BROOKS: Today is Monday November 9, 2015. This is an interview with Jim Troxell
who served with the Navy Reserves from 1965 to 1968 during the Vietnam War. The
interview is being conducted at Mr. Troxell's home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the
interviewer is Ellen Brooks and the interview is being recorded for the
Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program. And Jim participates in the
Artists for the Humanities - Return and Recovery Program which is currently
being featured in WVM's temporary exhibit War:Raw. So let's start at the
beginning, if you can tell me where and when you were born.
TROXELL: March 9, 1944. Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
BROOKS: And did you grow up here in Oshkosh?
TROXELL: Yes, I did.
BROOKS: Can you tell me a little bit about your early life?
TROXELL: Normal. Fishing, friends, kid trouble. Yeah, especially one—me and my
00:01:00friend we used very few nails and made a little boat, took it in Sawyer Creek.
We were okay but we had his youngest brother with us, he panicked. He left and
he told his mother and we got in big trouble.
TROXELL: But outside of that it was normal.
BROOKS: And what did you parents do?
TROXELL: My parents—father worked for Kimberly-Clark as a janitor. My mother
worked at Miles Kimball. They both retired—[phone rings] I'm sorry.
BROOKS: That's okay.
[break in recording]
BROOKS: So you were just saying about your parents? They both retired from those jobs.
TROXELL: Yeah, they're both deceased.
BROOKS: Did you have any siblings?
TROXELL: My sister. She's older than me. She was the brains, I had the looks.
BROOKS: And what kind of kid were you? You got in a little trouble you said?
TROXELL: Just stuff like that, that was it. That was it. I think I ran away from
home like all kids do. Didn't even last a day, came back. Otherwise, that was it.
BROOKS: And did you go all the way through high school?
TROXELL: Yes I did. I graduated high school.
BROOKS: And what happened after high school?
TROXELL: I think I went to school to be a draftsman for a little bit. And did
some jobs and then I joined the Reserve and I went to radio school and
volunteered for Vietnam.
BROOKS: So why did you join the Reserves?
TROXELL: I really can't remember. I know I did and a friend did. He didn't make
00:03:00it but he got drafted in to the Army. And he had big problems.
BROOKS: Do you remember why you choose the Navy?
TROXELL: Because they were the only one in town, basically. That's why. ‘Cause
otherwise none of my family or relatives had anything to do with the military.
So I was the first one actually. Never thought of that before. Yeah, I was the
BROOKS: And this was in 1965?
TROXELL: 1965—[pause] I'm just remembering my boot camp.
BROOKS: Yeah, let me hear about it.
TROXELL: It was very short ‘cause it was Reserves but what I remember is there
was a young boy, we were boys at that age. He went into a panic, I mean he
literally lost it, went into a panic because of the—they thought there was
going to be nuclear war with Cuba and the Russians, it was the stand-off. They
thought they were going to [??] us and he got all excited. But I took it with a
grain of salt. It didn't mean nothing to me. That's the only thing that I
remember about the boot camp.
BROOKS: Where did you go to basic?
TROXELL: [Naval Station] Great Lakes. Great Lakes. From radio school I went to
some place, I can't remember, some place in Virginia for training. That only
00:05:00lasted about two weeks and he says, "You're gone." So I didn't get very much
training. I think I was—I think I had a day of training with weapons and no
survival training, or nothing. And—oh yeah, the one thing they showed me
that's stuck in my head was a church steeple with a swastika on and he said, "No
this is not a swastika, it's part of the church. But I never remember seeing
that over there."
BROOKS: It was part of your preparation?
TROXELL: Yeah. And then I was shipped out.
BROOKS: You said you volunteered?
BROOKS: Do you remember why?
TROXELL: I was young and thought it was a good cause and the usual. Young and
naive. ‘Cause I remember I flew Braniff Airlines [Airways]. But I ended up in
00:06:00Subic Bay and I remember coming out and there was the mountains and I thought,
"This is not good," ‘cause I just watched the plane go up and it hit a pocket
and I thought for sure it was going to crash into the side of the mountain, just
made it over, just brushed the top of the trees. I thought, "That's how we're
going out." So we got there and we were going to move into French quarters from
the French war but they weren't done. So we stayed out in the boat for I don't
know how long and then we finally came in and I stayed at Camp Tien Sha seems
00:07:00like a very short period of time then where I went. That's where my memory—I
have no—I got points in time, I can tell you what happened but the date and
time, whatever, I don't have.
BROOKS: Was it unusual for Navy to be used as ground troops?
TROXELL: Yes. See, I don't know who I was with. I'll let you read this. Yeah, I
guess—you can decide, uh, whether you want to use it or nothing. I gotta get a shirt.
[pause][break in recording]
BROOKS: Okay, so you just handed me this little slip from Tomah.
TROXELL: Tomah. They kept me there a full month. Put me through, what I call
hell, because I didn't meet the criteria, which they could have told me in two
days, time, date, like I said before. They kicked me out with undefined
BROOKS: This was June of this year.
TROXELL: Yep, June of this year. I'm going back, there's a nice young lady at
the Appleton VA [Veterans Affairs] that is helping me and not judging me.
So far everybody I talked to seems to judge me and they think I made this up, or
it’s bad false memory and it's not. So as you can see I'm still struggling
00:09:00with it but hopefully this is going to give me some closure.
BROOKS: Mm-hm. Do you want to kind of talk a little bit more about your time
over in Vietnam and then we can get to what you've been experiencing recently.
TROXELL: Yes. I don't know where I got this. It's from elders which is
actually—it's from an Indian some time ago.
BROOKS: “The Elder's Thoughts?” Native American?
TROXELL: Yeah, I think you've probably seen that before.
BROOKS: It's not familiar to me.
TROXELL: Take your time to read it, it's quite interesting.
BROOKS: Do you want to read it for the recording?
TROXELL: Oh, sure. That's a good idea.
"They said I would be changed in my body. I would move through the physical
00:10:00world in a different manner. I would hold myself in a different posture, I would
have pains where there was no blood. I would react to sights, sounds, movement
and touch in a crazy way as though I were back in the war. They said I would be
wounded in my thoughts, I would forget how to trust and think that others are
trying to harm me. I would see danger in the kindness and concern of my
relatives and others. Most of all I would not be able to think in a reasonable
manner and it would seem that everyone else was crazy. They told me that it
would appear to me that I was alone and lost even in the midst of people, that
there was no one also like me. They warned me that it would be as though my
00:11:00emotions were locked up, that I would be cold in my heart and not remember the
ways of caring for others. While I might give soft meat or blankets to the
elders or food to their children, I would be unable to feel the goodness of
these actions. I would do these things out of habit and not from caring."
