Shadow Fields ...

Flashback ... Tay Ninh base camp

A Day in a Combat Vet's Life - 1967

by: Patrick Camunes
© 1997


196th and the 25th Div - 1967

My wife and I had built a home 45 miles from San Antonio with the intentions of getting away from the "hassles" of city life. We continued to work in the city and this is only one of the memories of the many times we commuted back and forth to our work.
      While returning home one evening my wife asked me to stop at the grocery store before we got on the lonely highway for the 45 minute commute home. I say fine, not realizing what was coming. Tay Ninh base camp
      We're tired and my wife is semi-dousing while I drive along a not yet civilized stretch of road and I'm enjoying the scenery until I see a field of tall waving grass....

Damn! ... That looks too familiar. Could almost pass as a rice paddy, or... . My eyes are darting around for any kind of movement and as I turn to my wife, I'm kind of surprised that she's not concerned. A flash of light reflects off a chrome bumper in a vehicle in the on-coming lane and I react immediately to record the location of the incoming fire ... funny, that my wife seems unaware.
      We continue down the road and I feel vulnerable, like choppering in to a hot Patrol: Black Virgin LZ and not able to do anything until my feet and men are on the ground. Hell, this shouldn't be bothering me---we're only on the way to the grocery store. But why isn't my wife preparing for our arrival? Doesn't she know that we have only seconds to unload when we arrive... ? Jesus! ... we're only going to the store---get a grip!
      We're getting close now, take the next right and we're at the HEB ... Maybe I should change directions and come in from the other side so that THEY won't see us. My vehicle suddenly becomes a Huey and I can tell that we're not the first ones in. The LZ is packed full of Hueys--we need to come in low and fast. Why isn't my wife preparing for the landing? Her seat belt is still on---doesn't she know we have only seconds! WE'RE HERE!---Why aren't you ready? We need to get out fast and have no time to waste! Get Out, Get Out, Get Out!
      I'm back in the grocery store's parking lot when my wife asks me if I want anything and I reply, No, just make it fast. I stay in my vehicle and try to calm myself down and realize I had let my mind run away on me---again. Patrol: Black Virgin
      I wait for her to come out and blow up on her for taking so long. "What's the hurry" is her answer. "None" is my answer, not to worry her or to cause an argument. Doesn't she realize that the sun is going down and we still have a 30 mile drive without any kind of support. I guess it's up to me to watch for the mines, ambushes or snipers that we encounter on the way to our firebase.
      Arriving home, we argue about my driving and me rushing her at the grocery store. Fine, fine, fine, I say and think to myself---you don't know what you just went through. You just shared in my daytime memories and now leave me alone with my bottle as you do everynight when I get in these moods. I need the time to prepare myself for bedtime ... when the real nightmares begin!
      We have since moved back into the city, it's safer there, and both my wife and I have gone through 2 1/2 years of combat group therapy. According to the therapists, I have learned to live with the memories and the nightmares but that hurt still seems to sneak in.

APVNV Pat "Beanie" Camunes
D/4/31 196th Lt. Inf. Bde
Tay Ninh Dec.1966-Apr.1967,Tam Ky Apr.-Dec.1967

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