My father was a career Army officer, and World War II combat veteran. I spent my early youth on military bases in the United States, to include Japan and Germany. I absolutely loved my country, until I came back from Vietnam as an Army medic. The core belief system I was raised with came back in a body bag. These pictures represent part of my journey to unzip the truth I never knew. This photo essay is dedicated to my grandson, Shay Daniel Lydon, who was killed on a motorcycle at age 19 in 2012. As a result of many conversations I had with Shay, he was starting to understand the truth of the Vietnam War.
Army Medic Vietnam
May 12, 2016
“The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” -George Orwell, 1984
The spraying of 70 million liters of ” Agent Orange ” ( a poisonous herbicide called Dioxon ), on the Vietnamese people by the United States Government, is one of the worst war crimes ever committed in modern warfare. It is the war crime that is born again with every new generation.
Children die from cancer, they are born without arms and legs, they are born with twisted bodies, mental illness, or no eyes, to name a few birth defects. Their parents and society have an enormous burden to try and make their lives as meaningful as possible. The U.S. Government and the American people share no responsibility in humanitarian justice. Whenever national shame is at stake, the truth is against the law.
This picture (above) was taken in an orphanage outside of Hanoi in April 2016. Many of the children in this orphanage were suffering from the horrible effects of Agent Orange. There were many very kind and compassionate Vietnamese health workers taking care of the children that day, and everyday. What the United States Government did in Vietnam is beyond the human mind to comprehend. How can you possibly grasp the great suffering the Vietnamese people went though in a barbaric war that lasted 10,000 days. Maybe you could just pick one day and multiply it by 10,000. The Vietnamese people defeated the most powerful military force the world has ever seen, because they were willing to loose everything, and Vietnamese relentless solidarity was far beyond anything that Americans have ever experienced. During World War II, the American public was strongly unified behind their military. In Vietnam, the Vietnamese public were the military, or the militia, as the fingers are an extension of the arm. All you have to look at is the millions of civilians who sacrificed their lives for the cause of independence. The United States could have never won the war in Vietnam, because the vast majority of the civilian population living in what was then South Vietnam, never supported the puppet governments the U.S. put in power. For the Vietnamese, the United States was just another foreign invader trying to conquer their homeland, in a long history that goes back over two thousand years.
Army Medic Vietnam
“The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price
on life as does the Westerner. Life is cheap in
General William Westmoreland
U.S. Commander Vietnam 1964-68
“We weren’t on the wrong side.
We were the wrong side.”
I was about to leave this orphanage, when I decided there was one more picture that had to be taken. There was a young Vietnamese woman student who was working at this orphanage in Hue, and she gladly took the picture of me and this Vietnamese boy. The previous pictures where taken at an orphanage outside of Hanoi. I often wear a long sleeve shirt with the word W A R on it, which stands for: ” Wealthy Are Richer.” If one does not follow the money trail when it comes to W A R, they like so many millions of people in the United States, will be duped by this conniving moralistic charade of madness. It is one of the greatest nationalistic propaganda shams of all time. When politicians and the rich in America start sending their kids to war, I’ll start believing in noble causes. If the U.S. had a military draft, there would be antiwar marches in every major city in this country. There is nothing worse than being at a funeral and realizing that it was all for profit. American corporations made a killing in Vietnam, and Dow Chemical, who manufactured Agent Orange, is just one of them. One seventh the land mass of what was then South Vietnam, was saturated with this deadly herbicide. Dioxon is one of the most toxic chemicals ever used in war.
