The Side for Human Dignity
In his own words, the story of a man who chose the side of human dignity:
Medical evacuation home from Vietnam September 1st 1968.
I left from Da Nang Hospital where I had been since August 7th when I suffered multiple shrapnel wounds to my entire body.
In flames from the 155 explosion under me, my men came rushing to roll me and extinguish the flames. Full of metal and several holes in my body from head to toe. I went to my radio and called for Air Medivac for my Sergeant and myself. Oh, did I forget to mention I was second in charge and Radioman (Like Radar O’Reilly).
The Chopper picked us up 30 minutes later and off to Da Nang Hospital we went. When we landed they removed us, placed us on wooden tables outside, stripped us and hosed us down of our blood.
Then I was left alone, Naked as a Jay Bird till it was my turn on the operating table. With head wounds pain relief was not given.
They started cleaning my many wounds. Finally they gave me a spinal to relieve the pain.
I awoke the next day feeling nothing from the waist down.
I called over a nurse asking to have my head lifted to see what was left to me.
All I saw was white bandages from head to toe, but knowing there must be something under there!
Two days later they took me back to the operating room where I found they hadn’t put one stitch in me yet, for there were too many wounded that day. Wire stitches were in order. Two holes were needed for each one. Again No Pain Relief! Many, many wire stitches–both feet, legs, stomach, chest and head, OUCH!
Within a week my body was inflamed with an infection. I had a 105 temperature, and was bleeding yellow and green and stunk to high heaven! Packed in ice. Later I was good enough to travel home.
Cam Ron Bay Hospital was my first stop, then on to Japan. Finally USA bound on a cargo plane.
I was asleep when I boarded. A nurse had awaken me to find I was on a stretcher hanging from the plane wall. She informed me I was entitled to any meal on the flight because I was the only passenger eating. I asked what she meant by that remark, only to lower her head in which my eyes followed, finding underneath me were caskets of my fallen buddies. My First Clue To The Horrible Nation I Was Coming Home To.
Harold Herrington a.k.a. Dinkiedow
100% disabled Vietnam War Veteran
10/67-4/68 1st bn/1st mar/1st mar div/delta com.also 4/68-9/68 2nd cag mafIII combined action group!
Medal and Ribbon Awards:
- MM Rifle
- Good Conduct Medal
- National Defense Service Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal
- Two Bronze Stars
- Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon
- Combat Action Ribbon
- Vietnam President Unit Citation
- Vietnam Campaign Medal W/1960 Device
- Republic Of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation
- Gallantry Cross W/Palm and Frame Ribbon Bar
- Republic Of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation
- Civil Action Color W/Palm and Frame Ribbon Bar
- The Order Of The Silver Rose
Recent news stories about “Hanoi” Jane Fonda, as well as the 37th anniversary of the events that precipitated the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War and the surrenders of South Vietnam and Cambodia to the communist North Vietnamese in April of 1975, have opened up discussions about everything from the definition of “treason,” to letting bygones be bygones. The posts have also opened up some old wounds; painful memories of injustice and the hurt of returning home to find, not parades or pats on the back, but epithets and wholesale vilification. Harold Herrington, aka Dinkiedow (Vietnamese for “the Crazy One”), having served in Vietnam in ’67-’68, was one of our American servicemen who came home to abuse and rejection from the population for whom he had given his robust body, and for whom his friends had given their lives.
Defenses of Jane Fonda, some of which have a kernel of merit, have surfaced, which detail “apologies” she made for her associations with NVA (North Vietnamese Army) killers in Hanoi, and of how she regrets the anti-aircraft gun photo op. She fails to mention how she, as a propaganda tool of the Communists, was able to travel freely to and from Hanoi. But the North Vietnamese people had no such freedom. Upwards of three million made desperate attempts to escape to South Vietnam, but were murdered by Ho Chi Minh’s forces. The freedom Fonda enjoyed, as a Hollywood starlet and a useful puppet of the North Vietnamese government, was not available to the peasants who suffered at the hands of the government she championed. Her apologies strike me as more of a litany of excuses, turning blame away from herself and to the Nixon Administration and its policies during the war, than a remorseful and humble expression of contrition. One thing is for sure, despite Fonda’s claims that she “always supported” American Servicemen, her anti-war activities in Hanoi as well as on the streets and college campuses of America, were always conducted with extreme prejudice in favor of the Communist North Vietnamese government.
