I remember James Smith
And Eugene Sabo
And Bobby Jenning
And A.J. McKenzie
I can see their faces and hear their voices as if it was yesterday.
I remember them dying during that war so long ago.
Terrible, bloody, painful deaths in the jungle and rice paddies.
I remember escorting the remains of one friend to his home town, knowing a sobbing mother waited.
As I left the plane some lady called me a baby killer.
There were no banners, parades or welcome home in those days.
I remember being discharged with some papers and a handshake.
The next morning I got up and went looking for a job and get on with my life.
I was different from the 17-year-old boy who joined the service four years earlier.
Older, wiser, forever changed by what I saw.
You just push it away from your mind and move on.
It was years before I stopped jumping at a loud noise.
I remember the time the replica of the Vietnam Memorial wall came to Hawaii.
I didn’t want to, but I went late at night as a soft rain fell over the capitol building.
It mixed with the tears running down my cheeks as I looked for the names of my friends.
There were a lot of vets and families there that night and we were all crying as we remembered our brothers in arms that lady hated so much.
I stayed until dawn and erased years of sadness and hurt and left at peace with myself.
I rarely spoke of that part of my life afterwards.
None of us wanted to be in that country, but we went because we were told it was important.
It doesn’t make any difference how important it was or wasn’t.
We were told it was and we believed it.
Like me, things have changed much since then.
Our government spies on us, the American spirit seems to have dimmed and we have disappointed ourselves and many in the world.
But our military is still the best and brightest and true to its traditions.
There are those who still believe what they do is important and some give their lives for it.
They are my brothers and sisters in arms and I honor them.