Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
COMING HOME - THE FIRST YEAR
by Mike McFerrin
After 2 years in Vietnam with 18 months in the bush, I had experienced many things. First and foremost was I had learned the game of war very well. I had learned the enemy's tactics, trail signs, mine and booby trap technology and methodology, psyche, and emotional drives better than most of them knew these things. I had also become very curious about other realities that I had witnessed and experienced. The premonitions of Death and Life.
But there was more to it than that. Though sometimes I appeared to be bold and fearless in combat, this was not the case. I had learned to use the sixth sense, which I had seen used by many others at various times. Race, color, age, intelligence, etc. had nothing to do with the ability to use it. In the severe circumstances of the bush, everybody either knowingly or unknowingly used it or saw it used. I accepted the fact that it was there early on and began to consciously try to understand, cultivate, and use it. And it worked without fail when it was operating. I would know for sure if it was safe or not safe to perform a particular action and would be able to act very quickly and decisively according to it. The problem was that it only functioned about 70% of the time. During the other 30%, I would be using common sense and tactical knowledge only. I felt naked and scared at those times and I knew that these things were not adequate to stay alive. I also had a growing fear that the odds were going to catch me and was secretly glad that my request to finish my time in the bush had been denied.
Having viewed and participated in the war from the several different angles of infantryman, interrogator, instructor to American combat troops, MP, advisor, and POW compound guard, I could develop or counter any argument for or against the war based on my own experiences. But in the end, I knew that all of these arguments, for or against, did not carry any weight whatsoever once one was fully involved. Other forces took over. And I knew in my heart that these were the dark side of all humans. Whether you were the attacker or the attackee or an innocent made little difference when the bloodshed started. The madness of the Human race. Built-in population control. But being young and full of energy and life, I did want to change something to keep this horror from surfacing. I had the urge but was not particularly inclined to give it much thought during my time in Vietnam.
The World looked so good from Vietnam. I mean, even in Danang I felt naked without a weapon. And the habit of keeping close to potential cover was as present there as in the bush. The World was a place where you didn't need a weapon and people were peaceful. Sure there were protests and that sort of thing but that wasn't shit. You could go out at night and even go by yourself. It was the ultimate place to live. Then in May of 1970, a few months before I came back, the Kent State thing happened. The gunning down of unarmed people in the streets of the World by the government was probably the most disconcerting thing that I ever felt. Please, no, not in the World. Don't do this. Was America turning into what I was trying to get away from? Sure they were shithead hippies for protesting the war but this can't happen to America. My view of the World and the safety and security of my childhood that it represented was shattered.
As with many others, I did not believe that the war would be any problem to leave behind. I would go back to the World and resume my life as a normal civilian. The challenge of civilian life wasn't shit compared to what I had been through. In fact, I felt like I was headed for a party.
In early August, 1970, I arrived at Norton AFB near Redlands, California shortly after noon on a Friday. As we left the plane, the lack of a welcome was stark in that there was almost nobody at all at the terminal and absolutely none of those there even knew where we had just come from. Even the Marine Corps transport bus to Camp Pendleton didn't show up for a couple of hours. Not even a fucking stray dog acknowledged our presence. It was noticed by all but was pushed back in our minds as we welcomed the realities of the World that meant so much to us. The smell. Even in the smoggy LA basin, the smell was antiseptic clean compared to Vietnam. The people everywhere dressed in other than green. No weapons. The cars. Stores, malls. God, this was great. I really did love my country.
Upon arrival and check-in at Pendleton, we were told that we could have liberty passes for the weekend and to report back for 3 days of outprocessing on the following Monday. Liberty? It sounded so odd to us and most had forgotten these kinds of things. We were for sure back in the World. We didn't need flak jackets, helmets, or rifles to go somewhere. We needed liberty cards.
I was one of many in the Marine Corps at the time that qualified for an "early out." The manpower levels of the Marine Corps had been increased during the Vietnam war. After the withdrawal began in December, 1969, the Marine Corps began to downsize. In 1970, many Marines were granted separation upon return from Vietnam. I know of at least one who got out 22 months before his enlistment ran out. In my case, I still had 13 months left on a four year hitch but my two years in Vietnam certainly qualified me. Before I left Vietnam, I had orders to Twenty Nine Palms, California, for some kind of Mountain Warfare Training. The admin people at my unit in Vietnam kept telling me not to worry because the inprocessing unit in the States would change them to let me out. After 3 years in the Marine Corps, I knew better than to rely on this. I went directly to my colonel and requested that my orders be changed there at my own unit where I had the pull to get it done. It worked and I left Vietnam with orders for an early out.
