer to all of that.
Between the twelve step program, and bob and terry, his wife, and a good friend that had a lot of schooling in the field of counseling. Along with a lot of books I was able to get some answers.
When I graduated from school I has ready to take on the world. I had plans, and I thought no one or nothing would stand in my way. I had a good job. I had a home of my own. A car, and a scholarship from the school of arts at Indianapolis. My grades were Aís. The class was at home by way of correspondence for the first year. Correspondence school was not able to keep any one out of the draft, whereas had I been on campus it would have kept me out.
When I first got to the Army I didnít think about it too much. I had no time to think of anything. My time was spent running and doing push ups.
I though after basic training I might have more time and would be able to study my art. I even had all my art stuff sent to Nam. That was a big mistake. It was all destroyed in no time at all.
By the time I got to Vietnam I pretty much felt like the rug got pulled out from under me. My life was turned up side down. I was dealt a bad hand, and all bets were off.
By now I was trained to kill or be killed. I didnít want either one to happen. I was young and full of fear. This was like no place that I would have ever imagined. The smell of death was strong as soon as we got off the plane. Bodies were being loaded on planes to take back home. I knew that might be me one day. The fear got stronger with every new thing that I saw.
The temperature was about 120 the humidity was 100%, it was hot!!!. I was more then ready to go home and still had a year to go. They sent us over to a holding base to get our orders as to where we would be stationed. In formation they tried to calm us a little by telling us that never at any time had this Army base ever been attacked. That night was the first time. It was late I had been trying to sleep for about two hours. The heat was too unbearable. I must have just fell to sleep, because by the time I heard the second explosion, people were already running past by bed. I thought this was it I was to be killed my first day in the country. We all ran for cover out side. There wasnít much in the way of cover, as they werenít used to getting attacked. We were all saying prayers.
It seemed like a life time before it was over, and we all survived. The next morning we got our orders. Mine was Dong Ha. They said there was a map that we could go look at to see where it was. I was looking down by Saigon and some of the bigger cities I followed my finger up the map until it took me to the top. There was a line the called the DMZ, and that was where I found my new home. One more mile I would have been living with the enemy. Could it get any worse? "Yes."
When I got to Dong Ha we got some more orders to go out to the "field." Mine was J.J. Carol. I was in what the called the rear and J.J Carol was the front. Men would come back sometimes from the field to get a little break. One of them asks me where I was going. I told him J.J. Carol." rocket city" he replied. You see that place would get hit by rockets on a daily basis. My fear grew.
The next day they loaded us in the back of some big trucks, and off we went to our new homes. Hot and dusty and loaded down with all of our supplies, I had no idea what to expect.
Before I went to Vietnam they gave me a two week leave, I though I would take four. So by the time I got to where I had to go all my buddies were long gone. I never thought I would see them again. When we pulled into camp after the long hot drive. A familiar face emerged from the crowed of dirty rough looking men. His name was Bevins. He was in A.I.T. training with me. It was hard to believe that I would have had known someone. Bevens had been there for two weeks now and knew the ropes. He also knew what it would take to get threw this war. So he thought.
Before I had time to unload my things Bevens told me to follow him? He took me to a small building made of plywood, and had holes cut in the seats. This was my new bathroom. It had the smell of diesel. It was so we could burn it later. Anyway he told me to pull up a seat, so I did. Out of his pocket he pulls what looked to be a smoke. It was hard core Vietnamese pot. He gave me one and said you will be needing this. It didnít take much for me to be talked into it. The time that I had spent in Vietnam so far was like the worst nightmare anyone could have dreamed. So I smoked my first joint from Vietnam. No one told me the difference, and Bevens had gotten used to it in the time that he had been there. When I was done I could not stand up. I was gone. It took some time but I did manage to get back to my stuff. My new sergeant was waiting for me. He took one look at me and said, " I see you have met Bevens ." Then he told me donít do it inside the hooch. Most of the battery was on something. From that day on it was drugs, death, heat and rains that came down harder than my shower back home.
This is where I learned that if you have a big problem that is to hard to face then you could cover it up with strong drugs. It seemed to work. The more pain that I encountered the stronger the drug I would take. Soon I felt nothing at all. My feeling was gone. I kept telling myself that this year did not count. That anything goes. There wasnít much good left in me. All I knew was someone was trying to kill me every day. It was my job to just stay alive.
I have stories just like everyone else that saw combat. There was some day that I felt very lucky to have made it through. God was watching there is no doubt about it.
There were nights that seemed to go on for days. I thought they would never end. One night I was on guard duty the night was lightened by the full moon. About fifty yards out I saw what look to be someone looking back at me. I could just make out his shoulders and head. I couldnít take my eyes off him. Many times I said that it wasnít a person. Then it would appear that he would move just a little. I couldnít fire on him or I would have started an all out fire fight. As long as he didnít do anything I didnít anything. We spent the whole night looking at each other. As the sun started to come up he slowly move away and was gone. That night was one that went on forever.
