Sunday, May 25, 2014
Memorial Day in My Hood
My partner is a Viet Nam vet and he was one of the few to return to his street, his hometown after a tour and a half in the jungle. He and Billy were the only ones to survive in this neighborhood. The rest never came home and he can remember the parents of those boys being bitter and asking why him and not their sons. It was tough. Even tougher, the Viet Nam vet was not respected the way our returning soldiers are nowadays. The partner was spit on by protesters when he got off the bus and it took him a couple of fifths of scotch a day to maintain equilibrium for a few months after returning. He had to learn how to turn off the killing machine and become human again. For awhile he had nightmares and I can remember him having a few terrible ones the first couple of years we were together. But that faded, though the complications from shrapnel debris in his body never let up. He went to the V.A. hospital more than once to relieve the fluid build up on the base of his skull due to the metal frag located next to his spine. Then that passed, too. Another decade later and the frag was surrounded with abnormal tissue that eventually became bone cancer which spread to his skull and part of his jaw had to be removed. He was still handsome despite some of the jaw bone loss and he survived that, too. He never wanted to join the VFW or any other veterans' organization. Said he didn't want to be reminded of something he had tried so hard to forget. He lost a good friend in Nam, Red. Found him skinned out after they had gotten separated on a night patrol. They were Special Forces and after that, the partner stayed another half tour to avenge Red's death, only going home after it was determined he had done enough. Sometimes he will tell stories and those liquid blue eyes will leave the room when he does. What bothers him most is memories of the children he tried to save. Mostly, he just chooses to live a day at a time and is thankful for the time he has had, despite suffering from another form of cancer. And every Memorial Day I give thanks that he is still here and that we have been able to spend the past twenty five years together in relative peace.