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Florida Voices: Vietnam Veterans | Scott Camil, Marine Corps, 1965 to 1967

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His story is well known within the Gainesville veterans community, but after all these decades, Scott Camil will still sit down to show and tell those willing to listen about his evolution from well-trained soldier to peace activist. He was twice wounded as a Marine in country, then again by federal agents after returning to Gainesville. Our conversation took place Aug. 16, 2017, at his home in Micanopy.

Caution to readers: The following interview contains profanity and graphic descriptions of war.

(I was born) May 19, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York.

What’s your educational background?

I have a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a few graduate courses.

How long have you lived here and is this considered Micanopy or Gainesville?

It changes. The house where it is doesn’t change, but my 911 address says Micanopy… But I live in the county.

Can you tell us when you first remember hearing about Vietnam? How old would you have been?

(His teacher said,) ‘This war is going to have an enormous impact on your generation. Many of you are going to die there.’

I remember that exactly. I was in high school. It was in a history class. The teacher said, ‘If we could drop an atomic bomb on Saigon and end the war in Vietnam, who would be for it?’ And everybody raised their hand. And then he said, ‘Saigon is the capital of the side we’re defending. Why would we bomb the capital of the side we’re defending? This war is going to have an enormous impact on your generation. Many of you are going to die there. It’s important for you to know what’s going on there, and what it’s about.’ That would have been in 1965. I would have been 19. That was the first time I heard about Vietnam that I can remember. It just went in one ear, out the other ear. When I was in high school, I was thinking about where there’s a party this weekend, who I’m going out with. I didn’t understand when I was in high school the importance of history.

Did your parents’ generation talk much about the war?

Not specifically. My stepfather, Walter Camil, was a member of the John Birch Society. He made recorded phone calls where people would dial FREEDOM on the telephone, and they’d get a message about the communist conspiracy. Most of the stuff my dad worked on was about portraying Martin Luther King as a communist. We had an American flag flying from the house. No one from my family had ever been to college. I didn’t know anything about college. To me, college was just an extension of high school. I didn’t like high school, why would I like college? I was taught I had to listen to my parents, had to get bar mitzvahed because I was Jewish, had to graduate high school, and I had to join the service. In my mind, that’s what I was supposed to do. In high school, there was a draft. The recruiters came and said, ‘Look, you guys are going to get drafted as soon as you graduate, but if you sign up now, you get better benefits.’ I signed up for the better benefits in a delayed enlistment program. Three days out of graduating high school, I was at Parris Island.

You volunteer for the Marines. Do you remember the date you got to Parris Island?

I think I got to Parris Island in July 1965… They want you to be crammed in, uncomfortable. They want you to get used to being uncomfortable. Getting you ready. War’s going to be terrible, and we want you to be used to terrible.

A photo of Camil, taken shortly after he first entered the Marine Corps. (Courtesy of Scott Camil)

Because it mirrored it so closely, did you see ‘Full Metal Jacket’? What did you think?

Yes, I did. I thought it was unrealistic. An example would be because they’re so hard on you, they worry about letting you have bullets. When you go to the rifle range, you get x amount of bullets. You fire at the targets. When you hit the targets, they show that you hit the targets. When you miss targets, a red flag goes. It’s called Maggie Drawers. Every time a red flag goes, they come and check to make sure you actually fired a bullet. When you’re done, you pick up all of your brass. Each person has to turn in all of your brass. If you got 20 bullets, you have to have 20 pieces of brass. There’s no way you can have one bullet, let alone in Full Metal Jacket, that guy had 20 bullets? Totally unrealistic. In boot camp, there’s no talking to each other. You’re not allowed to talk without permission. If you had to go to the bathroom, you had to get permission to speak, then get permission to go to the bathroom before you can even go to the bathroom. The idea that these guys sitting in the head, talking to each other, all that stuff? Totally unrealistic…

For me, ‘Platoon’ kicked my ***. I cried for days after watching that movie. I felt like my privacy had been invaded and that people could see inside my brain.

Do you remember when you arrived in country?

Yes. I arrived in country March 24, 1966. I graduated boot camp September 30, 1965. Then I went to infantry training in October, November and December. In January, I went to Camp Pendleton for guerilla warfare school — mountain climbing school, escape innovation school. That lasted about a month. Then I went to Okinawa for more guerilla warfare school. Then, from Okinawa, I went to Vietnam. I got into my unit on March 24, 1966. I got into Da Nang. It was really strange because growing up you watch war movies and see people parachuting into the war or getting off the ship and charging the beach. I got off of a commercial airliner, and I was in Vietnam. I went and reported into a building. They told me to go to a bench. I was picked up by a truck, and the truck would take me to my unit. Then, I was the new guy in the unit. People say, ‘Hey, man. Where you from?’ I’m from Florida. They’d say, ‘Oh, Main is from Florida.’ So my first friend was (William Terry) Main from Jacksonville.

