Some of you know me well enough to know how I feel about soldiers and veterans and the way they’ve been treated over the years. I have been outspoken about a lots of things that have to do with this subject. I have been a loudmouth, unforgiving, sometimes even an ass about things Veteran related. You should all know (without getting into details) that I have been and in a way still am extremely angry about this stuff.
My way of dealing with this (once I’m done screaming and crying into the ether) is to write, and write and write. Sometimes I publish but mostly I just file these writings away so I can continue to “hide” my weaknesses. It depends on the subject. I know, I know…you’re all saying to yourselves, “Yeah, as if Mike would ever be quiet about what he truly feels”. Well, some things I do keep to myself. Politics are a joke mostly that happens to piss me off 90% of the time and I readily sound off about that. But that’s not about me. The following is. What I have recently learned from a veteran friend is that I have to start opening the door sometime or croak from the inside out. Its really a miracle that hasn’t happened yet and I’m certain there are some of you who would contest that I went over the deep end years ago. In honesty I have to admit, you wouldn’t be far from the truth. The following is a case in point about healing. If you could have read the letters I wrote to “Santi” (a brother on the Wall) before now, you might have thought I should be committed. This letter represents a huge turnaround and I owe it to my loving wife and family, friends and some awesome Vet Center Councilors for helping me get this far. This is for me, for Santi, for all soldiers and vets and for you folks to see I am tuning it around. Its for ME more than anything though. Affirmation that I am doing it in spite of my lifelong belief that it would be a waste of time. Am I embarrassed, humiliated? Do I want to hide my head in the sand? Yes and no. I want to spend what time I have left at peace with myself and my countrymen. I’m trying and I think its working.
“Brother, I know it’s been a while. I have been remiss. It’s not that I have forgotten but that I sometimes feel forgotten. No, I’m not feeling sorry for myself. You know me. I’d prefer the lot of them left me the hell alone forever. But then, who would sing out? I often feel inadequate to the challenge and sometimes I just want to give up, but now I realize that what I really want is to make the whole world hear me. I want everyone to know how great a man you were and how terrible it was for us as a nation to have scourged your name for the sake of some phony ideal. Today Santi, I woke up. Today another soldier told me that we have not forgotten and that we will always remember. I cried a “thank you” for you and me.
You once said “Yeah Shorty, Fuck it. It don’t mean nothing…now. But when we get home bro, then we have to MAKE it mean something. We have to slap this lost country of ours about the head and shoulders until it cries like we do every day.”
We were going to preach until it was crystal clear, even to the most hateful leftist, that we soldiers are not the problem. We are patriots. We were marked “Paid in full” from the moment we donned the uniform. We ARE America. Excuses and blame are someone else’s to claim.
I thought I needed you to see me through that Santi because alone, I am weak. I needed you to cry it out from the highest mountain for me, because I felt my voice was not heard. I still need you, sure, but he difference today is that I see how wrong I was to think that I was alone. I am NOT alone. You’ve been there all along. My voice is yours and if that voice couldn’t be heard; it’s not because I didn’t sing out loud enough, it’s because our America, our home sweet home did not wish to hear us.
Things are different today Santi. They don’t hate us anymore though many are still afraid of us, they don’t scourge us like they did then; not openly anyway. Yeah, our government would like nothing better than to bury us along with all the other excess equipment, but our people will never allow that again. Thank God. These kids coming home today need so much and we are struggling to give them even the basics, but our people do not hate them.
So, Santi, I guess they did hear us after all. In the end your voice within mine was strong and loud enough. Soldiers are thanked today Santi. THANKED! Can you imagine?
I still don’t sleep much Santi, but that’s okay. I remember instead what it was like to be us, to be the best America had to offer, to be soldiers and brothers-in-arms together. I remember the honor and the trust and the love we had for each other. These remembrances serve as rest and they calm me…for a minute. I only have to think of the blessings I received in that I survived long enough to have a family and realize that someone does love me. It’s all I need. It’s enough.
So brother, I’m back. I won’t go away again and I’ll keep in touch regularly. I visit with you at the Wall whenever I can. Though it can’t replace you, just being there with you and all our fallen brothers and sisters heals me. You’re still saving my life Santi.
See you again someday bro,
USA, 3rd Brigade. 1st Cav, 34th Provisional War Dog Company, Bien Hoa, RVN 1972
This is healing folks. No sympathy required or wanted. Just know I am here, I am healing and I intend to stick around for a while. Will I tone down the rightist rhetoric? Feck no! I’m healing, not dying…lol.
God bless you all for putting up with me.