Episode 342 Robin Bartlett Vietnam Combat: Firefights and Writing History Transcript

This transcript is from episode 342 with guest Robin Bartlett.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And today my guest is Robin Bartlett. Robin is an army veteran having served in Vietnam. And he’s also the author of the book, Vietnam Combat Firefights and Writing History, and we’re going to discuss his experiences in Vietnam. But before we get into that, I want to welcome you to the show, Robin.

I’m really glad to have you here.

Robin Bartlett: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here. Great to talk to you.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. And, um, you know, one, one of the things, um, you know, before we get into your, your story, can we talk a little bit about your, your background, you know, how you ended up in the army and Vietnam, where you drafted, did you volunteer, all that kind of stuff, kind of tell us [00:01:00] a little bit about who you are and your background.

Robin Bartlett: So, I come from a military family. My grandfather went to West Point. My father went to West Point. My brother went to West Point. And, uh, my father got me an appointment to West Point and I said, No, uh, 13 elementary and middle schools and 4 high schools is enough. I want no part of the Army. Uh, so, I ended up going to college in Southern California, and it was the height of the Vietnam War as the buildup had begun and classmates were being drafted during the summer months.

And I said, well, I, first of all, our family took it very seriously, uh, the words in service to our country. They were all officers and I said, well, I can’t, I can’t get drafted and I have to serve my, my obligation, uh, as an officer. So I went into the ROTC program [00:02:00] at, uh, my college and, uh, proceeded along four years of, uh, training and, and preparation.

And then at the ripe age of, uh, 21, I graduated from college and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on the same day. And, um, uh, being this brilliant 21 year old, um, knowing everything there was to know because I had a college degree, right? Um, I decided I would challenge myself with the most, uh, challenging thing that I could think of at the time, which was to volunteer for, uh, Airborne, Ranger, and assignment to the 82nd Airborne Division, the famous Airborne, uh, 82nd Airborne Division.

And I got everything that I asked for, and a lot more, too.

Scott DeLuzio: Sure. Um, it’s funny how the family business, uh, comes back and then no matter how hard you fight it, and, uh, you may not want to go that [00:03:00] same direction, but sometimes it, it just. Is fate, I don’t know, destiny. You’re, you’re, you’re going to end up in that anyways. And, uh, you know, maybe without the war, maybe you wouldn’t have, but, um,

Robin Bartlett: Well, and it was that, that was the period of time where if you weren’t going on to graduate school and if you weren’t married, uh, and, and preferably had a child, then you had no deferment and you would have been drafted immediately, uh, cause, cause it was the buildup of the war to the height of the Vietnam War in 1968.

And, uh, as I said before, I really needed, I felt the obligate, the family obligation to serve as an officer. So this was just a very natural transition for me.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah. And probably help that you had that background growing up, um, with so many people from your family in the military and you had, um, you kind of knew what you’re getting into a little bit more than maybe someone. Who had no military experience in their family, um, who [00:04:00] got drafted, just kind of plucked at random.

And, and they, they ended up getting drafted and going overseas. They, they maybe didn’t really know what they were getting themselves into. So, uh, in a way that, that maybe helped you a little bit, but, um, but also maybe, maybe not so much because you did know what was coming, right?

Robin Bartlett: I knew how to salute from a very young age. We used to answer the telephone at home. Colonel Bartlett’s quarters. May I help you, sir? That was how you answered the phone at home.

Scott DeLuzio: And so, so you already had some of the discipline, uh, instilled in you from a young age. And so that, that probably helped you. Although, uh, I’m sure the drill sergeants and the people who were, uh, instructing you, they probably wanted to have their, their, uh, say on things too. So they probably gave you a little, uh, uh, you know, a little extra.

Uh, attention, if you will. Right.

Robin Bartlett: Well, especially, especially in ranger school, where you removed your insignia and you were just a ranger. And, um, they didn’t care whether you were a West Pointer, ROTC, [00:05:00] uh, enlisted, NCO, you name it. You were, you were a grunt and, uh, you were, you were to follow orders and directions from your ranger cadre.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. That’s right. Um, yeah, everyone at that point, everyone’s equal. Um, they’re, they’re equally, um, you know, on the same playing field and everything, and, um, it doesn’t matter what your rank is, um, you’re, you’re there to learn and those people are there to instruct you, right. And so probably, probably a bit humbling, but it was probably a good experience too.


Robin Bartlett: Well, Ranger School was actually, uh, the best insurance policy that any officer who was headed for Vietnam, and that’s where I was headed, uh, could have. I mean, and, um, it was the most arduous training, both physically and mentally. Uh, because they, they took you to the point of just total, uh, exhaustion and, and, uh, uh, mental exhaustion, [00:06:00] uh, and hunger.

Because if you didn’t make your objective for the day, you didn’t… Get Your Sea Rations. So I lost about 25 pounds in ranger school, but uh, it was at that point that they made you the, the leader. They would say, here, take over the, and, and run the, run the operation. So you had to stay up with what was going on and where you were and be on top of things.

Uh, at a moment’s notice, you might have to be replaced. It might take over the unit.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, that’s a tough thing to do, especially if you were, uh, maybe not. Uh, in that leadership role the entire time, but then you got kind of thrown into it. Um, you know, if you hadn’t been paying as close attention, maybe as you should, you’re, you’re probably setting yourself up for failure there, but, um, you know, hopefully that, you know, it’s just, it’s training at that point.

