By Jennifer Martin
"Really, I'm still in Vietnam. My younger self is still there."
The horrors of Vietnam are still with Roney Charleston. They probably always will be. Like so many others, he didn t choose to go to war. He was drafted into the Army in 1968.
"It was a little scary, but you have to do what you have to do. We had a gung-ho commander. We had contact just about every day."
Charleston says he started out as a grunt soldier, then moved to the 50-gun, and eventually became a driver. His unit spent a lot of time in the field, mostly on search and destroy missions.
"Anything in front of you was your enemy, so it was a lot of villages that got destroyed. A lot of people got killed, some innocent people. Search and destroy is just what it says, search and destroy."
But it wasn't only the enemy he saw destroyed. He lost many of his brothers in arms.
"Seeing people blown apart arms legs and just, human beings, it was tough. But I had to go on. By the grace of God I made it, but to this day I still have those nightmares and dreams."
He is especially haunted by the death of his best friend who was killed right in front of him.
"I turned around and there was my friend, my buddy, laying in a pool of blood on top of my vehicle. I didn't know what to do. I just froze. Actually I feel like it was my fault."
He blames himself for not maneuvering out of the ambush.
"You just never forget the faces or the pain, your buddies being blown away, dying by your side."
Charleston spent a year in Vietnam. His homecoming was not what he had imagined.
"It wasn't what we expected. We got spit on, we got called baby killers. It made me angry. I still, still... It's still there. You just can t forget. You went off and fought for your country. You come back and you're treated like that."
He suffered from post traumatic stress and to this day, feels like he lost a part of himself in Vietnam, he'll never get back.
"People just don't understand. War just does something to you. I wish I could get back to who I used to be. It's just not that easy."
Charleston says he hates war, but he supports our troops.
"Those are the heroes and the other heroes are the ones on the wall in Washington. Those are the true heroes."
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