TCHS Rampage

Temple City High School



Feature

November 11, 2016

Custodian “Shorty D” recalls Vietnam War

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As we tell the stories of those who served our country, please take a moment  to consider that these are veterans of TCHS that walk the same halls as you, and that it hasn’t been easy for them to get to where they are today.

One of our custodians, Shorty D., harbors a past you don’t see simply by passing by him at school. For this particular veteran, he dutifully served our country in the Vietnam War. 

When I initially took on this project, I was just looking for something to post on social media on behalf of Rampage. I asked to interview Shorty, and I unexpectedly stumbled upon a tale of suffering, grit, and ultimately, triumph.

“Personally, Veterans Day for me is both satisfying and saddening. It’s satisfying because the people who have dutifully served our country get the recognition they deserve, and saddening, because sometimes our efforts aren’t appreciated. When a person does stop by to say thank you and acknowledge our efforts, it really means the world to us vets. I think some people just take Veterans Day as a day to relax, and they don’t seem to realize the reason they have the day off in the first place. I guess it’s because of their apathy, but they just can’t understand how hard it was to go and fight for our country.”

Shorty offered a ride on one of the school’s golf carts as he continued to tell his story, to which I accepted.

“You don’t come back from the battlefield unscathed. Even when you come home, every waking moment is a constant and relentless reminder of what happened when you were serving, and because of that, it becomes insurmountably difficult to fit in and pretend everything is normal. It’s a sort of trauma, and sometimes certain memories become seared into your mind. Before, President Harry Truman or Woodrow Wilson, I forget which one, referred to Veterans Day as Armistice Day, because back then, World War I was known as ‘the war to end all wars,’ and it ended on the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11th hour. But then, World War II came about and so much more was put on the line. I served in the war after that, the Vietnam War, in Saigon, to be precise, and I was a radioman, which meant I was responsible for ship to shore communications.”

“Nowadays, people have the choice of whether they want to enlist or not. For me, I didn’t have a choice; I was drafted and shipped off to Vietnam. I guess I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Vietnam War was considered the ‘living room’ war because it was broadcasted every night on black and white television. I remember growing up as a kid and seeing war on TV, and I remember telling myself that everything was going to be okay since the war would be over soon. But as I start growing up, I continued to see war on television, and eventually starting thinking, was I next?”

We rode past the football field.

“Those that have seen death, either as a spectator or as the participant, never forget its face. One of the first things I learned while in service was the French term ‘beaucoup’ which means ‘a lot.’ It was used to describe everything, from the intense heat to the death and destruction that we saw on the battlefield. The Vietnam War wasn’t a very popular war, but then again, what wars are popular? At a certain point in the war, the American media turned against its soldiers and the attitude towards Vietnam veterans became very negative. War is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Often times I hear students saying they’ll go into a military career to pay for college or gain some sort of leverage, but I always tell them, you have to count the cost, and that there is a much higher price to pay than you think there is. I mean, look at me. I wasn’t affected physically by the war but psychologically, and that’s probably even worse.”

“The aftermath was the hardest part. When I arrived home, I immediately trashed all my military gear, so that way the ghosts of my past wouldn’t come back to haunt me. There was an incident, sometime in 1989 or 1990, Temple City announced they would be spraying malathion, a type of pesticide, to eradicate the medflies that were discovered in the area. Initially, I didn’t think much of it, but when they started to spray the stuff, I heard the sounds the helicopters were making and my mind was instantly transported back to South Vietnam.”

Shorty took a deep breath.

“I had to retreat to my bedroom, but apparently I was making such a racket that my son walked into my bedroom to see what was going on. I didn’t recognize him and I suddenly grabbed him by the throat. I began to go through therapy after that. They talked about this idea of closure, and at the end, I went back to Vietnam with a bunch of veterans. I think it was then that my wife began to further understand the man she chose to marry. If the incident hadn’t occurred, I would’ve never opened up to anyone about it. First off, I was trying to forget my past, not dig it back up, and second of all, how was I supposed to explain it to someone who was never there?”

Another deep breath.

“One day, my parents showed up and handed me my dog tags. They had fished them out of the trash. They told me, no matter how hard things seem now, to remember that this was nothing compared to what I had endured back in Vietnam. One of the biggest challenges was arriving back home to a big nothing. There was no parade, there was no crowd that welcomed me home. I think veterans have the hardest time when they’re asked if they would do it all again. I can only speak for myself; it was a living nightmare. I would never go back.”



About the Author

Bobbins Moose
Bobbins Moose is the mascot of Rampage. He represents all alumni that have come and gone through Rampage program here at Temple City High School.




 
 

 
 

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