My pen…then ’til now


Memorial Day 1989


Is it really 1989?  What happened?  Is it over now?  Is the war really over?  Someone said “welcome home” to me in front of a black wall.  They were crying.  I wondered if they were victims too.  Now is 1989!

I am at peace with my family.  Yes, we are still together.  She is a saint.  She is still saving me.  We have two of the best children you could hope for and another on the way.  I would not have believed it possible 10 years ago, but here we are.  Damn it, I do not know how.

I remember leaving Asia and hiding a lot when the army let me loose.  These people, countrymen they were called, were throwing something at me.  It smelled foul, almost an in-country smell.  They screamed about babykillers and murderers.  I wanted to ask “what”, but the noise was so loud and the smell so bad, I took cover instead.  That was in June of ’72.

It was quiet underground.  There were others but they were quiet too.  “The way to do it” they said. “Fuck it! It don’t mean nothin’, man”.  I stayed under.  The noise at least was subdued.  I could survive this.  They couldn’t send me to the Nam again.  I survived that one already.

In ’77 I came up for air.  That was when the saint found me.  She came out of the noise but she didn’t think I would kill her babies.  She married me and kept me close enough to the surface so that we could function.  I started to think again.  I had to.  We would have frozen or starved.  We dealt with the noise, the smell and the eyes.  How did they know me?  Is there some aura about a combat vet?  Do I smell?

I started to feel again.  Deaths started to affect me again.  I wasn’t numb anymore.  When the noise would get too loud, she, ever so patient, so much in love with this wreck, would pull me back.  There is no giving up in love.  It was something I once believed in.  My mother taught that love could heal.  It did.  We lived.

I wanted to see my friends again.  The ones I left behind.  I never could find them.  In the Nam we sat on the one remaining wall of a sandbag bunker, bombed out in Tet ’68 and never repaired.  It was an in-country memorial to futility.  It screamed at us “what for”?  We answered “For nothin!  It don’t mean nothin, man’”.  I finally did find one though, on another wall, a black one in Washington, DC on Memorial Day 1989.  I couldn’t find him because he was on this damn black wall and he could never come home now.  Lord I was mad; raging mad; mad to tears.  Somehow they made it mean something.  It hurt!

There were others like me at this wall that day.  Come to find a lost brother.  They hurt too.  We cried.  We hugged.  We felt.  Damn it!  The noise lessened.  It took on a stench of it’s own, like rot, like regret, like admission of a sick misdeed.  We covered up at first but then we realized that the smell was not from us.  It came from where the noise was and the noise lessened.

A person (not one of us) said, “We love you”.  An 18 year old said “thank you”…to me.  The phrase slapped me in the face.  I palmed the etched black surface and cried out for life.  I said my thanks to my brothers on the wall.  They brought us home again.  Those who had the least to gain breathed life into a dying ideal.  We could walk in the light of day and be proud of our status.  The eyes didn’t stare so much.  Most of all, the hate or fear or whatever, was gone from the eyes.  Pity now?  Does it matter?  Yes!  Feel it.

I saw a movie.  In it, every kind of mad dog possible shared a firefight with America.  It was nearly realistic in its confusion; utter chaos reigned.  Too many survived the Hollywood version though.  America thought it was at least as good as the “temple of doom”.  I was afraid.  I smelled cordite and napalm and something sweet.  Was it finally me?  Was this the one where I buy it?  “No” she said.  “We have to feed these kids.  We are the survivors, and survivors do not quit”.  I guess god had given up on giving up and sent her to me so I would make it long enough to feel again, to see that it did matter and to write this.  We lived.

One of the “pay a fantastic price to watch the same 10 movies 20 times each for the next 30 days” channels is showing “Hanoi Hilton”.  I feel so small afterwards.  I spent 15 years trying to hide.  Those men spent a lifetime trying to win and they did.  Not uncle Ho, the Chinese, those other “red menaces”, Europe, the congress, the hippies/yuppies and not even Jane, Kerry, the VVAW and company could defeat these heroes.  My own dreams chased me underground.  I hid from America.  They continued to fight until they could come home.  I am ashamed.  We lived.

I hated you for hating me America.  I love you now for finally loving me and us again.  We can all come home now, if we, as one people, do not give up.  There is only some 2500 left to bring back to the world, and then we can bring the rest of the hiders and the lost back to life.  We can show them that the noise isn’t so great anymore.  Lies tend to lose their tenor over time.  They don’t believe we all killed the babies.  We can live.

I’m sorry it took so long for Jane to find out she was being used.  Imagine Hollywood teaching a Fonda about reality…whew!  I’m sorry that so many were mislead by the traitor Kerry and his phony Vets. I’m sorry that the hippies/yuppies/dodgers and liars were exonerated before us.  So long before, I’ll never understand. I’m mostly sorry for the brothers and sisters who did not survive and the poor people we lied to and then left for dead.  Please God forgive us our most grievous fault of all.  We promised freedom to a whole people and did not deliver.  Those people are still suffering today.

In spite of you America, I am still a survivor.  She is my lifeline and we live.  I thought I must atone for losing.  We did not lose though.  I do not know what happened, and I do not think any of us ever will know, but we did not lose.  In fact, we are starting to win.  You do not hate me anymore and I do not hate you.  I am alive.  It is a start.

An American in recovery,

MKH-34th Patrol Dog Platoon, 3rd Bde, 1st Cav, RVN, IV CORPS, 1972

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