So hopefully that sets you up for success in the real world. Um, when you actually do get into combat and, and you are using that as a lesson to, to help you, uh, down the line. Right. [00:07:00] Um,

Robin Bartlett: Well, I, I will say that, um, Because of that training, there really was never once in Vietnam that I didn’t feel in control of the situation. It didn’t mean I wasn’t scared. I was plenty scared. But I always felt as if I could manage whatever the situation might be. The training gave you a tremendous sense of confidence and courage.

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Yeah, and that’s good. And I think that’s what it’s intended to do is to give you that confidence. So when you are faced with real life and death scenarios, um, you’re, you’re able to make those decisions that are necessary and not be paralyzed with fear and, and just not be able to make those, those tough decisions that you’re going to have to make, right.

And you just. Sometimes [00:09:00] you get that deer in a headlights kind of situation where you just kind of freeze. But if you, you’re, you have the confidence and the courage, like you said, then, then you can go ahead and, and make those decisions. And, um, you know, right, wrong, or indifferent, you’re, you’re making the decision.

You’re not just freezing. And I think that’s, that’s the important thing. Right.

Robin Bartlett: When the bullets start to fly, everyone in that unit, I mean, you can literally feel their eyes on you, and of course you’re hugging the ground and trying to get as low as possible, but at the same time, you’re the leader, and they’re expecting, they’re demanding, they’re asking for direction, they’re asking for orders, right or wrong, they want you to tell them what to do.

Um, and that’s the point at which you, you kind of have to reach down deep and, uh, And John Wayne said it best, uh, Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.

Scott DeLuzio: Right.

Robin Bartlett: kind of [00:10:00] what you have to do.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah, you do. Um, yeah, no matter, no matter what the situation is, you, you have to be able to just continue moving forward. Um, and, and not, not backing down just because maybe you’re, you’re afraid or, uh, it seems like it’s a difficult task or whatever the case may be. You just keep plowing forward.

Right. Um, so you also were involved with a lot of, uh, helicopter, like combat assault missions, uh, in, in Vietnam. Right. Um, what was that experience like for you? Yeah.

Robin Bartlett: Well, I went, I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. I was there for about six months and then received orders to go over to the 101st Airborne Division. They wanted to keep airborne officers in airborne units. But I arrived after the Tet Offensive of 1968, and all orders, because of officer casualties, had been cancelled. And I was reassigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. And the 1st Cav was the division that [00:11:00] invented and tested and perfected the air mobile concept. which simply is to bring fresh troops to the battle by helicopter as opposed to walking through whatever the terrain might be to, to the battle. And, um, consequently we, I did make a tremendous number of helicopter combat assaults.

We called them Charlie Alphas, Sea Egg Combat Assault. And, um, When it, when there were three platoons in my company, whenever it was, and we rotated the responsibility of the lead platoon, whenever it was my turn, my platoon’s turn, I was always in the first bird, um, and I went in, always went in heavy with machine gunner, M79 grenade launcher, radio operator, medic, um, ammo bearers, I wanted to have as much firepower on that first helicopter as possible.

I made… I made about [00:12:00] 50 helicopter combat assaults, sometimes twice a day.

Scott DeLuzio: That’s, that’s a lot. I mean, uh, especially, uh, when, when you think about it, when you’re, you’re going from, um, you know, from wherever you, you are, wherever your base is going out into combat and then getting, getting right back on a bird and going back out and doing it all over again. Um, that’s, that’s a lot, you know, um, you know, anyone who’s ever been in combat, uh, could, could probably attest to this, that, yeah. You know, going from one place to another, um, you don’t know what, what to expect when you’re landing. Um, and, and that’s, that’s gotta be a difficult thing, uh, right? I got the mansion.

Robin Bartlett: It was not unusual to get a radio call saying, Find an LZ, I’ve got birds inbound in 20 minutes. So you had to be prepared to jump on a helicopter and go. Um, the interesting thing about LZs, the [00:13:00] landing zones that the helicopters came into, is that Um, they, they always prepped the, the, um, the landing zone with artillery, uh, and how anything could survive an artillery barrage, I do not know, uh, and then we normally had at least two Cobra helicopters supporting the landing, and Almost always the first helicopter in, uh, was successful because the enemy always wanted, not always, but most often wanted to shoot down the second helicopter.

And then the, the men on the ground, uh, and those that might’ve survived the second helicopter crash would have to fight it out on their own. And, uh, the rest of the helicopters would be diverted to an alternate landing zone. They wouldn’t risk additional helicopters coming into a, uh, a hot LZ. So, uh, that was a [00:14:00] technique that, um, normally the, the NVA and, uh, VZ would employ.

Uh, how they survived that artillery barrage and Cobra helicopters, I don’t know. Maybe they were dug in deep. But, uh, it, that did happen on several occasions.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And they, they sort of split the force up, right? If you’re, you know, first two birds are coming down in one, one area and then you have, uh, uh, you know, then they have the others coming down someplace else. Um, now you’re, now you’re split up and you’re. Firepower is distributed amongst different areas and, and they’re not concentrated on that, that area where they’re starting that initial attack.

