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Maine Public is encouraging Vietnam Veterans and anyone affected by the conflict to share their own story on the Vietnam War and correspondence they had during or after the war. Submissions can be written, recorded or videotaped and sent to Maine Public at mystory@mainepublic.org. The stories will be collected and archived here and some may be shared with the greater Maine audience.Watch "Courageous Conversations."Click HERE for support opportunities for veterans in crisis.

Scott Gaiason, Lisbon Falls

In 1965 I was in Boston, working and going to night school for high school after dropping out from Brunswick High School. At the age of 19, I was just beginning to have thoughts and ideas that were not from my school or parents, and relishing the broad world out there and Boston was a good place to see many views. Also, likely because of all the colleges that were there, it was just beginning to develop anti-war sentiments.

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Though these thoughts were so new, I didn’t see any of that while working and going to school so I was not particularly attentive to those feelings. I had though, come to really like folk music which was everywhere then, and I went to hear many performers whenever I could. This folk music revival was somewhat of a back door to the anti-was sentiments. I gradually came to embrace the music and community, and bought my first guitar and then my first pair of handmade sandals.

It was about this time that my home town decided to send me my draft notice and I began to look at ways I could avoid this. I found out that I could get a deferment for high school but that would only be until I turned 20, only three months from then, so not much help. I then thought about becoming a conscientious objector but I had not come from a particularly strong religious background, so didn’t have that path.   But even more importantly, as I tried to figure out my feelings and my particular path, I realized that while I was clear I didn’t want to go into the Army, that was not the same as objecting to war. I was unable to justify my not wanting to go with a deep seated belief that war itself was wrong, so I personally could not avoid my own logic.
Struck with this dichotomy but feeling I had no real choice, I packed up my studio apartment with my guitar and sandals and I went back home awaiting the day. When I went to Portland with some 20 others, we were packed up and sent to Fort Dix. After a week there, we were again packed up,and please note those operative words “hurry up and wait”, put on an airplane then sent off, though we didn’t know where. This lack of information was to be a consistent pattern for my Army career. When we landed in Colorado Springs I had visions of snow lined runways as I loved to ski, but arrived in November to 75 degrees.

We went to our training unit which was the second company in the very first battalion to repopulate Fort Carson. After basic then advanced training in artillery, our lives became a holding pattern and we were busy training new troops. Most of us stayed but some people were getting orders, mostly for Viet Nam, though we often prayed for the rare orders for Germany. And of course each and every day we all were wondering and worrying when our turn would come up.

The days kept moving along though and each one was filled with work and a constant supply of rumors. After being there about 14 months, we had another soldier join our unit after doing a tour in Viet Nam. This was 1966 so a very brutal time there. I didn’t get to know this man very well as he was very quiet and to himself. He seemed to me to be a gentle soul. After being with us less then two weeks though, he attempted suicide and was taken away to a medical unit. I was really struck by how this man could spend 12 months in Viet Nam in war, then come back to safety and try to kill himself. It was my first view of what I have come to learn as PTSD and how detrimental it has been to so many of my fellow veterans. And ironically, though I will say I am grateful, to this day I have some guilt that I didn’t  go over there like this man and others

My name is Scott Gaiason and though largely retired, I am a designer and builder in Lisbon Falls.