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Veterans of the Vietnam Era Oral History Project: Interview with Aaron Davis

Veterans of the Vietnam Era Oral History Project: Interview with Aaron Davis


William Cobb: Today is Friday December 10,
2010, it is nine am and my name is William Cobb. I’m a
professor of history at Utah Valley University and today is part of the Vietnam Era Oral
History project. We are interviewing Aaron Davis. [WC:] So, welcome Aaron to the interview. Aaron Davis: Thank you, Bill. [WC:] I want to start with some very general
biographical information and then want to move
into the period of your life before you were drafted, the period before you went on to
active duty, which is probably be when you went into basic training. So let’s start with
me asking you your full name. [AD:] Aaron Michael Davis. [WC:] And your address? [AD:] 14292 Copper Oaks Drive, Herriman, Utah
84096 [WC:] Date of birth? [AD:] 08-29-50
[WC:] Place of birth? [AD:] Glenwood Springs, Colorado. [WC:] And were you raised someplace other
than where you were born? [AD:] Yes, my dad was a World War II veteran. He was on Midway when
the war started. They
naval battle. If you see some of the footage of the battle
of Midway, you will see some guys in weird looking short tin hats, they
look like the Brits. Which they were really old;
firing thirty caliber anti-aircraft guns [and] that was my dad. He was shooting at the
Japanese planes. Then he was on Quadulan and finished up on
Okinawa. Then I was the
World War II baby that waited until 1950, which was another ominous year. If you look
at what happened with Korea the Chinese invaded Tibet. So, you look at some other
interesting historical juxtaposition. We moved from Colorado to Mesa, Arizona where
my dad had always wanted to be a teacher. He went to Arizona State College, which is
now called Arizona State University. He worked part-time to get his teaching degree
and then he went to work in Flagstaff, Arizona teaching high school for
five years. During this time, my dad was
always a very stern disciplinarian. He had a very short temper, and I didn’t
understand any of that back then. We used to call it 1000-yard stare battle
fatigue all kinds of different things. But now that the American Psychiatric Association
through Bobby Moller and some others from VVAW putting pressure
on them in 1980s to put it into DSM as a psychical disorder. It’s called posttraumatic stress disorder. So, anyway
back to the history. Does anybody have a parent who was a teacher? [A:] I did. [AD:] Sometimes that is difficult, my dad
was a perfectionist, okay. You’re going to do it and
do it right and do it my way. I was always an outside of the box thinker
and I would say, “Wait just a darn minute, I know there’s
another way of doing things and mine is just as
good as his” from age five on up. But that is kind of the way it was. I was kind of spare
the rod and spoil the child, and he didn’t spare it. I look back and I will show my
family— My kids pretty much turned out the same way I did. [WC:] After you were born in Glenwood, you
went down to Arizona? [AD:] Mesa, my brother was born there. He’s three years younger. He’s a retired Air Force
master sergeant. Then we moved to Flagstaff, Arizona where
he was a high school teacher and we went through this town called
Needles, California in 1958. And, we
stayed at this hotel and it didn’t go below three digits until after midnight and we said,
Anybody in their right mind would not live in this freak’n place. A year later, my dad
gets a job teaching elementary school in Needles, California. [laughter]
[AD:] Those were some of my formative elementary school times. [WC:] You alluded to your family. Tell me, are you married and do you have children
and how many and how old are they? [AD:] [laughs] This is a picture of the family. This is the first ex and her
husband. They just returned from a missionv from Spain. Some of you can relate to that. I have eight grandkids; one of them is fourteen,
so when your grandkids get to be teenagers you kind of go, wow. So, yes, I’m currently married for the third
time. The wife is right here. (showing picture) She was married to her ex
for thirty-one years. Interestingly enough, we were both married
LDS in the Salt Lake Temple. She
was in a very abusive marriage for that long, but she stayed for the kids. Anyway, again
as I mentioned, we only disagree on two things, religion and politics. We do have some
spirited discussions, but I don’t make it like I did with my first ex . Like I’m wrong
and you are right. I allow her— My hot-button issue is war
and its related to the economy and her hot button issue is abortion. Having been a Republican and working on Orrin
Hatch’s— Anyway I’m jumping ahead of myself that was my BYU thing. We’ve got
to learn how to love and respect one another and although we know there are going to be
differences. My daughter, interestingly enough, is graduating
next week from Northern Arizona University to be a teacher, after
two to three careers and two kids later. Sometimes we are slow learners [laughter]
or just happen to have a lot of experiences in
order to get where we are suppose to be. It’s interesting that my dad was a teacher
and my first ex is a teacher. There’s a picture of the first ex. Interestedly enough
both the first ex and the dad were very matter of fact black and white. I’m not one
of those people. I’m very much a shades of gray continuum
kind of person. Some days
psychologically, physically, or emotional were somewhere wavering in the middle and
then without my medication, I go Pfffft. [WC:] Narrow those feelings down little bit,
when you are in high school or college before you
went into the military. How did you feel about what was happening
in Vietnam? [AD:] The earliest I can remember in grade
school in Needles was we had these elections, straw
poll if you will, in the classrooms and the first one –
Well, we’ve got this thing called the TV set. I have to digress a little bit. I used to listen
to the Lone Ranger on the radio that’s kind of showing my age. And it was really quite
fascinating, but then everybody got this black and white TV and then you could see the
Lone Ranger. So, TV kind of influenced our opinions, attitudes,
and belief systems. We
will get into the media thing a little later—But I began to— I fell in love with Annette
on the Mickey Mouse Club—
[WC:] Who didn’t? (laugher)
[AD:] Let’s see, who else, Connie Stevens and of course when Laugh-In came in, I’m
still in love with Goldie Hawn. Be that as it may, I remember the first time
I saw a disaster. I
saw the black and white film footage of the Hindenburg when it exploded in 1938,
holy— I had nightmares for a week about the damn thing. Not realizing that I was very
sensitive, caring, and compassionate although I realized it because of conditioning. And
again, my dad was a Marine. Everything was you know, he was not much into
the feelings thing. I kind of became a little tougher. I guess. I bucked up. In order to survive
sometimes in your family you have to just tough it out. And so, that’s kind of what I did. I’ll never forget— Just going back to
my dad. I was in fifth grade taking this
psychological test. I was in the other fifth grade class so, I
wasn’t in his. Thank goodness. But he was looking over my shoulders seeing
the answers that I put down and I will never forget this comment, he said, “I
can’t believe a son of mine would answer those questions as wrong as you did.” Now at that particular point, maybe we can
call it an epiphany. I was pissed. I wanted to get out and be independent and
do things on my own and I questioned everybody. I started— I believe at that moment my critical
thinking. I said this is BS. I’ll not be like Bobby. [laughter]
I guess I sort of made a circle. I was that way to begin with, but then the
process of growing up hormones, inadequacies, and a lot
of different things and then just surviving. So, that really was an epiphany for me. I went back when I was in therapy a few years
ago and looked at my report cards thru that period and I said, “What the hell was he
talking about?” I got good grades until that fifth grade epiphany
when I said, I don’t care. All I’m doing is playing ball and chasing