And this part I got outlined: "They predicted that I would be ruled by dark
anger and I might do harms to other without plan or attention." That will never
happen, I had enough killing over there, enough. "They knew that my spirit would
be wounded, they said I would be lonely and that I would find no comfort in
family, friends, elders or spirits. I would be cut off from both beauty and
pain. My dreams and visions would be dark and frightening. My days and nights
00:12:00would be filled with searching and not finding. I would be unable to find the
connections between myself and the rest of creation. [pause] I would look
forward to an early death and I would need cleansing and healing in all of these
things." For some reason I took this very personally. And I really don't know
why. But it's—if you just read it and take it, it's very deep and very true.
00:13:00And I do feel like that I'm one of a kind because I have no memory.
BROOKS: Do you remember when you found this piece?
TROXELL: No, I don't. No. The only thing I can remember now when I came back
from Tomah, I was really hyper sensitive and I'm not anymore. I've been under
new medication for about two weeks now, so I think that's helped. But otherwise
I would jump at every little thing and fly off the handle, big time. I went over
in 1966 and this is the only U.S. Naval support activity from Da Nang I have -
that's where I was attached to. For a long time I told people that I saw a
00:14:00“grease gun” [M3 submachine gun] over there and nobody believed me and I
couldn't find anything. I relooked through this book and bingo.
BROOKS: That's a “grease gun”?
TROXELL: That is a World War II “Grease Gun”. It shoots a .45-caliber
bullet. So that made me feel somewhat better.
BROOKS: And that's—it's kind of—
BROOKS: Kind of like a year book that we were just looking at?
TROXELL: Yeah it is. Here's my artwork.
BROOKS: So you went over in 1966, did you have any idea what you were getting in
to? Did you know anything about Vietnam and the conflict?
TROXELL: No. Very naive. I was at the “White Elephant” [Navy headquarters,
Da Nang] - I've got pictures I can show you later - which was communications and
other. I was there for a short time, the reason I think that I was asked to
leave, or put out, is I came across—actually I read, a top secret and I only
had a secret clearance but it had to be left out where I could see it because
all top secret messages coming in were encoded so you had to have the code to
uncode ‘em. So somebody left it out where I read it. When you're a low man on
00:16:00a totem pole in the military you're the fall guy. That's just the way it is.
Then from there, I really don't know what happened. I was okay, until I went to
LZ Lambeau and my wife was with me and if she wasn't with me I don't think I
would have went in. There was a VA trailer, I think I would have went to the VA
trailer ‘cause it was upsetting me. And I put my name on the big map. I can't
find it now but I do remember what I wrote. That scared me and that's when I
first went to hell. I put my name, not the year, not any people or anything, any
00:17:00brigades or whatever. I just put "Never far." And then we were eating lunch
and—it's strange, I left lunch, I went to table where an Asian man was sitting
and thanked him. I couldn't tell you if he was Vietnamese, Hmong or otherwise.
Then when we left, there was a booth outside by the Hmong and they had their
uniforms on, their military and their ribbons. I went and thanked them and what
I remember is the man backed away from me, like he was scared of me. And I found
00:18:00that very strange. After that happened, I did go to the VA, about a year and it
didn't work out. He said I watched too many war movies and really all I could
tell him was I did something bad. Couldn't tell him what it was or whatever.
BROOKS: Was this a psychologist or a social worker or—?
TROXELL: Psychologist. And I thought about tearing up his office but I didn't
which in retrospect was a good thing. Then, by luck, I was at the normal VA for
medical and I lost it and fell apart, completely. And got me in touch with a
00:19:00life coach. I believe in my own head that that saved my life otherwise I think I
would have committed suicide. I went to Tomah, that didn't work out. Now it's
here and I'm still working. I'm hoping this will help me push it down out of
sight and I can move on. Vietnam. The first thing I remembered, and it took me a
while, was a chopper crash. At first I thought ,"I'll just go for a walk." Well
00:20:00the life coach pointed out and after a while I had to agree with her, you just
don't go for a walk in the jungle. It just doesn’t happen. Who I was with I
don't know. There was a hamlet, village, whatever you want to call it, off to my
right, I remember hearing AKA fire. I can't tell you to this day if it was over
the village or before the village. The next thing I knew, this chopper came from
the right, crashed in front of me. I can see it. I'm sorry.
BROOKS: That's okay.
TROXELL: Two men jumped out. [pause] Guilt - I feel that I killed them. The next
00:21:00thing they were jumping out, running to escape and big red, orange, little bit a
yellow and no noise. Well, ever put your head in the hot oven?
BROOKS: To pull stuff out, yeah.
TROXELL: That heat. No sound, just the heat. And then there's a time lapse. The
00:22:00next thing I remember, I picked up my weapon, I seen two men in black silks
running out. I shot, I killed them both. They were on the ground. I took my
fifteen round clip, ‘cause that what I like was the fifteen round, I put a
thirty round clip in there. And I re-killed them. I was very, very angry. Super
angry. And that's it. I can't tell you what happened before or what happened
after. When I first got back I did some hunting. When my son was young enough I
00:23:00took him. I let him use my weapon and I used a weapon - a single shot, shotgun.
I shot the deer. It didn't die right away, it cried. The next thing I [dog
barking]— Sparky please. Sparky. It's okay. You're not going to listen are
you? Spark. It’s okay. (Blocked out section has been edited out of the audio
dog barking was disruptive to the narrative.
BROOKS: It's all right. 24 mins
TROXELL: Okay. To continue. The next thing I was screaming, "Make it stop. Make
it stop." It took me several years to make the connection. This was my second
00:24:00memory. We got caught in an ambush. And—[pause] I don't remember the noise. I
don't remember the mortar rounds. I don't remember the AK fire. I'm not sure
where I landed but it was a good place. I prayed that the mortar wouldn't hit
near me or on me. But I remember the screaming, asking for their mother and once
00:25:00again, nothing I could do to help ‘em. So some died. That ties in once again
with the chopper crash feeling guilty ‘cause there's nothing I could do. The
third memory— [dog barking].
[break in recording]
TROXELL: The third memory it took me a while and at first I remembered it all
00:26:00wrong. When I did remember, it was how I felt, not how the other person felt.
I'm pretty sure, can’t swear by it, that it was the Ho Chi Minh trail. Or it
could have been a supply route coming into the Da Nang area but I think it was
the trail. I had my weapon on the ground, I had my knife out and in my hand and
00:27:00I looked up, there he was. [dog barking] He was surprised—
[break in recording]
BROOKS: Go ahead.
TROXELL: Fortunately, I reacted first. I put my hand, my left hand up on his
mouth and in my mind I know three ways to kill, two make sense, one doesn't.
This is kind of a nasty one. You cut the ear on one side and then the other.
That's the main arteries so they should bleed out in a couple of minutes and
they should be quiet, so they won't make a noise which would be, not good, not
00:28:00good at all. I cut and he was struggling so I recut and this time I—oh, I'm
blocking. So then I cut his throat. There's blood all over my hands and just
before I went to Tomah, I was having trouble, I don't know what was triggering
it. I was in a support group and all of a sudden I would see blood on my hands
and I couldn't wipe it off or nothing. I've come to terms with this - it was a
matter of survival. I just did it sloppy. [pause] I got one more memory. Wow. It
00:29:00affects me but not to the extent of this, though it's worse. It's something I
saw. I wasn't involved in it or if I was my mind's saying I wasn't which is fine
with me. Wow. [pause]
BROOKS: It's okay, you can take your time. I know it's hard.