And so

Robin Bartlett: Well, and it, it, it might just be a, uh, a couple of enemy soldiers with an RPG to take out that second helicopter, and then they would, they would just run for it after that.

Scott DeLuzio: When you, so you were the platoon leader, I’m imagining that’s what you said, right earlier. Um, so for, for these, these missions are going out and, [00:15:00] um, as you were saying, being a platoon leader is a difficult job because everybody has their eyes on you looking for. Instructions looking for, you know, what, what’s the next step?

What are we supposed to do when X happens? Right. And, um, yeah, that’s, that’s your, that’s your job is to lead that group of people. Um, what, what would you say was the hardest part of that, that job for you?

Robin Bartlett: Well, before I answer that question, let me just say that I, I think, you know, the platoon leader’s life expectancy in Vietnam was 90 days. And I, I survived my tour and, and I did that because I think I did three things very well. Uh, number one is I worked very hard not to do stupid stuff. And, and now that may sound funny, but it was very serious because there were, uh, inexperienced officers who did stupid stuff and it cost them their lives.

Secondly, I sat down [00:16:00] with my platoon sergeant. And my squad leaders at the very beginning, and I said, listen, you guys have been out in the field a lot longer than I have. I’m still in charge, but I want your advice. And if you see me doing something wrong, I want you to tell me. And that kind of set the tone for my unit.

And then thirdly, I trusted my point man and my, uh, cover man, and we operated in I Corps along the Demilitarized Zone and most of our time was spent up near the Laotian border, which was three canopy jungle, uh, mountainous, and very, uh, it was, we were following animal trails, cutting our way. So I pointed, I, I trusted my point man and my cover man.

If they, We’re moving into an area where they felt uncomfortable. Maybe no birds chirping, no monkeys, um, making noise, or if they just had a sixth sense. And some of these men did have kind of a sixth sense. [00:17:00] Um, I would shoot artillery in front of the position that we were going to walk through. This is called reconnaissance by fire.

And I’ve shot a lot of artillery. In fact, I shot so much artillery. They put a budget on me, a 25 rounds. The artillery battery got to know my call sign very, very well. But even 25 rounds was was enough to, um, uh, make those, the people feel more comfortable about the, um, potential for not being ambushed. So those are the three things I did that got me through.

What was the most challenging thing I had to do? Well, I, I guess, um, trying very hard not to put men in harm’s way. As I mentioned before, when the bullets fly, you hit the ground, everybody hits the ground. And you have to give direction, you have to give orders, and, and sometimes those orders put, put men at risk, [00:18:00] and, and sometimes it costs them their lives, so you, you try to make the best decisions you can, but you’re under extreme stress, um, and, um, there were times where that cost men either to be wounded or, or to be killed.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Yeah. And I think you did the best that you could given the situation, right? I mean, you’re, it’s war, you know, there’s a saying war is hell, right? Um, and when you trust the people who are, are working for you, you, you know that they have those six cents, uh, uh, kind of abilities. Um, and you trust those.

Yeah. You throw some artillery up ahead. Um, I got to imagine just that action of trusting those people and. Kind of clearing the way ahead of you a little bit with, with that artillery fire, um, that right there [00:19:00] probably saved a great number of people because, um, you know, you could have gone walking, continuing walking through the dense jungle and walked right into an ambush.

And that could have cost many people, uh, you know, injuries or, uh, or even their lives. And, you know, without the type of leadership that you’re just describing, um, you know, they, they would have been. In a real bad situation. So, so I think it’s a good thing that you had that, uh, kind of foresight in the, uh, the ability to trust the people who were under you for, uh, those types of things.

Because, um, you know, I, I know, um, you hear these horror stories of, of officers who just they’re in charge and we’re doing it my way. And this is how it’s going to be. And we’re not, you know, that type of thing. And it’s, um, it’s sad because, um, you know, you have. A whole group of people, you know, however many people in your platoon, 40 some odd people, uh, and,[00:20:00]

Robin Bartlett: How about 28?

Scott DeLuzio: Oh, was it less than that?

Okay. Um,

Robin Bartlett: 28 to 32 is what I had.

Scott DeLuzio: Okay. Okay. Um, but

Robin Bartlett: party, but I never had that many.

Scott DeLuzio: sure. But, but regardless of how many it is, you had all those people with all those, they have eyeballs, they have ears, they have their, their gut feel, and you got to use all the available resources that you have, you know, whether it’s, um, you and a handful of people or, or a full platoon, regardless of the size, uh, you, you gotta, you gotta trust those people.

Um, you know, it’s kind of funny when, when I was deployed to Afghanistan, I was a E5, Sergeant and there was a short period of time where things got a little bit messed up with our platoon’s leave schedule and things got all screwed up and I became the platoon leader for our platoon for a short period of time.

I think it was just a couple days. I knew we were pretty screwed then when I was the one who was in charge of, of our platoon at that point. But, um, but [00:21:00] I, I know, um, just for the couple of days that I was the platoon leader, I, I, I felt that immense, uh, pressure of like, Hey, uh, I’m in charge of all these people.

Um, I, I’m the, I’m the one who, if anything happens to these, these guys, it’s on me and, uh, um, I, you know, I, I totally can sympathize with, with where you’re coming from, um, and, and needing to do what’s right for those people and make sure that they aren’t unnecessarily being put into harm’s way. Right.