the girls to hell with this academic stuff. Again,
this was kind of a turning point. Now here’s a paradox. I’m presenting to my daughter
next week when she graduates a term paper that my dad [wrote] on me [about] my
psychological and my physical growth while he was getting his teacher’s certification
at Northern Arizona University. As I went back a couple of weeks ago and read
it again [laughs] okay—Really interesting. I’m going to present that to her, simply
because there are only two things I have from my dad, a
Marine Corps blanket from World War II and that term paper. I’ll present her with the term paper that
even has some of my little scribbling and colorings from kindergarten
or the pre-school. I kind of went into myself. I knew what I was feeling, but I didn’t
work well with people. They would either hack me off or they wouldn’t
accept me for who I was. So, we moved
to Needles, California, where as I mentioned, elementary and junior high were very
difficult for me. Although, I did excel and the only way I could
get attention from my dad was throwing a ball at him and he liked
baseball. I could get his attention and he
would even throw it back occasionally. Then we moved to Livermore, California and
I was a freshman in high school and did pretty
well. The Bay area has always been an area
of diverse people and a lot of different thoughts and people’s cultures. I’ve always kind
of liked that. Then in 1965, some of my buddies, including
Scott Camil herewhen they were going into Vietnam. I was reading Life Magazine and also watching
the news. I
found a way out of this whole dilemma. There was an article in there about the Marine
Military Academy. The only military school in America patterned
after the customs and traditions of the United States Marine Corps. I said, “There’s my out. I can finally get the
heck out of here.” So, my dad said, “You earn the four-hundred
dollars. You can go to
military school.” I got a job at my uncle’s wheat harvest
crew cutting wheat in the MidWest – That’s another interesting story. I did that for three summers actually. [I] went to
the Marine Military Academy and after three years, became the student body president. Although, it wasn’t a popularity contest,
I was appointed as the battalion commander. Because outwardly, I can portray a wonderful
image of being in charge and telling people what to do. In my command voice, Company Command [inaudible]
so that really excited them. Here, I’m in the classroom not doing very
well at all these doggone subjects that I wasn’t ready for. I took general math, general science, and
all of that easy stuff at Livermore High School. But at the Academy, this is a naval college
prep school. So two
days into my chemistry class and I thought, Oh, my gosh. I can remember NACL or
H2O, but that’s it. I’m not doing this anymore. Of course, history Major Thompson was
my history teacher and he was good. Plus he coached the basketball team and that
was better. Then I got out of the classroom and played
sports. [I] did very well, in 1969— We
just had a reunion of some of the guys after forty years in Reno in March. We hadn’t seen
each other for some forty-odd years. We got together and shot some hoops and it
was kind of fun. We had an undefeated team, which we had 150
kids in the high school. We
played the local competition and I remember they beat us seventy-five to nothing in
football. [WC:] When you were in high school how did
you feel about what was going on in Vietnam and
where did that information come from? [AD:] Good question, Bill. I think it was my third year; there were some
guys that the military sent in to come to the mess hall with us and
sit down. They were wounded from
Vietnam, okay. I remember talking to them about various things. They were not straight
with me. The one guy said, “There is only one color
and that’s green the Marine Corps green.” And I had begun to read a little bit, I knew
that there were racial problems. In
the bush everybody is together for survival, but when you get back to the hill
or your bunkers everybody goes their own way. They hang out with the guys doing the
dap or the guys doing the drinking, or whatever. Again, there is a cognitive dissidence
that I was beginning to see as I watched some of the coverage of Vietnam, I still believed
in America. I still believed that we were the good guys. I still believed that our cause was
just – Whatever at that point. I did really well in the military as the battalion
commander. [I] got the awards and led all
the parades and gave all the commands. [I] finally had some girlfriends the last
year and I didn’t know how to do any of that, another
long story. [I had] a lot of inadequacies a lot
of things from my childhood. But when I graduated from there, I went on
a mission for the LDS Church. Now for whatever reason at the time we’re
all into that particular time, doing what we think we should be doing, so
that’s what I did. I served an LDS mission
in the northern states. The Chicago area the mission covered Illinois,
Wisconsin, Upper Peninsula of Michigan, part of Iowa, and part
of Indiana. I did very well because I was
gaining some self-confidence or at least portraying self-confidence. [laughs] Again there
is the cognitive dissidence. I rose to become a traveling assistant. I was a leader again. I
was able to motivate people and get them to do things and whatever. When I came home
there was a draft letter setting there, because you have a 4-D deferment to serve a LDS
mission, back in the days. I did some things; the economy was not very
good back then. I
did some part-time jobs, a busboy I worked in a warehouse. Things didn’t work well. All
I wanted to do was play golf and chase the women. I couldn’t go back home again. You
can’t go back home once you’ve been away that many years because if it’s oppressive
before, it’s oppressive then. I said, “There’s got to be a way out of
this thing,” because I’m always looking for a way out. I said, “Alright, let’s check out the
military.” I was
going to be warrant officer pilot, because when I was at the Marine Military Academy,
I got my private pilot license as part of the
curriculum. You had the ground school and
then you had the flying time. So I had my private license. I wanted to fly and had actually
taken the test from one of the guys that I met on the mission that was a selection officer
with the Marine Corps because I wanted to do PLAC aviation. However, then I get
home and the draft notice is sitting there and I have thirty days. I want to be a warrant
officer and they said, No, your test scores are too low, because I don’t do well on
tests. Going back to my high school years, I go back
and look at my SAT’s and my ACT’s scores what was I thinking then. Well now, I know what I was thinking because
I had ADHD. Discounting the fact that my dad had PTSD
[laughs]. We could say now that I
was abused. I was never comfortable sitting anywhere for
very long or concentrating. Now I can actually do it with my medication,
so that helps. I think the Army has the best opportunities
for a warrant officer because that is what I
wanted to do but they said, No, I think we ought to send you to Air Traffic Control
School. Then I said good-bye to people at church for
about three weeks and I got tired of waiting and had to get out of there. I went across the hall to the Marine recruiter
and I said, “What can you guarantee me and I want
to ship tomorrow.” He said, “Can do.” Marine recruiters are pretty good they will
get you into things that you never thought you
could get into. I told them I didn’t do well on the AFQT
test, remember the old AFQT we all had to take. I think that I made a twenty-five on the darn
thing because it had these stupid tools and stuff and my dad was a mechanic
before he was a teacher and that was the last thing I wanted to do was to help
him with the freak’n car. I didn’t know what
tools they were because I had no idea what they were. The Marine recruiter comes in and
says, “Come on back here in the back room” and he has the test right there and here are
the answers to the test. We’re going to take you to the APs tomorrow,
you’re going to get a good grade and get guaranteed aviation
school. We’ll ship you, ten-four and he did!