On the following Monday morning, we were given the schedule of the process to conclude with our separation from service on Wednesday afternoon. It included the fact that we would have to be in a full summer dress uniform for the final formation to receive our separation papers. I had lost all of my Marine Corps dress uniforms during the first monsoon season in Vietnam when the storage area was flooded. I was not going to let that get in the way. I went directly to the PX and purchased $140 worth of new uniform and shoes for that five minute period of the final formation. I didn't bitch to anybody or try to get the Marine Corps to pay for it. I knew this could only cause a delay. Getting out was worth far more than that to me at the time.
The final formation was addressed by an officer who gave some kind of short speech and then began to call out names. As each name was called, the individual would go to the front, salute the officer, shake with his right hand, and simultaneously receive the separation papers with his left hand. There were approximately 40 of us and the order of names called was random. I watched as guys went through the process and then began to whoop and holler as they walked away with their papers. They really acted like fools. Then it was my turn. I got about two steps away from the officer when a sudden, uncontrollable happiness struck me and I, too, became a fool as I ran for a taxi to get me the hell out of there before the Marine Corps changed its mind.
I took the taxi into Oceanside, the town right outside the main gate of Pendleton. First, I went to a clothing store and purchased all the appropriate attire to become a Cool Hippie, or at least my perception of it after two years in Vietnam. Purple pants, brown boots, weird shirt, and a sash instead of a belt. I was sure I was now ready to rejoin society except for my hair and I would wait for that to grow out instead of buying a wig. Wait! One more thing. I scooped up my Marine uniform and shoes and deposited them in a litter basket on the street.
Then to the Greyhound bus depot to get a ticket to San Diego where I could catch a plane. During the hour and a half bus trip that stopped at every little beach town on the way, I marveled at the total freedom that was now mine. I could now do or say anything. Get up when I wanted to. Go wherever I wanted. It was a glorious feeling. As the bus went along the road, I did notice the terrain features along the way. That rise would be a good defensive position. The flat area here would make a good ambush site. Though this was happening, I dismissed it as part of what was making me feel so good, knowing that I would not ever have to think and act like that again. Little did I know that it had become a habit that would take years to break.
I still was not even sure where I was going to go. My parents had moved to Monterey after coming there to see me off to Vietnam a couple of years before. They had fell in love with the place as I had and moved there shortly after I left. My sister and her family and my childhood friends were in Arizona. I had over $5,000 and was only looking to feel the World that I was so glad to see.
I decided to go to Tucson for a couple of weeks first. I got a motel in San Diego for the night and scheduled a flight for the following morning. I had run the streets of San Diego for a few months prior to my enlisting in the Marine Corps there and thought it would be fun to check old haunts to see if I could find anybody. I was still only 20 years old and was not legally old enough to drink. But old enough to be blown into tiny pieces at some politician's whim. I had prepared though and had a legal military ID, compliments of a well placed admin sergeant who knew that I knew about his extensive black-market activities, that said I was old enough to drink.
After showering, I spent an hour or so trying various styles for my new hippie uniform. After a couple of years of having leg pockets, I would now have to do without. But since I didn't have to carry all that ammo and three or four days of food, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. I tried the sash tied to the left and tied to the right in 10 or 12 different knots. Shirttail in or out. The only thing I didn't have to try was hairstyle since I had a regular Marine Corps haircut just before getting out. A move made to eliminate another possible Marine Corps delay in separating me from active duty. At the end of my time, I was willing to play any chicken shit game if it got me out. This was not an anti-Vietnam stance. It was strictly an anti-Marine Corps view. For most of my time in the Marine Corps, I had my entire life controlled and at the disposal of people who were addressing their personal agendas using staff NCO's with an intelligence level that was usually a few points under average. It was like doing time in an insane asylum. Combat was simpler and made more sense.
I left the hotel and headed for downtown. At the intersection outside the hotel, I waited for the streetlight to change so that I could cross. As I was waiting, a guy came up beside me to wait for the light change also. I glanced over at him and was dumbfounded. It was my radioman from when I was a squadleader in the grunts. It was more amazing considering the fact that he had been blown in half and killed shortly after I had left the infantry. I stood and stared with my jaw dropped. This couldn't be him. He was dead and this did not look like a ghost. But could it be that he had an identical twin or a one-in-a-jillion genetic twist that caused an exact duplicate to be produced in another location? And then that person just happened to arrive on this street corner in San Diego at the same time as me? Or was I going crazy? The guy saw me looking at him and God only knows what he thought about me. The light changed and he crossed the street. I was shaken and did not. I returned to my hotel room and pondered what had just happened. After having been back from Vietnam for 5 days and out of the Marine Corps for less than 6 hours, I wondered what was going on. I arrived at no answers but I did consider the fact that the distance between life in the bush and civilian life in the World might be much further and more difficult to cross than I had thought.