The nights that I was not on guard were not much better. We slept in a hole that was about as big as my body. Between the incoming and the outgoing fire, the sounds of bombs and the taste of dirt sleep was a thing of the past. After a few times that I knew that I should have died and didnít I felt that I was going to make it. Death was not on mind anymore until I was getting close to going home. We all felt that when a man "got short" that means not much time left in the bush. That seemed to be when a lot of them were killed. We heard all the bad stories how men were killed on there way back from the bush to the rear. I was close to going home on leave and knew if I stayed in the bush one day longer I was never coming home. This was not a good feeling.
The Army came out with a new deal for R & R. If you had been in Vietnam for about six months and still had about six months left, then you could go home for two weeks instead of going on R & R. I just happen to fall into that time frame and it wasnít much of a window as my time was only a year as it was. The other part of that deal was they would only fly me to San Francisco. From that point I needed to show them that I could fly round trip from there. On top of all that I needed to show them my ticket before I could even put in for it. This would take a trip to Da Nang. My good friend Mike long was also in the same time frame, so he was going to go too.
Before I get into the trip to Da Nang I need to tell about Mike and set the stage for our trip. By the time Mike had got to Vietnam I was taking all the drugs known to man kind. Mike was very shy and wouldnít talk to anyone. He was sent to me to look after he got there, and followed me around like a shadow, but he still would not talk to me.
One day I pulled Mike aside and said smoke this now, because we are not going through the rest of this war not talking. He smoked it, and from that time on we would talk back and forth, but I was the only one he would speak to, so anyone that wanted to talk to Mike would do it through me. He pretty much followed in my foot steps and did everything that I did. To this day I fell bad about that because I did some bad stuff. I was introduced to some white power that they said was cocaine. We called it skagg. Back then coke was not considered addictive so I never felt it would heart to take it and after the first week it was the best feeling that I have ever had. I never got sick. I never felt the heat the war wasnít too bad. And it kept me numb.
Now it was time for me and Mike to go get our tickets for home. We didnít take any drugs to the rear with us because back there the war was different. It was more like being in the states. If we had been caught, we would have spent some time in the brig.
They gave us two days to get our tickets and be back. The first day was fun. We felt like we were back home almost. As the night came open us I was starting to feel a little weak. It also seemed a little hotter there then in Dong Ha. That night when we were trying to sleep I was doing a lot of tossing and turning. I was very uncomfortable, and I never did get any sleep. I could hear Mike in the top bunk doing the same thing, tossing and turning. I ask him can you sleep he said "no." When morning came we never did get any sleep, so we just got up. We then went out side and I never felt heat like that before. I asked Mike "Is it me or is it very hot here." He said it was hot too hot. I was also very weak. I had a hard time walking from the heat and how weak I was. Mike was having the same trouble. I saw a cold drink stand across the street and suggested to Mike we go over and get some, as I was real hot. By the time we got to the other side I couldnít stand any more I needed to sit down. I looked at Mike and told him something was very wrong. I said look at all the other guys they were getting along just fine. Then it hit me. When I was on J.J. Caroll, I sometimes would listen to a radio station that I could pick up from North Vietnam. It was all propaganda and I never believed any of it. But I do remember her talking about how all of us were taking 99% pure grade heroin. And we were all addicted to it. I told Mike that I bet we were going through withdrawals. I also told him there was only one way to find out. We needed to get some and take it to see if we felt normal. There was only one big problem. We did not know how to get any there. And were afraid to ask any one. I knew one thing -- time was running out on us we were going down fast. With each passing moment we felt worse. We were ready to get back to the bush. I told Mike we better get back to the airport while we could still make it.
When we got there I needed to use the bathroom so we went in. Mike didnít have to go, but he always followed me, so he came to. Suddenly, Mike comes running up to me with all the energy that he had with a face that was beat red claiming that a little South Vietnamese was being very weird to him. I ask what do you mean weird? He said he would grab his nose and snort over and over, and he was doing it to me. He kept looking at me and doing the same thing over and over. I told him I think he is trying to sell you some skagg. I said "Where is he?" I then went over to him, and did the same thing to him. He did it back and the rest was history. We got what we needed and we felt great. Thatís right, we were addicted to some pretty nasty stuff, and this was the first time I knew of anything like it. All I knew I did not like the way it felt to come down. We finished what we needed to do and the next day went back to J.J. Carroll. There were about ten men on gun two. That is the gun that I was on, and we were all on the stuff. Mike and I were the only ones that knew that it was heroin. I tried to tell them but no one would believe me. So I made a little bet with them. I bet them that if anyone of them could make it from now on and all the way through the night without taking any that, I would give them one of mine. They came in little bottles with lids that you would screw off and tap some in the lid then snort up your nose. I also told them that the ones who couldnít make it would have to give me one of theirs. The bet was on!
