I've written this quite some time ago, no doubt inspired by M*A*S*H. I happened to come across it today and thought I would share it here. Warning; it's not exactly happy stuff.
There is no glory in war.
It took me a long time to see that. It took me Korea, and Vietnam, and then some more. It didn't just take seeing one man die in front of me. It didn't even take several.
I guess I've been a perfect soldier for many years. Didn't feel a thing, ever. Did my job without complaining, in silence, without going crazy. Guess that's why they sent me out twice, first to fight the North Koreans, then the VC. Guess they thought I'm a rock.
I was, you know. Nothing could touch me.
The first few weeks - the first few weeks were hell. They dropped me off in Seoul and I got to the front by jeep - we were bombed that very first day, you know. First day on foreign soil, ever, and they shot at us.
Saw my first dead kid right there. He was only nineteen years old - just a few hours ago, he'd been tellin' me 'bout his girl back home. Sally, her name was. He said she had long blonde hair and he was gonna marry her when he got back.
He died, and for the longest time I saw his eyes every night, heard his voice whenever there was silence around me. Drove me crazy. Two more guys in my unit were killed my first week - but I didn't feel anything for them, just that nineteen-year old kid - he haunted me, man. I couldn't close my eyes without seein' him.
Then a few weeks later I shot somebody for the first time. And I thought to myself, 'I've killed somebody's son, someone's husband, maybe someone's father. Killed him, just like that.
Just like they're killing us.'
And I got hard, man. I became a regular fighting machine. Death didn't touch me no more - I could look at a body and all I'd think was, 'poor mother'. Nothing more. Just, 'poor mother'.
So I stopped thinking 'bout their mothers, and then 'bout my own mother, too. You got nothing to lose if you got nothing to care for.
Got through the rest of Korea like that - and then I got home and saw my mom again, and I changed right back into who I was before I'd ever set foot in Korea. Just like that, like I had some damn switch.
Turned the switch right back on when they sent me to Vietnam - a little wetter, a lot more jungle than Korea, but mostly the same. Fighting the commies again.
Wasn't prepared for their techniques, though. The way they sneak up on ya - you know, the guerrillas? Damn near killed me once, but I shot my way out. Got a belly wound the size of Texas, but I survived.
I saw my buddies around me fall, and I didn't even blink. No questions asked, no feelings felt - just blind obedience and you're fine. That's what I thought, at least. Keep your head low and nobody'll attack ya. And don't think about who you're attacking - don't give them faces or names. So long as they're faceless, you can pretend they're not humans.
It got different though. I started seeing faces. Not faces of the VC, but women. Vietnamese women with kids, who were just tryin' to survive in that hellhole. Innocents.
I heard of My Lai and I cried. I imagined those women and those kids and suddenly I couldn't just not care. The rock had cracked.
And one day we were in our own My Lai one of those countless little villages that all looked alike, with young men, old women and everything in between. We were checking out the village for VC, but it was clear the village was safe. We were just about to leave when the real VC turned up - I hid in a hut with two women and a baby, just a year old, in a little hole. Beautiful little girl, with large black eyes and long eyelashes, a beauty in the making.
I was hiding in there with these two women who had every reason to hate me, but they just sat there and held hands in silence, the baby lying between them.
And then she started crying. Maybe she was hungry, or thirsty, or the harsh voices scared her. She started crying and she didn't stop. Her mother tried to shush her, but she just kept on crying.
And the mother pressed her child against her chest and muffled the cries, until they stopped.
Outside there was fire and shouting, but I was just stuck there. I don't even know how I got outta there without being caught. I don't know much after that.
All I remember is that little girl. All I see now is that little girl, and those two women, and their anger, their tears and their … Their anguish, man, that look in their eyes, and then how I felt, and something broke, man.
I got out of there somehow and I was sent home. Maybe they'd been expecting me to crack, maybe they thought I'd done my duty, I don't know. But they sent me home and for the first month, I didn't even talk.
Everything that had happened - all the blood and gore, the pain, death, fighting, drugs dead soldiers, young kids, mothers, rats, guns - everything came back. It felt like somebody was attacking my brains.
I got home and my mother stood next to my bed every night, trying to convince me I was safe. I saw that baby everywhere, tried to get to her but could never save her.
I'm better now. I still see faces and names, but I'm changed.
Now, whenever I see a soldier, I want to cry for him. It doesn't matter whether he's old or young, a father or not, a softie or an iron soldier. No matter who you are, you lose something in a fight, and you're never gonna get it back.
No glory, no hero worship, no nothing.
There is nothing in war.
I'd really appreciate reviews. I'm a bit anxious about my use of language here; I tried to sort of copy a country boy-type of accent, but I am not American and I've never met an American country boy, so I tried to write down how somebody like that sounded in my head... if that makes sense. Anyway, I'd appreciate your opinion!