Life in the World did not seem as if it had changed much. Most people were not even aware of where I had been for the last few years. Some had heard that I had gotten on drugs and been in asylum. Where this came from, I have no idea but I'm sure there are still some people who believe it to this day. It was obvious nobody really cared that I'd been to Vietnam or had any idea what I or anybody else had been through or sacrificed. The few that did care demonstrated it by verbally attacking and maligning all participation in the war. They presented these arguments viciously with an authoritative attitude that they knew about the rights and wrongs of what was happening in Vietnam. It would become clear during their verbal onslaught that this authority and knowledge they claimed was from somebody somewhere that had never been to the Vietnam I had been to. I was not into arguing any politics yet but these incidents certainly became part of the fuel for it. These people had no idea what they were really talking about. Not an inkling of what was really happening in Vietnam.
But I had more important things to consider. Like getting the right black light posters for my apartment wall and the right incense. And a job. It did not escape my notice that having been in Vietnam was not Cool. Anti-war was in. Well, that wouldn't be too hard to be since I could come up with lots of feelings and truths that I had witnessed that could be construed as reasons against war.
I somehow got a hold of some literature about the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and read it with interest. It was supposedly made up of guys like me who wanted to stop the war. Well, I certainly wanted to stop the war. Of course I also wanted the other side to stop its butchering of Vietnamese civilians that I had witnessed. But maybe all of this would be explained in the enrollment kit that I sent for within a month of my return. Before I received my kit, it was published in the newspaper that the FBI was investigating the VVAW as a probable Communist organization. I was enraged. Not only could I not vote after what I had been through for my country but I would be smeared if I told any truths. I was on my way to being a radical. I was furious with the way this country had treated me. Hippies calling me a baby killer and my government calling me a liar and a Communist. This all from people who had never spent an hour in the bush. God, I'd love to watch these people in their first firefight.
Then, in the midst of this burning rage to become political and strike at these people who were making a mockery of that horror, I received my VVAW enrollment papers. As I made my way through the explanation of the points that VVAW was attempting to address on a political level regarding the war in Vietnam, I gradually became convinced that none of the governing members of VVAW had been with Mike Company, 3/5. A little further on, I was sure none of them had been with 5th Marines at all.
Then I came to the part that not only convinced me that none of them had even been in the bush as an infantryman but made me think there was something wrong with the organization. Somewhere down the list of what they were pushing for was the "prosecution for murder of any American who had killed one of those poor Vietnamese civilians." After having spent time with the American infantry during my first year and living and fighting with the South Vietnamese in my second year, I could not be bamboozled. I had seen and fought the war from more than one angle. Yes, there were many civilians killed. And many "civilians" killed many Americans. And many "civilians" killed each other to blame Americans so they could collect money. Wholesale executions of women and children by American troops, such as in the My Lai incident, were not happening "all over Vietnam" as some peaceniks were saying. Women and children were killed every day as in every war I've ever seen or heard about. Caught in crossfires. Killed while attempting to kill Americans. Killed while setting booby traps to kill Americans. And killed while running from Americans in the bush for whatever reason. And, yes, sometimes, just because they were harboring the enemy, whether willfully or not. Or they failed to warn of the booby trap that they had to know was there on the main trail right outside of their village even though they would probably have met the same fate from the enemy had they warned us. In the bush in Vietnam, everybody was involved, one way or another, if they were alive and wanted to stay that way. This is a human reality of war for all people. Not an American policy of genocide.
But the only existing policy to purposely kill noncombatant civilians was that of the Viet Cong's. I personally witnessed and experienced this. The grisly murder of noncombatants was part of the reign of terror that was used to control the population. It was standard to kill and mutilate a child or old woman to make sure the populace did as they were told. This made sure that they could draft people, get safe housing, food, water, guides, and information. If you were called to serve, you served to spare your childrens' lives. For you peaceniks at home, there was no such thing as a college deferment for them. One word that even sounded like a stall was enough to hang your baby sister's head on a pole in the village.