The Vietnamese people have suffered beyond human comprehension, and that suffering will go on for many more generations. The U.S. Government gives monetary compensation to Vietnam veterans who have medical problems related to Agent Orange exposure. I have several friends who are suffering from Agent Orange illnesses. Three of my friends have died from cancer as a result of this awful illness, one of them was my brother-in-law. I have met very few Vietnam veterans who did not have at least one friend who died from Agent Orange exposure. VA hospitals across the United States have treated countless Vietnam veterans for Agent Orange exposure. As of 2016, the United States Government has done nothing to compensate Agent Orange victims in Vietnam, because our government has said there is no absolute conclusive evidence that Agent Orange is responsible for genetic abnormalities or cancer. So, the W A R goes on in Vietnam, and I saw it when I went to three orphanages while I was recently there. I also saw many people on the streets who were affected with birth abnormalities. For the vast majority of Agent Orange victims in Vietnam, they are being cared for at home with minimal medical help. A deadly herbicide is the legacy of Vietnam, Depleted Uranium will be the deadly legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Be all you can be…
Army Medic Vietnam
May 13, 2016
“If God’s on our side, He’ll stop the next war.” -Bob Dylan
The Truth Behind Agent Orange
Arriving at the My Lai Massacre Site
Four of us arrived at My Lai on April 5, 2016. From the left, is Sandy Kelson, Brian Willson, and Becky Luening. For me, this was the second time I have been to My Lai, the first time in April 1994. When we arrived this time, only a couple of other people were there. During the entire time that we were there, we were pretty much the only people on the grounds. I think for all of us, the quiet and solitude was a welcome relief. No other memorial I have ever visited has the profound impact that My Lai has on me. I think that is true because this historical site is cloaked in secrecy, as far as the United States is concerned. For me, it represents national shame, and that powerful energy is a metaphor for the entire Vietnam War. If I had not worked on my unfinished anger and grief over the past twenty-two years, visiting My Lai again would have caused me tremendous fear. When I came back in 1994, I had to be hospitalized for a week because of severe depression. For many Americans, especially those who have been politicized, visiting My Lai can still cause pain, because the U.S. has continued to be involved in war after war. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. Government has bombed 30 countries. So, the My Lai’s have never stopped.
The United States was responsible for twenty million bomb craters during the Vietnam War. So many of those craters were My Lai’s from the skies.
The Mural at My Lai
The story of the massacre is in this mural. Unfortunately, this piece of art needs a lot of repair. I have been mailing the site to see if they can track down the original artist.
The Names of 504 Vietnamese Civilians
American Empire at My Lai
The Earth remembers everything.
Power has no wisdom.
You reap what you sow.
Revenge comes with divine order.
Army Medic Vietnam
May 13, 2016
They were butchering people. The only thing they didn’t do is cook ’em and eat ’em. How do you get that far over the edge. Larry Colburn Door gunner on Hugh Thompson’s helicopter.
Larry Colburn had a bird’s-eye view of the massacre. He and the other door gunner, Glenn Andreotta, were standing directly next to this infamous drainage ditch that contained over one hundred bodies. They rescued a small child from this ditch, and eventually flew it to an orphanage.
This Medevac helicopter was in my unit in An Khe, Vietnam in 1970. The flight crew painted WHY on the nose of the helicopter, as in WHY in the hell are we in Vietnam.
The WHY at My Lai
You do not bring the enemy to the peace table by just killing military combatants. You ultimately bring the enemy to the peace table by killing innocent civilians. They are military targets. The primary goal of the aggressor nation is to break the will of the people and its ability to defend its homeland. This strategy is as old as warfare itself. Geneva Convention Rules are for fools.
Agent Orange Child in Hanoi
This is a picture of a little girl that I took at a orphanage just outside of Hanoi. She caught my eye, because she had a face and a soul that seemed to have wisdom. She would look into my eyes, and my camera lens as if to say, I have a story that needs to be told. When I was at the orphanage, I was at times overwhelmed at the health problems so many children had. I saw great suffering among so may children just starting out in life. As I have done so many times before, you realize the urgency of documenting what you see. It becomes a mission to bear witness, and that focus became the focus of my camera. Sometimes you have to block out the intensity, only to feel the pain later. This little girl was probably a victim of generational Agent Orange exposure. Her body was covered with rashes, and scabs, especially on both legs, that were wrapped with cling bandages. I could see the blood that had seeped through both dressings. No doubt, this child has had to overcome a lot of pain, and no doubt there is still much pain and suffering ahead in her young life. She will constantly have to deal with the potential of infection. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for her to sleep. So, with all of this said, this is the legacy of Agent Orange, and a world class war crime that keeps on giving unfathomable pain and suffering. A big part of me just wants to keep hating my government, and we all know the avalanche that leads to. You hate and you hate and you hate. I live in a country that doesn’t care about this child. But, at the same time, I know if some Americans knew the truth, they would do something. I think that is what I hang on to. I have sent out many pictures in the past 24 hours. I took them, but they do not belong to me, they belong to everyone who has looked at them. I like to think the pictures belong to this child, one amongst millions of other Vietnamese who have the same story. So, with that said, feel free to use these images as you see fit. It is community property now, and that was the way I felt when I was activating the shutter button on my camera. War is a disease, and war crimes are brought to life when they are seen through the lens of a camera. You tell the truth, because you can’t live with yourself if you don’t. That is called a moral conscience, and why so many people don’t see this, is the most complex question in our lives.