[laughs] So, I’m a living testimony that recruiters can do anything it takes to make
their mission. [WC:] So how are you feeling during this entire
period? What do you know about Vietnam and
how do you feel about the war? [AD:] Again, I’ve been conditioned in the
classroom and I think by the media and by popular
opinion that we were fighting the Domino effect. That’s what we were told, that it was
right to be there, and I continued to believe that. I questioned it maybe intellectually but
not the other ways. I believed that I would go fight for my country. I would kill Commies
that’s what I believed that a Marine was supposed to do. Again the Marine Corps training
those changes are forever. Little did I realize—Course I had been conditioned
by my dad, the Marine Military Academy for three
years and an LDS mission and then the Marine Corps. In looking back I said, “My gosh, I was
institutionalized.” But I resented
that paradoxically almost like a caged person. Again, I did not question it a lot but I was
ready to go. [WC:] Where was most of your information coming
from in that period did you watch the news every night? [AD:] I’ve always been an avid newspaper
reader. My dad and I would always fight to see who
got the paper first. Now, I knew he paid for the thing. And, he always let me know, I pay
for it, so I read it first. [laughs] [Be]cause I want information, okay? I’ve always been an
information guy. I want to know what was going on in the world. I was still at that
point very pro war believing in the United States being right in stopping the Domino
effect. So, I didn’t question it. I went through my training at the Marine Corp
Depot in San Diego and then infantry training at Camp Pendleton. Then I shipped out to Memphis Naval Air Station
where they were going to make me a structural mechanic. I looked at that and when you have a
private license you can be an air radio operator, you know about navigation and all those
kinds of things. They wanted those kinds of jobs and that’s
what I wanted. But they said,
Your test scores are not high enough. Again, I got limited, so I cop an attitude
because people have been messing with me for a long
time. I’m kind of a self-starter. I got up and
did my job cleaning the head or the bathroom. Then some NCO comes up to me and
says, Hey get in here and clean the bathroom. I said, “Find somebody else.” So, that
didn’t endear me to the NCOs obviously. I got in a little trouble and then I said,
“Take this structural mechanic thing and stick it.” They sent me to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina
to be a skivvy stacker that’s what we call them. A general warehouseman but I was able to do
some finagling. I could almost hunt
and peck with two fingers on the old Remington’s or whatever they were back then. I got
a job, as a chaplain’s assistant for a couple of chaplains. So, I got out of the field and
those kinds of things. I was
in this barracks and I was ready to go. I would have gone, but
they stopped the war. At Camp LeJeune when I first got there and
I didn’t get it then why everybody in the place came in either drunk
or the smoke from marijuana was very high. This was a high returning group of Vietnam
vets. I didn’t really make the connection yet,
but I thought, Um. I had a master sergeant a fellow church member
like an EE-8. He
says, “Did you know that I lock and load my 45 when I come into your barracks?” No,
[laughs] anyway that didn’t really phase me back then because I’m still believing
everything. Then I also got married—there’s the first
ex (showing a picture). I should have
known— It was December 29, 1972, it snowed eighteen inches. We had an accident on
the way to the temple. Her bridesmaid left a dress in the LA airport,
another one got snowed in, and the cake got snowed-in, in
Hunter. I should have, from a karmic point of
view said, Hum, okay I know what I am getting into. Instead I said, “I’m tough. I can
handle anything,” so I continued. I brought the wife to Camp LeJeune and we
had our first kid there. Now, digressing for just a minute in 1998,
I get a call from the National Institute of Health. And they say, Did you know at Camp LeJeune
during the years ’67 to ’85 the water was contaminated with trichloroethylene,
tetrachloroethylene, and benzene. We
bathed in it. We drank it. My first kid was born there my second kid
was conceived there. Who would later have a ventricular septal
defect a heart defect, which we had him operated on and he’s okay. He’s my pharmacist right now interestingly
enough. I decided—I said, “This Marine Corps sucks,”
which I actually knew when I first got there. Vietnam had been winding down and I began
to see the guys. One of the guys, my
sergeant, on the Onslow Beach detachment him and a corporal were Vietnam vets. I
didn’t understand it at the time, but they had been sent by their unit TDYxii to get
rid of them. Because they were crazy and I found out why. They took me, and they did this
with every new guy what they call FNG. A new guy they would put them in the back
of a jeep. Now you’ve got the front two seats and the
back seat. Now, the back seat wasn’t
tied to anything and when they would hit a dune, it would fly up but that’s where I’m
sitting. They took me on a helluva ride, because they
wanted to get some excitement, some adrenaline going. They wanted to get my reaction. I didn’t understand that, but I do
now. Anyway, all of those kinds of things still
kind of believing the media sold us down the river. And, those Communist Pinkos, those Jane Fondas,
those you know – Still having kind of a narrow attitude. And then I’m inspired now. I sure as heck want to get out of
this darned Marine Corps. I had actually typed up my release paperwork
forty-five days early, with my acceptance to BYU [and] took
it to the battalion commander. And, he
knowing that my wife was pregnant, says, Sergeant Davis you can re-up or extend and
then you don’t have to worry about the kid.” Of course, I was thinking not only no, but
hell no. But I got out early, [and went] two years
at BYU. Then my second kid, the
pharmacist, is born with a ventricular septal defect and he had surgery, so that was kind
of a—I was into journalism that was my major at BYU journalism and public relations. [WC:] But back when you were in the military
at some point, you went from having feelings of
patriotism and trust and belief in the war. You were stopping Communism and then
something happened while you were on active duty maybe at Camp LeJeune where you
began to feel differently about the war? Or you began to trust less in the government? [AD:] Well, I didn’t trust the system, because
I had been jacked around a little bit. I would come
pretty close to an Article-15. I’d made sergeant because of the high school
ROTC, but I was disenchanted, disillusioned with the military. I don’t think I questioned the Vietnam
thing until much later. But some of those experiences now with some
of the guys made sense. I just kept truck’n because I’m a survival
guy. I’m conditioned to survive, I’m
tough. I had two years of off-duty education at Camp
LeJeune [and] went to East Carolina University. So, I’ll always be a Pirate. And those of you who know anything about East
Carolina, they are actually playing in a bowl game again. Two years there, then two years
at BYU, graduated and wrote for the Daily Universe, and as I was telling Lee. I started
thinking outside the box at BYU, because all of a sudden I’m reading all this stuff about
Watergate. All the President’s Men comes out and I
got to go see it. And, all of a sudden everybody wants to be a journalist and they
want to report and write the truth. I like to
present both sides and let the reader decide what the truth is because usually it’s
somewhere in the middle. I was beginning to say, “Hm.” At BYU, I was a critical
thinker and some things being told about or being written, especially about Watergate
the system, the military system, the government. And guess what? I covered when I was the
beat reporter at the Daily Universe the federal agencies. Anyway, I didn’t write any
fantastic stories. But I got the award at the end of the year
because the VDTs were just coming online. Where you could actually type a story in a
video display tube and then you could actually hit a button and it [went]
to the editor. Somehow I got the award at the
end of the year for the mysteriously disappearing story. When I hit the button, the editor
never got it. I didn’t write many stories, so they didn’t
print many. I went to the Marine Military Academy as a
public affairs practitioner and part-time journalist. Tom Segal who had been a Marine journalist
was the public affairs director so I worked for the Marine Military Academy