This was murder in the sense that VVAW wanted to use the word. Not what the American troops were doing. It was obvious to me that the VVAW leadership was not in touch with some of the major realities of the war. It was like this whole country had gone insane. Jane Fonda, all of the long haired college people, and now, people claiming to be Vietnam bush veterans were using one-sided lies and distortions to crucify those who served while overlooking the incredibly barbaric acts of policy committed by the other side such as the slaughter of thousands of unarmed citizens of Hue which was only unusual because of the number. How could anybody turn their back on this kind of murder and terrorism and feel like they did the right thing? There were a lot of reasons to say the war was wrong but most of the ones being used were prepared by people ignorant of the situation in Southeast Asia. The slaughter of millions of Cambodians went unprotested and even unnoticed by these same people. In fact, the North Vietnamese takeover of Cambodia was a relief compared to what had been there. Somebody was making fools of many Americans.
But worse, they were looking like the enemy to those who had been there. Not only did they mouth off bullshit they knew nothing about, but they also ignored their fellow Americans in their time of need. When Americans are bleeding and dying as a country, you don't aid and abet the enemy to do this, Miss Fonda. That's not an American protest. That's a traitor. I lost my desire to get political and do something. It was a bizarre mess politically in this country no matter how you looked at it. The radicals reigned and they were full of warped bullshit. I had enough to do just trying to understand what I experienced first hand and trying to become a civilian.
I wound up in the Los Angeles airport for a couple hour layover on my way from Tucson to Monterey about two weeks after I returned. I ran into a guy from rural North Carolina who I had known in Vietnam. He had prematurely gray hair and was known as "Pappy." He had never been in the bush but had been an MP. He had served as an escort, a "chaser", for an American prisoner coming back to serve time in the States when he came home from Vietnam. This caused him to bypass regular Customs inspections and he had stuffed his pockets with every kind of drug he could get his hands on. After delivering his prisoner, he was separated. He was on his way home and was talking about turning his whole family on to drugs and what a favor he would be doing for them to make it where they could "see" all that he could now that he was a "head." I sort of envied him since he was one of the many Vietnam vets who had no idea what a war was. He had never been in the bush and his only problem would be readjusting to the cost and quality of the drugs here in the World. I was amazed at the radical difference in our experiences in the same country. And I knew that there were far more of his kind than mine coming back.
After visiting my parents, I bought a car and returned to Tucson. Jobs were available at the copper mines and I went to apply. I stood in the line for about 5 minutes listening to the conversations around me. I suddenly did not feel that I was a part of this world and turned and left. I briefly worked at an industrial laundry, but my jungle rot, which had been healing became intense again in the humidity of the workplace.
Then it was off to Los Angeles. I still had money left so I wasn't pressed to find a job immediately. And I was finding that Vietnam was still in me very deeply. The incident in San Diego had been constantly nagging at me to understand it. Why had I seen the dead man? What did it mean? I was outside of a nightclub in Pasadena during the band's break one night when a car backfired right by the crowd. I was instantaneously in the dirt and swiveling around to spot the source of the fire. I got a lot of dirty looks as I got up and brushed myself off. I had given myself away as a Vietnam vet which was not Cool. I was beginning to feel like an alien in the World.
I met a guy who had been in the bush with the Army and had come home and gotten out about 4 months before I did. This was a person that I could talk to. We discussed the problems we both were encountering. He told me that he had found the way to deal with some of them. I went to his house one night and he gave me his formula. Take a hit of LSD and sit there looking at this tapestry he had on the wall. Then, instead of trying to forget experiences in Vietnam, try to remember them in detail and all the associated feelings. We stayed up until 2 or 3 in the morning talking about these things. All of the horror that I witnessed and participated in and the associated emotions were viewed from a distance and from all sides. And he was right. It gave me an understanding that quelled the self blame and pity twinges that came with the memory and conscience attacks that came over me several times a week. I became a believer in the therapeutic values of psychedelics.
Finally, my money was about gone and a job seemed unavoidable. Then I ran into another vet who told me that I could draw unemployment after being in the service. Though I was healthy and able to work, I felt that my country owed me far more than they ever paid for what I had been through. I planned to draw as much as I could without getting a job. But when I went to the unemployment place and saw the lines of people and all the forms, I decided that I would rather forego what I thought my country owed me if I had to go through this again, after 3 years of it in the Marine Corps, to get it.
