It's like an old war movie I saw once with the singular difference that I had a bit part in the action. The slightest familiar odor or sound can bring those memories racing back.
A jog in the memory can make me hear the slap of the rotor blades and feel their thump vibrate my insides. My memory can hear three radios squawking and the crew all talking at once over my headset. I marvel now at how I could possibly understand them all and continue to function.
But it's the odors that come haunting. In Vietnam I worked low in the air and my sense of smell was subjected to odors which it permanently cataloged. The smell of burnt gunpowder of fireworks today can quickly make my pulse rise and transport me far away in place and time.
Long rainy days bring to my nostrils the heavy wetness of the jungle perfumed with tropical blossoms mixed with rotting vegetation. The scent of garlic browning in oil takes me back to flying over Saigon where your nose was struck in alternate waves with the wonderful bouquet of flowers, the stench of garbage and frying garlic. A blast of black exhaust from a diesel engine brings to mind early morning preflights swathed in Joe-the Shit Burners' smoke created from burning human excrement in JP4 or diesel fuel. Movies of Vietnam portraying authentic looking grunts can flood my mind with the odor of their animal sweat mingled with the rot of the jungle clinging to them after days in the field. It can make me smell wounded Grunts as they hop or are carried, pulled, hoisted, or half thrown in deadly urgency aboard our Dustoff huey. And I swear I can smell their blood too. It was a smell that came too often.
Some impressions I want to remember. Some I do not. But I have got them all, burned somewhere deep in my mind.