Before nightfall some of the men were complaining of the heat. Mike and me would hear one of them say, " seems a little hot tonight." we just looked at each other and smiled. As the night had gone on we could hear them in there beds tossing and turning. I would yell out "A little trouble sleeping boys? " "Itís just a little hotter tonight then last night" some one replied. As the night went even farther on I would hear more complaining. I didnít want to stay up all night with them so I got up and turned on the lights. It was ok because we lived underground like rats. They lived with us too, the rats that is. Anyway, I turned on the lights and took Albright (that was his last name). He was the worst of the group because he would use so much of it. I told him the bet was off with him and that I needed to use him to make my case, so I told every one to pay close attention. I gave Albright some skagg and, he felt fine. I ask him is it hot? He said "no." I ask him "Could you sleep now?" He was almost asleep by the time I asked. He said "Yes please." No one won the bet but me that night, but he or she all learned that the stuff they were on was not coke.
This is the picture. I am 2000 miles from home in a war that I didnít know what I was there for and hooked on the most powerful drug in the world. Trying to stay alive.
The time came when I knew I was going to need to get off the stuff. My leave was going to start in about a week. We were in Laos. No one new was to know that we were there, as we werenít suppose to be there. Because of all the incoming that we were getting every day I was going through my stash pretty fast. When I did the last of it, I knew that it was time to quit. My first day was like the trip in Da Nang. I was week and hot. As time went on I was out of commission. I knew that I couldnít go on like that, so I went for help.
I had heard of a program for all us men who had drug problems. It was an amnesty program that wouldnít go on our records. I turned myself in, and it was the worst five days of my life. I never knew what hit me. I lost all track of time. It wasnít long before all the men followed in my foot steps. The first sergeant came to me for help. He said that there was no way that all the men could turn them selves in. He wouldnít have anyone left to fight the war. They had to make a tent just for us it was like a hospital. They helped us come down off the stuff, but we had no energy to do anything. I told him the only thing that could be done was to gather up all the stuff that was left and give it out to the ones he needed to fight the war and when some got better, then trade them out with the ones that need to come down. So that is what he did.
After about five days I felt a little better, and I was able to drink some juice. I still couldnít eat anything, but they said it would take some time before my appetite would come back.
I was doing a lot of thinking at that time, and I knew that if I didnít get out of there soon I would be killed. I guess it was because I hadnít seen my son yet and I was close to doing just that. We were still getting hit hard every day and Charley was getting too close for comfort. There was a truck going back to the rear about two days before my leave time was to start. I asked the first sergeant to let me go. He said it was okay only if I went to J.J. Carroll for two days before going to the rear. I agreed. The problem was there was no one at J.J. Carroll and I was to be there alone. That was not a good thing.
When I arrived on the first night, it was dark and quiet. There were a few guards that were left behind when we moved out to Laos, and they where in pretty bad shape. They had been there for a while with no outside contact. I was there first in about a month. They were pretty much maxed out on what ever they could get their hands on to get high. They were also pretty jumpy, and I wasnít in much better shape after the five days of hell I just went through coming down off the heroin. So I stayed away from them.
I went to my old room it was under ground and no lights so I couldnít see anything until I got down stairs and flipped on a light. This was one of the times I thought I was dead. When I turned on the light theyíre were about fifty big rats all over everything, and as soon as the lights came on the all jumped and ran at the same time. I thought it was the enemy. My heart stopped. I was still very jumpy, and the rest of that night was bad. I got maybe one-hour sleep. The only reason I knew I had fallen asleep was when I woke up there was a rat on my chest and staring me right in the face. I may have been better off staying in Laos. It felt good to be out of there the next day.
From there I went to the rear. It got better I was able to go see a medic and he got me a big bottle of vellum. They helped a little. From there I went to Saigon. We went in an old plane I think from the first world war. It was loud, and sounded like it was going to fall apart any moment. I remember there were some Vietnamese women and children on board. One of them, a girl close to my age, put my head on her lap and rubbed my back. I though I had died and went to heaven. I fell asleep. She never knew what that did for me or maybe she did. She was very nice. Not too many people over there wanted us there, and so most of the time we got treated bad, this time it was different.
I spent one night in Saigon and then I was off to the great U.S.A. The first thing I saw was a girl with round eyes. What a sight. It was my first tasted of being home. I took two days, and it felt like a week, but we made it. I remember it like it was yesterday. As soon as I put my first step down on American land, I was in heaven. It was like a dream. It looked good and somehow different. After the first bit of excitement was gone, I started to get nervous. I still had one smaller trip to take to Portland. My home town was about forty-five miles from there. My wife was waiting.
The plane touched down and my stomach was full of butterflies. I came off the plane and there she was. She had lost a lot of weight, and was looking good. She ran and hit me like a football player going after a quarterback. I couldnít believe I was home. My mom was watching Steve Jr., so I didnít see him for about an hour after that. When I walked in the door of my moms house, it was like most homecomings that you would see on the T.V. Barb picked Stevie up and put him in my arms for the first time. He was the cutest thing I had ever seen. He was " my boy."
