As I sit out here in the jungle, I have time to do a lot of thinking. As I sit here with the Bugs and ants crawling over me, inspect the places on my legs and arms where the leeches have sucked my blood I remember how good I had it back in the world.
So wrote Charles Edward Bingham (1944-1997) of Butler County, Kentucky, in his Vietnam diary on June 27, 1968, amid notations of numbers killed and wounded, patrols, encounters with the enemy, and that day’s passwords. As of this March 29, National Vietnam War Veterans Day, Bingham’s experience is one of dozens documented in the Manuscripts and Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Library Special Collections. More from 1968:
Feb. 22: Knocked out 2 enemy bunkers, had four confirmed kills.
June 29: Received sniper fire, one man from 3rd Plt. was killed. . . Ended up with 2 KIAs and 2 WIAs, had a bad day.
July 31: Went out today and hauled in body of P.F. which was blown away by Viet Cong mine.
Sept. 19: Brown was killed by booby trap while going out on ambush.
Despite these grim entries, Bingham composed a poem in which he observed of the Vietnamese: These people have been fighting all their lives,/ They have never known peace as you and I.
And on another occasion: For those who fight for it, Life has a flavor that the protected never know.
For more collections of letters, journals, photographs, personal narratives and oral history interviews of Vietnam War veterans, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.