writing news releases and taking pictures and also worked for him part-time as a newspaper
writer-photographer, so I got to meet some interesting people. [WC:] So this is after the military? After you got out of college? [AD:] Right, I graduated from college so about
two years of— This was in Texas a small town
in south Texas. [WC:] How was your feeling about the war or
the war’s purpose? How had that been changing
in this period of active-duty, separated, going to college. [AD:] I started reading, All the President’s
Men and again, started to question the whole efficacy. The whole value of this—Wait a minute. I’ll go back. In the summer of ‘66 my
uncle who had been in the Air Force for seventeen years, came to California while I was
in Livermore High School, to visit and he spent the weekend with us. We took him to
Travis Air Force Base to fly out to Vietnam. Then in December that year, they had found
him floating in the Saigon River. I guess, maybe I began to question then, but
I repressed it or whatever. My uncle is found floating down the Saigon
River. Something is fishy
and this is not right. I have done research since then and after
having dealt with his family. Apparently he was a raving alcoholic, which
is kind of in my family history too. My other uncle was a Navy chief and he was
a closet alcoholic. I began to question a
little bit. I couldn’t really put words or emotions,
but it was a question that said, something is not right here. [WC:] How old were you when that happened? [AD:] Um, seventeen probably—Right before
I went to the Marine Military Academy. [WC:] So, generally, you’re feeling was
that the war was legitimate and what the president is saying is honest. [AD:] Yeah. [WC:] But you were beginning to have some
questions because of a family tragedy? [AD:] I digressed a little bit because I kind
of repressed that. Well I also repressed my mother
dying when I was twelve. I should have brought that up too. I guess that was a trauma. So, that’s kind of affected my relationships. A: Bill, can I ask a question? So, just from what I’m gathering you started
with the Hindenburg and you talked about the tragedy
of your mom and the tragedy with your uncle. Is that pretty much the brick that pulled
out, that broke down that wall of patriotism too, is it tragedies? [AD:] Not yet, because I’m immune to them,
okay I just keep truck’n. A: What about during the war? I’m assuming you probably experienced—
[AD:] Well again, I saw the guys come back from Vietnam and how screwed up they were. I
saw how high the AWOLxiv rates were, but I didn’t put it together into my own personal
epiphany. It was kind of, I’ve got to separate it
my survival is prime. I wasn’t into that
unity consciousness thing yet, that would come years later. The beginnings of it— My life is born in
trauma, experiencing trauma but also repressing rejection. Then also moving— I got to get out of here. You’ve got to have some way out
of this you’ve got to retreat and get the heck out of here. So, I was thinking some things
that one of my buddies at the Marine Corp Academy, his brother went to Vietnam and
got killed. But that was second-hand that wasn’t my
experience. So, losing my uncle, oh
here it comes again. My buddy, Leonard Erickson from Livermore,
graduates in ’67. And, he was the older
guy so he had the car. So all of younger guys we—He has the nice
car. Anyway, after I
went to the Marine Military Academy. I get a notice that he was killed in Vietnam
in the A Shau Valley. I was just continuing [my] education [and
working in the] harvest crew. I
just thought damn. I didn’t have time to stop [and] process,
or think about any of this stuff. I’m tough. I can take anything. So, probably, you’re right. Probably it affected
me more than I’d allow or would tell anybody about, but that’s not the way we do it in
our house. [laughs] That was our mentality. So, I digressed a little bit. Yes, you’re right,
Bill. Some of those things affected me, but I really
didn’t process it, I just kept going. [WC:] After you left the military and went
to college, did you think about it more then? Did you
join any veteran’s organizations? Did you know Vietnam veterans at BYU? [AD:] No, not at BYU those kinds of things
were few and far between. I spent my time trying to
help get Orrin Hatch elected. I’ve regretted that since, but anyway we’ll
get to the epiphany parts later. We had some veterans that got together. We found out that we were
all veterans. So, we’d all get in back of the classroom
and kind of raise hell and compare notes while the teacher was doing his lecture. I remember one time the instructor was
going to throw us out and said, “You guys shut the heck up back there.” But we didn’t
[laughs] we didn’t want to be told that. Anyway, I didn’t join any groups. [I] just kind of
kept truck’n along. I got the job at the Academy, but they cut
my job. Again, I wanted to be a warrant officer
pilot. So, I investigated the Army again. I took the flight aptitude test, which I passed. Then I get in front of the board, the board
says, “You actually have good test scores” which surprised the hell out of me, because
I don’t do too well on tests. So, I made the
120 or whatever the GCT was and they said, Have you ever thought about being an
officer? You could really do well. Okay so anyway, I went to Army OCS in 1980
at Fort Benning. [I was] the only one in my family ever to
be an officer. I guess I was
blazing the trail or whatever. I was a MP branch officer. I did the jump training and all
that stuff. Then I was a company— Three of my kids were
born military brats. I was a
company commander in Germany, and this was in January 1986. The battalion
commander comes in the lieutenant colonel; he lays the relief letter on my desk. I read it
for about three minutes, and then I start cussing him out. I do remember one thing I said,
“It doesn’t matter what SOB you put in this freakn’ chair the same thing is going
to happen to him.” Now there was an epiphany for me. I was so pissed and so angry at a
freakn’ system. It came out then. Nine months later, he did relieve my successor. I gave
him a psychic read but I didn’t know about that stuff then. I wasn’t into that. [laughs]
[WC:] So, you’d already been in the Marine Corps, you’d graduated from college, and
then you went to OCS and joined the Army and rose up
thru the ranks to become a company commander in Germany in the eighties? [AD:] That’s right, that’s when I got
my release but I had a job in public affairs. Because I
thought, there’s my out. I can go into journalism, which I did. Me and Willie Haye we
ran an award winning paper for a year. [laughs] Then the department of the Army said,
“We have to release you from active duty because you have failed to maintain the
standards required in the officer course.” So, it was a riff basically, but because I
got such a bad OER I took it to the JAG. The JAG looked at it and he started laughing
and said, “This is a joke, right?” And I said, “No, it’s not a joke. That’s what my battalion
commander said about me.” And he said, “Man, that’s the lowest OER
I’ve ever seen.” [laughs] I can laugh about it now but—[laughs]
[WC:] What rank were you and where were you stationed? [AD:] Well mostly, I was stationed in Fort
McClellen off and on doing the MP school and Fort
Bliss, Texas and then Mannheim and Kaiserslautern, Germany. [WC:] And you were a captain, major? [AD:] Right, captain. Then I got out and went to Phoenix in ’88
and worked as a security officer on a nuclear power plant and continued
with my Army reserve. I was the XO for a
confinement facility unit that they deactivated. My commander got relieved, [and] it
brought all of that stuff back. And I said, “How dare they treat people
like that.” My
systemic or my bureaucratic feelings were coming out not necessarily attached to war. But, I’d seen the system screw so many people
by then that I was teetering. They
deactivated that unit in Phoenix and I had to go to San Jose, California. I was on a MP
brigade and eventually, I made major in the reserves. Then, I got divorced. [laughs] That was the first ex you know, with
five kids and a divorce. That’s a hell of a lot of child support. My youngest was five, so I’m looking at
thirteen years of child support. [laughs] So, anyway I lost another job and
then I went to Phoenix and was an assistant manager of a
Circle K. Then I was in the hospital, I had
kidney stones. Here’s an epiphany. And, the voice says, “Move to Salt Lake
City.” I
said, “Dang, I only know two people up there. I don’t hunt. I don’t fish. I don’t ski and I
hate snow.” I’m kind of convinced that it’s a karma
thing. [laughs] My second ex
would say, “No, you came here to marry me.” No, I don’t think so. [laughs] I get along
with the second ex too. So, another marriage and I did get into some
