(81) Frag, Fragging, and Fraggle: A Deadly Practice from Vietnam

Molly, the service dogGolly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


A Legacy of Loss 

The authors of Vietnam Veterans: The Road to Recovery refer to Vietnam as a “Legacy of Loss.” (Osler, 132). While the authors used this phrase to refer to the inability of the warrior to maintain healthy family relationships once home, this phrase also applies to those who never made it home.

About Fragging 

“Fragging is an assault on a superior by use of fragmenting grenades.” (Osler, 51); a fragmentation bomb is “an aerial antipersonnel bomb that scatters shrapnel over a wide area upon explosion.”  (Dictionary.com)

I learned of the term ‘frag’ and ‘fragging’ for the first time when reading about Vietnam. It refers to a practice of using an explosive device or friendly fire to deal with a superior, who soldiers believed acted dangerously by giving stupid orders or simply by his naiveté that led men into ambushes. During Vietnam, young officers with no battle experience were sent directly from West Point to the bush of Vietnam to lead soldiers. (I am told that at least one year of field experience is now required for an officer to lead soldiers in battle.) Experienced soldiers understood jungle warfare and the officers did not yet orders must be followed. Consequently, soldiers died because of the inexperienced leaders.

“Too often the young lieutenant didn’t protect his men and was viewed as a “dangerous man, not to be trusted; he could get you killed.” (Osler, 49) 

With so many incidents of inept leadership reported in Vietnam, soldiers used fragging as a last resort to protect themselves and others. Those officers failing to heed the warning of their men, died a casualty of war from ‘friendly fire.’ (Osler, 51) While the practice of sending green officers directly to the battlefield changed since Vietnam, many families still suffer the loss from this practice—on both the officer side and the warrior side.

From Fragging to Fraggle 

About the time Vietnam Veterans began experiencing intense symptoms from the stress of war, the Fraggle Rock television series aired (1983-1987). A creation of Jim Henson, Fraggle Rock remains part of the iconic Muppets that turned a nation’s eyes away from the backlash of war. While Veterans struggled to recover their lives after war, our children engaged with the furry, unconventional critters that sang irreverently about kindness, friendship, and getting along.

Moving from fragging to Fraggle, the contrast of a “Legacy of Loss” to a nation that moved on and left the Veteran behind, stays with me, creating an impenetrable ache.

I wonder if war can be anything but a Legacy of Loss for the men and women taking up the charge to fight for our freedom. Even if we funded services to address every symptom and casualty, the visions of war, the altered personality, and the hypervigilance likely would stay with the Veteran.

Maybe the Fraggle Rock Muppets have it right after all. Surround the Veteran with love in any way you can—irreverently, unconventionally, and with everything you’ve got, even if it is with just a song that rocks!

Post your Comments: 

What can you do today to show a Veteran your appreciation for his/her service? Please comment below.

Sources cited:

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.