Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Veterans

Oh how I miss them, flush in the arrogance of youth, lazing in that soft year between high school and college when everything had possibility and these two boys had hair longer than mine.  We shared our world and made flower crowns, sat in the park barefoot, talking about ancient philosophers, marched in the city for the war to end, missed our ride to Woodstock, and made promises that we'd be friends forever.  Just like all other teens in the sixties, we were immortal.  Me, Bill and George.  

The day Bill got his "Greetings" from Uncle Sam we'd just come from the reservation, feeding the deer in their enclosure.  George had daisies and grass all over his tie-dyed t-shirt, smiling and silly, and Bill just looked amused then serious.  "I have to go" he said.  We already knew.  This war was taking our youth - taking our naievte, stealing our time to be creative and replacing it with killing fields.  Oddly though, the boys who had done their 18-month tour and come back never seemed to want to discuss it, not in honest detail.    

There were about 12 of us gathered at Penn Station to see Bill off in true hippie fashion, everyone kissing, hugging, flowers, placards of "Make love not war" all the paraphrenalia of our time.  I noticed Bill and George had separated from the group and were in serious, head-bowed conversation so I inched closer.  

"Take care of her, George."

That's all I heard but all I needed to.  Bill and I had been about to fall off the sweet edge of new love, discovering another person you truly feel for, practicing all the time-honed rituals of passion and sweetness in that strange mix of tradition and rebelliousness.  Now we'd be separated.  He cared for me, I thought with a giddy butterfly in my stomach.  Wish he could stay ... I wish ...

Many boys couldn't stay when they got that draft notice, and with the boldness born of fear they escaped into college, some to Canada, and over 59,000 never escaped.  Then there were those who escaped deep into their crippled minds.  

George did take care of me for a time before he got his personal invitation to Viet Nam and I was off to my future in college.  When he finished his 18-month tour he returned basically the same but just not as silly, alot more quiet.  We married, had children, and he died in 1998.  He never talked about Nam and the one time I asked, I regretted it.

Bill returned after 10 months, but not entirely.  He left something over there he needed to survive, so upon his return, being wheeled off the plane directly to the V.A. Hospital, it appeared he had come back but since the only real sound he could make was a scream in the night, I suppose I never saw him again after that day at Penn Station.  Bill would scream about burning babies.  

His platoon had discovered a harvest of tiny little baby arms in a heap, all bearing a vaccination scar.  The mothers had amputated them thinking "Joe" was poisoning them out of existence.  These were South Vietnamese, our allies, the people we were there to help fight the Viet Cong and communism.  They wanted and needed our overpowering American help.  Yet in the end they only trusted their age-old instincts, and many Americans were very ugly in that war.  I saw pictures in Life, the continual loop on the evening news showing a constant play-by-play of that day's maneuvers, the inaccurate death tolls, the unusually paradoxical term "friendly fire" forced into our lexicon, I saw and heard all this but couldn't get my friend Bill to recognize a tree.  

Was there ever a time humans didn't feel the need to fight bitterly for something?  Does this mean it's forever inherent in our genes?  Are we destined to lose the humanity we had before our first kill?  Or worse, is killing part of our humanity?  And someone please tell me, is there really such a thing as a "good war" ?  

Bill was going to be my very first sweetheart, mycrush to remember for all my life.  Fate and a useless costly war took that experience and I'll never know what that future would've held.  George was a decent man but became so distant with time I felt I was working my way through life alone.  Though separated, we attended Bill's funeral together in 1973.  Bill was 19 when his number was called to war, 20 when his mind retreated into itself, and only 25 when his body stopped.  We mourned for our friend who never returned.  

I don't like war.  I studied it and will not study it again.  I didn't know what I was going to say in this post to commemorate Veterans Day, and still don't feel I've said anything.  So I leave it to wiser spirits to end this:

           " I WILL FIGHT NO MORE, FOREVER."  

                    Chief Joseph, Oct. 5, 1877        

      

27 comments:

bhbner2him said...

I don't think war is ever good.  I do think there are things worth fighting for.  I pray no service man should ever lose their life fighting for any thing less than the highest ideals of freedom, liberty and safety.  -  Barbara

fisherkristina said...

What Barbara said.

Krissy
http://journals.aol.com/fisherkristina/SometimesIThink

sybilsybil45 said...