We soon got to our own home, things were different for me. It was clean and there were beds that were soft and had clean sheets on them. There was a lot of food. It was cold and fresh. The milk wasnít sour. There were T.V.ís and McDonalds, Coke in a bottle, cars, pizza, and no big bugs or rats. I was in heaven.
The first night I thought I would sleep like a baby. With all the things I had to put up with in Nam, the bombs, gun fire, and heat, I was still able to sleep. I was sure I would sleep like a rock, and I did for a time. Then I heard a sound like I had never heard before, a baby crying. It was down hill from there. To think that after all the things that I had been through, I wasnít able to sleep from the sounds of a baby. The funny thing was I yelled for him to shut up, and he did. I never herd a peep out of him the rest of the night. He was a pretty good boy. He was always like that. He did what ever you told him to do. I never did sleep very well anyway because of the nerves that were still in bad shape. When I did sleep it was very light. It was hard not to think that I was home and not in Vietnam. I also knew that it wasnít going to be long before I would be back. I didnít allow myself to get to close to my wife or my son for that reason. I donít even remember too much of that time. I do however remember the day that I had to go back. The first day off the plane was a lot like the first day I arrived in the Nam. The smell of death was strong. The fear wasnít as strong as the first time but it was still there.
I was to stay in Saigon for one day then head back to my battery. They were still in Laos. I didnít like that at all. I was hoping that they had gotten out of there by now. The good news was they wouldnít fly me up there because of heavy fighting going on. So I was told to come back to the airport every day to see if I could get out. This was a chance to do a little partying. I found a few friends that were in the same boat as me, so we started to plan. We werenít allowed to leave the The base because Saigon was off limits. As you would expect soldiers to do we started out by getting drunk, and going to a strip club. But this wasnít enough -- we needed more. Right outside the gate was a little Vietnamese on a three seat covered motor bike. We knew he could smuggle us into Saigon. The key word for hooker was "boom." He ask us " do you want some "boom boom?" He told us twenty dollars for all of us all night long. Up to this point I had always been loyal to my wife, but bitter as I was and an anything goes attitude as well as being drunk I said lets do it. After he got us to the place and it looked a lot like home. I mean you might see a motel like this in the old part of town of any city in the U.S.A. He then told us that the price was twenty each. We knew we were in a bad spot because we needed him to get back, because we were off limits. So we had to pay. On the way there he was asking me if I would go to the P.X. and buy him a T.V. It was only one hundred dollars. This was my plan to get the money back. So we stayed and did our thing. This was the first and only time I was ever in a whore house. What a trip! She made me shower first like it was a real clean place. I did feel better about it. I knew that the chances of getting V.D. were pretty good. I never had it and didnít want it. The next day he came back for us and the plan to get the money back was on. I told the men to go back to the barracks and get me some Army clothes. I was in civies at the time. He wasnít allowed in to the P.X. So I took his money and went in the front door and out the back and into the bathroom and changed my clothes.
He kept one of our IDís, so we were now hunted men, and had to get out of town. The next day we saw a lot of his friends out side passing around the ID, so we ducked down in the bus. I headed for the airport. The fighting was still going on toO strong to get me up to my company, but the guys that I was with were able to return to theirs. I needed to get out of there, so I went with them. Their base was still about thirty miles south of Dong Ha. I felt if I got that far, I could get back the rest of the way on my own. I hung out there for a few days before their first sergeant found me and ask who I was. I told him my story, but he had no sympathy for me, and told me to get on my way. The next day I felt like I was close enough to hitch a ride, so I started out on my own. It was about two hours of walking when I came up on some dead Vietcong that had been drug through some barbed wire. I donít know how long they were there, but they had a real bad smell and the were torn up like someone had some fun with them for a while. My guess it was the infantry. Along about that time I suddenly realized that I was in a hot area, and that could be me laying on the road dead in no time at all. I must say I was getting really scared. I didnít have a weapon with me as I was on leave. So here I was out in the middle of nowhere all alone without a weapon. This was not good. I said a quick prayer and it wasnít five minutes and someone pulled up in a big truck. His first question was what was I doing out here all alone? He then told me I was in a very hot area. I told him my story and he gave me a ride to Dong Ha.
It had been thirty days now sinse I had been gone, also thirty days off drugs. I was in the rear for a day or two, and in that time I was offered heroin from a lot of men. The first few times I said "no," but it didnít take long before I started to talk myself into trying it one more time. It felt good and helped the bad feeling of being back in Vietnam again. I knew that if I could go that long off it and still go back on it, then the rest of all the men that went through the program must be back on it by now. The only smart thing to do was load up on it before going back to Laos, so I did just that. It was funny to get there and see all the guys. They all acted like they were off the stuff, and didnít need anything. I didnít tell them that I brought some up there with me. I just acted like I was off it too. Mike Long my partner got back up there before me somehow, and took me aside, and asked if I had tried anything since I had been back. I told him," yes one time in the rear." I said "how about you?" He said "Yes a few times." I then ask him if the rest of the men had got back on it yet? He finally told me the truth. That they were all hooked on it and they had just ran out of it again. He then asked me the big question "Did you bring any back up here with you?" I told him I did, and he wasnít to tell anyone. I gave him a hit, and you could tell he needed it. He was just to afraid to tell me. They were all like that, but I made them come one by one, and do their thing. It was fun to watch and hear all the different stories. I made a small fortune.
