Skip to main content

Dear Max:

Well, here I am, Hill 471 in Khe Sanh. I came here because I love and admire you and since I was touring Vietnam I figured what the hell, I'll head up to Khe Sanh and find Hill 471 and stand where you last stood all those years ago.

These days I have to confess that it's pretty easy to get to Khe Sanh. I'm told back then the roads were mud and a mess, now you speed right on up them. I don't know if you noticed all those years ago, during the war, but it's beautiful country Max.

You can lost watching the mountains and the streams, passing through the villages with the houses built on stilts but then you get jarred back to why you are here, where you are when you see the signs for Camp Carroll or you go by a beautiful small mountain peak and your guide tells you:

"That's Rockpile, Marines, Rockpile."

Like all good pilgrimages, as you head towards Khe Sanh from the coast, you climb higher and ever higher into the hills, headed towards Laos, past the memorial to the Ho Chi Minh trail, past the small towns and villages, the highway markers counting down to the old base, twenty klicks, then ten, then five.

And then I am here.

First we head up to the main base,to see the small museum there and also, well, my guide has been going here for twenty years and I've been searching for about six months, but neither of us are 100% sure where Hill 471 is so we need to double check on the maps that the museum has.

My guide is dutifully calling all her other guide friends and we are pretty sure we know, but hell, I don't want to come all this way and not be sure, it'd be just like me to come all this way and be one hill off.

Ironically what greets me when I walk onto the base? A chopper, looking like it could fly today. (pictures here)

In the museum,we check the map and there's Hill 471, right about where we thought it was. I wander the museum a bit and take a walk down the runway, they've planted corn on parts of it of all things. I'm sure back then it was never quiet enough to hear the wind rush up the valleys, or to feel it as it goes over the top of the hills.

I ask my guide if many Americans come here, the answer is yes. How are they when they are here? Sad, many still affected by the war.

As we get back in the car and head to Hill 471, I think of when we first met, almost ten years ago, and all those times together on JK's campaign and since. I especially remember, for some reason, a dinner we had at Legal Sea Foods a couple of years ago, I sat next to you and I know you love your lobster!

I remember cutting the pieces for you, smaller and smaller so you could eat them. When we eat, I know now to take your plate when the food arrives, and start cutting it up, without asking you, without you asking me.

Sometime between then and when I planned this trip, I decided I wanted to come here. For you. Just so you know I love you and I think the world of you, you are one of my heroes and always will be.

We cut back through town and up a small road, you'd be happy to know some kids were playing soccer and their laughter filled the air as we got near the hill.

Here it is Max, this is Hill 471 today, looks different I imagine. It was very, very green and very, very quiet. I climbed through the underbrush and right in the middle, you can't quite see in the pictures, but hell it's been a few years you know.

(pictures here)

But when you climb up from the road, you can tell where the top of the hill was flattened for a landing pad. So I figure this is about where the chopper landed, and about where you got out.

I tried to close my eyes and imagine the sounds back then, of choppers flying and guns and of soldiers and of war, but I really couldn't. All I heard were the kids down the hill, laughing and yelling, the birds in the trees and the wind.

I felt wonderfully calm and at peace, that's the love in you Max, so much love and faith in you, coming to me over here - it made me smile.

I thought I might be sad here thinking of you and what you lost on this hill, but I wasn't, it was more of a joyous moment, for you for surviving, for the men and medics who helped you survive and for what you have given me and so many others, life lessons in the power of love and forgiveness and perseverance like no other man could.

I wish you had been here so I could have given you and gotten one of your great one-arm hugs.

I made it back through the thicket to the road and took another picture for you. About the middle of the trees is where the hill is flat for the landing pad.

As I headed to the car, my guide asked:

"Your friend, maybe he come back here one day?"

"Maybe it'd be a long way for him to travel. But maybe."

"So you like son, you come here for him, pay respects?"

God damm right I did.

Time for some more lobster, I'll come see you soon.

James

to see the pictures, please check out this link.