I really don't believe in any war. I doubt if a war between two people in their own country for whatever each side believes, can be helped when other countries intervene so SAVE them from war ?  It is a very hard subject.  Love our neighbours is one of our camandments, how can we say that when we, even under orders..go about killing women and defensless children.  Ah well.
It is a heavy subject to start the day with.     Love  Sybil x
http:/journals.aol.co.uk/sybilsybil45/villagelife

treesrgreen78 said...

Your entry was very touching.  You as always need not worry but saying anything, You said it wonderfully, every eloquently and with so much meaning.  God bless George, Bill and you my friend.  War changes all our lives.  It really serves no meaning, except destruction and loss of what could have been.  

pharmolo said...

About the most potent entry that can be made on November 11th is the one that comes from close to a veteran. Yours ranks amongst them, Cathy. Although it says on the side of the Cenotaph in London "The Glorious Dead", war is never glorious. The aftermath of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan is too much for many people in America to take. Thank you for sharing.

Guido

jeadie05 said...

Cathy this is the most powerful entry I have read ,so moving ...I had to take a break whilst reading it , I can remember that time ~~The musical 'Hair',the love beads, the flowers in our hair ,'if you are going to San Francisco ' flowing skirts loon pants ,tye dye tee shirts ,yes that was our time ,but it was time that was stolen from so many, never to be returned to them ,and it was a time that time would have us forget ,but we must not !....love Jan xx  PS  I too did an entry about another war ,but  just  as poignant, please read at     http://journals.aol.co.uk/jeadie05/Serendipity/

swmpgrly said...

great entry

wwfbison said...

I came over by way of Guido to read your entry.  It was riveting to say the least.  
A powerful read.
Lisa

malagutigrrl said...

This is one of the most moving things I've ever read... thank you!

preciousone25 said...

Very powerful entry!!  Hugs to you, I'm so sorry... I also had an uncle who was in vietnam (he was one of the very fortunate ones who came back and made a good living), one time he told me stories that I'll never forget.... the only time he ever talked about it.

Joann

rdautumnsage said...

Hauntingly , powerful. I lost an uncle in the Vietnam War. They sent a purple heart home instead of him. Later on we would learn he turned his own gun on himself, they never did tell us that one. Why? He had two children at home, he just went through a village where the orders were to shoot anything that moved. He couldn't live with himself knowing children died at the end of his gun. So he turned it on himself. I don't blame my uncle. I'm honored he would rather take his own life than kill another child no matter what the circumstances were. The purple heart? By doing what he did that killed him inside, he also saved the men in his platoon. One of the children was a suicide bomber. No one wins truly in any war. (Hugs) Indigo

firestormkids04 said...

My Rob went to Vietnam back then too.  I didn't know him then. He was proud to have served his country.  As he got off the plane, first in Texas then San Francisco, young people with signs screamed at him: "Baby Killer, Baby Killer!"  At home, his family ridiculed him.  He drank and used drugs to cover up the pain of what he saw there.  He was all macho - he could handle it.  His daughter died at 6 yrs old from brain cancer most likely because of the effects of Agent Orange in his own body.  Again he was a baby killer.  After we married he finally got counseling.  After all of this, he is still proud to have served his country. Go figure.  Blessings to you,  Penny  http://journals.aol.com/firestormkids04/FromHeretoThere http://journals.aol.com/firestormkids04/TimeforaLittlePoetry

ma24179 said...

Luddie, that was a sad story but a beautiful tribute.... I can't believe the terror those young soldiers had to see..the things they were forced to do. My aunt took take care of a vietnam veteran, he was almost completely gone. Mentally I mean. Sometimes he thought he was still at war.. again thanks for sharing and have a good week. -Missy http://journals.aol.com/ma24179/MISSYZSTUFF

xxroxymamaxx said...

Amen.  I don't like war either.  But I respect those who go to fight.  Especially those who had no choice.  Such a these young men you speak of and my father too.  God bless them.  Love, Shelly

gazker said...

You pen sad words my friend. A wonderful tribute to your two friends. I cried as I read it.
Gaz xxx

mail4campbell said...