TROXELL: Nobody knows, nobody remembers. I do. It involves young children, a boy
and a girl. The boy was hit by a high powered and he did 360 and dropped dead.
[pause] The girl wasn't so lucky. She got hit from all over and it was not a
00:31:00mortar round. [sigh].
BROOKS: It's okay Jim.
TROXELL: You're not familiar with hunting so I don't know how to explain this.
BROOKS: Well, some people listening might be familiar with it, so if that helps.
TROXELL: It's like when you're gutting a deer, all that blood and guts you just
00:32:00throw it up in the air. She exploded. Blood, guts all over but arms and legs
wasn't so bad but I could see her head, just her head. I even put a wreath in
the Fox River to try to help but it didn’t help.
BROOKS: What was the wreath for?
TROXELL: For the children. What helped me was one of my coping skills I did on
00:33:00my own. I pictured a big tree, big oak, strong oak. And off to it was a small
stream. Moving not so slow, not fast but somewhere in between. And leaves would
fall from the oak, fall into the river and I would put the children there. It
would go down the stream, not far and a bright beam would come down and an angel
00:34:00would come, take them by the hands, take ‘em up to heaven. Where mankind can't
hurt ‘em. And the sad thing is I really believe the Viet Cong did that on
purpose - put the kids in between on purpose. So that kind of helps me deal with
that but it's—wow, just bad. I'd like to talk a little bit about my picture.
BROOKS: This is the dragon that we have at the art exhibit.
TROXELL: Right. Let's see. This one, right here.
Brooks So the upper left?
TROXELL: Yeah, that's the one. I compromised. It says, "Still trying to
understand the feelings from killing others." I let the people and the art talk
me out of it. And this is my feeling and I don't think it ever really left me.
What I originally said, "Once a killer, always a killer." And the other one was
this one here.
BROOKS: Upper right?
TROXELL: Upper right. Yeah, this is the “White Elephant.”
BROOKS: Can you kind of describe it for folks who can't see it? The dragon and—
TROXELL: Maybe I can kinda follow this. These are pictures of the “White Elephant.”
BROOKS: So for the sake of the recording it would helpful if we can kind of talk
about the dragon for people who can't see. So just kind of—
TROXELL: It's a picture of the “White Elephant” where I worked for a short
time. Outside, showing the guards, inside showing the Red Cross, other military
00:37:00with their weapons so there must have been more than just me.
BROOKS: And the dragon, it's a painting?
TROXELL: The dragon represents, to me—represents my demon, my PTSD. It's
there, it's waiting, it's always below the surface, waiting to just grab and
pull you down. And that's why the flames are darker down here - this is where
it's dark, down by the chopper crash.
BROOKS: Okay. And then there are pictures from your time in Vietnam.
TROXELL: From my—yeah. There's a picture of Camp Tien Sha, then there's a
picture I've got of barracks that is not from Camp Tien Sha. Then there is a
00:38:00picture on an unknown beach but there's a bunker on the beach. I remember China
Beach and it was nothing like that, nothing like that. The next picture I have
on the dragon is bottom left, is taken of the picture of a hotel room. I had it
developed in January 1967 so it probably was somewhere in 1966, I was on R&R. I
took a picture of the corner and as you can guess I was very drunk. I proceeded
to leave my room—[dog barking]
[break in recording]
TROXELL: I went out to the courtyard and there was a wall, I climbed and jumped
00:39:00over the wall to escape. When I came back I have no idea, but when I came back,
people were very, very upset with me. How long I was gone or what but they said
I should have used the front entrance.
BROOKS: Where was that hotel room?
TROXELL: On R&R. I think it was Thailand, I'm not sure. I went on two R&R’s. I
was lucky. That one I was alone. The first one—or was that the second? Anyway
there's one I went with, it was with somebody that I think was in
Communications, I'm not sure. Don't remember the fellas name, don't know what
00:40:00happened. Nothing. Then in the center I got a picture of Pandora's Box.
“Restricted and no questions.” And that's what I put there. The next it a
picture, I was aboard the USS Sanctuary - hospital ship. I have no idea why but
I was there. I've got a picture which is very confusing to me to this day and I
don't understand it. On a stretcher going on board the hospital ship, there's a
body bag. Now why you would take a body bag aboard a hospital ship is beyond me.
I don't know. I did have a false memory - ‘cause it didn't happen there - of
00:41:00a—the only way I can describe him is he kinda looked like a small Rambo and he
had lost it. He was rrrrip at anybody and everybody that walked by. I backed up
slowly and I left. Because he had his weapon in his hand and anybody woulda back
talked him I’m sure he woulda wasted them. But I don't think that happened or
that's another memory. Then I got a picture of a chopper in the air. It reminded
00:42:00me of a chopper I saw at night, it wasn't a Huey. It was either an Army or a
Marine. And let's see I got to change this, the way I see it. It was solid red
from the chopper down to the ground. And it was kind of like a moonlight night
out. So I could see the silhouette and that, but once again, the sounds so it
must have been far off but not that far off that I couldn't see it. The next
picture is of the chopper crash. And this is what I wrote at the time that I
00:43:00made this and I still feel this way today. I'm gonna read it. "I am sorry I did
not save you. Please forgive me. I never use these words, both of you are true
heroes. May god bless both of you. Someday I hope to meet you and give you the
credit you deserve. I did kill two men in the village. I believe they had no
weapons - not sure."
And then at the bottom, I was going to make that kind of grey and they said it
wouldn't stay there now. It's a picture of a dead body on the ground—he's [the
00:44:00dog] looking for treats—I remember this, I got pictures, these I think I got
from a fella I knew. I got a picture of him but I'm not sure how I knew him or
whatever. I had sixteen to twenty, 110 and by the time I got the courage to get
‘em developed, it was too late. There was no more chemical left. Though I do
have some on the way to Phu Bai [Combat Base]. What I remember on the road to
Marble Mountain [Air Facility] which, once again, is the Marines, I can see they
00:45:00had like round concrete blocks. That's where they put the choppers in. And once
you got on that road there was no stopping, period. You didn't stop for anything
or anybody, you just kept going. So I remember Marble Mountain. I remember Hill
327. I remember going through there ‘cause I remember a place called Dogpatch.
That's all I remember's the name of it and also when I'm trying to find things
00:46:00on the computer I can only find one road but I know there was two different
roads going there and most of everything was all dirt roads. Then I remember
going up to Phu Bai and those I got pictures of myself. And I got a picture of
the runway, which surprises me. I did the same at the main airbase and how I
could do that, I don't know but I remember walking ten feet from the [McDonnell
Douglas F-4] Phantoms [II] and they had square like here and here and here and
00:47:00they were in there. And walking close to that and you think I wouldn't be
allowed near that so how come I was there like that, I don't know.