When you first arrived there, what are your impressions of the country?

The first thing I noticed was that it was so hot when I got off the plane. I was on a military base. Then, on the truck taking me to where I was going, I could see people on the road. I was very ethnocentric. I thought, ‘Wow, these people are really backwards.’ You could see people stooping on the side of the road, taking a ****. It was just something I hadn’t seen before. I judged everything by how I lived. I thought these people are really backwards.

How about the geography, beyond the climate?

I liked the geography. Over the period of time I was in Vietnam — 20 months — I spent time on the coast where the beaches were, in the jungle, and in the mountains. Vietnam is beautiful. I really liked Vietnam.

Did you ever go back?

Yes, I did. I think in 1994. I went back to a place in particular where we killed 272 or 292 people, including women and children. It’s a place called Dai Loc. You could take Highway 1 to Highway 4, take Highway 4 to the first bridge. On the other side of the bridge is where this is. They have a memorial for those people that were killed. I spent a day at that memorial, on my hands and knees, placing three incense on each grave:

The people there knew that I was one of the guys that did it. And everybody was nice to me and everybody was friendly to me. It made me see negative things about my culture. I couldn’t imagine someone doing something to Americans, then coming here and being welcomed… These people — they were all nice to us. I felt bad.

What were your responsibilities and how did those change over time?

When I first got there, I’m a new guy in the unit. I got put on guard duty. It was an artillery base. There were 90 Marines. We had six 105mm howitzers. The base had four outposts, one in each corner. I was put on one of those outposts to stand guard. That was March 24, 1966. On April 18, less than a month later, we were attacked and overrun. Three of the four outposts fell. Mine was the only outpost that didn’t fall. We had five men killed and 28 men wounded out of 90 of us. The enemy left 40 bodies behind. They destroyed the howitzers, the ammo dump, and the fuel dump. The next morning, when the infantry got there to relieve us, the first thing that we did was take the wounded and dead Americans to get help. The dead Americans were laid next to a bunker with ponchos over them, the wounded Americans were medevaced. I went around, and I put a bullet in each of the Vietnamese bodies to make sure they were dead and took stuff out of their pockets to turn into the front.

We followed blood trails, and I murdered a man who was just a farmer. I was really angry about what happened the night before. I asked this guy where the VC went. The guy couldn’t talk English. I couldn’t talk Vietnamese. The guy wasn’t responsive, and I killed him. I wanted to get them back for what they did to us. I was really angry. I thought that we had come to Vietnam to help the Vietnamese. They wanted democracy. The Vietnamese in the north were communist, and they came to the south, and they wouldn’t let the Vietnamese have their freedom. But the people who attacked my camp and overran us were Vietcong. The Vietcong were South Vietnamese. I was really upset about that, pissed off about that. After we got all of the things cleaned up, then I went to the front and pulled the ponchos off of each of the dead Marines to see who they were. One of them was my first friend.

Main?

From that point on, I became very ruthless. I considered all the Vietnamese my enemy. I wanted to kill them all and get them all back.

Main. I looked at him and I thought, ‘I’m in a place where it’s people’s job to kill me. That’s their job, and they’re allowed to do it. There’s no timeout. There’s no King’s X (a truce). There’s no do-overs. I need to pay attention or I’m going to die.’ From that point on, I became very ruthless. I considered all the Vietnamese my enemy. I wanted to kill them all and get them all back. When you’re in a guerilla war, the enemy doesn’t wear uniforms. The only way you can distinguish between the people that want to kill you and the people that don’t is if they’re shooting at you, they want to kill you. If they have a gun, they probably want to kill you. But if they’re around, you don’t know who they are. There’s no way to tell who they are. Hell, a 12-year-old kid can plant a mine. A 6-year-old kid can tell the VC or the NVA, ’20 Americans went down this trail 10 minutes ago.’ To me, they were all the enemy. I decided that my life was important. At the time, I believed the life of one Marine was more valuable than the lives of all the Vietnamese in North and South Vietnam together. I decided I would err on the side of safety and that if they were dead, they couldn’t hurt us. I killed every Vietnamese I could. I didn’t care their sex, their age, whether they were armed or not. It didn’t matter. If they were dead, they can’t hurt us. I was very ruthless.