This same sort of stroy is repeated time and time again, in any war. But thank God for brave souls who are there to defend you and me.  SO Sorry for your loss...I lost a dear friend who was a fire fighter, he was only 19 when he deid leaving a pregnant young wife AND a 6 month old daughter! The young woman named the second daughter after the baby's deceased Father..."Stephanie"           I missed my friend, felt sorry for his wife...the young lonely mother, but rejoiced in the new lives just begining. Just looking at the tiny face, so precious, so loved...and knowing that Steve LOVED all babies and not just his own...He would, and did, lay his life down to save another...no greater love is there than this.  Alot of things seem so wrong in this world...beyond our human understanding...Thankyou for sharing this entry!

mutualaide said...

Luddie, every year at Veteran's Day I remember my father and the tales he never told.  I think of my brother and the stories he never shared -- and probably never will -- and I am grateful to them for their commitment to their country and their families.  But like you I'm not sure there is ever a 'good war'.  

gravydogg55 said...

  TO 'DARE TO THINK',   YOUR ENTRY IS INTERESTING.
       SO MANY YOUNG LIVES SUCH AS YOURS WERE AFFECTED BY WHAT AT FIRST WAS DESCRIBED AS 'POLICE ACTION' REGARDING VIETNAM.
     I DISAGREED WITH PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON AS MORE AND MORE TROOPS WERE SENT AND THE YEARS PASSED.
 I WAS DRIVING BUSES FOR GREYHOUND LINES, WORKING THE EXTRA BOARD, MUCH OF MY DRIVING WAS CARRYING SOLDIERS IN AND OUT OF FORT LEONARD WOOD  MISSOURI. THE SOLDIERS WERE LOYAL.
    I CONVERSED WITH MANY WHOM WERE ON THE WAY TO LAMBERT FIELD TO BEGIN THE TRIP TO VIETNAM. ( I HAD SPENT MANY MONTHS OF WORLD WAR 2 IN NEW GUINEA, GUSAP, BIAK, LUZON, LEYTE, Ie SHIMA, OKINAWA.
    (LOOK UP ANY OF THOSE LOCATIONS ON THE 'KEYWORD').
 ALSO CONVERSED WITH MANY COMING FROM VIETNAM. GOD BLESS THOSE LOYAL SOLDIERS. MANY PLANNED TO RETURN FOR ANOTHER TOUR.
      MANY MISTAKES WERE MADE BY OUR LEADERS REGARDING VIETNAM.
HOWEVER, AT THIS PRESENT TIME, WE ARE REALIZING THAT THE POPULATIONS OF THE WORLD ARE BEING ATTACKED BY MILITANT OFFSHOOTS OF RELIGIOUS GROUPS.
   THESE ATTACKERS SEEM TO CONSIDER THAT ANY OPPOSING THEM ARE INFIDELS. (FIRST HAND EXAMPLE, THE TWIN TOWERS DESTRUCTION).
      WE ARE NOW IN A WAR AGAINST TERRORISM. OUR COMMANDER IN CHIEF RECOGNIZES TERRORISM AS AN ENEMY TO FREEDOM.
    SADLY, THERE ARE LAWMAKERS IN OUR CONGRESS THAT SEEM TO SEE NO THREAT FROM THE MILITANTS WHOM CONSIDER US INFIDELS AND OPENLY DECLARE THAT ALL INFIDELS MUST BE KILLED.
    THE LAWMAKERS THAT SEEM TO SEE NO THREAT ARE INSULTING OUR PRESIDENT WITH DEMEANING WORDS WHICH IS MUSIC TO THE ENEMY THAT ARE SAYING ALL INFIDELS MUST BE KILLED.
   OCCASIONALLY, HOMEGROWN ENEMIES ARE DISCOVERED HERE IN THE UNITED STATES. WATCH FOX NEWS FOR FACTS AND COMPLETE INFORMATION.
  NO, WE ARE NOT IN ANOTHER 'VIETNAM'. OUR PRESIDE

luddie343 said...

