“….Uncle knew things happened in the field that shouldn’t make the reports.  Every unit had secrets, because all of us got caught in actions that were confusing, at best.  He understood we’d all face our guilt soon enough, so there was no point in exposing events that would be used against us.  Uncle would talk to any man he thought a little too trigger-happy, and if he thought the man was unstable, he wouldn’t disgrace him.  Out of respect for any man who pushed himself hard enough to be stationed in our camp, he’d discreetly transfer him to a less aggressive outfit.  That kind of respect, coming from such an officer, assured him of our confidence and obedience in all areas….”

“….If the media got wind of what went on out there, the word ‘atrocity’ would be spread over the headlines.  Every small unit soldier would be up on charges.  The very nature of Vietnam provoked firefights that afterward seemed senseless, and actually looked as if we targeted women and children.  Uncle understood this, and never condemned a man for the violence that surfaced in a violent land.  Not that he approved of cruelty or criminality, but he understood treacherous and hostile civilians, heavily armed soldiers, and fear were a very bad mix.  Many noncombatant officers and officials were eager to get their names known, and if that meant hanging a soldier, they wouldn’t hesitate.  The military is not immune to the American drive for fame, and considering the mood of America at the time, charging a soldier with atrocity was an opportunity for a name….”

“….I can’t say how many men owed their lives to Uncle, at least a dozen guys while I was with him.  I was one of them.  He was a natural soldier.  He would go out of his way to help a new man adjust, when they first came in.  He didn’t load it off on the sergeants.  He gave straight talk about the reality of Nam, things the manual couldn’t, or wouldn’t mention.  He went so far as to give a new man a little slack in his first firefight, but on experienced men, he could be a son of a bitch, convinced, as he was, that veterans should do more in the field.  Once a man had been out with Uncle, he had better be willing to carry his end, and more.  Uncle was not an officer who was afraid of work.  He was right down there with us, covered in shit and calluses.  No matter how much combat experience you had, Uncle always knew something you didn’t….”

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