Branch of service: Army
Were you drafted or did you enlist? Drafted
Dates of service: June 9, 1969 - June 6, 1971
What were the location(s) of your service and your MOS?
Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Eustis, DaNang PSC
Position/Rank: Spec. IV
Awards/Medals/Citations: Vietnam Service Cross
What are your strongest memories from your time in the military, specific to the Vietnam War era?
Devastation of the jungle, the Vietnamese in the Military trash dump, traveling along the DMZ. Returning from ‘Nam and going to the brig. The South China Sea, the beach scene and the vendors. Being introduced to heroin and marijuana. Interacting with all the other GIs coming and going. I can't forget listening to the music of the day.
Have your views on the American War in Vietnam changed over time? Why or why not?
I didn't believe in the Vietnam war ever! I just felt I owed service to my country and was a lost young man at that time. I can't believe in any war or armed conflict. After seeing Vietnam I thought how could anyone want to pursue such an enterprise that devalues human life so easily and the consequences of such strife and warfare go on for years in the people's lives. My fellow Vietnam vets are dying by suicide and disease faster than the normal population. Greater amount of men and women dying than the vets from WWII.
What impact has the American War in Vietnam had on you since returning home?
I came home to Kansas and realized I didn't belong here anymore. I left and wandered the country looking for myself. I didn't let any stranger know I was a Vietnam vet. Eventually I ran out of money in Denver and started living again through a program called Vietnam Veterans Upward Bound program at the Denver Community College and ended up working, and going to school with the GI Bill paying my way to a degree from the University of Colorado. I also at the age of 28 found a partner to share life with.
What music did you listen to while you were in Vietnam? What did you read?
The Moody Blues-all of their stuff though 1970. Santana; Blodwyn Pig; Blood, Sweat & Tears; Muddy Waters; T-Bone Walker; The Who, Canned Heat; Ten Years After; Country Joe and the Fish; Leonard Cohen; Joni Mitchell; The Guess Who; Grand Funk Railroad; Long John Baldry; The Rolling Stones; The Beatles; The Bee Gees; Chris Smithers; Judy Collins; Carole King; Laura Nyro; The original Fleetwood Mac; Jethro Tull; Gentle Giant, Genesis, The Pentangle, Richard and Linda Thompson, Fairport Convention, etc. I love my music.
Anything else you'd like to add related to the Vietnam War that we haven't asked you about?
I have written a novel about the Vietnam War. Titled “The Hero versus Me and Monkey Jo.” This is story about the effects of drugs on soldiers in the surreal environment of war. Henry Neis comes to Vietnam clean cut but soon joins a group of misfits and quickly becomes a drug addict and dealer. Henry and Monkey Jo travel gathering stories and using drugs. The story opens with Henry sent to the brig upon returning home reviews his past year in war. Henry allows us to see how the soldiers cope with self-doubt, fear, loneliness, distrust of the Army and our government, and questions; the senseless act of deciding what a country should be, regardless of how the citizens view their needs and wants. Henry and Monkey Jo interact with hooch maids, waitresses, drug dealers, remnant of the French colonizers, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Regular Army. Along the way he records the stories of fellow GI’s and works to provide what he feels fellow soldiers need to survive in the surreal environment during the Vietnam War. Henry takes you to a place we haven’t seen as he traipses through the jungle into enemy territory, the devastated landscape ruined by Agent Orange and the makeshift compounds put up for the American soldiers to camp in. Most of all he takes you on a ride of addictions giving a firsthand journey into the Army’s counter culture and how it affects them saving some, destroying others.