A Story from Benito R. Garcia, Jr.

Benito R. Garcia, Jr.

U.S. Army PFC
May 1965-April 1966;
September 1966-August 1967;
February 1968-June 1968

“The first time I saw a dead American, there were three of them-their heads were up on stakes. It was in ‘D’ zone, not too far from Bien Hoa. The enemy was doing that to scare us. Of course, it didn’t scare us; it made us angry. It made me angry. By this time I was lost in the jungle. I was alone. I was AWOL-I weighed 112 pounds; they wanted me to hump a spare barrel of an M60 machine gun. I had just gotten out of the hospital two weeks before with appendicitis. I’m thinking, ‘I’m not in shape. I can’t do this job. I’m leaving!’

I ran off and then I stopped. ‘What in the hell are you doing? You’ve never been in the jungle before!’ By this time it was too late. I was lost, separated from my unit. That’s when I ran across the heads. I found the individuals that did it. I heard them down the hill by the river and there was one over where the heads were and he was masturbating. I was going to try to take him prisoner but I stumbled and I stabbed him accidentally with the bayonet. Once I did that I had to kill him. And when the other two came up I shot them both and I cut off their heads. Some of the guys from the 101st Airborne used to call me ‘headhunter.’

At first I did it because I was enraged but then it was a way to score points-that’s how you were esteemed by your peers. It didn’t bother me back then. But now I don’t sleep more than 15-20 minutes at a time and then I wake up with nightmares and chills and sweats. I walk the perimeter at night. But that’s my cross to bear. I see children when you’ve killed their parents-you hear them crying.

I proudly endured that I stood my post; I did what was expected of me. My fellow paratroopers respected me despite the fact that I was a fuck-up in the rear. In the boonies I did my job. Today I have to suffer with that. No big deal. Thank you very much for your tax dollars-the VA pays for it. Georgie-boy, when he came in as president, they started cutting our benefits. I’m at 150% disability: 100% for PTSD; 30% for diabetes; 10% for erectile dysfunction and 10% for organic brain damage. I’m in pain all the time but you get used to it. They give me medication but it doesn’t work. What does help is marijuana but the sons of bitches won’t let me have it. I don’t want no more drugs. They want to give me codeine, heavy narcotics, but that counteracts the Viagra and I’d rather have a hard-on and endure the pain than just be a fucking zombie…

Here we are in the middle of the night-it’s drizzling-me, Doc Wheatfield, a guy we called Cherry, John Wekerly, and some others. We go and there’s a girl lying under a huge banyan tree. The only other one there is a little boy. She’s pregnant, about to deliver a baby. We break out our ponchos and Doc Wheatfield gets underneath and delivers the baby. We felt responsible for the baby. Doc asks one of the guys to get some fruit from the C-rations. I said, ‘Doc, no one’s going to give up their fruit.’ Doc was a Christian man. He said, ‘Oh, ye of little faith.’

The guys came back with a big sack full of canned fruits. We gave her whatever we had in money and fruit. And then a mama-san arrived and first she looked at us real mean like ‘you murdering bastards.’ But then she saw the food, money, the baby was fine, the little shelter we had built and she came and stood in front of us and she bowed.

It was raining, like I said, but when the baby came out there was a clap of thunder and it stopped raining and the baby cried out. You could hear it in the whole valley. We were so proud and so happy and some of us were crying. As soon as we started to leave, here comes the rain again. We were walking along a rice paddy, standing out like a sore thumb if there was a sniper on the hill, especially when the lightning flashed. There was a herd of water buffalo and someone says, ‘Look at that deformed cow!’ It was a cow having a calf. People from ranches will tell you this: a bull knows its babies and will allow the mother to have a calf but other bulls don’t give a damn. So here we are in the middle of the rain holding hands in a circle around this cow while Doc Wheatfield is helping deliver that calf.

We went over there as regular kids doing a tough job. Some of us lost our way. We did bad things when we were required to but at the same time when it came to helping the innocent, we helped. We were noble. Our hearts were good and those good hearts got wounded.

After the war we were treated disrespectfully. We were persecuted. In the ’70’s over 30% of federal prison inmates were Vietnam veterans. I was one of them. On Mother’s Day, my father, Benito Garcia, a police officer, arrested me for robbing banks. In 18 days I robbed 6 banks in Chicago. I’d go in with a .25 automatic pistol with .22 ammunition-I didn’t even have a gun that shot. I was not very good at it. Then I hung up my guns and picked up the books while in prison. In 16 months I received my Associates degree in Secondary Education from Vincennes University. I earned enough credits for a Bachelors degree from Indiana University in Sociology.

In prison I felt comfortable because I know how to be in a society of macho men. I was always alert, always tense. I could deal with that environment-it was the jungle with steel bars. I could function there; I couldn’t function out here-it’s still difficult. I served 6 years, 1 week active military service and 6 years, 3 months in prison. I got my degree; I was released and I was everybody’s success story. Harry Porterfield did a 30 minute segment on me for the CBS Chicago affiliate.

I was successful for a while but then the nightmares about ‘Nam started and I had to drink. The only way I can get through the night without getting up is when I’m passed-out drunk. But I haven’t had a drink since ’95 when I got in trouble again. An east Texas judge wouldn’t believe that I was a thrifty shopper and that the 320 pounds of marijuana in the trunk were all for me. I wound up in a Texas prison. I served 3 years, 3 months. I am presently on parole for that offense-possession of marijuana, not distribution. When I got out I had 89 months of parole-I’ve got 14 months left. I successfully completed the parole for my bank robberies and I expect to successfully finish this one. I won’t smoke now, but come December 27, 2005, I am going to roll a fucking joint the size of a bus and I’ll kill it in one drag.”

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