therapy after the first divorce and began processes, anger management, and various things. I worked in a federal halfway house. After, I got into some twelve-step programs,
addiction recovery, [and] those kinds of things. Then I felt like I was able to help those
kids in the halfway houses because 80 percent were there for drug issue. Then I got a job with UTA in ’95 and [have]
been driving for fifteen years. When I got divorced the first time, I was
into spirituality, Eastern religions, near-death experiences, and Shamanism. So, those were my interests. So, I began reading about
them, indigenous healing spirituality. And, I’ve got some friends that have had
near-death experiences and they kind of helped me to
understand some things. The final epiphany
came—Although in ’91 I still supported the United States. Our unit wasn’t activated
because we weren’t able to be trained well enough to deploy. I had a little bit of mixed
feelings, like what the heck. We’re bombing Saddam Hussein in the Gulf
War in ’91. Something doesn’t sound right, but I’m
still there. I began to do a lot of reading on
family origin issues, on various abuses, relationship[s], addiction[s] [and] more therapy. I
began to understand my family issues and kind of where it had led me to at that point. In 2003, we invaded Iraq and I said, “Wait
a minute, something isn’t right. This’s not
right at all.” The slow epiphany was beginning and I had
read a lot of history books. I
knew there were a lot of things that didn’t add up. At that point, I started— And, over the
years I probably got the best Vietnam era group of history books. Many of them are out
of print or old or are rare and then I read them all. The Betrayal by William Corson,
About Face, Dave Hackworth, A Bright Shining Lie, Neil Sheeham , Secrets of the
Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg, who by the way was a Marine company
commander then worked for RAND and the Defense Department. I began to say, “Wait
just a freakin’ minute here, something is not right.” I began to dig deeper and deeper and
then I got a book about the media coverage in Vietnam. And, then I began to compare
and contrast, as you have your history students do. My feelings were right. Then I didn’t
have the evidence, now I had the evidence. I knew that invading Iraq was not right. So,
here I have my two boys in the 1404-Transportation Company in Show Low, Arizona
and that unit had been activated during the Gulf War. I remember that some kids were
going to go on their missions and they didn’t go. I kind of kept that in the back of my
mind. In December of 2002, (shows picture) this
son next to [the] youngest is called to a mission and is supposed to go to Vladivostok,
Russia. I had him over night and I said,
“Son, if your unit is activated, you know where you are going?” He said, “Yes dad, I do
but mom doesn’t.” And I said, “I understand.” He was pulled off his mission and of
course the first ex calls me up and I held the phone out here, “Yeah, yeah. I
understand.” Why don’t you call Church military relations
and see what you can find out. It wasn’t my job to try to solve her problems
anymore. So, she did and they guy who
actually runs it, Frank, I can’t remember his name is a retired Air Force colonel. He was
actually our stake president in Germany. And he said, “Yes, Sister Davis don’t
feel bad, we brought a kid back from Peru, all the way
in country to be activated.” That was kind
of the under link. At that point, it wasn’t from a religious
reason that I opposed it but it was from the whole idea that we can take people
to war. And, the more I read and I
started writing letters to the editor in 2003, connected with and joined with Veteran’s
for Peace and VVAW. Then I started organizing many different events
in Salt Lake City, [Utah] in 2004 until 2008 or ’09. [WC:] So, were you reading these books on
Vietnam to try to understand what was going on in
Vietnam to try to gain some clarity about how you were thinking in a fuzzy way about
Vietnam during that period? Or was it more about trying to see what similarities
there might be between Vietnam and what Sadaam was doing in Kuwait? [AD:] Well, both. Both, because I see as I’m beginning to
see our foreign policy as I read history has pretty much been the same since
Woodrow Wilson, [that’s] my conclusion. So, then I began to read in some of these
other books. I have a whole ton of them. If
Eisenhower had allowed Ho Chi Minh to have open elections at the Geneva Accords in
’54, there would have been no Vietnam. Now, how many people know that? But we
decided to bring a guy out of France, Bao Dai and put him in as our puppet. Then we
went through many, many other puppets from Diem to Long to Huu all the way
through. So, as I began looking at it from a historical
point of view, but also a journalistic critical thinking point of view. Then I met Ellsberg and heard Howard Zinn
talk in 2004. And, I said, “Holy moley, we’ve been [laughs]
deceived all this time and where was I?” I
was a history guy, but I never connected the dots until that time. [WC:] How did that make you feel? How’s your trust and faith in the government
shifted? And
let’s throw patriotism in there too. Has it shifted a lot with all these revelations? [AD:] Yes, with my epiphanies, my reading,
and my critical thinking. I really kind of came to
that maybe a couple of years three-four years before then. I no longer believe in the US
Government [and] what they tell us. I no longer believe that we are who we say
we are. From my previous experience, I just couldn’t
put everything together. I read a couple of
years ago, probably the best book on Vietnam. It’s a history of Vietnam by John Prados. It’s a big thick book and he puts it into
a very easy to understand context. There’s
another one called Dereliction of Duty that follows all of the administration’s missteps
from Eisenhower, to Kennedy to Johnson. This guy just made colonel; no I think he
actually made brigadier general. He’s a general on active duty. He wrote the book on the
missteps, and now he’s part of the misstep that’s happening again, the repeating cycle. So, I feel cathartic. I’m still pissed. [laughs] So, I take my medication. It’s good to be
able to. I got pissed when I did this stuff too, so
it wasn’t necessarily therapeutic. One of the guys here, (showing picture) Gene
Barrett, used to get on my bus. He had this
Vietnam vet hat on, and he wouldn’t talk to me. I gave the card to his wife and I said,
“Have Gene call me.” About six months later at least he starts
talking to me. Now come
to find out, Gene did very well in Vietnam, worked with the Phoenix Programxxivand
special [operations], etc. [He] came back to Fort Hood and he turned
to alcoholism and the same kinds of things and they gave him
a chapter-14 for misconduct. I said, “Well
damn,” here he is working for the state couldn’t hear, needed a new hearing aid,
had a cataract on his eye. So, he couldn’t get a license. His employment opportunities were all
screwed up. He was my first client that I helped with
my veteran’s thing. I said, “Gene,
give me the number of your case manager in Vocational Rehab.” So, I called her up and
said, “Tell me what Gene needs to get so we can get these two things done for him.” She
said, “I need a letter from the VA saying that they won’t do this.” I said, “Well, I have a
letter sitting right here, I’m going to send him over with it. You make a copy and give
him back the original.” Now it took us two years fighting the votech
bureaucracy to get his hearing aid and to get his cataract [taken
care of] but now he has a job. That again
was another epiphany I said, “You know, we’re not going to stop this crap.” Because
number one, after reading Smedley Butler’s “War is a Racket” and a bunch of others. I
already knew the military industrial complex is going to continue, at whatever it does,
no matter what we say. I have to channel my anger into something. Now this is what I created, although me and
the IRS have long since parted ways. When I filled out a twenty-six page IRS form
1023 that says, You are either a public charity
or a private foundation. I said, “No I’m not
either freak’n one of these. I’m helping Veterans.” I threw three-hundred bucks down the
toilet to send a form into the IRS. So, I had a good idea and this is kind of
what— I’m still helping veterans with issues, compensation
in terms of education outreach, and advocacy. I’ve decided that I’ve helped maybe twenty-five
thirty vets, a lot of them Vietnam vets. To either get increases from seventy to one-hundred,
eighty to one hundred, or to start all over again. I stopped counting just for my own satisfaction
quotient. I’ve helped get over $100,000 for these
guys. Now, that’s where I get