Something else happened to me at this time. After being back for over two months, I was struck with a case of sudden, severe boredom. The World was a place full of people going here, going there, eating at McDonald's, grocery shopping, going to the movies, and living a very good life in general but pontificating with authority on things they didn't know anything about. Life was telling everybody else what was right or wrong. I compared this to the life of the bush where right and wrong were measured by living and dying. Life was beautiful if you were alive and had something to eat and drink. And you felt it. I realized that all the horror that I wanted to escape from Vietnam was also the salt that accented all the other parts of life. The bottom line was that I was bored.
I thought about what to do with my life and going back to the bush sounded good. As an advisor to the Vietnamese during my second year in Vietnam, I had coordinated with several different groups of which one was COORDS, a CIA run unit that did pretty much the same job as I did in villages all over Vietnam. I decided to join the CIA since I could also do the same job but for more money than the military paid. Trying to contact the CIA at that time was very difficult since they weren't listed anywhere. I decided to try a another representative of the U.S. government to establish contact with the CIA. I went to the FBI office in West Covina, a suburb area of LA county where I was living. I told the agent there what I was trying to do and asked if he could contact the CIA for me. When he asked me why I thought the CIA would talk to me, I recited my qualifications. That's when I became aware that there were people and groups that perceived what people like me had done and been through was of some value. The agent immediately tried to recruit me for the FBI. He explained that because of the increased need caused by the "New Left" on college campuses the FBI was trying to recruit 1,000 new agents and that I should look at them instead of the CIA. I declined and told him that I wanted to go back to Vietnam and only the CIA offered that possibility. Finally he relented and made some phone calls and got me a number I could call.
The next morning I got a pocket full of change and called the number. A woman answered and I told her what I to join the CIA to work with COORDS in Vietnam. She was very snotty and told me that they had no such group as COORDS and they didn't hire off the street. I was insistent that I talk to somebody other than a secretary which really made her mad but finally was transferred to somebody. I repeated my request and gave my qualifications. Again, I could tell that I had struck a favorable chord. He told me that I was the kind that they hired and that I should immediately enter college, any college for any degree, and recontact them in year or so.
After hanging up, I spent a few hours considering all that I had learned over the last two days. I knew who would pay for the expertise I had developed and where I could get the excitement that I was missing. Now that I could have all I wanted, I mulled over the pros and cons of taking that route. There were some pretty strong attractions for a young man. Good pay, foreign ports, danger, excitement, etc. And I was good at the job. That was also what made for some very severe thinking about the other side of the coin. I was young but I wasn't stupid or inexperienced. I knew of the requirements that they had not mentioned to me. The physical, mental, emotional and spiritual sacrifices that one makes when killing people. It was not attractive to me. But the easier reasoning for me at the moment was that I didn't want to go to college for two years. I had gone to them to avoid having to do that. I wanted to go back to the bush now not in a couple of years. I opted not to pursue it. I would hang in there and let the boredom and the dismay at my country pass.
I got the word on what factories were hiring in the LA area and was going to put my application in at all of them. But I ran into one of the few benefits I ever saw as a civilian at the first place I went to apply. President Nixon had gone on a "hire the vet" binge and companies were getting some kind of benefit for hiring vets. I was the 27th one in a line of over fifty people who had come to apply for 5 positions at a pharmaceutical and medical packaging plant. A company representative came out to the line and asked if there were any vets. There were two of us in line and they moved us to the front and gave us jobs. Though it was done without fanfare and in a cold, business like manner, it was the only sign of positive acknowledgment I had seen or heard in the three months I had been back. But it was balanced by the hot stares of the others in the line who were not happy with their chances of a job being reduced or the fact that the "evil babykillers" were there or both.
The plant consisted of many different assembly lines that were like erector sets. They could be torn down and moved, shortened or lengthened, or shaped from straight lines into L's, S's, U's, or even T's. My job was Line Utility. I would keep the stations on the line supplied with their parts, set the speed of the line, and watch for mistakes. The entire assembly line force were women. All ages, heights, weights, colors, and religions.
At the same time, I got a night job, making and delivering pizzas. It was in downtown El Monte right next to a liquor store. I was still not 21 years old but had my "extra" military ID that said I was so I often would buy alcohol for the others that I worked with at the pizza place. Ironically, I would never get asked to show ID until after I turned 21. One of my coworkers asked me to get him a bottle of wine before he went home that night. I got off at 11:00, got his money, and went next door. As I approached the door, it suddenly burst open and I collided with an armed robber making his getaway with a bag of money in his left hand and what looked like a .38 caliber pistol in the other. He jumped back with eyes wide. I had too much time in the bush and I knew it at that moment. This guy was scared shitless. And he had the gun. I could instantly tell just how scared he was. He was almost frozen. He was starting to raise the pistol at me. I knew that he could not fire it at me, or any other person, on purpose in his mental state. He could, however, convulse rather easily at the slightest breeze that came by and accidentally fire his weapon in whatever direction it was pointed. I locked his eyes, smiled at him, shrugged my shoulders and then lowered my gaze to the gun. It took him a couple of seconds before the meaning of my gestures registered with him and he turned and ran across the street.