Robin Bartlett: I think that’s called the HMFIC, if I’m not mistaken.

Scott DeLuzio: I think so.

Robin Bartlett: Initials.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah. And it was kind of just kind of thrown upon me one day. Uh, and we. I looked around, I was like, Oh my gosh, I am, I’m, I’m the ranking guy here. All right. I guess, I guess we’re gonna, we’re going to do it this way for a little bit here. Um, but, but as soon as, uh, the next higher up came back, um, I was like, all right, it’s all yours, sir.

Take it away. [00:22:00] So, um. So day to day, you said you were going on, on these missions pretty frequently. Um, were you doing these combat assault missions? Uh, you said what, like 50 of them or so that you said you did, um, were there?

Robin Bartlett: the course of my tour, I made fi about 50, uh, combat helicopter combat assaults and search and destroy missions. Uh, day-to-day activity was in the field. Um, we would be out in the field searching for, uh, enemy and we were in a free fire zone. So any, any anyone we met was, uh, considered to be an, um, a, a.

Not a friendly and you would kill them, you would shoot first and worry about, uh, uh, the, the, the consequences later, but it was a free fire zone and, um, we would stay out for four weeks, five weeks. [00:23:00] Longest I ever stayed out was six before they brought us into, uh, the battalion base camp fire base. And then we would stay there for about a week, pull perimeters, security, get showers, uh, hot food and clean clothes.

Um, I once went six weeks without changing clothes and, um, you get pretty ripe after that period of time. Um, the clothes. Literally stay up, stand up by themselves, uh, uh, that was the day to day routine was to move. We would stay at a night defensive position sometimes, uh, a couple of days if we had a very secure landing zone where they could bring in a chopper, uh, and, and then we would send out patrols on a daily basis and ambushes every night.

Otherwise, we would be moving. We would constantly be moving each, each of the three platoons in a [00:24:00] different path from point A to point B. Which might, depending upon the terrain, might be 5 6 kilometers, might be 8 10. But that was the standard activity of the day. Um, as I mentioned, we were out by, our area of operation, AO, was the, along the demilitarized zone.

So on the east was the Gulf of Tonkin. And the terrain there was tumbleweed and sand, no overhead cover. Average temperature 105 to 110. Um, And then as you move toward the west, it became rolling hills and some trees, um, pretty much open territory. And the enemy tended to come across the Ho Chi Minh Trail from Laos into North Vietnam.

That was the prime infiltration route. And so, for the most part, we were in [00:25:00] deep three canopy jungle, uh, near the Laotian border. That’s where we spent most of our time.

Scott DeLuzio: Okay. Yeah. So I want to talk a little bit about your book. You wrote your experiences, some of the stuff that we’re talking about, um, and your, your perspectives in, in your book. Again, it’s for the listeners, it’s Vietnam combat, firefights, and writing history. Um, yeah. What are the reasons you wrote the book and why did you write it now?

Robin Bartlett: Well, um… It took me a very long time to write the book because I had a family to raise once I got out of the service and I didn’t have any time to do that. Uh, and then finally I had a job that took me on long airplane flights. So, I ripped out my laptop as long as it wasn’t too, too, uh, bumpy. And I would work on a chapter.

And I, I, I wrote the book primarily because I thought it would be a good catharsis for me. [00:26:00] Turned out that was not the case, because in writing these stories, these unusual things that happened to me, and that’s really, this is not so much a memoir as it is a, a series of stories of unusual events that happened to me, and in talking with a lot of veterans, I found that, that I had had some experiences that they had not.

Um, some very unusual experiences. And, and so, in writing, and some of those experiences were kind of horrific, and some of them were kind of funny, so it’s a mix. but in writing these stories, it just brought back all of the, the crap that, uh, that I went through. Uh, and it, it, you know, I didn’t really start on the book until about ten years ago.

And it took me a better part of ten years to write it. Uh, and then I, I got some advice from people whose, uh, opinions I [00:27:00] trusted and they said, uh, you only want to sell this to military people, right? And I said, no, I want, I want general readers to be able to read it too. They said, well, then you better put more of your personal feelings in it. And that was hard. That was very, very difficult. Uh, I remembered that my mother had saved every letter that I wrote home, uh, from Vietnam. Over a hundred letters, and she kept them in the envelope so they were all date stamped. So I hauled out these letters and I put them in chronological order, and then I would take little snippets out of the letters and put them into appropriate chapters.

So you could read what I wrote as far as what the event was, what the story was, and then you could read what I wrote home about, and they weren’t always exactly the same. A little bit of juxtaposition there.

Scott DeLuzio: Sure. Sure. Yeah. I know. You know, whenever you, you write home, you don’t necessarily want to worry the folks back home. [00:28:00] Uh, and so, so you kind of sugarcoat a little bit of the, the message before, before you send it off. Right. Uh, it’s, it’s not, not

Robin Bartlett: parents, my parents didn’t know that I had been wounded until I sent my, my last box home and they opened it up and they found my purple heart in, in the box. So that, that’s how they found out that I had been wounded. I didn’t tell them. It wasn’t a serious wound, fortunately.

Scott DeLuzio: Well, that, that is fortunate, uh, obviously, but, um, uh, but that’s, that is one hell of a way to find out.

Robin Bartlett: It was.

