Friday, February 27, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Lost" - 2/27/09

The Sunday Scribblings prompt for this week is "Lost". This is what came to mind.

Gerald was seventeen. It was June 1944. He had joined the army because everyone did. There were other guys from his hometown right here on Omaha Beach, though there were probably guys from every American village. There were soldiers as far as he could see in either direction. Some were laying still. Some were missing bloody pieces. All who could were moving forward, toward the insurmountable odds with superior positions. He did not want to be in France, but here he was crawling deeper into it.
He heard a mortar shell exploding very close to him. The old timers had lied to him, saying the ones you hear don’t hurt you. He woke up several days later, into intense pain and darkness. He was not sure which was more terrifying. He reached up to feel the bandages that covered his eyes. He heard the comforting voice and touch of an angel.
It turned out that she was not an angel, but a nurse on the hospital ship he was a passenger on. He asked. She answered. He had lost sight in his right eye and hearing in the same-side ear. A Purple Heart was pinned to the pillow next to him. He came back as a hometown hero, to parade and celebration. Deservedly so. He spent the rest of his very happy life viewed at a forty five degree angle, compensating for his loss. He took the nurse as his wife and she bore him a son in 1950.

Jerry was eighteen years old. It was 1968. He had been drafted into the army because he couldn’t afford to go to college and was rated suitable cannon fodder. Lots of guys here in Khe Sanh had traded their cap and gowns for jungle fatigues. He did not care about Vietnam and could not have found it on a map six months ago. Now here he was. He made the mistakes of being an excellent shot and a natural leader. His father had taught him both. Those skills put him right up front.
He weathered nightly rocket attacks and assaults from an invisible enemy. He even survived the Tet Offensive. Many of his buddies did not. He learned not to make friends, as it was easier to see a stranger blown away than a friend. He lost his innocence to death, infected whores (they were known as LBFMs), and Buddha stick. He learned that cheap drugs could take away the fear and numb his brain from the horrors he participated in daily.
He came home to ridicule and shouts of “baby killer.” He retreated into himself and jumped from noises others could not hear. He rarely slept and when he did his dreams were Clive Barker horror films. He spent the rest of his tortured life in anonymous groups and back alleys. He often thought of his late, one-eyed, dad and proudly wore his Purple Heart pinned onto his Vietnam Veteran cap. There is no medal or real treatment for the loss that Jerry sustained.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't think those who truly have seen a war can grasp the concept of exactly what it is like. I enjoyed seeing the story of this father and son generational wars apart. Love you. Carly

Donnetta Lee said...

Hi, Myrtle. Thoughtful writing. Hubby was in Viet Nam and also a cousin of mine. Both profoundly impacted by the experience but in very different ways. Unsung heroes. As were so many. And many-lost. D

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

My husband interviewed some vets for a research project last year. The ones who had served in Vietnam and whose fathers fought WWII had some fascinating and disturbing differences in their war experience.

linda may said...

G'Day,
Great post Rick, and close to my heart as I am a soldier's daughter. My Dad, gone now, was one of not many who saw active service in WW2, (Bouganville, New Guinea, The pacific islands, Japan) Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam. I remember when I was young how it felt being a kid on Anzac day when my Dad was in Vietnam and there was lots of protests about the Vietnam war everywhere. That surely couldn't have been my Dad they were saying those things about.

Fledgling Poet said...

This was so heartbreaking...thank you for this moving post. I'm also a soldier's daughter -- my Dad went to Viet Nam twice. He never speaks of it.

myrtle beached whale said...

When I first retired from the military, I visited a few VFWs and American Legions. The WWII vets told entertaining and captivating war stories and the Vietnam Vets sat quietly and drank the cheap booze.

Michelle said...

Wow, Rick. This perfectly written post captured the dark truth about a time in our history that some people would like to pretend never happened. It was both poignant and thought provoking.

It only we could undo the past.

Tumblewords: said...

My father never spoke of his war. And he's gone. I regret that I know so little. War is wicked for those who are on the line and those who wait. Fine post and surely full of currency!

Granny Smith said...

I have tears in my eyes still. A moving post.

The tragedy of Viet Nam is still alive on the streets of my city where aging veterans of Viet Nam sleep in doorways at night until asked by the police to move on, who kill the pain with drugs or alcohol, and who have never received the care (from the VA) or the honor accorded veterans of other wars. I want to end all wars, but I want the Viet Nam vets and the men coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan to get the care our country owes them.

paisley said...

it seems to me that the saddest thing about all of this is we are creating another viet nam as we speak.. an unwinnable war,, and no accolades for those that were willing to give their lives to fight it....

Redheels said...

Reading your post makes me so sad. My Daddy served in WW2, but he rarely spoke about it. The death he saw there really hurt his soul, but at least when he came home he had the respect of his community. For my friends who served our country in Vietnam their homecoming was so much different. They were made to feel they had done something really disgusting

floreta said...

wow. very powerful story. puts some perspective..

danni said...

kudos!!! for prodding an awareness for so many kids killed and maimed while they protected ungrateful millions --- would that they could be honoured with banners of dignity,loud and long --- this post made me clench and the pain in my throat is huge!!!

Skittles said...

What a poignant post.

Your blog has been randomly selected as the featured blog for March at HoT. The sign in for this week will be open later today. :)

forgetfulone said...

Poignant vignettes. Great job writing, as usual. I always enjoy reading your blog.

Redness said...

You've stumped me ... what can you say after that ... hell ...

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