I remember Phu Bai, and I think Hue because I got a picture of it and I don't
know what's on the other side and I know it's not the “White Elephant” or
that river, I was—I was in another group, I was in two different groups. I
don't go anymore to them. They said that was the Perfume [Huong] River which
00:48:00is—there's Hue, there's the Perfume River and just on the other side there's a
citadel [Imperial City] that got hit in the Tet Offensive, big time, big, bad,
very bad. I don't have pictures of it but I know I went over a pontoon bridge
and up above was a bigger bridge and there was a Marine on one end of the
bridge, he was shooting down into water at twigs floating and he had an M-14.
That stuck in my head. And I find it funny now because I watch “Mythbusters”
00:49:00and the bullet doesn't go very far into water, it disintegrates. So if you're
down a couple feet, they're not going to kill you. I just thought that was funny.
I've got a shirt - it's not a souvenir which I was kind of hoping it would be.
It took me a long time to figure out where it came from. Came from the South
Vietnamese Rangers and I wonder if that's where I learnt different ways to kill,
00:50:00close hand-to-hand. I remember it because - you can see I'm small - at that time
I was lucky if I weighed 110 wet. We always used to touch each other - same,
same, same, same. This is the shirt. The only thing I don't understand is why
the jump [??] signal and you can see it's not American made. So I can't tell you
00:51:00the name of the fella but he gave me this and I cherish this. I was going to
donate this once but I don't think I can.
BROOKS: You said it's not a souvenir?
TROXELL: No, he gave this to me because we were together and all I remember is
we, we’d—same, same.
BROOKS: And you gave him your shirt?
TROXELL: I hope I did. I hope I did. I had solid green. I had solid green and
jungle boots and for the longest time when I got back I refused - in fact I told
the VA in Milwaukee - I never had a weapon. Well, yeah I did. I had a carbine.
It was fully automatic. They did have target range at Camp Tien Sha, so whether
00:52:00I learnt there or whatever, I soon learnt that fully automatic is not good, you
can't hit nothing. Absolutely nothing with it. So if you do you fire in short
bursts, very short. Basically I think I taught myself how to shoot and handle
and clean the weapon. Long time after deer hunting I went up with one of my
friends, he's got land up north in the woods. And I had a .30/30 and it had a
scope on it. Anyway I tried to make it like an automatic, not even close. So
then for a time I was bent on trying to find an automatic weapon so I could
00:53:00shoot it, which didn't happen, which is okay. Because when I went to see my
painting, I saw it, had no trouble but then my friend, he wanted to know
something about the case and I explained to him, "You're looking at the wrong
thing." And I said, "There's my weapon." I forget how small and tiny it was. And
I hit that case very hard with my hand ‘cause we thought, “Oh there’s
damage” but I think somebody else did that before me.
BROOKS: This was at the museum?
TROXELL: Yes, it is. Yes, it is.
BROOKS: And you were looking at—were you looking at the Vietnam exhibit?
TROXELL: I was looking at that case that had—I forget how many, but I think
there was three or four weapons in there and he wanted to know what was what and
I tried to explain him he's looking at the wrong one. He was trying to find the
machine gun, that's was it. I said no—[pause]. One thing—wanna stop?
[End of file one]
BROOKS: Okay this is the second file of the interview with Jim Troxell, November
9th, 2015. Go ahead.
TROXELL: Okay. I just want to read this. I had some input but this gentleman
could describe it better and this is next to the painting.
BROOKS: At the museum?
TROXELL: At the museum. "For more than forty years the dragon has followed me.
00:55:00Wounds it inflicts." Oh, we didn’t get it all. "Inflicts and tear me apart.
Some days feel good as the wounds are healed but they re-open. I have tried to
hide from the dragon but combining alcohol and isolation does not make a good
hiding place. Trying to live with the dragon caused more misery and eventually
will kill me. Surely I do not have the strength to fight the dragon myself. I
have been given bad advice from people who mean well but not to understand. I do
not understand myself. More often I've been given advice I did not take. My
experience of Vietnam caused a lot of guilt I cannot explain and confused and
lack energies to sort things. Last, art therapy sessions offer hope."
It took me a while and Tim Mayer - he's the one that finally convinced me - he
said, "You put a lot of yourself out here.” And I agreed. Now since I went
down to see it, I see that art work, I see it as a very dark thing. But that
doesn't bother me because if there's just one veteran that sees it and says,
"That's a dark place, I don't want to go there." And seeks help, it's worth it.
It was worth everything. But when I went there, there was this painting - I
don't know how to describe it. It has a tree with several skulls, with different
00:57:00faces on them. I couldn't go to it right—it took me four times before I went
there and now it just enthralled and his wife came. And I said, "What do you
see?" And she said, "I see this." I says, "That's a good thing because I see the
same thing." And it's three lower skulls on the left hand side all painted-in in
black but there's a little bit of red, a little bit of orange, leaf and a green.
And the green leaf reminded me that the war wasn't constant. It wasn't
twenty-four hours. Nobody would survive that. So there was lulls. But when it
happened, it was [inaudible]. And I saw this orange thing. Reminding me of the
00:58:00explosion. Then on the tree there's red and it kind drips down to the bottom.
And that reminded me of the blood over there. But up above, the picture reminds
me of Jesus Christ, that he gave his blood also, for us. These three skulls are
the different faces of horror of the war. And that's what war is. There's no
good in war. Nobody wins. Everybody loses. Most of all, the children and the
civilian population that are caught in between. But that affected me profoundly.
00:59:00I thought this was the most important painting there is there. And that was done
by somebody at Tomah, Tim told me. A long time ago. Long time ago.
BROOKS: And you saw this at the museum when you went to visit?
TROXELL: Yup. It was highly emotional. I didn't expect it to be that emotional.
When I went - didn't even make it in. And I broke down because they got the
music playing. Not music, the chopper and they had a radio there and I says,
“That radio puts a target on your back.” Well then later I went back and I
don't remember the radio but the chatter and that's what broke me down, I just
was bawling. Another painting was actually a quilt. It had a picture of a girl
01:00:00in a cage. And it sounded like she died in Phu Bai and I know I was at Phu Bai.
Can you pause?
[break in recording]
BROOKS: You were talking about another piece of work you saw at the museum.
TROXELL: Oh, the quilt.
BROOKS: Oh, the quilt. Okay.
TROXELL: That was a young girl that had died in Phu Bai and I don't know if she
was in the cage or whatever, how come she was in the cage, I don't know. I sent
for papers again because I felt that I had PTSD and nobody was listening to me
01:01:00and I got this in the mail so I went to see the Winnebago County gentleman and
he said, "Well this won't help your claims. ‘Cause you still can't state the
time and date.” I says, "Okay but why, what is this?" He said, "That is a
medal from South Vietnam that says you were in combat." And I said, "Then I've
got something that shows me some verification that yes, I was in combat, no
matter what everybody else says." And I got a picture of it. He said he would
01:02:00try to get me this.
