Tuesday, February 17, 1970
Dear Chaplain Miller,

I slept well last night. I'm not sure of the reason for my ability to find such rest. It may have been the clean sheets or it may have been the glasses of wine. I woke up around 0700 refreshed and at peace, took another hot shower and went to breakfast. Fried eggs and bacon and white sliced bread toast. Wow, I could get use to this kind of living, if it weren't for the war around me.

I went back to my room and read a little. Picked up a Stars and Strip’s newspaper and just cooled it, until the sun began to rise and fill the Vietnam blue sky with its warm rays. I took the clean white towel that was issued to all guests and headed out to the beach. So Jim, here I am, continuing another chapter in my story of Blind Faith.

I'm lying here in the shade of a large palm tree. The shadow it casts makes my skin look like it is striped. However, the humidity is here but so is rest
on a sunny beach after a hectic weekend. It may be hot, it may be humid, but it is safe and not crowded. In fact, Dave and I are the only ones on the beach. I did bring my journal, so while Dave reads his book, I'll share my thoughts.

Funny, I remember one summer in St. Petersburg, Florida, when I was in high school, I spent every afternoon on the beach. I worked nights, saving money for my first year in college. What I remember as I lay here on this beach today, so many years later, is a line from song that was on the juke box in the beach cafe that went something like: "I'm reclining especially when the sun is shining. I want to relax down by the tracks, hearing the train go clickety clack." There was no train but I did remember the relaxation in the warm sunshine as I enjoyed the soft sand and my worry free moments as a teenager.

The Asian wind is blowing with a soft coolness from off the waves onto a trash-cluttered beach in this early, cloudless Vietnam morning. The ocean waves are unyielding to the gritty sand. They keep washing up on the shore all sorts of mysterious, miscellaneous, misplaced, mangled and mutilated trash such as a mess of rotten remnants of fishing nets. Nets that once served, I can well imagine, as a source of livelihood for a small sun-baked, leathery, wrinkled, stooped and thin-framed man of the sea, who himself may now be as unusable as those rotten nets. Or he may very well be carrying packs of cargo along the Ho Chi Minh trail for the Vietcong.

In this twisted backwash of seaweed, fishing nets and indescribable filth, are odd pieces of twisted, rotten rope that once, perhaps, held proud seaworthy crafts that served as business, home and recreation for an industrious Vietnamese family. Rubber straps of water-beaten thongs, with faded colors of red, yellow, brown, black, blue, green and withering, dirty white are all caught up in this twisted web that the churning sea has macerated and vomited upon the shore. There they remind one of the feet they must have once protected. Small, running feet with skinned knees that are held up twelve inches above dirty toes with ragged nails trimmed by the indifferent manicurists of dust, dirt, sand rocks and stubby grass.

There are some larger sizes of such rubber thongs half buried in the beach sand, reminding of heavier loads of a mother with a bare-bottomed baby under one arm and a roll of plastic, variegated rugs under the other. The rugs would serve as a mattress for both when the darkness comes. She may be willing to sell her pad to the American Soldier for "two dollars American, cheap."

There are still other remnants of more worn and broken sandals lying among the clutter. They may have come from the foot of dead Vietcong, or an ARVEN of the South. Could it be that one of these sandals once belonged to the foot of a motorbike driver who is a "go for-boy" by day and a Sapper by night?

Mingled with this turmoil of smelly ocean refuse are broken, torn, almost undetectable pieces of discarded or lost toys. Once designed to bring joy to the
young, now they are only obstacles for small crabs and wiggle bugs, and places for ocean flies to find lodging. The world, it would seem, is there in that unmanageable pile of empty beer cans, shreds of sandbags, and faded wasted pieces of cloth, all twisted and tied together by wet seaweed. All of this concoction of pollution seems to me to be symbolic of war.

At a distance down the cluttered beach, a tiny figure struggles with a beach-found burden. He looks to be five or six years old. Who can tell? His shirt is too long, button missing, black stringy hair falling over his determined, young, half-slanting black eyes that only see what’s on his mind. His shorts are cut off at the knees, toes digging little notches in the wet cool sand, as he bears his burden.

I was thinking to myself, Should I be on guard? Is he going to throw a grenade in my direction? I was told, “Always be alert and trust no one,” it was a mantra given to me by the Green Beret who trained me while I was in Okinawa.

The burden of this lad is a blue, used I would guess, light bulb, clenched tightly in one hand and a water-logged piece of drift wood, a two by four over five feet long. It is resting over his thin shoulder and extending over his own bent stature, giving the appearance of a child bearing a cross. As he passes close, he seems to be making a point of not paying attention to Dave and me as we watch him struggle by.

He continues to drag his treasure of the sea behind him, holding the light bulb high to keep it from breaking. The end of his wooden burden cuts a groove in wet the sand along the beach, leaving a small trail in his wake that the waves attempt to wash away. I watch as he slowly moves past the half-buried barbed wire divider that separates the American beach from the people's beach like a silent sentry of the nemesis of war.

I watch this image of blind faith and his hope for tomorrow's Vietnam as he carries a new brace, a new step, a new rail or wood for a fire to his home so his mother could cook his rice. He has gathered flowers from the sea of thorns to make his mother proud of him, if, in fact he still has a mother. Will she beam for joy at this wooden burden, this prize that is leaving a trail in the sand?

See, he is way down the beach now, almost a dot. He has shifted his burden around several times, yet the trail is still being marked in the sand. Only now and then, and all too soon, a reaching wave washes the crooked line away, the mark of a boy and his treasure along the sandy beach. Would that the long trail of war that marks the sands of history be washed away as easily.

Those beaches would be cluttered with the sound of laughing children with waves reaching out to wash away the sandcastles that are a joy to remake. Searching along the beach would be for seashells to collect like a bunch of flowers to bring home to a smiling mother. A little fellow playing on this beach would have determined eyes as he watched the gulls soar freely and with peaceful ease.

The beach would be a stretch of open space where his little legs could run their fastest. That barbed wire would never mar the open space where little toes can freely leave prints in the cool wet sand of happier times.

Well, Jim, that’s about it for now. I wouldn’t try to swim in this water but it has been relaxing to lie here and enjoy a moment of silence before I return to the war.




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