Were you ever told to pull back by someone up the chain of command?

No. You saw my fitness report. They liked what I was doing.

Did you or any fellow Marines have any attitude or opinion of the chain of command located in Saigon or back in the Pentagon?

No. It’s all about staying alive. When I went there, it was to stop communism. After I saw Main dead, it was all about staying alive and body count. Killing as many of them as I can, because our success was measured by body count. I would say that our official policy was a three-legged policy. We measured success by how many people we could kill. When you measure your success by how many dead people there are, you start piling up dead people. We operated in free-fire zones, where we were allowed to kill anybody we found. That was official policy. Our method of operation in the free-fire zones was called search and destroy. That was all official policy. That’s what I did.

As far as my thoughts about how the war was being waged, it didn’t really make sense to me. We kept losing people, taking the same ground over and over and over. You go out on Operation Stone, and you fight for this land. You go on Operation Canyon, fight for that land. And you go on another operation, and you fight for that land. And, damn, a month later, you’re fighting for the same land as on Operation Stone again. All of that is in your Total Area of Responsibility, so you clean the enemy out. You go somewhere else, they come back, mine the hell out of the place — 80 percent of our casualties are from mines and booby traps — so it just didn’t make sense because it didn’t seem like we were accomplishing anything. All we’re doing is trying to kill as many of them as we can, trying not to lose our men. My mindset from watching World War II movies was that you take this island, take that island, finally take their capital. We weren’t even allowed to go to North Vietnam, just fighting for the same land over and over.

I got wounded the first time on Operation Stone in Dai Lac. My good friend from high school went to junior college, and I went into the Marine Corps. He got drafted out of the junior college into the Marine Corps, and two years after I was wounded in Dai Loc, he was wounded in the same ****** place.

At what point did you start to sour on the overall mission?

It was after I came back. While there, the focus was staying alive — not just for me, but for my friends. What happened was that unlike today, where they have unit integrity, when a whole unit goes to Iraq and a whole unit goes home together, I went by myself. When my time was up, it was time to go home. The way I was raised, being macho and being a man was really important. The ideals of what made a man back then isn’t what I believe today. Back then, a man didn’t show any feelings. A man wasn’t supposed to cry. A lot of stuff like that. A man would not run from a fight. A man would not leave his friends in a fight. Here, it’s time for me to go home, and all my friends are still going to be here. I just felt like that was wrong, so I signed up to stay. I stayed, then I got wounded a second time. When I got wounded a second time, I thought, ‘Why did I stay? This was really crazy.’ Then it was time for me to go home again. I tried to sign up again because I didn’t have the courage to say that I was scared and wanted to go home. I went to sign up again, and my commanding officer said, ‘No. You’re shot. You’ve been here too long. You’re going home.’ They wouldn’t let me (sign up again). I’m so appreciative of that.

Hear more stories from this series, “Florida Voices: Vietnam Veterans”

What were the nature of your two wounds?

Shrapnel. The first time was on Operation Stone. We were on line, like this (stretches arms out at his side, pointing laterally), moving forward to a village. We were doing what was called recon by fire. We were firing at the village as we moved forward. We were supposed to maintain 30 meters between each person, so as people step in mines, it only gets them and doesn’t get the people next to them. But as you get closer to the village, the lines start contracting and people start getting closer together. The lieutenant kicked the gate open from the fence surrounding the village, and there was a Bouncing Betty attached to the gate. A Bouncing Betty is something that shoots into the air, gets about eight feet, and explodes. At the exact moment that happened, I had turned so the village is this way, turned my body like this, and I grabbed my radio operator’s arm and pulling him up over the dike when the explosion went off. The first thing that happened was I smelled the explosion, and I thought that someone accidentally discharged an M79 behind me. Then I noticed the ground was coming at my face. I thought that was unusual. Then I woke up. The first thing I noticed was I heard people calling for help. There was shooting going on. Then I tried to move and I had pain. I looked and saw I was bleeding. Then, I unzipped my pants to see if I was hurt in a place I didn’t want to be hurt. I wasn’t, so I was happy — laying in mud, bleeding, happy. All my wounds were superficial. No blood vessels, no arteries, no broken bones, no organs. Just shrapnel. There’s a piece of metal right there (in my shin).

Were you medevaced out?

