Friday, August 23, 2013

Wounds of War

The Rad Trad had an interesting experience on Saturday. It went as follows.
I am sitting in a cafeteria drinking a bottle of sparkling water when a man in a Hawaiian shirt and a baseball cap bursts inside, panting and red in the face. He approaches the counter asking for water: "Help, I'm dehydrated! I need water!" The clerk gives him a plastic cup and directs him towards the soda machine's water button. He drinks and calms down. The man spots me and meanders over, apologizing "Sorry, I thought I was back in the jungle. I wasn't really dehydrated but every time it's hot I think I'm back in the jungle and I'm dehydrated again." I see the front of his hat; it is a Vietnam veterans' association hat.
Me: "No problem. Completely fine."
Him: "Sorry. I was in 'Nam, ya know? It was hot over there and ya never knew when you'd get another drink."
Me: "Are you a veteran?"
Him: "Yep. My father fought in World War II. I fought in 'Nam. My son did three tours in Iraq."
Me: "Well, thank you for your service." His face illuminates and he grabs my hand, shaking it firmly.
Him: "You're the second person in 52 years to thank me. You don't understand. When my father came back he was a hero. My son's a hero. They could wear their military clothing. Me? I was a baby killer! They thought I was a baby killer! No thanks! Nothing. I killed so many gooks I get nightmares. God I don't know how many I killed, but it gives me nightmares every night. Know how much the V.A. hospital pays me to have those nightmares there? $1,700 a month! God, it's hot it here. I feel dehydrated, like I'm back in the jungle. Sorry."
Me: "No need to apologize."
Him: "How old are you?"
Me: "Twenty three."
Him: "Oh, so you don't remember the war at all?!"
Me: "Nah, it's in history for my generation."
Him: "It was real to me. When I came back I was a baby killer! That's what my generation thought I was. And yours? They don't even know about it! I have PTSD, ya know what that is?"
Me: "I do, sir."
Him: "Well I have nightmares every night about all the gooks I killed. No one ever helped me get over it."
I get up and make my move.
Me: "Well once again, thank you for your service. I'm off, but thanks again and I'm sure your son's doing good things for us, too."
He smiles.
Him: "Aw, thanks! Geez, I'm sorry I just snapped but I was dehydrated and thought I was back in the jungle. Ugh. Okay, have a good one!"
Me: "You as well, sir!"
Point: you "win" a war like you "win" an earthquake. You just come out better than the other guy. I wish politicians, especially the ones who not only start wars, but who actively oppose the people forced to fight them, would appreciate how they damage people's lives, often irreparably. Heartless blackguards.

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