After about two day back I started to burn a little when I went to the bathroom. Thatís right the clap also known as V.D. I went to the medic and told him. He said "bend over," I did and he put the biggest needle in me that I have ever seen.
The fighting was pretty tense, and we lost a few men. One was hit direct with a rocket. It was coming down and you could hear it make a very distinctive sound when it is coming down right on you. We heard it, and didnít have time to get into the bunker. Our friend did get in, but the rocket went in right behind him. We were laying down right on the outside of it, and when it hit and blew up, it blew straight up, and went right over our heads. We were missed. Had we made it into the bunker, we would have been killed too. It was hard picking him up. He was in small pieces.
We were there for about thirty more days, and the fighting was pretty intense. When we got word that we were going back to J.J. Caroll, we were jumping up and down for joy. We only lost a few men, and felt pretty lucky all in all. We also got no mail the time we were in Laos. We had a big truck full. They said we couldnít have it because we werenít suppose to be in Laos, and they didnít want us to leave any proof that we were there. So as soon as we got back we would get it all. I know that I had at least three big boxes from home with lots of goodies in them. We werenít two hours into our trip back when we heard a big boom. Thatís right -- one of our men ran over a mine. You will never guess what one. The mail truck thatís right the mail truck. All of our things were gone. It gets even better. Mike Long was driving the tank and I was sitting shot gun for him when all the sudden he turned right when every one else was going straight. I ask him Mike what are you doing? He said they told him over the radio that gun two needed to turn here. That gun and we four are going on a new mission. That the new mission was in Khe Sanh. The word was the troops were in bad shape and need help. This was a bad place to go. I had herd all about it. My brother Jim was there in 1968 and lost his entire unit. He was the only survivor. This was just one more day in Vietnam. Things like that happened every day. It was hell there is no other way to say it. The two weeks that we spent in Khe Sanh valley was the hardest time that I spent in the Nam. Men were losing their minds. Not a day went by that something bad didnít happen. We got no sleep and the bugs seemed bigger and more of them. There was nothing good about that place. Death was all around us. We had to just get used to it. My letters back home were showing that I felt like I was in trouble even though I tried not to show it. It was just hard to write anything when you were in so much pain and fear. I can remember this time more then the others because of the way I felt every day. I was so alone and in a place that was full of things that I could have never dreamed of the days were long and carried over into the nights as we would never sleep. The explosions of the incoming and out going magnified the dust and dirt. And one day just like that they said pack up we are going back to the rear. The ones of us that were still alive were in shock. We never thought that this day would never come. By the time we got back I was getting short. This means not much time left in country. When we got back I was taken off the gun and for the last month I was there I got to drive the ration truck. This means I got to go to the rear every day to get the food and mail.
When we would go back, that is Mike and me, Long rode with me as shot gun, we would get a list of what good we could pick up. It was thing like meat and spuds some coffee, and sometimes chickens. We would get fruit like oranges and apples. They would give us a list according to how big our unit was. One day I was watching a few men loading up a lot of coffee. There was way more then any one battery could drink in a week. So I ask them what was up with the entire brew. They told me it goes for about twenty five dollars per box in the village. So we always take a few for the road. And thatís not all -- there was lots of things that they would buy. So now I was into the black market. As well as bringing back all the necessary drugs for my battery to stay high. Getting to and from was also a bit of a chore we never knew what we would run into. We were shot at a few times. We never knew who was north or south they all looked the same. There was one time that when I stopped to pick up some of my stash we were invited in to see the inside of my mamasonís hut. So we did. We were only there for about ten minutes when her husband who was out fighting the war came home she saw him walking up the side of the road in front of the house coming toward us. She had an up stairs and asks us to go up there and hide. We did and he knew we were there because he saw my cigarette butt. The only thing that I could understand was American cigarette. That was the time to make our move out of there. We jumped through the wall and down into the rice patty below. The walls were made of grass so out was easy to do. He heard us so he came running after us firing on us. We made it to the truck and he kept shooting as we drove away, I told Mike to pop off a few over his head just to get him to stop shooting at us. It worked and we made it out of there okay. After that we had a hard time going through there because we never knew if he would be around. Every day was something different. We did make some good money selling coffee and other goods to the village people. I became well liked with the kids. I always had some candy for them. I would gather up all I could every day from all the men who didnít eat theirs. The kids would wait for me every day about the same time all along the road. As I drove by I would toss out the candy to them. They would yell back at me " # one G.I. # one G.I. it felt good to do that. There wasnít to many things there that felt good.