BROOKS: So this is the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm ribbon.
TROXELL: And that's on a individual award. That's not as a—
TROXELL: Unit or battalion or whatever you want to call it.
BROOKS: Cause you weren't really attached to any units while you were there?
TROXELL: Nope. And I found out they've got very poor records ‘cause I've asked
for records several times before and I never ever got this. So that's why I
thought, "Oh, you know—" I think this happened when I got back from R&R. I
01:03:00ended up in the hospital, I went to sick bay, medic told me to get out ‘cause
I was going to pass out. They admitted me—it seemed like I was there quite a
long time. I had like, pretty high temperature so they'd wake me up - it seemed
every twenty minutes, hopefully it was longer - take a cold shower, go back,
take a cold shower, to lower my temperature ‘cause that's what they had
available. The next thing I remember is this Marine was telling me a story. I
01:04:00listened and I used very strong cuss words to tell him basically to shut his
mouth and never tell anybody that story again because he told me he fragged
somebody. Which means you kill one of your own.
The other thing I remember is I was in this bed, and there was a bed here, this
fella was dying of rabies. He was hallucinating talking to somebody across. They
01:05:00had some board to try to do something I have no idea what. The way I survived
deliberately is I didn't want to know anybody's name, didn't want to be close to
them. It sets up too many dangers and by that I mean if you're going to look
after somebody then you're putting yourself in danger. If you're going to look
at yourself then you're not going to look out for your fellow men and you're
putting them in danger. You can't get involved, you just gotta do what you gotta
do and that's it. So I turned over and went to sleep. They weren't too happy
01:06:00with me so they woke me up and made me take his blood supply down to be tested.
I did that one other time, I was in the city of Da Nang and a Vietnamese walked
up with a baby with a huge head and I just told her “Đi di mau,” that's the
only thing I remember. Everything else I've forgotten.
BROOKS: What does that mean?
TROXELL: Go away. You know. So I just had myself hardened, you don't show
emotion, that's how you survive. Like I say, I got pictures. Some of ‘em I
kept because there's weapons that I remember. This is a great big tree in the
01:07:00center of Da Nang. This could be Dogpatch, I have no idea. Or this could be
Dogpatch. This picture is when Mother Nature calls, Mother Nature calls. This is
a picture of p [??] and Camp Tien Sha and I remember Camp Hoover. Why I
remember Camp Hoover I don't know. But they were all at the base of Monkey
Mountain so of course—
BROOKS: There's a monkey.
TROXELL: Monkey. See that's my picture. These I think I got from that guy I was
01:08:00telling you about but there's going on board—
BROOKS: So for the recording it kind of helps to describe this stuff.
TROXELL: Oh, that's the picture of the body bag going aboard the USS Sanctuary.
BROOKS: And this - is this the USS Sanctuary?
TROXELL: Yeah, it's a picture of the USS Sanctuary.
BROOKS: May 1967. Was that when it was developed?
TROXELL: That's one of mine, yeah. This is a picture of my officer. Where it was
taken I don't know. If that was from the “White Elephant” or some other
place I don't know.
BROOKS: What do you remember about him?
TROXELL: He was young. That's it. College education. Here's the gentleman. It's
a picture of him on top of Monkey Mountain, there’s rock called Boom Boom
rock. And he's a noncommissioned officer, it looks like he has a .45. “Boom
Boom” was another name for sex. So that's where—this is a picture of a
crowded Vietnamese boat. Sometimes I would use that boat to get across the river
to go to city of Da Nang. This is a picture of Vietnamese ‘cause I remember
01:10:00the weapons. Where it was taken I have no idea.
BROOKS: And are these your photos or—some of them it sounds like you got from—
TROXELL: I got from him so I don't know if he was a combat photographer or what.
But these definitely are my pictures and it says January 1967 so it was black
and white from R&R. But I can't tell you where.
BROOKS: And you said you got two R&R’s.
BROOKS: How did that happen?
TROXELL: I have no idea. I have no idea. These are my pictures. I can't tell you
01:11:00where they're taken from. That's of water and a hill. Vietnamese shack
somewhere. And I think that’s Phu Bai but I'm not sure. And this is of a
little Vietnamese girl. And this picture is of me and people on China Beach. I
never showed this to anybody. That's me on the left. This is the gentleman I
went on R& R with. All these fellas are not in Communications, that’s all I
01:12:00know, but that has to be on China Beach.
BROOKS: And why wouldn't you show this photo to people?
TROXELL: I don't know. Because I couldn't name anybody in the picture probably.
BROOKS: So in total, how long were you in-country? Ish?
TROXELL: Eighteen months. When I was in the hospital, they said, "You're going
home." And I didn't like that. Because I had four more months to do. So I have
no idea but I went home. I did feel guilty after the Tet Offensive. I'm sure Da
Nang got hit. I know Hill 327 got hit. But I got sent home.
BROOKS: You said you got sick. Do you know what you were sick with, they
diagnosed you with anything?
TROXELL: Must have been my pr [??] because I remember the doctor would
massage it, which I didn't like, it hurt like heck. But that was it. Also I was
there one Thanksgiving at Camp Tien Sha, the other one I wasn't. I remember that
because the food was fabulous, I mean you could eat several times during the
day, which I did. I remember a place called the Triangle [Communications]. I
01:14:00think it's communication but I can't remember where it is. I think it's
somewhere between Monkey Mountain and the city of Da Nang. It's not the big
Golden Triangle; this was a Communication's place. All I know it's called the Triangle.
I did luck out. I saw two Bob Hope shows. And in fact, the one must be 1967
because I'm in my hospital clothes and I'm on the video on the “Bob Hope
01:15:00Show.” I found that. So they took me there. ‘Cause the first time I
remember—see I had to been in-country for a while. I was up on a hill and it
was strange, there was Marines around me but they didn't have their weapons. The
thing I remember is at the end of every “Bob Hope Show” they would sing
“Silent Night.” And I looked to the left and I looked to the right and I
thought, "What the hell's going on? These are Marines, what the hell are they
crying for?" And I looked at ‘em, "What a buch of dumbasses.” And I thought,
01:16:00“Oof." I don't know what made me so hard but I couldn't get over them crying.
More so than not having their weapons - I'd never heard of a Marine going
anywhere without his weapon, never. I don't care where it is. They always had
their weapon. So I found that strange. But I remember seeing on a video that I
was on, I had a pretty good time ‘cause I was laughing pretty hard I thought.
God, I can't remember the girl who was dancing - Raquel Welch or someone - big
star, was there like that.
