Vietnam & Aftermath

My life has changed in more ways than I will ever perceive. From the narrow perspective of an inner city slum kid who never traveled (even within the state where he lived) to study and following of a philosophy conceived centuries ago, half way around the world.

On August 24, 1969, my 22nd birthday, just a little over a month after mankind walked on the surface of the moon, I landed at Nakhon Phanon Royal Thai Air Force Base, in extreme Northern Thailand on the Mekong river bordering Laos 40 miles from North Vietnam and deep into the secret air war in Laos. I was assigned to the 56th Special Operations Wing at the Tactical Units Operations Center. We were not allowed to tell our families what we were doing or where we were.

My most memorable experience of the war was two events which happened within two days of eachother. The first filled with hope and love....the second filled with death and dispair.

Knowing the needs of the orphanage at Thai Rai we all wrote home to procure items for over a thousand orphans. Everything from shampoo and fingernail clippers to baseball equipment plus over five thousand dollars in American money. Another Sgt and I (his name was Steve) started the ball rolling.....it's amazing how generous everyone was....writting to their families and churches at home to collect items and gifts. Hell, we even had a both a Christmas tree and snow from Colorado flown in on the sly. Father Khan at the orphanage had the bishop up from Bangkok and somehow managed to procure three cases of American beer and dinner for twenty of us who came to distribute the gifts. It was the best Christmas I have ever known.

Then there was Christmas Eve.....the most horrible memories prevail even now, and are especially remembered, each and every Christmas Eve. Nakhon Phanom was a very small base, yet at that time it was the location of the largest military computer complex in the world. This unit, known as Task Force Alpha, was responsible for more deaths than any other unit in the war. A computer, which analyzed the data from sensors providing the locations of travel on the trails in Laos. Once the information was configured, the B-52's along with close air support would pound the enemy. Thousands and thousands died, before they figured out how.... and where Task Force Alpha was located. We always called Nakhon Phamon, Naked Fanny, because the only thing which prevented its destruction was reliance on its location in Thailand, jutting out into Laos like an unprotected butt.

On Christmas Eve 1969, four divisions of NVR crossed the Plain of Jars intent on destroying Nakhon Phanom.....but the sensors found them....then the computer....then the B-52's. From our vantage point, we could see only a wall of flame from horizon to horizon and hear the whoom-whoom- whoom- whooom- whooom -whoom all night long of the non-stop killing of well over 10,000 men. You could never hear the ending of a single bomb, their was so many so close together. Someone had the loud speaker on the pole next to me wired up to a record player playing Christmas Carols....the music for silient night. I cried, lost in a depth of dispair which I had never known and never felt more alone, nor more anguished by the inhumanity of man. In the morning......what had been a lush sea of green jungle was now transformed into an empty wasteland filled with an uncountable number of brown craters as far as you could see, which looked like the surface of the moon.

All this....for man to achieve what? This was merely a quest for material greed and power which had got out of hand, larger than life.

Today I understand Thoreau when he said "I looked with awe at the ground I trod on, to see what the Powers had made there, the form and fashion and material of their work" for I have been a student of The Tao Teh Ching and it's philosophy of non-action for these many years now. If you have never read it, nor understood it, I can best describe it as a celebration of the individual within the flow of eternal life.

I now have friends all over Asia....even into the deepest parts of central China at the summit of Wudang Mountain, where The Golden Pillar Temple and is site of the Inner Style of martial arts, which exerts the force from within to master another without harm. Even seeing it does not convince one to believe it.

I have been invited to China by a Deputy Secretary of the Party, and members of her delegation whom I assisted in escorting secretly to The Statue of Liberty last March. Next August for my 50th birthday I will celebrate my humility and oneness with all mankind at the summit of Wudang Mountain with my friends.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to express my thoughts.

I was born on the 24th of August 1947

John Sweet Seabrook, NH 03874

John Sweet
1947
Seabrook, NH
jsweet@seacoast.com

Vietnam & Aftermath