Still hooked on drugs and driving the truck, I was the guy who would pick up everyoneís stash. This was also a way to make some money. I put my life and the life of my best friend, Mike on the line. We did pretty stupid things and took big risks to get what we needed. Sometimes my sergeants would want to go back to the rear with me to geed the food and things. It seemed like he always wanted to go on the days that we all needed our stash as we were out and would go through withdraws. So I would need to make up lies to get him to change his mind. This was the man who should never have been sent to Nam. He was way to nervous. When we were in Laos he is the one who did have a break-down and was sent to the rear. So when ever I needed him to stay I would tell him that we were getting shot at by snipers the day before. That would work most of the time but one day he said he was going anyway. We were getting hit hard that day anyway so he felt it couldnít be any worse then what we were going through. This was one of those days that we were all out of stash and needed some bad. I had to do some fast thinking or we would all be in big trouble. On the way back I was close to the village and I said out loud "oh no!!" He said whatís the matter? I said we were over heating and need water. I told him we didnít have any and would need to stop at the river near the village. I also told him that he would need to go back to the back of the truck and stand guard as the kids would steal us blind. He did it and took the whole thing very serious. As he was doing his thing I lifted up the front hood and called over the mama sone and did my thing. It worked but I thought that speedy was going to have one of his break downs. We called him speedy because he was all was running and talking fast without no speed to make him go so fast. Just raw nerves.
I think back now and think of all the times that I put others and myself at a big risk. If the Lord had plans for me, then I would have ended my stay on earth right on the fields of Vietnam. It is easy for me to look back now and know why I am still here.
My last few weeks there I was better about taking care of myself. It was even hard to get me to come up out of our bunker. Then all of the sudden the day came when I was told to grab my gear and head for the rear I was going home. I knew the next few days were going to be the longest days I would ever spend in the Nam. It felt funny to think that I was leaving all of this, my friends and partners. People who I lived with for a year. People who I spent nights of fear with who I laugh and cried with. I knew I would never see them again. I knew that some of them would not even make it home. It was hard to say good by, but home was something that I was looking forward to for the whole year that I was there. I had to some how put this behind me, and try to go back home and pretend that this didnít matter. I needed to tell myself that every thing back home was just as I left it and it was up to me to blend back in. I could never tell anyone what happened over there -- they would never understand. I just needed to keep it all to my self. How could I tell some one what happen to me and make them understand? This was a time when everyone back home was protesting the war and needed to blame someone for all that killing. We who returned were good targets. It was easy for me to stand up for myself at first, but at home alone at night I couldnít help but think of all the killing of kids and others who never hurt anyone. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The people of Vietnam were treated like animals not like real people. I guess it was our way of doing what we did to them and not feeling bad. There were times that I stopped and took time to feel bad whenever I saw a child on the side of the road crying who looked about two years old and no mom in sight. Who knows what might have happened to her. We could have never stopped to help. It might have been a trap. Men with kind hearts were men who would never make it home so we were told. So we had to look the other way. I would toss food out my window to the children sometime as we passed by.
It was hard for me to believe that the day was here and I was going home. As I remember back, I can still see the airport. I remember walking to the plane that was to fly me away. Right next to mine was one that had just arrived with new boys that were soon to be men just putting there feet down for the first time on Vietnam ground. "New boots " they were still peeing USA water. I saw myself standing there one year ago. I felt their fear. I saw the same body bags as they did only this time I was use to it and thought nothing of it. If I could have only seen how that would change my life for so many years then maybe, I would have had the good sense to get some help. I was still just a boy called a man. What does that mean? It means we never grew -- we changed. We never learned to become men. Boys didnít go through what we went through. This was something only for men.
So as the plane lifted off the ground I moved over to the window to take one last look at the place that I called home for the past year. The higher we flew the smaller it became. It would fade into my memory, a lot of it lost in my subconscious only to reappear in times that I had no control of. I said "is this really happening? Am I really going home? Did this really just happen?" "Yes, yes to it all." "Now what? Now what do I do?" On the first leg home I was with others like me who were going home. After we landed in the U.S., we went to planes that took us to our own states. On my plane I was the only man in an Army uniform. The stewardess asked me if I just got out of Vietnam. I had a hard time talking to her. She seemed so unreal to me. like I was watching her on the TV. It was the first time that I didnít know if I should answer yes or no. I was in shame. A shame that would soon have a big change on my life. Of course I had no way of knowing that at the time. I was unhappy with who I had become. I did not like myself anymore. I knew no one back home would be interested in what had happened, so I thought no need to ever bring it up. Just talk about how I got high and partied down with all the rest of the men in my area. Most of my friends did not know how to talk to me. You could see they were lost for words and wanted to believe it never happened, and that was okay because so that was the way I felt. I was happy to be alive I felt funny going back to the real world they expected us to go back and pick up where things left off. My life was so much different now. There was no way that any one can understand that without being there. I was just happy to be going home. I remember it still it was a very long trip home. It gave me a lot of time to think. I knew I had a wife and baby boy waiting for me. I was feeling alone and frightened. The Army was sending me home to be a father and husband straight out of the bush. I guess I was up for anything, so home here I come. It wasnít long I found old friends.