No, because the lieutenant got shot through the mouth, and he had to go. The radio operator — his piece of metal went across (his stomach) like this and sliced open the stomach. He had to go. I stayed. I used my rifle to walk with. I stayed until the operation was over because somebody needed to call into the artillery. That was on Operation Stone, February 18, 1967.

And your ultimate injury on Operation Medina?

On Operation Medina, we were climbing up a mountain. There was an ambush, and they ambushed us. We took heavy casualties and were cut off from friendlies. We ran very low on ammo, on medical supplies, water and food, and we had to take those supplies from people that were dead and wounded. People fought with shovels, hand to hand, until we were rescued.

On that operation, a grenade was dropped on me from a tree. The concussion stuns you. You’re knocked out momentarily. Wake up, a little disoriented, but there’s shooting going on and right away realize what you’re supposed to be doing. From the concussion grenade, I wasn’t knocked out like on Operation Stone. Just disoriented, not passed out. I thought I had lost my legs, and I was afraid to look. I asked my radio operator to look, and when he said everything was fine, I felt really good. I still wouldn’t look and just continued doing my job.

How long did that last? Hours?

No. It was overnight. We had to wait to be rescued.

What day did you come back home?

On November 12, 1967. I flew into El Toro in California, then I went to Camp Pendleton to get orders. Then I went home on leave. Then I reported to Camp Lejeune. I had two more years left, and most of that time was at Camp Lejeune. I did a med cruise and a Caribbean cruise. I did lots of schools… My job was really to train other guys, and I was a platoon sergeant.

When did you leave active duty?

I thought, ‘Well, damn. I’ll be a cop. I know how to shoot people. That’s a lot of fun. I’ll be a cop.’

I got out of the Marine Corps something like July 30, 1969. I went home to Hialeah. My whole life, my parents took care of me, told me what to do, then my rabbi, schoolteachers, the Marine Corps. All of a sudden, I was in charge of finding a place to live, paying for that, paying bills, paying for food, figuring out a way to get money, all that stuff. I didn’t really know what I was going to do, so I thought, ‘Well, damn. I’ll be a cop. I know how to shoot people. That’s a lot of fun. I’ll be a cop.’ So I applied to be a cop. Both my brothers and my stepfather were all cops at the Miami Police Department. I went there and applied to be a cop. I was doing really good. I got extra points for my Purple Hearts, and then came the lie detector test. They told me, ‘All you have to do is be honest.’ I was totally honest.

They said, ‘Have you ever murdered anyone?’

I said, ‘Yes.’

They said, ‘Where?’

I said, ‘In Vietnam.’

They said, ‘That’s OK. Have you ever murdered anyone in the United States?’

I said, ‘No.’

They said, ‘Have you ever committed arson?’

I said, ‘Yes.’

Interviewer: ‘Where?’

Me: ‘Vietnam.’

Interviewer: ‘In the United States?’

Me: ‘Never.’

We went down all the list of crimes, and it was never in the United States, but it just sort of got me that this activity was OK to do it somewhere else, but it wasn’t OK to do it here. That was just something resonating in my brain. Then it came to drugs.

Interviewer: ‘Have you ever smoked marijuana?’

Me: ‘Yes.’

Interviewer: ‘Where’s the first time you smoked marijuana?’

Me: ‘Vietnam.’

Interviewer: ‘Have you smoked marijuana since you’ve been back?’

Me: ‘Yes.’

Interviewer: ‘Have you smoked marijuana in the last year?’

Me: ‘Yes.’

Interviewer: ‘In the last six months?’

Me: ‘Yes.’

Interviewer: ‘In the last 30 days?’

Me: ‘Yes.’

Interviewer: ‘In the last week?’

Me: ‘Yes.’

Interviewer: ‘In the last 24 hours?’

Me: ‘Yes.’

All of those bad things are OK, but this wasn’t?

And that was it. They told me they couldn’t hire me because I didn’t respect the law. I thought, of all of the things that I have done, the thing I’m least ashamed of is smoking the marijuana. All of those bad things are OK, but this wasn’t? I didn’t really get it. But that left me without any income. I knew I could get money on the GI Bill if I went to school, so I applied to go to school. In September 1969, after getting out in July, I started school. I graduated in December 1970 with an AA degree because I took 23 hours a semester. I just — boom. I wanted to catch up. I graduated with an AA degree in pre-law and transferred to UF in December 1970. I started school in January 1971. In January 1971, I heard Jane Fonda speak. When I was at Miami Dade Community College, I’d wear my Marine Corps tropical jacket and I would bump into the people that had black armbands who wore protesting the war. I tried to pick fights with them because I thought they were communist sympathizers and unpatriotic. I never talked with them about why they believed what they believed. I was very right-wing, but after hearing Jane Fonda speak at the university and going to the Winter Soldier investigation, I came back and decided to work against the war…

When did you first become aware of an anti-war movement?

