Ravis E. Stotts
Mobile Construction Bn. 62 (MCB-62), U.S. Navy
I joined the US Navy Seabees in June 1964. I guess I joined because I felt patriotic. My specialty was as a Construction Electrician.
I volunteered to go to Vietnam. I was eager to serve my country. I was assigned to Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 62 and was deployed to Vietnam twice. My first deployment was to Phu Bai and my second was to Da Nang.
Our reception in the United States was less than cordial. I didn’t expect protesters throwing feces and urine bags at us, flipping us off and calling us names. After the reception at the airport, I was uncertain and wary about going home, but I was cautiously excited.
For the most part, I was ignored by the public. I wasn’t really comfortable back home. Not at first; then it got worse since no one there had experienced what I had been through. They all thought that I was embellishing the events I talked about. I became disconnected from my old friends.
I did have some problems afterward. They began almost immediately. Heavy drinking, very jumpy and easily startled by loud noises, especially fireworks and car backfires. I never sought help professional help. My wife and kids have been a big help for me over the years.
My wartime experiences changed me. They made me much more pessimistic and untrusting of our government officials. I was lucky enough not to have been in any major firefights and trudging through the jungles like the grunts did.
My worst times were seeing people suffering the effects of war; some of those scenes haunt me at times still today. An old lady who wouldn’t shut up when the police told her to do so, so he shot her right in the face. People so hungry they dug out the pieces of meat in the hot, soapy barrels where we washed off our meal trays. Families mourning the loved ones who were killed in the villages.
When I returned stateside, I was treated the same as the rest of the returning GI’s; horribly. One thing sticks in my mind in particular: I was walking down the sidewalk in Oxnard and noticed a car passing by with a couple of pretty round-eyed girls in the back seat. I smiled and waved at them; they both immediately flipped me the bird. I thought that they must be local girls that didn’t like the military, but as the car passed, I saw it had Iowa plates on it. After I got home in Oklahoma, my friends and family treated me OK, no outright hostilities, but not a lot of them rushing up just to greet me and say welcome home. When I did tell of my experiences in Vietnam, most of them thought I was just making up war stories to play the hero. So after about two months of that, I called the local recruiter and told him that I wanted to re-enlist. At least, the Navy people understood me; my shipmates were more like family to me than actual blood kin. Turned out to be the best thing I did. I stayed in for 20 years, had a good career and raised a great family.
I don’t have any Agent Orange issues that I am aware of.
As far as the war goes, I think the war was lost by government bureaucracy. I have a few fond memories of good times with my fellow Seabees; for the most part, I have been able to put the bad times behind me.