satisfaction, because I’m fighting the system. Vets have said to me, “Why do I go to war
and have to come home and fight for my benefits?” I said, “Because that’s the system. I
help them circumvent the system; tweak the system with information [and] handouts. [I
give] personal or email advice and I also do the GI rights hotline. I get calls from active
duty kids who are having issues. Of course, after having been an NCO and an
officer I can sort of direct them through the maze of
their situation and give them information that
will help them begin to solve the problem. [WC:] So, would it be fair to say that what
you learned from your experiences was that we can’t
stop wars, we can’t stop machinery. So, the best we can do is to help our brothers
and sisters when they come home. [AD:] Right, a young kid named Jeremy called
me because— Here is when it all kind of comes
full circle. I don’t know if any of you saw a PBS documentary
about a company that was in Iraq, came back to Fort Carson, and
had all kinds of things happen. Actually, four
guys went out one night and one of the three shot and killed one of the others. That was
Jeremy’s platoon. Many of those were given Chapter 5-7 convenience
of the government. Character disorder, personality disorder the
same thing that Brian David Mitchell has. He’s not schizophrenic. He’s a narcissist and he has a real personality
disorder. But the military doesn’t want to pay from
the Defense Budget for the 30 percent that Jeremy was going to get. He doesn’t get his 30 percent from the DOD
they kick him out on “Other than Honorable.” Then I get him and I say, “We’ve got to
go to the Discharge Review Board to upgrade your
discharge,” which is just as bureaucratic and complicated as filing for compensation. You have to be a lawyer. [Of] course, I’ve
ordered the CD-ROM with all of the regulations, guidelines, checklists, and advocacy
information from the military Law Task Force people that I’ve been working with. That’s
what it all comes down to, knowledge is power. [WC:] That’s what you send out on nearly
a weekly basis, right? [AD:] That’s part of it—
[WC:] You send sections of it out too— [AD:] I actually get this from a retired lieutenant
in the Philippines. I send that out because a lot
of times it will have good information on filing for compensation or if they are retired
on Tri-care. It covers a wide spectrum of issues for veterans
or retirees and I have both retirees and veterans on my list that I send
out. That again is my premise. Education is
paramount, knowing the system or know your enemy know what you are up against. So,
that’s kind of what I do. I’ve kind of channeled my energy to helping
the younger vets and older vets when they call. [WC:] Have you ever been to Vietnam or have
any interest in going? [AD:] No, I get all kinds ads from the various
magazines I work with the vet centers. They get
all the VSO magazines and I’ve looked through those. There are a lot of tours that go
back. I’ve suggested that to Rick and some of
the other guys. It might be a good healing
thing for them to do because the healing process after having dealt with the PTSD, the
traumatic brain injuries, and the new stuff that kids have. There’s one Navy guy, a fellow
worker Cliff and I’ve been trying maybe five to seven years. I said, “Cliff when are you
going to file for your Agent Orange?” Finally, he did it and [it] went from 20 percent
to 80 percent and he got money for his kid’s
college. So, that’s kind of the satisfaction I
get, but on the other hand too in connecting with veterans. These guys have actually
written things about some of their experiences. I thought I would just read snippets of
some of their epiphany moments and some of their feelings. You know all of these guys
Bill. This is from Larry– we call him Big Lar,
he works at the VA by the way. [laughs]
[WC:] This is Larry Chadwick? [AD:] Larry Chadwick he was in First [Cavalry]
he went to the VA to get help. They told him
to get in line, quit whining, and you’re not a real veteran anyway. He’s looking for work
to feed his small kids and he can’t find a job because he has a $100 a day heroin habit. Then he goes to an anti-war rally because
he knows every other person there on some level. [He] knows he can relate to them because war
is wrong so, in essence that saved Larry’s life. Interestingly enough, Larry and I are both
from California. Well, Larry is
kind of from Utah. The guy, his name is Jack, good ole Jack. Anyway, he started a program called, Swords
to Plowshares, which is still in operation in San Francisco. Jack I can’t remember his
last name. They used this as the pilot project for what
is now called the Vet Centers. They’re not on the VA campus they’re out
in the communities. They’re less threatening. So, that people can just walk in and get therapy,
get job information, and all of those kinds of things. Jack and Big Lar were good friends. They were both kind of crawling
around the tenderloins in San Francisco with heroin problems. Now this is Rick— I
actually have the entire book that he wrote, and Rick you’ve heard him speak probably
sometimes. [WC:] Rick came to this campus about a dozen
years ago for the first time. He was introduced to
me by Dr. Jackie Patravich who is a psychiatrist at the VA. My wife and I knew her and
her husband from Colorado and they happened to come to Salt Lake. We happened to
come to Utah County and we hooked up on a hike one day up in the mountains. I said,
“Jackie I’m really interested in having a vet come and talk to my Vietnam class. Would
you be interested in putting a note up on your board for people who come thru for
counseling for PTSD?” And say, Hey, this guy down in UVSC is looking
for someone to come down. Rick and I connected and had lunch. He said, “Okay, I will
come down” and he stood in a packed room, in Center Stage. We had to get a bigger
room and he talked for an hour and a half. First, a psychologist who runs that program
was there— [AD:] Dr. Allen? [WC:] I don’t remember his name. Then Jackie was there as a psychiatrist who
specializes in PTSD and they talked a little bit about the
clinical issues. Then Rick got up and talked
for over an hour plus and no one drew a breath the entire time. He pulled the wallet out—
[AD:] To show the picture— [WC:] and the picture of the man that he had
killed a member of the Viet Cong. And, he has had
the picture made a bit bigger. He held it up like this and said, “This
is the man I shot thru the chest.” After he got out of the military, he’s not
from Utah but I think he came to Salt Lake—
[AD:] He’s from California— [WC:] to go to the violin making school that’s
downtown, I think. But he was so affected by the
war that he couldn’t finish. He’s been in treatment several times a week
since then. I asked him the same question, “Have you
ever thought about going back? And what you
could do is see if you could find the family whose husband or father owned that wallet.” And it’s happened there have been TV shows
that have been made. People go back and
say, I think this belongs to you and it makes for some very interesting relationships. Rick
said, “I’ve thought about that. I’m not ready to do it.” [AD:] No, he’s not [laughs]—
[WC:] But this was ten or more years ago. I see him periodically and I hope to ask him
again. Have you thought about going back? [AD:] Yeah, I called Rick [last name] and
said, “Hey I’m going down to do Bill’s thing. [Do]
you want to come along and shoot the bull and whatever?” He says, “No it’s a little too
long for me.” This is Rick and he says, (reading from what
Rick wrote) “We were never allowed to talk about our experiences, nobody
wanted to know. I want to expose to
others, the horrific mental and physical stress that war is to the people who actually fight
it. I’m tired of holding them inside. Flashbacks occur, frequently at times they
are queued by external senses, such as smells
or sights other times by actions or people or
situations. Still other times, Vietnam is just there,
all of a sudden. I don’t know why it
can fully occupy my mind constantly for days and nights. Vietnam is in my head forever. Now this is Gene [Barrett]. Gene finally—The one that I helped, finally
wrote down some things. (Reading) “Vietnam was a war of ambush and
surprise. A relentless war
with no front, no place to retreat to, and no place for rest. We became addicted to hightension,
living etched forever in our minds of the daily traumas and hellish experiences. I
can still hear the sounds that haunted me, smell the smells that lingered in the jungle
coupled with the fear and pressure of combat. We spent sixty days at one time in the
jungle with just enough water to drink. Necessity hardened us. We learned how to
survive on nerves alone. I thought to myself what have we become, but
