Ray Cocks | Longreads | May 2017 | 11 minutes (2,844 words)
Our latest Exclusive is an essay by Vietnam veteran Ray Cocks, co-funded by Longreads Members and published in collaboration with TMI Project, a non-profit that brings empowering memoir writing and true storytelling workshops to underserved populations.
When I graduate high school in the spring of 1967, I’m determined to go to war. I enlist in the army and prepare to leave, proudly, for Vietnam.
Before I go I encounter some older guys coming back home. They speak out against the conflict, but I don’t believe them. “Don’t go,” they tell me. “It’s bullshit. It’s all bullshit.” I think they’re just hogging all the glory for themselves.
Nothing is going to stop me. Besides, what ever happened to “My country, right or wrong”?
To tell my story, It helps to back up and start with my father’s.
During World War II, he was a gunner’s mate, third class, on board the aircraft carrier Yorktown — the second one, commissioned after the first was sunk. He was on a five-inch cannon, information that means little to me when I first learn it as a kid. But then I wind up on a four-inch cannon in Vietnam.
My generation was raised by World War II veterans — the iron men who served on such ships and watched as their friends were burned to death, blown to hell, drowned, eaten by sharks, shot to pieces literally. World War II, “the big one,” — a massive, global stroke of insanity that brewed from the ashes of World War I, the war that was to make the world safe for democracy.
These men went through the rest of their lives, for the most part, with untreated PTSD. My father was no exception. Read more…