I stood outside of the liquor store door and watched as he ran away. I was on a high about the situation. Vietnam had given me something that could be useful in civilian life. I knew that I could have done anything I wanted to in that situation. I was thoroughly amused with it. I literally could have taken him down and made him shit his pants in the process. I turned my attention to the store already knowing that this guy hadn't hurt anybody. The owner/clerk was coming to the door. I could tell that he was a man who had been robbed before and/or had sensed the robber's lack of control of himself. As he walked to the doorway, a police car screeched up at the corner and two police officers jumped out. The passenger side cop had a 12 gauge shotgun and pointed it at me. I raised my hands and started to tell him that the robber had run across the street. But as soon as my hands were up, he rushed at me and jammed the barrel of the shotgun into my throat pressing me against the store window. I was gagging from the pressure and couldn't talk. It was obvious that the officer was in no position to hear me even if I could. He was jacked up. He had more control of his physical actions than the robber but his mind was not processing data. He was dangerous. As I looked down, I saw that the safety was off and I thought of the times that I had demonstrated to troops how easy a shotgun would go off. I was glad that I didn't have to fart because it could have cost me and any other civilian in sight our lives. The other officer had ran to the door and met the owner there. He told them that I wasn't the one. The shotgun was shoved into my throat once for every syllable of, "Are you sure this isn't him?" That pissed me off. After releasing me, they wanted to know which way he had went. I knew how the Vietnamese villagers felt when one side or the other roughed them up then asked the same question. And I responded the same, "I don't know." I certainly didn't have any warm feeling for the robber but these jerk cops don't deserve anything either.
It was only a couple of months later when the apartment complex where I lived in West Covina started getting burglarized regularly day and night. Since my apartment was ground level facing the street, I didn't figure I had to worry even after the house next door was burglarized and the owner was stabbed to death when he awoke. Then, two days after the murder, I noticed my front window had been jimmied. There was a bush outside of it and the burglar had used it for cover as he worked on the window. It had not yet been opened but would only take a couple of seconds with a screw driver to finish the job. I decided it was time to buy a gun. I checked the classified ads and found that a guy down the street was selling a 30-30 rifle. He let me take it with 30% down and the promise to pay the balance in 3 monthly installments. I decided to set an ambush for the burglars. I went to the West Covina Police and told them where I lived, about my window, and what I wanted to do. A sergeant told me that they wanted to stop these guys but if I had to shoot, I'd better kill them since dead men can't file lawsuits. I parked my car on the street, darkened the apartment, and left the window open a crack. I tried this for three nights without results.
The burglars/murderers never came back but I was a gun owner again and it was here in the World. The World was full of weird crime. The Manson trial was a spectacle. When friends came to town, you showed them Disneyland, Sunset Strip, and the Circus of Freaks at the LA courthouse. As a bush vet, it was difficult finding the happy medium of carrying weapons. Did I need grenades or claymores? Where and when should I have a weapon ready? Could an M-79 be useful? The real bottom line of all of this was realizing that killing somebody was illegal here unless it was somebody else's idea of self defense. And I had already seen that people here had no idea what a bush vet's concept of self defense was. Chances were small that anybody would agree with my views if I had to kill anybody. What a bitch! One day, I could get a medal for killing and the more, the better. The next, I could get the electric chair.
The crime and smog levels of LA and my own inability to find a path in Life began to get to me. After seven months or so, I decided to leave. I quit my job and packed everything I had into my car and went to Monterey. I parked my car there and with $30 in my pocket decided to hitchhike across the country and visit bush vet friends on the way. After 3 days, I had only made it as far as Reno. I was broke and filthy. The filthy part is what got to me. I had spent weeks being filthy in the bush and can remember thinking that if I ever made it back to the World, I would take two showers every day for the rest of my life. I decided that I had nothing to prove to myself or anybody else by putting myself through this and turned around to return to Monterey.
I got a job working in a restaurant and settled into just living. No ambition or wants. Just work and party. I would live this way for the next year.