While some veterans may find it easier to tell their Vietnam War stories, some find it extremely difficult.
When asked about his best memories in Vietnam, Herman Williams said, “I didn’t have none. That wasn’t a good time.”
Williams said the only good part about Vietnam was receiving mail from his family, getting presweetened Kool-Aid and eating C-rations fruitcake and peaches.
The 69-year-old is a Vietnam War veteran from Denmark. At age 21, Williams was drafted into the Army. He completed basic training at Fort Jackson and then served as a gunner on a tanker as a Sergeant E5 in the Vietnam War.
During Williams’ 10-month stint in 1967, he began to think that he wouldn’t make it out of Vietnam alive.
Thinking of his wife and daughter gave Williams the determination to try his best to make it back home safely.
“I’m glad they prayed for me, my mother and my father and my wife,” he said.
He recalls getting shot at on different occasions, and a particular day when his back was injured.
“I can hear those bullets ringing off the side of the tank. They kept ringing at the gunner, and that was me,” he said.
Williams said, “We were on a search-and-destroy mission one day. We didn’t travel at night. My driver ran over a mine. …
“The outpost we had, he was going to it. He got up the road a little bit, and they had the mines planted right there. He hit it, and it tore our tank up. My back was shocked from the mine.”
Williams didn’t report his injured back until he returned to the United States because he didn’t want to be removed from his squad. He was the oldest person in his squad.
Williams’ wife, Mary, said after he returned to the States, he wouldn’t talk to any of his family that much about what he experienced in Vietnam.
As the interview continued, Williams slowly began to shut down and avoided going in depth with any further details about Vietnam.
When asked how serving in Vietnam affected his life, he replied, “I don’t think it affected it at all.”
Mary said, “He doesn’t like to open up. He was not like that until he went to war.”
She began to tell a story that Williams once told their daughter about an acquaintance getting killed.
“He told her that it was a raid on the area where they were, and he didn’t know that his friend was killed until the next day,” she said.
“He also said when they went out at night that you would have to be very careful, because the enemy would be in trees and it’s so dark until you can’t see anything,” she said. “The only thing you can see is the light from the enemy’s bullets.”
Mary went into detail about Williams not being able to stand the sound of anything similar to a gun’s sound after coming home, and adjusting to civilian life.
A guy kept deliberately playing with a staple gun around Williams, because he knew how the sound would affect him.
“I told him one time if he did it again, I was going to beat him, and he never did it no more,” Williams said.
Williams has been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. Mary says Agent Orange also caused Williams to have diabetes.
“He’s a good-hearted person, so whenever he acts like he just doesn’t want to be bothered and rather be by himself, he’s in that mood. That’s the PTSD,” Mary said.
Williams doesn’t like being in a crowd.
“Everybody knew how it (the war) affected him. He was an outgoing person before he went there and very intelligent,” Mary said.
“After 30 years, it (PTSD) came on him hard. He just changed. He closed himself off from people,” she continued. “Everybody that knew him knows it’s a big change in him. He is just totally different. The war did a lot to him.”
“His sister once said, ‘Herman went to war, but Herman didn’t come back.’”
Mary said knowing what type of person Williams was before the war is what keeps her going.
Although Williams may not like to discuss his war experiences, Mary acts as his voice, and his support system.
“I know he’s at a point now where he can’t help it, so that just keeps us going,” she said.
Williams said the Vietnam War was senseless.
“We lost the war, but we tried to win. A lot of us didn’t make it back,” he said.
He again thanked his wife and mother for praying for him.
“I made it through,” he said.
Williams received the Vietnam Service Medal and lives with his wife. They have four daughters, one son and 12 grandchildren.