The other thing I find strange and it doesn’t make any sense: I was flying in
a C-130 and I don't know what you call it, the deck or whatever, we were sitting
on the deck, not along the seats, like you see in movies, so how come we were on
there? We were all cross-legged. But the officer that was talking to us and
said—being responsible or whatever, would be responsible for our wellbeing
during the flight, or if we went down or something. The reason why I think it's
01:18:00funny is because it's a woman which didn't make sense to me. Didn't make sense
to me. When I got home, I told my kids and my wife and I'm sure they don't
remember ‘cause it was so long ago. I told them that if you ever meet—I said
a man. "If you ever meet a man that is looking at you but doesn’t see you and
is talking on one level, no emotion up or down, no excitement, no nothing. You
have to get outta there. I said, ‘You can't run because you'll be dead.’"
01:19:00Took me a while to make the connection. We just didn't know. We just didn't know.
BROOKS: What do you mean when you say "make the connection?"
TROXELL: This one time it paid, I think, to be small. I didn't know. I just
didn't know. [sighs] That gentleman was talking to us, not making much sense but
01:20:00he was talking to us, he had his weapon tilted like this - not pointed like
this. We didn't know. He had that look, voice was monotone. What he was talking,
it didn't make sense to me, and all of a sudden—his eyes moved and I didn't
know what he was doing but afterhand he was seeing somebody. So I was small so
he never even looked at me and that was it. He lowered his weapon and killed him
01:21:00and we in turn killed him. We never knew. I never knew. It happened so fast.
Never knew. War is a bitch. I hate that fucking war. Pardon my French. Yeah. But
like I say these things I remember, the four basic ones I know are true, these
others, hopefully a lot of them are false memories. I really hope so. But I
01:22:00can't tell you where or when. But in the city of Da Nang - this is a picture of
a two star general and a three star general and I didn't realize it at the time
but this small gentleman - with the two star general and a moustache - he became
very powerful in the South Vietnamese military and government and I can't tell
you his name. This guy’s name I know. L-A-M. Lam. This gentleman, he became
BROOKS: Were those people that you interacted with?
TROXELL: No. These were dignitaries that were making a stop in Da Nang city,
01:23:00probably for PR. This is a picture in Vietnam. And the reason why I kept it is
because I know it's not in I Corps. I was in I Corps, I was in three provinces
for sure. I never went as low as Chu Lai and I never went up by the DMZ zone.
01:24:00There's a place that was very bad up there, very bad. I remember a graveyard
southwest of the main airbase at Da Nang. I seen that. That's the graveyard was
of all the choppers that went down, the parts. Mainly the shells. And much like
the famous one, Khe Sanh, that was—but it was like that all over. You take a
hill, you secure it and you leave it. They come back and you start all over
01:25:00again. Just a never-ending fight.
BROOKS: The helicopter crash that you remember seeing as one of your first
memories, you said two fellows jumped out? So—
TROXELL: Two men jumped out to try to run and escape and I killed them because I
didn't do anything to save them. Had to have been something I could do. I did
BROOKS: Do you think they had landed and you should have gone to rescue them?
TROXELL: Yeah, the chopper had crashed on the ground. They had jumped out and
were running and then it blew. It blew, it blew up. ‘Cause I think it knocked
BROOKS: And do you think that you should have gone in after them?
TROXELL: I shoulda done something. I did nothing. That's what the heart says.
Reality, they jumped out and it blew. So I didn't—I didn't have time to react.
It just blew and I'm sure it knocked me out. And maybe that's a possibility that
it did something to my memory if it knocked me out. But I know I didn't go to
01:27:00sick bay. I probably looked like I had a good sunburn though. But I didn't go to
sick bay, I didn't report to anybody. Nobody. I didn't say a word to my
superiors. I didn't say a word to anybody. ‘Cause I was ashamed. Yep, I was
ashamed. That’s why I never said anything. And, yeah. ‘Cause basically I
01:28:00thought everybody got drunk and got in trouble when they came back out of the
service. Was the normal thing to do I thought.
BROOKS: Tell me a little bit about your homecoming, when you got back to the
States, what you remember of getting sent back home.
TROXELL: Well first I had orders to go to California. Those got cancelled.
Before—before I got back to Great Lakes I got spit on. Told I was a
baby-killer. Then the only other thing I remember is they wanted me to re-up.
01:29:00And I said, "No. You wouldn't let me stay over there, why should I re-up?" And I
remember walking three-quarters of the camp and not having a hat on but I never
got in trouble for that. I don't know how come. Then I remember I went back to
the Reserve unit and I couldn't believe what the guy said he says, "Do you want
01:30:00to attend meetings?" I says, "You giving me a choice, you asking me?” He says,
“Yes.” “Absolutely not." So I didn't have to attend meetings I just had
to wait til I got my final discharge papers in 1970. Drank a lot. Got in
trouble. Got in trouble with the courts so they ordered a psychiatrist. He
didn't know, nobody knew at that time. He gave me pills to stop drinking, that
didn't work, I threw them away. And I quit seeing him. After the mandatory times
or whatever, I didn't see him anymore. Hunting - I hunted one more time after
01:31:00that. And the friend gave me one of his rifles. It was like a farmer rifle so it
could reach out touch somebody. Did a very long shot, shot a big doe. One shot,
down. Killed. Step-sons come up and give me a high five. That's it. No. No more.
Celebrate ‘cause I'm killing somebody. After that I didn't go hunting, I got
rid of all my weapons. I did enough killing, I don’t want no more killing. I
01:32:00don't like it when they call everybody in the military a hero and I don't like
it when people at the VA say, “Thank you.” I don't want to hear it. I don't
want to hear it.
BROOKS: Can you tell me why?
TROXELL: Why thank me for killing? You know, you could be a radioman, you could
be a medic or whatever –‘cept for a medic I guess, your main job was to
01:33:00kill, that's all you were there for, to kill. And you didn't know who to kill.
That's the one thing I've heard some nightmare stories. I think—[dog barking]
[break in recording]
TROXELL: Yeah I think that I never ran into NVA. They were well-trained, they
were well-trained and they could kill just like our people could. More than the
01:34:00art work that I got from that group in De Pere, is - I always say this wrong - I
leanrnt how not to de-humatize—
BROOKS: Dehumanize. Mm-hm.
TROXELL: Some of those other groups they call them "Gooks," "Charlie." They were
people, just like us. You have to remember they were put in the same situation
we were. And the strange thing - I would do it all over again. Even though I
01:35:00know I would end up like this, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I
think like most people who have been in war, I hate wars. I hate that one
particularly with a vengeance but as long as there's human beings, there's gonna
be war. Sad fact of life. Just from stuff I noticed over there—let's see, how
do I wanna—depending on how your mind wakes up that day, how your mind is
after a rest period, how your mind is—how your mind is—okay. I've been
01:36:00called, this is what it was that I went through. I don't know what it was. I
just know that I was way up here and they said it was an adrenaline rush. I have
to admit I got that from the firefight, the killing. It's—it's hard to believe
when you're a civilian that you can—wow. But that's what I thought it was.