Scott DeLuzio: Um, so, so you took some time, you said it was, it was maybe not as cathartic as you were hoping for it to be. Um, you, what did, what did you get out of it, uh, as far as the writing process goes? So did it, did it turn out, um, was it, was it all, all bad as far as the writing process went or, or were there some good parts to it?

Robin Bartlett: Well, you know, it’s interesting to look back on [00:29:00] it, because the book was published this year, in March, and now that I’m looking back on this period of time, the writing was, was, was not cathartic. It brought back a lot of the bad memories, and a lot of the events, because I had to describe them in detail.

And what has been beneficial has been to talk about it. And, and, and that I think is something that veterans, uh, all veterans who’ve been in combat will say that if you keep it bottled up inside you, it just, uh, uh, grows and magnifies, uh, I did suffer some PTSD, but not for, uh, until about 20 years after the, after I came back, didn’t happen right away.

Um, but talking about it and, and participating in, in podcast and live presentations, talking about my experiences, um, has, [00:30:00] has been beneficial for me. I’m, I’m much more comfortable, um, with talking about most of the events.

Scott DeLuzio: I noticed that myself, um, just through doing this podcast, talking to, I’ve talked to hundreds of other veterans who are sharing their stories and sometimes after we’re done recording, uh, you know, turn, turn off the recording and then, then it’s just me and the other person, the guest on the, on the other end.

And. On occasion, I’ll get someone who’s like, you know, I talked about some stuff I really haven’t been able to talk about, but it felt good to be able to talk about it. Um, you know, just by, by doing this show. And so, um, you know, it. I look at it like, I think more of us need to get together and just. Talk and share experiences, whether we serve together or not, maybe, maybe it’d be a good thing for some people to, to reconnect with the people that you served with, or, or maybe, maybe not, maybe just getting a group of veterans together and, and just [00:31:00] talking and sharing experiences and, and, you know, not, not to be a.

Maybe, maybe not, you know, a contest of who had it worse or anything like that, but just, just to talk and, and share things, um, with people who understand, you know, you get a group of civilians together who maybe don’t understand quite as, as well. Um, it’s probably not going to work out quite as, uh, as, as good as you might think it would.

Um, but, but you get to get some veterans together and just talking, um, and. You know, having a conversation like we’re doing right now and just sharing this. I got to imagine for a lot of people, it’s going to be beneficial to be able to just talk and share and get stuff off your chest, right?

Robin Bartlett: Well, I’m, I’m, I took over as the president of the New York, New Jersey chapter, uh, of the First Cav Division Association. That’s a long title, but it’s basically, uh, that, that Cav Division has a lot of followers and a lot of alumni. And my role, we, we do quarterly meetings and I’ll [00:32:00] probably have about 30 to 35, sometimes 40, uh, veterans come.

We even allow a couple of Marines. I know that’s a heresy, but we even allow a couple of Marines to come in and it’s open to all branches. Um, and I try to bring in guest speakers who have combat experiences to talk about their events. And I’ve found, as you just said, that that’s a very beneficial, uh, experience.

We, we had, uh, a veteran come in just recently to talk about Honor Flights. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with Honor Flights, but it’s a marvelous, uh, nonprofit organization that takes, uh, veterans, uh, down to the memorial. They fly them down to the, to see the memorials in D. C. And they’re pretty much out of World War II and Korea veterans, so the, the focus now is more on, on Vietnam vets.

And, um, he, he also talked about his military experience. And I just find that sharing, [00:33:00] uh, within our group to be very, very healthy and very beneficial to all.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah, it is. Um, you know, and if nothing else. For the listeners who are hearing that story, um, they may be sitting there thinking that they’re the only ones who experience some terrible thing or some, whatever the experience is. Uh, but then they start hearing somebody else talking about something similar, maybe not the exact same thing, right?

But something similar, and They start saying, Oh, well, gee, I’m not the only one who’s gone through this. And, you know, that guy seems like he’s doing okay. And, you know, what did that guy do? Well, that guy had to have figured something out to, to kind of work through whatever it is that they’re, they’re going through.

So maybe, maybe there’s some hope for me too. And, you know, that’s kind of the, the, the point, like, I like to have people like yourself on to share their stories and, and talk about some of the things that they, they’ve experienced and overcame and, and all that, because for the [00:34:00] listeners who are out there, who may be isolating themselves at home and just sitting at home and, uh, maybe they’ll listen to this podcast and, and they, they catch onto something and it’s like, Hey, you know what, that, that guy, Hey, Turned out okay.

Maybe there’s some hope for me. Maybe I can turn out okay too. Um, you know, it may, may be a tough road. Maybe you have some work to do, but, but maybe I can do that too. And, um, you know, I think that’s a, um, you know, we’ve come a long way as far as that type of mindset goes. Um, and hopefully that, that helps some people, you know?

Robin Bartlett: Well, I, I mentioned before that I wrote this book, uh, primarily on long airplane flights close to coast and, uh, what I found, my favorite book, uh, by the way is, is from Stephen King and, uh, aside from all of his horror stories, he wrote a wonderful book called On Writing, which, uh, for any author is just a must read.

And he talks about falling into the typewriter. Meaning that he becomes so engaged and so engrossed in telling his story, writing his story, [00:35:00] that he literally blocks out everything around him. And that actually happened to me on several of these flights. Uh, as I wrote, that, um, I, I could see, uh, uh, uh, incredible detail.