Originally posted to jamesboyce on Tue Oct 16, 2012 at 05:39 AM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Military Veterans.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

VA6thDem, Angie in WA State, jo fish, hazey, Sean Robertson, Upper West, BOHICA, MadRuth, jam, dalemac, teacherken, Cali Scribe, NYmom, greenbird, krwada, Shockwave, donna in evanston, Wintermute, Andrew C White, cotterperson, mntleo2, Firewalk, mslat27, eeff, Mnemosyne, Momagainstthedraft, red moon dog, NCJim, SallyCat, drobnox, expatjourno, lady sisyphus, Bogleg, regis, Mr Teem, bronte17, theRoaringGirl, fugwb, BlackSheep1, Wee Mama, mmacdDE, jem6x, whenwego, Xapulin, themank, jaysunb, SCFrog, smokem2271, farmerhunt, Bill Roberts, high uintas, Redfire, Texknight, Mxwll, emmasnacker, TexDem, ranger995, hoolia, kj in missouri, dwahzon, Steven Payne, beachmom, lcrp, Wayward Wind, MeToo, Anne from Vermont, JayBat, zett, zerelda, randallt, kfred, JayDean, realalaskan, weelzup, vcmvo2, marina, Tinfoil Hat, Ckntfld, deepfish, JanetT in MD, HudsonValleyMark, chimene, OpherGopher, PBen, keschen, leftvet, ccasas, myeye, SaraBeth, jimstaro, Kayakbiker, skyounkin, blue jersey mom, markdd, petestern, FindingMyVoice, Blue Intrigue, distraught, kathny, Oye Sancho, Jim R, alrdouglas, Nowhere Man, occams hatchet, GretchenF, myboo, Mr Bojangles, tobendaro, demdoc, kestrel9000, blueoasis, philipmerrill, 4Freedom, Crashing Vor, SadieSue, OMwordTHRUdaFOG, Unitary Moonbat, AllDemsOnBoard, justiceputnam, llbear, Persiflage, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, Dreaming of Better Days, nannyboz, Statusquomustgo, RickBoston, ms badger, AllanTBG, Reel Woman, One Pissed Off Liberal, old wobbly, FlamingoGrrl, Habitat Vic, ColoTim, epc3, Trial Lawyer Richard, operculum, deepeco, suejazz, silent no more, lcdrrek, RosyFinch, NoMoJoe, klnb1019, gchaucer2, hopi13, OIL GUY, uciguy30, cacamp, BostonBilly, Empower Ink, roberta g, Mighty Ike, trivium, jack 1966, TruthFreedomKindness, windje, Mr SeeMore, LibrariAnne, Senor Unoball, NewDealer, Laughing Vergil, treesrock, mikeconwell, Lujane, Haplogroup V, triplepoint, catly, temptxan, Gemina13, jjohnjj, My Spin, enufisenuf, GrannyOPhilly, oldliberal, legendmn, J M F, Zorge, litoralis, janmtairy, elziax, bfitzinAR, papahaha, Northern Light, stevenwag, jfromga, jpmassar, zelda1010, eb23, jakedog42, leftist vegetarian patriot, pixxer, j b norton, nickrud, addisnana, Betty Pinson, Onomastic, Maximilien Robespierre, angstall, ozsea1, Powell, gauchiste, Oldowan, OldGrammy, KelleyRN2, Late Spring, marleycat, Lorikeet, IllanoyGal, blw, peregrine kate, poliwrangler, cactusgal, Mentatmark, Apost8, Azazello, paulbkk, AnnetteK, Thousandwatts, stormicats, Prairie D, Liberal Granny, MNGlasnant, Moongazer, Siri, IndieGuy, dance you monster, rustypatina, BRog, Buckeye54, cuphalffull, cassandracarolina, FrY10cK, George3, Lily O Lady, DamselleFly, onceasgt, glorificus, PhillyWill, GwenM, knitwithpurpose, paccoli, lina, BitterEnvy, Smoh, BlueJoubert, blue91, charlie x, pragmaticidealist, Friend in Miami, Paddy Ryan, Brian1066, boomerangst

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site