Cathy 2 Gravydogg:  Yes, I know a little about WW2, Normany (thought by the Germans to be Port du Calais) Ch St, Maire, then Italy & Annzio and worst of all the Ardennes, where we almost lost it all; Omaha & Utah Beach, our own Pacific theater brought about when Japan, in further conquering of China, felt Hawaii was in the way and the USA was little threat.  But when we declared war on Japan, their allies Germany & Italy declared same on us, hence our dual fronts.  No need to look up Japanese islands, Okinawa, or the Phillipines, Luzon & Leyte.  End game:  Hiroshima.  Nagasaki was never supposed to happen, but it did and w/o knowing it was our last WMP, Japan surrendered rather than endure another.  I know people feel this was a "good" or just war tho I believe they mean the dogma we proclaim was worth fighting forth when threatened, and I agree.  Btw, KOREA was referred to as a police action, whilst those sent to Vietnam were referred to as political advisors.  I never inferred today's copnflict is another Vietnam, it's totaly different as it has a religious banner as its call to arms.  Religious wars only come to ruination I'm sure you know.  Thanks for your interest.          

gravydogg55 said...

THIS FROM SAM, BECAME 'CARRIED AWAY WITH MY COMMENT AND HAD TOO MANY CHARACTERS SO HERE IS THE REST OF IT.    samOCCASIONALLY, HOMEGROWN ENEMIES ARE DISCOVERED HERE IN THE UNITED STATES. WATCH FOX NEWS FOR FACTS AND COMPLETE INFORMATION.
NO, WE ARE NOT IN ANOTHER 'VIETNAM'. OUR PRESIDENT, THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF, IS SINCERELY FIGHTING TERRORISM. OUR PRESIDENT IS NOT IMMUNE TO MISTAKES AND HE CERTAINLY DOES NOT DESERVE THE DEMEANING WORDS OF ELECTED OFFICIALS , WORDS THAT NO DOUBT STEM FROM HATE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.
      WE SURVIVORS OF THE 'GREAT DEPRESSION ' YEARS AND HAVE LIVED THROUGH THE ADMINISTRATIONS OF PAST PRESIDENTS HAVE NEVER WITNESSED SUCH DISRESPECT TO A PRESIDENT AS HAS HAPPENED RECENTLY.
       HOWEVER, THERE ARE ENOUGH LOYAL RED BLOODED AMERICANS IN CONGRESS AT THIS TIME, BOTH DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS THAT PRESIDENT BUSH IS ABLE TO GET LEGISLATION TO OVERCOME THE LIMP WRISTED ONES THAT WOULD WAVE A WHITE FLAG IN SURRENDER TO THE TERRORISTS THAT ASPIRE TO KILL US.

luddie343 said...

Cathy 2 Gravydoog:  The only white flag I saw was by the Taliban as they ran toward our troops in surrender in Afghanistan, as we searched out their terrorist leader bin Laden.  Fighting terrorists, if you'll allow me, is not like any war you ever fought sir.  This is an age of unfair play when combatants are leveled against each other on unbalanced fields, as one decides to fly planes into buildings.  That's not warfare, it's terror and in no way do I believe we should succumb to its cowardice.  Still, you cannot fight an enemy, esp like this, w/o understanding it.  They truly believe God, by any other name, is calling them to kill.  How does one expect to rationalize with such dogma?  I believe any soldier called to defend the doctrine of his country against any invader should be lauded and admired, not because they seek warfare but rather, to end it.  The block is that in this conflict, terrorists have such fierce hatred for the West, no bullet can stop it.      

attitudeslc said...

My only response is a face filled with tears.  

jmorancoyle said...

    I had hoped prior to the current war that we had learned something from Vietnam. I had also hoped we had learned something from Watergate. Maybe a lot of us have, just not the people that matter. My friend's son is on his way home after his third tour in Iraq. I've been praying for his safety. I'll continue to pray for his mental health.
Jude
http://journals.aol.com/jmorancoyle/MyWay

rockoned7 said...

Lest we forget as well Cathy that they, who gave their lives for us no matter what the fight, are never forgotten.

Maybe someday you will find yourself another George? Who will also remember Scott MacKenzie beig number one with flowers in his hair. Well said ED

luddie343 said...

Cathy 2 ED:  Not a mere once or twice have I dwelt on the incongruity of similar names in certain personages...:-)

geminirising12 said...

In my humble opinion, this entry reaches deeply into your very being - way too deep for me to even attempt to add my comments.  I feel these are precious memories you have shared with us, and I don't feel I am able to do them justice.  I have decided to leave your past in the past - with you, because that is where this story lies - deep in your heart of hearts.  And this is where it needs to stay. . . . .
Gemmy

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