I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door and it has been painted black
Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black*
Lars Turner was from a small Mexican stop in the road on the American side of the border with Arizona. He liked Italian food and any music from the 60s. We were on post at a military base one night, next to a swamp filled with gators and many years away from Vietnam. The gators were alright but the mosquitoes were like the plague so we dressed for that and stayed indoors all night.
Turner played a copy of his audio tape for the first time. He made it in a battle somewhere near the Parrot’s Beak outside of Cambodia. He had transferred from the navy to the army and became a member of the armored cavalry. It happened one night as they moved down a road and were stopped by machine gun fire and grenades. Click on image.
Just before leaving the armored personnel carrier Turner flipped on his reel-to-reel and left it at the rear. The quality of the sound was as clear as the day he made it. The machine guns rattled on and grenades went off. People yelled and minutes later U.S. artillery from the Americans at a base nearby began zeroing in on the Vietcong (VC). After a half hour, the shooting stopped and the convoy moved on.
Turner was maybe 5-9 and 145 pounds. But he always kept his demeanor except when someone told a good joke. Other times he would just look, shake his head and walk away. Turner, all by himself, kept the cigarette companies profitable.
He was in a unit that crossed over into another world. The old world no longer existed. The new world was a place where right and wrong kept changing and you no longer thought about it. It really don’t mean nothing. Move on.
Once he told me that his unit had won a brief fire fight, mostly in the brush. There was only one VC prisoner and the lieutenant said he would slow us down so he told his men to hang him. They drove a truck under a tree limb, blindfolded the small Vietnamese, tied his arms behind his back and placed him on the top of the driver’s compartment. They put a rope over the prisoner’s head and the truck drove off, leaving him hanging.
The VC, however, was so light he just hung up there, squirming around, kicking his feet, trying to get loose. A couple of the men grabbed him by his feet and yanked for a while, then he stopped all movement. Turner never told me if he was one of those pulling the life out of the enemy prisoner, who looked like a 12-year-old boy.
Turner rambled on casually, into the place where good and evil become one, a place where everything is in play and the one who came home on that freedom bird alive and well was the winner. Turner told me about Sgt. Talon, a large, loud, rough-looking soldier who would do whatever was necessary to emerge on the other side with all his body parts intact. Talon drifted along with plenty of help from enough pills and plants to make it happen.
On another occasion they were hit again with grenades and machine guns from the wood line. In a couple of minutes the firing stopped and they checked the area. Turner said they had found a few bodies and heard the voice of Talon.
“Look what I got!”
They all went over and found a female VC soldier lying on her back, with a gaping hole in her tiny chest. Talon went over and pulled her trousers down. They yelled at the animal standing over there. He jumped down and raped her.
“Hey. She’s still warm.”
“Damn Talon! You’re sick.”
But the sergeant only laughed. Turner and the others headed back to the unit, No one reported it.
That’s the way it was.
Turner said he went on to fight in the TET offensive and in other places. I did my time, he said.
1. “Let’s kill ’em all and we can go home.” Many claim that quote.
2.*”Paint It Black” Rolling Stones
3. The names of people mentioned above were changed.