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Vietnam Veterean, Bill Sweeney MAG
I recently interviewed Bill Sweeney, aVietnam veteran. We have a basic knowledge of war, but it isnot until one is a soldier that he or she becomes fully awareof its consequences.
When the war started, didyou expect to become a soldier?
Yes, at that timeeverybody between the ages of 18 and 25 was being drafted. Iwas drafted at 18. I was scared and didn't know what toexpect. My family felt the same way I did. Almost everyone hadsomeone in their family in the service.
Wherewere you stationed?
I was in the Army stationed inCambodia, Southern Cambodia and South Vietnam. It was hot ...very hot. People were extremely poor. You've never seen thepoor we saw. It was like living in a tent without campinggear. I spent nine months over there.
When youarrived, had the war just begun?
It was '67 and the warhad been going on. They were just starting to increase thenumber of troops from 50,000 to 100,000.
How did civilians act toward soldiers?
Most locals were busyjust trying to live day-to-day. They lived off a lot of rice.They just tried to survive.
How did you keep intouch with family and friends while you were there?
Icalled home once the entire time. The rest of it was throughletters. A letter would come to your unit and they'd findyou.
If you were injured, was there medicalhelp?
The Services are famous for giving the bestmedical care. They developed that in Vietnam. There weremedical helicopters and two major medical sites. I was alwayswithin an hour of care.
Was it easy to adjustto your former living conditions when you camehome?
When I came home from Cambodia in December, 1967,I wasn't so wrapped up in the war, but I had been trained tolive a certain way. It took a couple years to adjust tocivilian life. I spent some time inhospices.
How has serving in the war changedyou?
It never leaves you. You never get over somethinglike that. It's behind you and you put it aside. On MemorialDay I get together with some of my buddies from thewar. You never forget it, but you put itaside.
Were there any positiveeffects?
Not really. If it's done anything, it's taughtthis country you can't fight a war unless you have everybodybehind you.
What were the predominant negatives?
A war's outcome is all negative. Fami-lies gave uptheir sons. Young guys in their prime devote part of theirlives to fighting.
What do you want people toknow about war through your experiences?
I've alwayswanted kids to know that there's nothing nice about war. It'sthe most hideous nightmare. If you're going to fight one, makesure everybody is behind you. You have to give it your bestand get out of there as quickly as possible.