it wasn’t life threatening and went on eating. Not only have we become hardened but we learned
a sensitivity that only men in combat can teach.” This one is Nikko. The chapter is named the “Nikko Shock Chapter.” Nikko survived
Hamburger Hill, he was a medic. I’m going to read you a couple of things
and then I will tell you the rest of the story. He was a conscientious objector, protested
the war with the takeover of Columbia prior to his going
in. (Reading, “Nikko Shock Chapter”) “I
conscientiously and deliberately took one man’s
life something artificially to both my morality and my mission. I had gone to Vietnam for
the express purpose of saving lives. How could I ever again claim to be a peaceful
and non-violent person?” Basically, what he had to do is, a couple
of troops were being pinned down by a sniper he had to low crawl
up to the three guys, take out a 45 and kill the sniper, so then he could assist the three
guys. That’s what he’s talking about here. (Reading, “Nikko Shock Chapter”) “My
experiences in fourteen months of battle not only convinced me of the absolute futility
of war, but they destroyed my soul. My own
morals were severely corrupted. Everything I believed in was cast aside in
the name of self-preservation. Once, I actually strangled a fellow soldier
in order to save him from spending the rest of his life as a vegetable. He had received a massive head wound. (Pause) I think of the ones who lost their
lives in battle were the lucky ones. We the
living felt the immense loss of our innocence and the destruction of our morality. No one
wins in a war like that. (Pause) I helped bury my feelings in booze
and drugs. I became a
daily drinker. As long as I was under the influence, it would
dissipate the anger and the angst for a while. In ’97, PTSD struck with full force, flashbacks
on a daily basis, I would go two or three days without sleep. And when I finally did sleep, I could only
sleep for a few hours and then I would—” I got to know Nikko he moved here in 2003,
and immediately we connected. I would call
him at least once a week just to see how he was doing. A lot of times I would go to his
house and he was tying one on or he was trying to sleep. One time he was into the antiwar
thing and I would always pick him up and take him to the protests. One time he had a
grand mal seizure and completely fainted. And, they had to take him to the hospital. We
finished the rally then we went to his house to see if he was okay. We drove up in front
of his house and I see Nikko walking down Fifth East totally away from his home. They
had, the VA had put him on a bus to go home. He still hadn’t recovered from his grand
mal seizure [and] he’s walking down Fifth East. So, we run up from his house, which is
on Hollywood, this way. We run up and say, “Nikko come here let’s
take you home.” “I’m looking for my house.” I say, “Come on” so we took him to the
house. It took
another hour of us talking to him to bring him back. What had happened was the
alcoholism had caused the grand mal seizures and he would totally black out. I spent a lot
of time with Nikko. Actually, one time they did an intervention
from the VA and the hospice. They wanted to take his keys. I
was very emotional when I said, “This man has
been through so much hell the only way that he can deal with his anger and stop from
hurting himself or other people is to drink the alcohol and stay here. Now, that’s a helluva problem, but, that’s where we are
at.” And, as I described to the people in the
intervention, Nikko was bawling like a baby. After everybody left, I said, “It’s okay
man. How come you got upset?” He said,”Because you were telling them exactly
what I wanted to tell them, but I couldn’t.” We became tight close friends. A lot of my favorite
pictures are with Nikko (showing pictures). That was in a class at Salt Lake Community
College, leading the marches here. Participating with Scott and I think we have
him here in one of Kathy’s classes, we’re doing
the limbo. Showing kids what the times were like. I teach outside the box in order to understand
Vietnam you have to understand Frisbees, the limbo, and Woodstock. I helped kids understand historically what
was going through our minds when I gave the presentations. I left for vacation in 2006 [Nikko] called
me and he said, “I need some food.” So, I took
him some food. I kind of felt like that would be the last
time I would see him. I had to go
with the wife to see a daughter-in-law. I gave him a hug and told him I loved him. And,
about ten days later, I got a call from his lady friend, saying they just found Nikko. He
had a grand mal and basically blacked out. His head had hit the table and then he hit
the floor. There was so much trauma that he expired from
that and he was in there for ten days. I had some of the other guys, Dr. Bob and
Gene, I said, “Check on Nikko, because I’m going to be gone.” We don’t like our brothers to die alone
and that’s kind of one of my regrets that I wasn’t able to be there. His ex-wife came from California and we had
a nice memorial service and get-together. To me it’s about the brotherhood. The guys who survived aren’t the heroes;
they’re blaming themselves every day for surviving. The lucky ones are the ones that they left
behind. [They’re] dealing with the PTSD, the TBI,the
guilt, anger, and shame. It’s
my privilege, to hopefully have made a small difference in their lives. I call Rick up, his birthday is on December
seventh, that’s an easy one to remember. I
said, “Rick happy birthday. Do you want to go with me?” He said, “Na.” Sometimes
you have to understand [that] as much as they like you they can’t connect with you,
because it’s too scary number one and then their fear of loss. The one guy that they got
close to in Vietnam, Rick and he swore he would never get close to anybody again. It’s
almost like he’s daring me, I dare you to get close to me. [laughs] I understand the
dynamics of that and I know that’s just the way it is. I have another friend who did three
tours in Vietnam and he and I have gotten tight the last year or so. I told him, “I really
look up to you because you spent three tours and you came and took your medals and
tossed them over the fence.” He’s really one of the neatest guys. I’m connecting with
these guys on a personal level not just to help veterans, but on a personal level. So, if I
can help their quality of life, that’s good, but just the friendship. Bill Gasner, another Vietnam vet friend of
mine who drives a bus. I guess I’m kind of
surrounded by veterans whether it’s at work or wherever I’m and maybe that’s my life’s
work is to do what I can. [WC:] I want to ask you one more question
in this setting where you are talking to students who
are in school now, and students who will be at this university in years to come. If there is
any message, that you would like to leave for students now and five ten twenty years
from now, what would that be? [AD:] Well, summing it up, I would say, war
is probably the ultimate violation of moral values,
the ultimate failure of conflict resolution. But, because it’s big business it sells. There are
defense contractors and sub-contractors in every district in every state. It means jobs and
it’s so interconnected with jobs. Good paying jobs, jobs with access, jobs with
lobbyists, jobs who have access to congressmen and senators. We’re not going to stop that. What I
talk about to kids on the bus I say, “We have to start the revolution.” One or 2 percent of
the billionaires on the top, I think there are 1100 of them now. We have to take care of
ourselves. We have to connect with each other. If there’s something we can do to help
each other, we have to do it. Not because we can pay them or they can pay
us, but because we volunteer. Because we’re changing the consciousness
of the planet the revolution has started. But it’s not about governments because,
I personally no longer believe in any government. Especially this one it’s just as corrupt
and just as blighted and convoluted as the governments we’re
trying to tell— We’re trying to tell Iraq how to
have a government. [laughs] We’re trying to tell Afghanistan
how to have a government. We’re not a good example of that at all. The solution, as I was talking about before
the interview–the financial–I’m reading a lot
of books now on the financial issues what caused the real estate, the dot com bubbles
and all of these. The financial things in this country are so
complicated that the average person doesn’t know. But finances affect everybody whether they
are buying a house, or a car, credit ratings. We have the environmental issues. We have the financial issues
[and] we have the war issues. All of those are interconnected, if you tweak