Soon I got together with Greg Leroy and we started a band. It was me, Greg and Bill Ermintrout, Mark Hursh, and Terry Eneret. Bluegrass and country. We put all of our time in it and it helped. We started out playing in the small towns that we lived, Longview, and Kelso. And after a while we thought we needed something more. So we all moved to Seattle, Washington. Patty moved with us. We all found a big house with a basement that had more then enough room. We set all our equipment up in the dinning room, and we worked on our music every day all day long. Patty was not to happy with the time that I put into the band but after all this was why we were there. The more time with the band the further we grew apart. She was able to hang in there for a long time though. One night we went down to a bar where they played nothing but bluegrass music. I took the lead and went up to the bar and ask the man working what it would take to be able to play there. He told me that the list was long and he would be willing to put our name on it, and if any one dropped of he would let us know, and that we should keep checking back with him. Then he went on to say that things might change because that someone had just bought the place, and he was sitting right over there. He told me his name, and said I should go over and introduce my self. So I did. Things really changed for us from that time on. He told me that he was looking for a new band that no one had ever heard of to promote. He asks me if we were new and had anyone ever heard of us before? I said "no, just the people back home that lived around our small town." He then ask me if I wanted to go for a short ride to see what he had to offer. With no hesitation I said lets go. We didnít go far just down the street to a place called the Seattle show box, a place where benny goodman played all the time. It was so big inside and sounded like you could hear a pin drop all the way across the room. He told me he owned it and was willing to let us set up our stuff there to have it for our place to work on our music. He went on to tell me that he wanted us to think of nothing but playing, that he would take on all our bills and give us money, and that all we needed to play and get good. I had to ask was this a dream? So we went back to the inside passage that was the name of the bar we met and we got the rest of the band and Patty. We all went back the next day and he took us next door to a nice restaurant were he told us that we could eat there for free and just sign our names when we were done eating and we would never be billed. After that he took us to a music store and told us that when ever we needed anything to come here and get it and put it on a open account that he would get the bill and we would never see it. This was just too good to be true, but it was and we were off and running on our new carrier. The next few weeks we were getting all new clothes and taking photo shoots. We thought we were the beetles. Harry had assigned a lady over to us her name was Madaline. She thought she was our new mom. He gave her a real hard time, but it was fun doing it. It wasnít long and we were sounding good. We had some big shows and our name was getting around all over the place. We played with some big names, and we were holding our own. People would come from all over to see us. We had a big following. Girls were all over the place and we had the pick of the litter if we wanted. Patty was still hanging in there, but I wanted more and more to play the field if you know what I mean. So I started to treat her badly, and soon she left back to Longview. After she left then there was no one to hold me back, and I got a little crazy. Late nights with someone new every night, drinking, and more drinking. My life was centered on wine, women, and song, and too much of it all. People might have looked at my life and said that I had it made, but that was not true at all. I was very unhappy. I only enjoyed the times that I was on stage playing my songs, all the rest was just part of the gig. Soon it all got old. By now I had lost touch with my son and my wife. Barb came one time to see me, and I forgot that she was coming, and she found me with a girl because I didnít come back to my house that night. She left me a note on my pillow that I would never see Steve Jr. again. Shortly after that she moved to Reno, and she was right I never saw them again for a long time. I didnít have time to feel sorry for my self and with all the booze and drugs. I could bury it easily so I thought. After Vietnam it was a common thing to bury all things that went badly in my life. I didnít want to blame me for all that I did to cause my pain, so I would just look the other way and find ways to hide it. It was clear to all that knew me that I was self destructing. All but me that is. We went on for a while playing and becoming well known all over the west coast. I went back to Longview for the weekend one time. Patty was gone to Arizona so I thought. I went out that night to a local bar with one of the girls that I was seeing in Seattle just to dance and have a good time. It was Pattyís best friend in school, and she was hot. Sandy was her name. I may have gone out with her just to get under Pattyís skin. That night after a song was over and I was on my way to the mens room, I saw a girl that looked just like Patty, so I turned and took a second look. It was Patty, and she was looking good. She had been in Arizona for three months, so she was really dark. So here I was in Longview with a girl that I brought from Seattle, and wanted to be with Patty. So what do you think I did? I left sandy stranded in Longview, and took Patty back with me. We stayed together for a long time this time. She got used to the band. By now we were doing well, and making good money. She helped out with promotions and things like that. We were getting pretty close. I thought I had fallen in love with her. I also thought she was in love with me. I know now that you cant have real true feelings as long as your mind is clouded with drugs and booze. But for that time in my life it felt real. The band was going great and playing a lot, but soon we were in a spot in our lives when we were asked to lay it on the line and sign a five-year contract. Greg and I were the only ones that thought it was a good deal. Bill and Mark didnít like the idea. Terry was okay with it. We always said that we must all agree or we wouldnít do it, so we went on our own. It wasnít long before I was losing interest in the band. I wanted to do more then just play in clubs. My lack of interest showed, so after a time, I was asking to leave and they found someone to take my place.