It was while I was in Vietnam. I read an article in the Sea Tiger, a paper we read put out by the Navy, about a demonstration and concert in San Francisco. Joan Baez was there. At this concert, they were collecting blood and taking blood to Canada, and that blood was going to North Vietnam. When I read that article, I was totally enraged. I thought that I could get killed by some ******* commie with American blood in them. I hated the anti-war people. I hated Joan Baez.

When I got out of Vietnam, came back to the states, one of my jobs was I became a regimental riot control non-commissioned officer in charge. What you really want to do is go home on the weekend to see your girlfriend. Now, we were having to be stuck on base on the weekend, stand-by, because these demonstrators were screwing things up. We were on stand by to go to Washington. I was in charge, the senior NCO, but what really happens is it’s the sergeant’s job to get the **** done. There were rules of engagement for riot control, but I was so angry at the anti-war people that I didn’t teach those rules of engagement properly. We were on stand-by to go to Washington, so I gave the instruction that if anybody throws a rock, a bottle or anything at us, I want everyone to empty one magazine in the crowd. A magazine is 20 bullets. Having 1,000 Marines empty 20 bullets into a crowd …. the Marine Corps found out about that and relieved me of my position immediately. That’s how hostile I was to the anti-war movement.

How did you go from someone like that to even want to go and hear what Jane Fonda had to say?

She was Barbarella. She was a movie star. I really wanted to just see what she looked like. I wasn’t interested in what she had to say. I smoked a joint, I went down to Graham Pond, playing Frisbee. I was way up on top of the hill, she was way down there. I could barely see her. It was just a happening. Then, somehow, some of her words captured me. She said we lived in a democracy, and in order for democracy to function, the public had to have access to the truth. She said the government was lying about Vietnam, and it was the duty of patriotic Vietnam veterans to tell the public the truth. And I thought, ‘Well, I know what duty is. I’m a patriotic Vietnam veteran. I believe the public has the right to the truth. I know they’re lying about what we’re doing.’ She said if there are any Vietnam veterans willing to talk about the truth to come forward. So I went forward. They got my name, my phone number, and that I was a sergeant in the Marines. They didn’t ask me what my job was, they didn’t ask me what I did. They didn’t ask me anything else. Then, about three days later, I got a phone call from somebody named Michael Oliver with an organization called Vietnam Veterans Against the War, that I had never heard of. He said they were bringing a bunch of veterans to Detroit to tell the public about the war. He said Jane had given my phone number, and would I come? I said, ‘How am I supposed to get to Detroit?’ He said, ‘We’ll send you a plane ticket.’ They sent me a plane ticket, I went to Detroit, and I still supported the war. I went to Detroit and after three days of being around Vietnam veterans from all periods of the war, from the Navy, from the Air Force, from the Army, from the Marines, I started to see that my experience wasn’t different than the experience of many of these other people. There were even South Vietnamese that testified. I met some South Vietnamese people. And I liked them. They were nice people. I started having empathy for them. It was that empathy for them and the idea that the American people have the right to know what we’re doing. They have the right to know the truth…

At the end of the three days, there was a meeting of all the veterans. We decided (to answer) what are we going to do about all this? Do we think people should still be over there? Do we think people should be taking our place? Do we think people are accomplishing anything? We decided to form an organization called Vietnam Veterans Against The War. They already had an organization called that in six northeast states, and some of those leaders came and testified. In February, we went to New York and had a meeting. We broke the country down into 28 parts, elected 28 representatives, I became the representative of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. We wrote a constitution. We wrote the by-laws. And boom, I was an antiwar activist.

How did that unfold for you the next couple of years?