Going back to how your mind works, I noticed that in the time I was over—not
right away but that depending on your mindset you could be very courageous,
above and beyond. You could freeze, you could even run. I don't ever remember
seeing anybody run. You would fall back as a unit, so you wouldn't be killed but
I never, ever seen anybody run. I never seen anybody courageous but then again I
01:38:00don't remember looking around they were too busy surviving. And that’s the
only thing I know about a war is you don't win a war, you don't lose it - you
just survive. You just survive.
And before I say this—I don't know who taught me this but another hand-to-hand
combat is you throw the person on their back, you take the heel of your boot,
01:39:00you step as hard as you can on the voice box. That'll crush the voice box. They
should suffocate in a matter of minutes and again, no noise. Third one doesn't
make sense to me. But I know it. You take the butt of your weapon - and a
carbine isn't a very big weapon - something like an M-14 and you hit them on the
neck. It has to be on the left side of the neck. And what you're doing, which
doesn’t make sense to me, is you're—the vertebrae, you're trying to bust it
out this way. So how that would kill a person or keep them quiet I don't know.
You'd have to hit them pretty hard. I was good at my job. I don't know if that's
01:40:00a good thing or a bad thing. But I was good at it.
And going back to that ambush, what I didn't mention, there was a point where I
felt - I can't talk about anybody else - I felt I was going to die. I was in a
01:41:00vantage place, I took out my fifteen round clip, I put in a thirty round clip
in. Made sure I had other thirty round clips. "If I'm going to die I want to
take out as many of them as I can." They could have wiped us out, we weren't
that big a group. Three minutes, five tops. Probably three, more like it. And
they left. They just left. Good thing, or I wouldn't be here today. Sometimes
you survive not because of your training, not ‘cause you did something right
or something wrong it just wasn't your time. Call it an intervention, luck,
01:42:00whatever you want, the lord looking after you. And I get the feeling that wasn't
the only time I was fortunate. I don't remember but I just got a feeling there
was other times it could have went the other way but they didn't. Yeah, ‘cause
it was simple. Remember I mentioned I was on ship? Coming from ship down the
river, and it's one of those things you put down the front, anyway, I'm looking
down and water's up to my knees. I don't know what you call them, they guy
running the thing says, "Well I hope you all can swim, cause there's no
lifeboats and we're going down." We didn't sink, we made it close enough to
01:43:00shore where we got out in chest deep water and walked in.
BROOKS: What happened to the ship?
TROXELL: For some reason started taking on water. Where it was coming from, I
don't know. Alls I know it was up to my knees and he made us going into the dock
or wherever we were going to dock, he just went like that. Another funny thing I
remember, because all hell broke loose. Who was involved or whatever but I had
the benefits. We— ‘cause I'm in the Navy, so I use the Navy term, we
01:44:00cumshawed [stole] some steak and some booze. Delicious. And very strong booze.
Very good booze, everybody got drunk. Later, all hell broke loose. We got
punished but I can't even remember how ‘cause they couldn't quite prove it.
But we picked the wrong stuff to steal. It was meant for General Westmoreland.
So I don't know what the punishment but I think it was pretty bad and this here
- this I got given to me by the South Vietnamese when I was in the hospital for
Christmas. That's hand-built.
BROOKS: Is this koi fish? This is a little box, a little wooden box.
TROXELL: Yeah a wooden box, hand built, hand-carved and everything.
BROOKS: I think those are koi fish.
TROXELL: Oh, this says "Da Nang, Vietnam '66, '68. Snoopy. Fuck it." It's a lighter.
BROOKS: That's what's carved in it? Oh yeah it's a little drawing of Snoopy.
With his little thought bubble.
TROXELL: And this is my ribbons. This is the way it came so when I first got
back I asked the gentleman—‘cause I didn't know what this particular ribbon
meant and I said, "They said it doesn't belong to me." He says—he made two
01:46:00different phone calls, he made one, I says can you make another; he said, "Okay,
I'll make one more." He says, "You can wear this. This is a presidential unit
citation." But I was never attached to a unit so they said I shouldn't have it.
He says, "They made it, they gave it to you. You can wear it." Why I kept this,
I don't know. It's the Armed Forces United States.
BROOKS: This is your ID card?
TROXELL: Yup. My dog tags I gave to my son when he was young and lost ‘em.
This is money, it's—so I don't know if that's Vietnamese money or what.
BROOKS: It says Malaya and British Borneo.
TROXELL: There's another. But this could be Vietnamese.
BROOKS: Mm-hm. That I cannot read.
TROXELL: And this could also be—
BROOKS: Yeah, that one says Vietnam on it.
TROXELL: And this one could also be. And this is the only I got left of the
military payment certificate. This is a dollar.
BROOKS: One military payment certificate. "For use in the United States Military
TROXELL: Because with the combat pay I got, when I got home I bought a brand new
1967 Chevy Impala with a Hurst shifter and a big engine in it. I remember it was
01:48:00kinda funny because I had to have somebody teach me how to drive ‘cause I
didn't know how to drive stick. We had a couple of friends and my cousin, we
went up to the drag strip at Kaukauna and I had to make a few modifications to
it and whatever. I hadn't done anything to make it go fast. Long story short, my
cousin got the fastest time trial so he drove my car. I drove his Oldsmobile
Cutlass so in the finals, who do I meet? My own car. I had him off the starting
line but just too much horsepower. He got past me. I got beat by my own car and
01:49:00he got a trophy so we thought that was all funny, we had a good pizza party.
BROOKS: So tell me how you got involved with the art therapy group.
TROXELL: The art therapy group? I had found it by accident online. I was looking
to try to find stuff. I found it. I went there and I can't stress how good and
important the people are. When I first got there I sat way on the other side of
the room, all by myself and I wouldn't say much to anybody. At times, I broke
down and started crying for no—I mean, just lose it and Tim would take me
aside, "I understand." And this last time I was really trying to help somebody.
01:50:00So hopefully when I go back there I can have the courage because now I'm taking
this medicine I'm not crying. I broke down and cried and couldn't tell him.
He's remembering stuff and I made a mistake - I followed his wife, we were
putting stuff away, and tried explaining, she didn't know but I encroached on
her territory so I have to apologize to her. But something I went through and I
want to know him, he can get it - he's getting hyperactive which I did when you
start remembering. But as these memories come, the person closer to you that's
around you most - which is your wife - you start taking it out on them. And
01:51:00after a while saying "I'm sorry" or knowing why it's happening, that doesn’t
cut it anymore. So I want to be able to tell him to watch out for that. And
they've been a good team together, they support each other and I can't stress
that enough, he can't lose that.
