John Wesley Fisher was conscripted by his country to fight in Vietnam in 1968, in the Tet Offensive. He served on the front lines, of which he never expected to survive, and brought home wounds that could not be seen. John has spent his postwar life traveling, studying for his doctorate and 40-year chiropractic career, and living with his wife of twelve years in Maine. He has penned five books about his experiences and has traveled back to the land of his nightmares on fourteen occasions. John is the director of CORE (Community-Reconciliation Vietnam), a nonprofit organization that supports veterans, civilians, and humanitarian travel to Vietnam. John was raised in San Diego where he dropped out of junior college to pursue his surfing passion and was crowned the 1967 Class A Surfing Champion for the United States. One month later, he was drafted into the Army.
John joins me today to discuss his Vietnam service and the haunting memories of the blind kills that have stayed with him since. John shares how he was drafted, the experiences of basic unit training, and the feelings of fear for what might come as he arrived in Vietnam during the deadliest month of the war. John discusses his selection for the intelligence squad and how this later resulted in his position in the field as a Radio Transmission Office (RTO). He also shares his feelings of responsibility for the deaths caused by his artillery calls and his harrowing final months in Vietnam following his entire gun squad’s deaths while he was pulled out to write a letter home to his family.
“The blind kills from calling in artillery on villages, on forces, on everything just haunted me for years and years and years.” – John Wesley Fisher
This week on the Stigma Free Vet Zone Podcast:
- How dropping out of junior college made John eligible for the draft, just as big things were about to happen for him in the surfing world
- John’s basic unit training and the fearful experience of reporting to be shipped out to Vietnam
- The dilemma of not wanting to kill but also not wanting to be killed
- How Phase Two of the Tet Offensive put more names on the American Memorial Wall in DC, during May 1968
- How being picked for an intelligence squad and gaining top-secret clearance resulted in John being sent forward as an RTO (radio transmission office), instead of being positioned on a battery
- Learning in the field and calling in his first fire emission as a forward observer and RTO
- The tragic event that took place while John was Surfing in Cameron Bay
- Why the positions of the RTO and Lieutenant are the most vulnerable roles
- John’s obsessive actions and counting the bodies and blind kills he was responsible for
- The realization that it would have been easier not to have come back than deal with the feelings the war left
- Coping with losing his gun and its entire crew during his final month of service
This episode is brought to you by…
The Orban Foundation for Veterans is dedicated to bringing greater hope, understanding, resolution, and togetherness on issues of civilian readjustment for all military veterans and their families. Orban Foundation for Veterans promotes the importance of education, identification, understanding, acceptance, and resolution of many of the complex and severe responses to war and military life.
Visit our website to learn more about the Orban Foundation for Veterans and to support our mission.
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DISCLAIMER: The information and content shared in each episode of the Stigma Free Vet Zone are for informational purposes only. The Stigma Free Vet Zone hosts, Mike Orban & Bob Bach, are not, nor claim to be, medical doctors, psychologists, or psychiatrists and should not be held responsible for any claims, medical advice, or therapy/treatment recommendations mentioned on this podcast. Any advice mentioned or shared by Mike Orban, Bob Bach, or their guests is strictly for purposes of bringing awareness to the veteran community and the services available. Please speak with a medical professional before taking any advice or starting any therapy or treatment discussed or shared on this podcast.