It was all there in my mind, and it was just a matter of bringing it back out. I could see the colors, um, there were times I even smelled some of the smells, believe it or not.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, no, I believe it.

Robin Bartlett: I would come away from some of these experiences just sweating perspiration all over. Um, and reliving the, well fortunately I got it down on, in my computer, so, uh, that was the important thing.

Scott DeLuzio: Right, right. And the way, the way you just described that, you know, kind of, uh, being so engrossed in it and basically blocking everything out, it reminds me of a professional athlete who’s, you know, out on the, on the field and they’re ignoring all the hecklers from the audience and they’re, they’re ignoring all, anything else other than, um, [00:36:00] playing the game and doing their, uh, their job there.

And it’s, uh, that, that kind of laser focus that you need, uh, to be able to be successful in, you know, professional sports, but, but, you know, even in, in writing, you know, you have, um, you, you have. So much other stuff that’s going on around you, especially, you know, on an airplane, you got, you know, people getting up and walking around and, you know, there’s, there’s other things going on.

You got turbulence and, uh, you know, babies crying or whatever it is that’s going on on the airplanes. Right. Um, very easy to get distracted, I would imagine. Um, you know, but just being able to have that laser focus and just. Say straight on, uh, you know, on task, um, that you’re going to get back and you’re going to fall back into, um, like you said, the, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the, you know, other, uh, senses that you, you probably experienced back then, they’re, they’re going to start coming back to you because you’re so focused and

Robin Bartlett: Well, and I’ve had, uh, I’ve had a lot of feedback saying that they couldn’t believe all the detail that I was [00:37:00] able to incorporate into some of these discussions of these events, these rather unusual events that happened to me. They said, I can’t, you know, they had had somewhat similar situations, but I described them in such incredible detail that it brought back their own experience as well.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah. So I know a lot of times, uh, especially Vietnam veterans, uh, when they came back home, um, wasn’t the best reception, uh, given the, the political, cultural, climate, whatever you want to call it, and they came back home, um, exactly welcomed back. Um, the words welcome home. Um, what do they, what do they mean to you?

Um, if someone was to back, um, meaningful to you now? Yeah.

Robin Bartlett: Absolutely. It’s, it’s, those are the code words for any Vietnam veteran. Um, and if you, if you [00:38:00] say that If you say those two code words to a Vietnam veteran, as opposed to, and there’s, there’s nothing wrong with thank you for your service, that’s certainly, uh, an, an excellent, uh, uh, statement, but for a Vietnam veteran, if you say welcome home, uh, it, it demonstrates that you have a degree of understanding of, of, uh, the fact that we were not welcomed home upon return to the United States.

And very often it, uh, it brings. Uh, Tears To Our Eyes. I mean, those, those code words can really have, bring a lump to your throat. Uh, I had a very unusual experience. Um, when I was preparing my book, uh, I, I create my, worked with a good friend who, uh, helped me do a video, because I had a lot of photographs and, and artwork, and I wanted to incorporate these photographs and artwork into my, into this video.

And I had written an essay called The Trail, which was what it [00:39:00] was like to walk point down a trail in combat. And so, completed the video, and I showed it to this first CAV group that I mentioned before, and we had a veteran service officer there. who said, gee, I, I recognize some of this artwork. I think I know who this artist is.

Well, I didn’t know any of the photographers or art. I mean, I, I attributed them to the first CAV division, but there were no names associated with it. He said, I’m going to contact this, uh, the artist, cause I think this is his work. And so I’m taking my son, uh, I’m driving out to college to pick up my son.

And I get a phone call on my cell phone and it says, hi, this is a Michael Johnson. And I understand you’ve used some of my artwork in your video, and I’m going, Oh my God, I’m thinking lawsuit and

Scott DeLuzio: Right.

Robin Bartlett: all kinds of problems. And I said, well, listen, I’m driving right now. Let me call you. He said, well, I haven’t seen your [00:40:00] video.

I said, well, I gave him the URL to the, uh, to where he could watch the video. And I said, I’ll call you back in 15 minutes. He said, well, I’ll watch the video.

Scott DeLuzio: Okay.

Robin Bartlett: I pull over to the side of the road and go, we go in. My wife is with me. He calls me back. Sorry. He calls me back and he says, I want to thank you so much for using my artwork in your video. You, you have, you have made me very, very proud. And he talked about the guy who, the little, the kid who, who cuts his grass and his, his, uh, he went out and was wearing his. First, his hat and, uh, said, young man said, Oh yeah, I see you’re a Vietnam veteran.

He said, that’s right. And at the end of their [00:41:00] conversation, he, this young man said to him, welcome home. And this happened about 10 years ago. And at the end of my conversation with this artist down in Virginia, West Virginia, some places where he was living, he said to me, welcome home. And that was the first time that anyone had ever said, welcome home to me.

Scott DeLuzio: Wow.

Robin Bartlett: I just couldn’t say anything. I mean, you can tell right now. It just, it breaks me up to tell

Scott DeLuzio: Sure. Sure. You know, to me, it’s, you know, with the culture that we have now, as far as the military goes, where, um, you know, when we were, uh, deployed, we came back, there were supporters all over the airports, American flags being waved, people taking time out of their day. They, they didn’t know us from. you know, anyone else, they, they just came because they wanted to support the military.