Now it was time to spend more of my life with Patty and try to do.
When we first moved back to Longview, we stayed in a trailer out side my mom and dads old house on 32ndstreet. Soon we had our own place upstairs of an old four-plex. I was working back at Reynolds and doing some painting to get by, and Patty was working at Longview fiber. It wasnít too long before she sprung the news that she was going to have a baby. Nine month later we had a baby boy. We named him Aaron Scott Anderson. He was a cuttie and every one loved him. I tried harder to be a good dad this time, but I was still in no shape to take on that kind of roll. It wasnít long before Patty and I started drifting apart. We never trusted each other, so a big part of our life was missing. We would never be married because of it. She soon started seeing someone at her work behind my back, and I found out one night. We had a big fight, and I hit her. I never thought it to be possible for me to hit a woman, but I did that night and that would be the last night we would spend together. I said if I could do that to women, then we were not ever going to be together. It was just too much for me to bear. From that day on I have always had a strong mind that there was nothing in this world that should cause a man to hit a women. So off I went to see what new and exciting thing was in store for me in my life.
For the most part I just played. I played soft ball, some music, and lots of parties. I would get Aaron, as much as I could, Patty was very good about letting me see him. We were close. I loved doing things with him. He was a lot of fun, and the girls loved him so. It helped my love life. He like it when we would jam as he would sing along with words that he would just make up as he went along.
I didnít know if I was going to write about the thing that were to come, but I said I wasnít going to hold anything back, and I want this to be all the things I could think of in my life with all the truth as I remember it to be. But before I go into it I need to lead up to it with some important things that were going on in my life.
After a lot of looking and playing I finally found someone who I feel in love with and knew that I could settle down with. Her name was Debbie Degraff. I met her after a ball game one night out dancing. She was six years younger with long blond hair and looking good. She was like no girl I had ever met, or at the very least for a long time she was pure and clean and full of life and fun. She had her entire life in front of her. She had never met anyone like me. Before she was just twenty years old with fake ID. Here I had been married and divorced and almost married again with two boys and back from Vietnam. This poor girl had no idea what was in store for her. Her family was in shock to say the least. Well time went on and we had a few ups and downs, but one day I asked and she said "yes" to "would you marry me?" So we did and had a really nice wedding. Aaron was in it as the ring bare he was so cute. After we got back from our honey moon, my brother Jim was at the door with the missionaries. I had a beer in one hand and a smoke in the other. I threw them out and said "come on in." They did and we were both baptized into the Mormon church. As we were going through all of this Aaron would come and stay with us from time to time. We were still living at my cousin Bobs house. I had really bad credit as I let things go when I was doing all my running with the band. So we were renting from him. I remember the missionaries telling me that if I would pay my tithing that we would be blessed more then we could ever believe. And that did happen. The night I was baptized the prophet Spencer W, Kimbel spoke on tithing, so I put the Lord to the test and he did bless me we got a new house with in that same year. And things were looking good. But even before that back when Debbie were first married, Aaron would be coming over to our house with burns on him and bruises on him. They didnít look like the kind that he would have gotten from playing. They looked like someone put them there. I started to get worried and even very mad. I started to take photos and keep some records of the times he would come over like that. Soon I asked Patty, Aaronís mom, about one of the burns that looked too much like a burn from a lighter from the car. It had a ring that got smaller like a coil. She said it was when she was drying him with a hair dryer. I had a hard time with that as it was too small, and you would have had to hold a hair dryer on him for a long time to get the burn that way. So I went after him with a lawyer in a court of law. Patty also got herself a good lawyer, and the fight didnít last long. Aaron was able to stay with Patty. The one good thing that did come from it was the marks stopped showing up. I told her that I felt it was her boy friend anyway, and that any more and I was coming after him. I never did think it was her.
As time went on Debbie and I were sealed in the temple for all time and eternity. We were getting strong in the church. Things were going really well in our life. I was trying hard to find the same testimony that I was seeing in so many people. I asked my cousin Mike Teig if he could explain to me how is it that some people know beyond shadow of the doubt that the church is true. He gave me a book called drawing on the powers of heaven. So I began to read it. There were a lot of things that the book had me do. So I started to practice the things that it asked me to do, which was fasting and prayer, and also practicing to do everything that is right and good. Then one evening I got down on my knees. And as fast as I said the wordís father in heaven a strong feeling came over me. It was as though a slight touch started on the top of my head and began to work its way down past my shoulders and covered my entire body as though I was in my mothers womb. A strong peaceful feeling came over me. I have never felt anything so wonderful in all of my life. And as I started to speak before I could even get the words out of my mouth "Dear Father in Heaven" there was a voice spirit speaking to spirit and said "what you are doing is true, it is right, keep doing it." At this time that I knew that church was true. From that time forward there is no way that I could ever wonder if the church was true, I knew it was.