The most notable thing I liked that we did was the (University of Florida) Homecoming Parade in 1972. We were a student organization, so we could be in the parade. The theme of the parade was ‘The Impossible Dream.’ We did guerilla theater at the homecoming parade. We worked with people from the Unitarian Fellowship, the Quakers, Mennonites, these kind of church people. We practiced guerilla theater. Then we placed these people with gray hair, women holding children, regular-looking people along the route on University Avenue to Main Street. At 17th Street and University we had people, at 13th and University we had people. Then we had two more spots down the road where we had people. Then, in the parade, we carried a banner that said ‘Vietnam Veterans Against the War – Gainesville.’ Behind the banner was a casket with a flag draped over it. On the front of the casket was a sign that said, ‘The Impossible Dream: No More War.’ Behind that were two squads of veterans dressed in combat clothes with toy M16s but carrying real KA-BARS and bayonets. Then I bought these little things from a toy store in Gainesville. Little things that looked like cherry bombs but they make smoke. When I would see the people — the first group at 17th and University — I lit one and threw it into the crowd. Immediately, the first squad broke out of the parade and attacked the crowd — shooting and stabbing. These people started falling and bleeding because they had packets of blood under their clothes. The blood I got for them actually was provided to me by someone who later turned out to be an FBI undercover agent. But we had blood packets under the clothes of the people on the street. The cops didn’t know about this. Nobody knew about this, so people were freaking out.

Right after that, that squad came back into the parade and the second squad went out to both sides of the road and handed out leaflets. The leaflets said, ‘A U.S. infantry company just came through your town. If you would have been a Vietnamese, these would have been the things we did to you,’ and it listed all the things we did. It was shocking. A lot of people thought it was over the top. I thought it was perfect.

I think we were infiltrated by 17 different organizations, and sometimes I was the only person at a meeting that wasn’t an undercover agent.

When we got to Main Street, the parade broke up, and we were going to my house, which was on the corner of East 7th Street and University Avenue. All of a sudden, we were surrounded by cops. A bunch of cop cars came. They wanted to arrest me and two other guys, because in the parade, we also sang, ‘One, two, three, four, we don’t want your ******* war.’ Said they were going to arrest us for profanity. We refused to cooperate. People unbuckled their knives. We said, ‘You’re not taking anybody.’ The cops backed off. We went to my house. Then I started noticing more that the cops were after us. In the end, with the Gainesville Eight trial, so many people were undercover agents. I think we were infiltrated by 17 different organizations, and sometimes I was the only person at a meeting that wasn’t an undercover agent. Because the different organizations did not cooperate with each other… their testimony chopped each other up, and we were found not guilty.

Did the war change you?

Yes. It’s a mixed thing. Some of the things I’m going to say now, I feel terrible about saying, but I’m telling you the truth. I’m an antiwar activist. But there was a lot of excitement when you weren’t losing. War can be very exciting. There’s a lot of adrenaline. I was 19 years old. I had my 20th and 21st birthdays in Vietnam. I called in airstrikes. I called in Naval gunfire. I called in artillery. My call sign was Enunciate 6-3. I’d get on the radio, say a few words, a ******* jet would fly overhead and BOOM. That’s a lot of power for a young kid to have. It’s also a lot of responsibility. I learned who I was. Was I a coward? Was I brave? What would I really do under that (responsibility)? I like who I turned out to be. I turned out to be what I considered a man to be. I learned a lot of organizational skills as a Marine. All of those organizational skills I use now: Veterans for Peace, I’m the political chair for the Sierra Club, I founded Stand By Our Plan. All of my work, all of our organizing people to get stuff done are skills I learned from the Marine Corps. I’m glad to have those skills. I’m glad to have that self-confidence, and it was my four years in the Marine Corps that built me.

That said, I feel bad that those skills that I learned that I’m now happy to have were learned at the expense of innocent people, because in reality, what I was really doing in Vietnam was murdering people who were defending their homes.

What are the ways you’ve dealt with that?

I have PTSD. I’ve had a lot of therapy. When I first came home from Vietnam, there was no such thing as PTSD, and we formed our own self-help groups, and we labeled our problems post-Vietnam Syndrome. It took years before they actually recognized it. Now it’s recognized for firemen, policemen, all kind of stuff. But all of that’s really us. We raised the issue about that. When I first went to the VA, they said, ‘Grow up. Be a man. Put it behind you.’ That was really tough. It would have been in the 1970s. Because at first, I considered it to be a weakness. I didn’t want to admit that I had those problems. But once we started Vietnam Veterans Against the War and started talking to each other, then we were more able to face reality and deal with things that needed to be dealt with.

This interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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2 comments

  1. This is an amazing voice from an extremely honest individual. There is no way getting around it – War is HELL.

  2. Amazing journey Scott. Thanks for your honest and heart-felt sharing and for all the work you’ve done over the years for peace and justice.

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