And, um, like that’s the way it should [00:42:00] be. We, we got treated with a ton of respect. Uh, you know, we’re flying home on, on leave, uh, coming back home, uh,

Robin Bartlett: Rightly so. Rightly so.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly. Um, you know, we, we had people who bought us lunch, uh, while we’re, while we’re in the airport, you know, and it was like, just, you know, we’re there in uniform.

And so they obviously knew we’re, we’re service members and they, they paid for our meal. And, and it was. It was just a nice thing. We, we didn’t expect it. Um, but it was, it was just the way I think, um, you know, service members should be treated with, with respect and, and they should be, um, you know, thanked for their service and not, uh, treated as poorly as folks from your era were.

And, and it’s, it’s terrible, um, that. That happened to you. And I, I, I try to make it a point whenever I do see a, a Vietnam veteran hat or shirt or, you know, whatever it is to kind of tip me off that that person was, uh, in Vietnam, uh, to, to welcome them home because, uh, you know, that it’s just. It could be that [00:43:00] person’s first time being welcomed home too.

And, um, you know, if you look at the number of years between the time they came home and, and now, uh, it’s long overdue. And so, so if,

Robin Bartlett: It’s so much more meaningful to a Vietnam veteran than thank you for your service. It just, it just touches them. It will touch them.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah.

Robin Bartlett: And I’ve seen veterans just literally come to tears as a result. So

Scott DeLuzio: I’d like to ask if you were to talk to other. Folks who served in Vietnam, um, do you have any message for them, especially going through your process of writing your book and kind of, uh, trying to, trying to heal from, you know, the things that you experienced over there? Uh, anything to help those folks who, who served in Vietnam?

Robin Bartlett: after about 20 years, uh, after returning and, and in my civilian career, I, I started to have, um, I, I always I tried to take all [00:44:00] these horrific things that happened to me, and there weren’t that many, but there were some, and I, I locked them away in what I called my titanium steel trunk at the back of my mind, and, and man, I had that trunk locked down, there was nothing leaking out, but after 20 years, I started to have daydreams, not nightmares, but daydreams, and, and one in particular was recurring, And it was, it was really bothering me tremendously.

And it could happen at odd times. And I thought I was kind of losing my mind. And I had a friend who I had helped to, um, get her, get her book published, and she was a psychiatrist. And I happened to be, uh, in her area, so went to visit, and, um, I said, Well, I’d like to have a professional, uh, meeting with you.

And I spent about two to three hours with her, and then described the situation. I kind of really broke down, and I said, [00:45:00] This daydream is just bothering me tremendously. She said, well, you’re, you’re experiencing PTSD. Some of that bad stuff is leaking out of your titanium steel trunk. And I said, well, what can I do about it?

She said, well, I’ve got some very simple exercise for you to follow. And I, I followed her instructions. It didn’t go away completely, but it softened it so that it was not, uh, interfering with my day to day.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, and I, I think, um. You know, the, the attitude is sort of shifted, uh, in, in more recent years, as far as mental health treatment and support and that type of thing goes, um, from what I understand, um, the, the services and the, the treatments and, and understanding of mental health and things like PTSD were slim to none, you know, pretty much almost non existent back, uh, back in, in those days.

Um, [00:46:00] And so a lot of people probably just didn’t get the help that they needed and just sucked it up and dealt with it and locked it in that, that box, uh, like you described and you know, those boxes, like you said, tend to leak over time and. Helped it start coming out in ways maybe that you wouldn’t expect, uh, things, things like what you, you said, um, you know, having those, um, you know, those daydream kind of things where, where you’re, you’re having those, those visions or flashbacks or whatever you want to call it.

Um, and they, they can be pretty intrusive. Uh, when, when you’re, you’re dealing with that. And so, um, you know, I, I think for the, the folks who served in any era, but, you know, especially Vietnam, because there were, uh, not as much support back then. Uh, I don’t, I don’t think, um, go reach out and get, get the help if, uh, if you need it, you know, go, go find somebody who you can talk to.

Um, and, and like [00:47:00] we were saying earlier, even just talking to another vet, it doesn’t have to be in a professional capacity, just talking to another vet about what you dealt with, that could be, have some, could have some healing, uh, benefits to it as well. So, you know, do stuff like that, or, um, you know, get professional help.

If you’re at that point where you feel like professional help is needed, um, there’s nothing wrong with it. No one’s going to think you’re any less of a person because you’ve, you’ve gone in and talked to somebody and gotten some help. It’s okay, you can go do that and, and nobody’s going to think any different of you.

Robin Bartlett: Well, and the VA, the VA seems to, uh, finally have recognized that it is more serious and widespread than, uh, I mean, for the longest period of time, they denied any kind of claims. And now I think they’re, they have a little more liberal attitude. And the same is true for Agent Orange, which, which, uh, was a very serious issue for, and is a very serious issue for Vietnam veterans.

