Vietnam Vet Has a Lesson in Survival Mindset From the Battlefield

I believe in interviewing people when I know they’ve been in situations that are unusual, and unlikely to happen again and they’ve come out on the other side. My beloved late friend Swan, the medic in Vietnam, was someone who took in misfits, random women from diverse backgrounds, like me. Among the women. But as for his male friends, they were all veterans, usually black, but not always. Hawaii has one of the smallest permanent black populations in the U. S. And many of them are veterans. We took Hawaii for its military value and the military had a strong presence here. When I went to Swan’s I had a chance to ask guys who had been in combat and survived, what their mindset had been. One person said, “You’d be walking along in the jungle, and all of a sudden the guy next to you would drop straight down. Shot dead. Out of nowhere. You had to say, ‘it’s not going to be me.’ I heard this joke about guys waiting to board a plane. Two guys are standing in line in front of another guy. The two guys start talking about what would happen if the plane went down. Who’d give the wives a message? The third guy jumped in and said, ‘i’ll survive. I can take your wives the messages. They’ll be single so I will definitely do it.’ That’s the mindset you have to have. ‘Not me. Never me.’”

COVID-19 Survival mentality

That’s one way to survive. Measured disassociation from reality. Don’t require logical evidence. In fact, make an assumption that flies in the face of logic. Of course, take all necessary precautions. We are in a pandemic and they’re opening economies so I guess things are getting better. We shall see. Do what you can to take limited control. And while you do so maintain the absolute belief in your invulnerability. As you don your mask and maintain social distance, believe in your health. You are fine, always will be. You have to think something. Might as well think that.

5 responses to “Vietnam Vet Has a Lesson in Survival Mindset From the Battlefield”

  1. The “best” perspective is the one that doesn’t get you killed and allows you to live with yourself if you survive. It’s possible to disagree with how the veterans who faced death coped, but that’s what they told you, and I appreciate that you listened. I never was in the war zone, but we coped with everything by making practical decisions based on the parameters of the situation, and constant vulgar and inappropriate joking.


    • It never occurred to me that listening helped others. Maybe that’s when you can truly help, when you’re not trying to be a good Samaritan but you’re being your natural self.


  2. I will disagree with this. A disassociation from reality, be it measured or otherwise, does not lend to a clear assessment of the hazards of the world. Ignoring potential dangers does in no way protect us from it. Ignoring our strengths or our weaknesses does not create an effective defense or offense. Weakness in ourselves must be acknowledged, be it physical or mental, before mitigating measures can occur.

    Bravado is good in front of the boys but I’d rather have someone on my six who acknowledges danger as well as its potential and can react appropriately.


    • I suppose I should clarify. When you take all precautions and l[k at the situation you have to be thinking something and it could be embracing your invulnerability to the real dangers. You could always think this could be my fate but why?

      Liked by 1 person

      • We all have different responses that are unique. Personally I try not to have all or nothing outlooks. It’s not in my make up to have a false sense of invulnerability nor to roll over and lament fate. I will always try my best and that needs clear perception. Dynamic responses require real time accurate data. My best may not be good enough but I will give my 100%.


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