“Hanoi” Jane, justly or unjustly, may as well have a scarlet letter ‘T” for treason tattooed to her forehead. Thousands of men, like Harold, returned home from Vietnam to be denounced as “baby killers,” and to them Fonda would become the symbol of a generation of “draft-dodging, flag-burning, anti-American, ungrateful hippies.” The dividing lines were hard in those days. The nation was rent, everyone was hurting, and the substance of the moment was distilled into one decision that every American would have to make: Which side do you choose?
Since the inception of what would become the United States of America, the declaration, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” redefined forever the phenomenon of “government,” as well as the justification of war. Wars to conquer another people, to steal land from another nation, or to obliterate a population for the sake of conquest would never again be legitimate in the eyes of people acquainted with the concept of human liberty. War would now be legitimate only if it were a struggle on behalf of human liberty and individual dignity against forces and governments who would extinguish and crush the unalienable rights with which each of us are born.
American culture during the Vietnam War, with its revolutionary intonations at home, “women’s liberation,” “free love,” and generally limitless social exhibitionism, pressed the unalienable rights of individuals to their limits. Acts for which, a decade earlier, people would have been tried for treason, were committed publicly and to the applause of the pop-culture audience, i.e. Jane Fonda consorts in Hanoi with enemies of the State. But in America it was excused because the Founding Documents and the Bill of Rights protect those, often reckless, expeditions into the hinterlands of liberty. Thousands of young men chose to break the law and disobey their draft notices. The Selective Service was confronted with the phenomenon of street protests where young men openly burned their draft cards. Some, for fear of arrest, fled to Canada where they were welcomed and shielded by networks of other “draft-dodgers.” Some stayed in the country and flouted enforcement of the law. But in a land where human dignity and its accompanying unalienable rights trump all rash prosecution, most of the offenders walked free. Those men who dodged the draft, the anti-war protesters who marched with the flag of North Vietnam aloft and the American flag upside down, the politicians who regarded America as the aggressor in Southeast Asia, and all whose sympathies leaned toward the Communist regimes of that era, sided with adversaries of the very nation and precepts which guarded their human dignity and right to dissent. They sided with tyranny.
Dinkiedow and his buddies gave up many of their liberties and joined the United States Marine Corps. Some of those Marines were drafted and went because they were told to do so. But still they chose to go. They could have burned their draft cards, they could have fled, or gone into hiding, but they chose to fight. The nation was rent during the Vietnam Era. It was not hippies vs. patriots, servicemen vs. draft dodgers, or Republicans vs. Democrats. The rift was between those who chose the side of human dignity and liberty, and those who chose the side of tyranny, and the suffocating and bloody machinations of Communism.
Jane Fonda may have issued anemic “apologies” for her activities of 40 years ago, but to this day she still sides with tyrannical regimes such as the Islamic Sharia states in the Middle East. She has never disavowed her communist sympathies, and she has very recently protested American Military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hers is a cautionary tale for us all. War is complicated. War is an undertaking that nobody wants. It is grim and bloody, and human error is rife. But wars that are fought for the cause of human liberty are just wars. All American wars, however imperfectly planned or executed, have been wars on behalf of human dignity and freedom. The veterans who returned from Vietnam, whole of body, on a stretcher, or in a casket, gave what they gave for the concepts enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, not for the sake of nation building or to force Western principles on the nations of the world, but because human dignity and liberty are immutable, eternal principles. And as Americans we are bound by the glorious blessings of our citizenship to defend those principles. That is why men like Harold “Dinkiedow” Herrington are heroes, and those like Jane Fonda will always, in the minds of a generation of Americans, be symbols of treason against human dignity.