Scott DeLuzio: A tree branch hit a [00:48:00] power line in Ohio in 2003 and it shut down. 21 power plants and around a hundred people died. We have a power grid that was designed in the 1800’s. Even the White House sees it. They’re saying two thirds of the grid are at least 25 years old. So they’ve recently announced billions of dollars to update it. And how long do you think it’ll take to actually do. That’s why having your own solar power is more important than ever. With the Patriot Power Generator, you’ll get a solar generator that doesn’t install into your house because it’s portable. You can take it with you even use it inside. But it’s powerful enough for your phones, medical devices, or even your fridge. And right now you can go to 4Patriots.com and use code DRIVEON to get 10% off your first purchase of anything. In the store, including the Patriot power generator, you also get their famous guarantee for an entire year after your order. Plus free shipping on orders over $97. And a portion of every sale is donated to charities who support our [00:49:00] veterans and their families. So just go to 4Patriots.com and use code DRIVEON to get 10% off again, that’s 4Patriots.com. Use code DRIVEON to get yours today.

Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. Um, we wrap up this episode, I want to give you a chance to tell people where they can go to get a copy of, of your book. Um, and, and your website and any other, uh, you know, links or anything like that, that you might want to share with people, uh, so that, that they can find and follow you or whatever it is that you want to, uh, you know, support.

Robin Bartlett: So, um, The nice thing about, uh, writing a book is awards, and I’ve just won, uh, a wonderful award called the 2023, uh, New York City Big Book Award for Nonfiction Military, and also the Pencraft Award for, um, [00:50:00] War Mil War Nonfiction. So those are two awards that, uh, are on my book. Now, and they send out little stickers that I get to put on my book.

Um, I also received a marvelous review in, uh, the journal on point, um, which is the journal of America of army history. Wonderful review. So those are some really nice accolades that I’ve received. Uh, if you come to my website, which is www. RobinBartlett. com. author.com I have, I have a really robust, uh, website with photographs and some videos.

I, I have a video of what it’s like to make a helicopter combat assault. I describe it in detail and, uh, use some of the photographs that, uh, I was able to bring back with me. And, um, I have a several blogs there. Um, you can read a free chapter and, um, I have a special for the holidays of 1995, so my book is [00:51:00] hardback and I’ll autograph it and send it for free for 1995.

It’s a great deal.

Scott DeLuzio: That is a great deal. Um, I, and especially the way prices are going with everything these days. I think, I think you can’t find a better deal than that. Um, the book again for the listeners, Vietnam Combat Firefights and Writing History. I’ll have the links, uh, for all of that in the show notes. Um, definitely take advantage of the, uh, that offer.

Um, try to get, try to get that book, but, um, yep. Yeah. Have the book here. Um, and, uh, You know, I definitely, definitely go, like I said, take, take a look at that book again, links will be in the show notes, um, before we wrap this up though, um, I want to do a segment, um, I love doing this segment with, uh, with other veterans.

It’s, it’s usually a fun time. Uh, it’s called, is it service connected? Um, and the segment is essentially for anyone who is unfamiliar with it. It’s sort of like America’s Funniest Home Videos, uh, Military Edition. So we kind of watch, uh, videos of service [00:52:00] members doing something stupid. And, you know, a lot of times they, they fall, they get injured, you know, whatever.

But it’s, it’s, It’s usually good for a, for a, for a decent laugh. Um, and then we, then we kind of joke about whether or not that would be a service connected injury, uh, with the VA somewhere down the line. So I’m going to get this video pulled up here. Uh, so our guests here can see it as well. Um, let’s grab that.

And so I got the video up here. Um, let’s, let’s take a look for the, the. Listeners who can’t see the video. I’ll try to describe it as best as I can right now. It looks like a bunch of soldiers, maybe standing up in the back of a pickup truck. Um, let’s play this and see what happens. Okay. They’re standing up there on the side of the pickup truck, hits a bump bump and, and lands on their back kind of on their head. Um, yeah. That did not look like a great situation, uh, for that guy who was hanging onto the back. It’s kind of like he was hanging on the back, [00:53:00] almost like a, like they used to do on the garbage trucks, uh, you know, the way they were, they were driving there.

I always wondered how, how they, they would hold on the whole way with that, like with all the potholes and everything else that might be on the road, how they ended up doing that. But that’s kind of what it looked like with this guy here. So I, I got to imagine that would probably be, uh, Qualifying for some sort of, uh, service connection.

If there was some serious injury going on there, he might’ve hit his head on the ground when he, when he went down. So who knows, but, um, but anyways, um, Robin, again, thank you again for taking the time to join us. I do appreciate you, uh, not only coming out to share your story with us, but writing the book and, and getting your story out there because I think a lot of people, uh, to your point earlier, um, not just in the military community, but civilians, people just from all walks of life, uh, really do need to understand a little bit more about, um, what goes on when we do send our young men and women overseas to fight on [00:54:00] our, our behalves.

And, uh, you know, this is, you know, one person’s slice of the story. Um, this is, you know, kind of, um, you know, One piece of a really big picture. Um, but it helps to paint the picture, um, you know, to, to get an idea of what it’s like. Um, and, and not every day is, uh, you know, not every day is going to be the same.

So you may have some days that are, are calmer than others. But war is, is very fluctuating and, and, and people need to understand that and, and kind of get a better understanding of it. And I think books like yours and, and stories like you just told here on the show, uh, really go a long way to help do that.

So thank you again.

Robin Bartlett: That’s a very good description.

Scott DeLuzio: All right. Thank you.

Robin Bartlett: Thank you.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also [00:55:00] follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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