I have no support. My wife doesn’t believe in PTSD or what's happening or
whatever. She did go away so I have to thank her for that. She—first she was
just going to stay here in the back bedroom and I was paranoid, I thought she
would listen and whatever. But yeah, and then my friend won't be going back
‘til December or January and I don't want to do any more art work. I'm
01:52:00done—but I'll go there to support him so he can do his. That's it. Because
it's filled what I think I needed to be done plus I'm going through some bad
times now. I really don't like people. I don't trust anybody or anything
anymore. It's very hard to get past. Very hard. ‘Cause I feel—even if you go
even by—I really believe they're judging you. They may not be. I even felt
01:53:00that you were going to judge me to be honest with you. But it's important, I
think this will help heal me, but she had a sister, her husband was in World War
BROOKS: And who is this?
TROXELL: His name was Harold L [??]?
BROOKS: And who is—
TROXELL: And I always wanted him to go because that time they had like you're
doing. I said, "It's important that people don't forget and know that." And they
never did. And I felt that was a big loss. You know, because he'd never said
anything but she told me that even after all those years he still has nightmares
01:54:00and it was mainly, a German soldier mouthed off. Arrogant, whatever. Well, they
took him aside and killed him. That's just the way it is in war. There's no such
thing as a civil war. I don't know where people get that. And it's done by both
sides. You know. I don't mean the extremes of—like the Germans did or like
that My Lai. That's—I don't know. That's another thing that scares me, is
fire. I don't want to die of fire. Napalm is very bad, let's leave it at that.
01:55:00Napalm is very, very bad. That's why I'm scared of fire. I don't think I could
go back in, even if my wife was in the fire. It would be very iffy. It scares me
that much. The heat. Once again, the heat. Wow. But I think this is going to
help me push this down and back, and start moving on. And now I'm taking a
couple of steps back but hopefully it's going to get better. It always did in
Brooks: You talked a little about the dragon we have in the Museum and kind of
what you would want another veteran to get out of seeing it, have you thought at
all about what you would want a civilian to get out of the exhibit, maybe—?
TROXELL: No. I've come to the conclusion, one the civilians really do not want
to know about war. They're curious but they don't want to know the detail. And I
think it's good—they would have a hard time grasping, understanding—no, it's
01:57:00better off that they don't know the horrors of war. Because it wouldn't stop
wars. It wouldn't stop wars. Look over in the Middle East, there's been
mothers—nobody suffers like mothers do and the war still goes on, it
continues. So, no. No. I'm happy to see that we're tired of war for a while but
I see things happening that—[pause] I don't know when I realized it but
01:58:00Vietnam didn't - bang. It started out with Americans overseeing, Americans doing
this and pretty soon more and more and more. It's just like—now they're going
to let our forces going to get involved right away over there. They don't even
have to be fired upon. So it's going to escalate and escalate and be at another
war. No, that’s—wars, they can start for any reason. Even in the name of
01:59:00religion which is going to be our next war I think. Another thing I realized
when I got home - I was up in Michigan and a customer asked me, "Would you go?"
And I think it was the Gulf War, or the first Gulf. Anyway, I said, "No." And he
says, "Why not?" I said, “Because I'm too old.” “Oh,” he says, "You’re
not an old man." I says, "No, but I'm old enough now where you go there, you're
putting people in danger. You don't belong there." That's why all these young
02:00:00men fight the war. You're fit and you think you're invincible and you think
you're fighting for a good cause. Did Vietnam stop communism? No. No. I've heard
other veterans: "Oh, that was a political war, wasn't our fault, politicians." I
said, "Almost every war was started by your politicians." You know. But there's
nothing pretty about a war.
BROOKS: But you said you would go again?
TROXELL: If I was young and had to do it over, yes I would. Which— [phone rings]
[break in recording]
BROOKS: -- just turn it on so we can wrap up a little. As long as you don't have
anything else, any other thoughts that we didn't touch on?
BROOKS: Okay and one thing I wanted to bring to your attention, you said you
hadn't really given a lot of thought of civilians witnessing the exhibit but
that's kind of the intention of the exhibit and of these interviews is to kind
of bridge that gap between civilians and service members so they have an idea of
what you experienced. So I want to make sure that you're comfortable with that.
TROXELL: Mm. Yeah. I think maybe if they hear it coming from—they get an idea.
They don't have to see the whole picture but just to get a glimpse and maybe
understand a little bit more. Yeah, because I don't like to acknowledge that I'm
02:02:00a veteran but I really do, I get upset if anyone wants to call me a hero. I'm
not a hero, never was, never want to be. Because I look at it this way - when
you call somebody a hero, that means somebody's life has to be in danger. And
that's for when you're a kid, not when you're an adult. That's why I feel
strongly about that. Yeah, if they can understand a little bit, and go in. I'm
especially happy with this because like I said, I've seen so much lost and it
sounds like there's quite a few World War II vets that didn't do that, that
could have done that. One reason I feel so strongly, I don't know the
02:03:00individuals name and I don't want to. World War II. He went to [Washington]
D.C., came back and he ended up with PTSD. Because it brought back a memory - he
left the plane ‘cause he thought the plane was going down. The plane didn't go
down and they got captured in war. It's not always good to stir up too many memories.
BROOKS: Yeah, you do have to be careful so I hope you're feeling all right after
TROXELL: Yes, especially after what happened there. You know. ‘Cause I did go
to an Honor Flight.
BROOKS: Did you?
TROXELL: Very hard. Oh man, I mean I broke down and cried. But once—there
wasn't too many World War II vets but lot of Korean vets. Once I shook their
hand and seen the smile on their face and kind of a connection, I'd do it a
thousand times over. I'll probably never go back but I mean a thousand times the
hurt. It was worth it, it really was. To see the— you know.
BROOKS: Were you a part of the welcoming when they came back?
TROXELL: Yea,h the welcome.
BROOKS: Do you think you'd ever go yourself as a veteran on the flight? Sorry, I
02:05:00have to stop you [clicking pen].
TROXELL: I'm sorry.
BROOKS: It's okay.
TROXELL: Probably not. I'd be better now but before I'd be—no, I still feel
that I'm not worthy of it. ‘Cause I've been told to do this, do that, somebody
told me one time, "Go to a reunion". How could I go to a reunion? I don't know.
So, no. Besides, I feel the modern wars need more help than I do. More deserving
02:06:00of it. We would have never lived through that stuff. The one thing that does
fascinate me, I've talked to modern day vets, Vietnam vets. And Vietnam vets are
scared of the modern warfare - petrifies us. I get scared at a picture of an
IED. They in turn are scared of the jungle. I just can't get over that. You
02:07:00think you'd been in one war, you wouldn't be scared of the other. I'd be at home
back in Vietnam but over in Syria or someplace - no I wouldn't. I wouldn’t.
But I feel they deserve—I do like—I'm not blind enough to see that people
generally care. Not all people but there are some people the genuinely care and
want to try to help me through this. But the people in power, they could care
less. And that's the way it's been in every war so it's nothing new. It's a fact
BROOKS: All right, well it looks like you're ready to sign that thing so I'll go
02:08:00ahead and turn off the recorder now.
[End of interview]