one thing you cause three more problems. It’s not that simple. It’s much more complicated. We need
critical thinkers to be able to think outside the box because the problems we have are so
complicated in the box. You’re not even going to become close to
solving them unless you think way outside the box. That to me, means bringing in the spiritual
forces that are in the fourth and fifth dimension. Now some people think that’s a little weird. I can actually tell when people get on the
bus, I’ve had fifteen years to practice it. I can
pick up things about certain people, I can hone in. I kind of know the kind of person you
are or what I can say to inspire you, or to help you along your path. Some people would
call that just good coaching or career advice. I say, I gave you a physic reading, but that’s
not what it is. So, let us connect with each other. Let us connect with spiritual forces that
are going to help us to make a transition to a whole new consciousness, a whole new
paradigm. That’s really, what all of this is all about
it’s about understanding history. Not
necessarily because we’re going to repeat it, I mean we have seen it so many times. But
history is about people, it’s about working together, it’s about changing each other’s
lives and participating in each other’s lives. I guess to make a long story short, is all
this other stuff is not going to change. Just in closing, this is the last Army Times
and it concerns a college kid. Here’s a college kid he’s in—What college is he in, Virginia
Tech obviously. (reading article) “Iraq War
vet whose college essay about his addiction to killing in war got him suspended and sent
to undergo a psychiatric exam.” Now basically, all he said was, “It feels
good to kill” in so many words. He told the truth, it does. There’s nothing like it, because you are
the one still standing the other person is gone,
he’s down. That’s addicting, my own two sons
are addicted, they’re cops in civilian life. So, now they have the Iraq addiction and now
they are cops. It’s psychological, it’s physical, [and]
it’s spiritual. But if you tell the
truth, like this kid did [laughs] then you are suspended from college. There’s the paradox. You have to speak your truth, but you have
to know your audience. If they’re going to be
able to accept it, or to question it, or put it into some sort of a context, which many
people can’t especially in Utah. [WC:] Let me end by asking Josh or Lee if
they have a question. A: Yeah, I have one question; I noticed this
sticker right here on your briefcase, which says,
“Honor the Warrior not the War.” I see a lot of bumper stickers, which say,
“Support the Troops.” When you see those or read them what do you
say? There’s so much behind that
it’s kind of like a catch-22. What do you do when you see that, how would
you respond to that? [AD:] This is kind of a conundrum it’s a
Zen kōan a paradox as it were in terms of understanding. Again, people, because of the dumbing down
of America, the educational system etcetera, which is a whole different
discussion– people in the United States can barely read at an eighth grade reading level. Which is what the newspapers are written. Therefore, when people see something that
says, “Support our Troops” that means support
the war and everything the government does. But for those of us, who question, we say,
Wait a minute. I have a bumper sticker that says, “Support
the Troops Bring them Home Now.” That’s not patriotic, that’s not nationalistic
depending on what your definitions of patriotism and nationalism are. Now we know that the Germans, after the Beer
Hall Putsch and Hitler ascended to power, there
was nothing more nationalistic than the Nazis in Germany. Now we can compare and contrast that to George
Bush’s statement where he says, “You are either with us or against
us.” It sounds good on a sound bite, but it’s
not realistic. Sometimes you just can’t explain that you
support the troops, but you don’t support the war. It’s very difficult for people to separate
that out. But you can try in your
own way. You can say, “I happen to know many veterans
who are against war.” Maybe
that will lead to an opening where you explain that there’s a difference. There’s no way
you can win a war on terrorism. I was the counter- terrorism officer at Fort
Bliss you can’t win a war on terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic. I think the best definition of— From
the Rand Corporation good old what’s his name? I forget his name. He said, “Terrorism
is violence for effect for the larger audience.” That’s what we’re doing here. We have the
media and we’re spinning something. We create history in the moment by our spin
and our perceptual devices. So, in other words we’re leading people
by the nose in essence. People here in Utah, for the most part are
not going to understand there’s a difference between the war and supporting the troops. Sometimes, I don’t even bother to get into
those discussions because it’s almost irrelevant and it’s superfluous and it doesn’t even
accomplish anything unless people are more open to what that means to them. If they have a son who has gone to war if
they have a dad who has gone to war. They don’t understand the dynamics of how
that changes a family and how that can cause irreparable damage to three to four generations. My oldest son, interestingly enough
hopefully, is getting out of the hospital he had a brain aneurism. Now I hope it’s not
related to any of the Gulf War toxic substances. But, I asked him one time, “Son, who
was your hardest coach?” I thought he would answer, “Oh, my high
school football coach.” He said, “No, you were.” That was like a smack upside the head. I knew I was
hard on you because I wanted you to be the best player, because I didn’t want the other
kids to say, He is playing because he’s the coach’s kid. I wanted him to be good, and he
was. It’s like the war it causes damage that’s
irreparable. So, there’s not an easy answer
to your question. But you guys in here and the young lady at
least you’re more open. You’ve studied. You’ve critically analyzed history you’ve
looked at various civilizations rise and fall. You’re aware of what causes those kinds
of things. And, of course, Bill
here is keeping you up on how you can compare and contrast the past with what is
happening now and that’s where your epiphany comes. It’s like we’re doing the same
thing. I don’t remember who said, The definition
of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again, and expecting different
results. That’s kind of what we are
doing if we look at it as life’s experience as an individual experience and as a collective
experience. If we don’t do something to step out of
our individual experience, so we can connect and make that connection better. But most veterans tend to isolate they tend
to stay by themselves. If I don’t hear from Doctor Bob or somebody. I call them up once a
month and say, “Hey, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Over.”xxx He understands what I’m saying. [laughs]
[WC:] So do I. [AD:] In fact, it was funny he came up one
weekend when the wife was out of town and we sort
of had our little party. Anyway he thought that I was supposed to bring
the extra stuff to drink and I said, “No I thought that you
were going to bring it.” He goes and gets his
little wine box and I said, “Man this is good stuff where did you get it?” The University
of Utah was losing badly that weekend so it was not a celebration it was a [laughs]
squelching our feelings. [laughter] But that’s kind of what I do
with these guys. If I don’t
hear from them then I say, “What is going on come on? Come up we will watch the
ballgame.” The wife kind of let me know when I was too
open about the party thing she wasn’t real happy with our party thing. I guess I’ll have to go down to Doctor Bob’s
for the next party. [laughs]
[WC:] Lee did you have any questions? [AD:] Any questions anything— It’s very
complex because our personality and our interactions with people form our attitudes, opinions and
beliefs. And we don’t want those changed. Because that means if I change my attitude,
what does it mean about eighteen years of my life? Did that mean anything? Well it means losing my buddy Leonard Erickson
in the A Shau Valley and my uncle, found dead
drunk in the Saigon River that whole freakin’ war was not worth those two lives. That’s what it means to me, because it’s
personal and I take things personally [laughs] that’s one of my issues. [laughs]
[WC:] Well, thank you very much and I think with that we’ll end the interview. We’re very
grateful Aaron for the information you have left for students now and in the future. [AD:] It’s fun because I get to do it in
different ways.


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