"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Monday, June 7, 2010

The red ones are theirs and the green ones are ours

I have a friend whose father was an explosive specialist in Vietnam during the Tet offensive. He was an engineer and walked point. He broke his tailbone jumping into a ditch. He was testing the terrain.

He is still in therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He couldn’t hold a job because he was too explosive. If anyone touched him he would go crazy, fighting all the time, still fighting.

My friend says his father hates the 4th of July. The fireworks become tracers. “The red ones are theirs,” he told him. “And the green ones are ours.” It’s scary having a father like that.

He told me a story. He and his brother were spending the weekend at a cottage in the woods with their father when he found him inside, staring at a wall. He asked him what was wrong and his father said he was trying to remember the name of the corpsman who patched him up. He could see his face but couldn’t remember his name. He tried all weekend to remember that name. He wasn’t really at the cottage in the woods that weekend. He was sorting the red ones from the greens ones. He was looking for a friend.

He wouldn’t let his sons go in the service. He told them they could do anything but that.

I would pack my son off to Canada or further before I would let him be taken or coerced or bribed, whatever you want to call it when they dangle education, bonues and promises of honor and esteem in front of wondering eyes. I would pack him some cookies and peaches, blankets and sheets, candles, soap and towels. I would wish him music and books and easy nights and happy days. Can you pack a box of happiness? What would it cost to mail a box of happiness, return receipt requested?

14 comments:

Travener said...

One good thing -- relatively good thing -- is that PTSD is now recognized as a real problem. Generations of soldiers before were told to, you know, suck it up and get on with their lives, and many, like the man you described, simply couldn't cope with the memories of the horrors they had experiencedd.

Anthony Duce said...

A very good piece about the continued suffering from the times. I remember the conversations back then when, of avoiding the craziness with Canada so just a few miles away.

Jemi Fraser said...

PTSD is such a horrific and sad condition. People who suffer from it need so much compassion.

Gabriela Abalo said...

A very compelling post.
I always ask myself: how do soldiers deal with the aftermath of war? Do they manage to get a normal happy life once again? I wrote a post on that, “Tim” where I described the struggles of a soldier trying to cope with life.

Very touching, thank you for sharing.


loveNlight
Gabi

Yvonne Osborne said...

Travener,
Yes, at least there is that. Thanks for commenting.

Anthony,
Welcome! Yes, Canada is enticingly close to us, a beacon across the water. Thanks for joining my blog. I love yours.

Jemi,
Thanks for commenting. As Trav stated, at least it is now recognized as a real problem.

Gabi,
Thanks for sharing that.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Wow. I feel very sad for your friend, his father and their family. Very sad.

foldingfields said...

I feel the same as the dad--and like Ani DiFranco--"I'm going to move to Canada and die of old age."
Still sorting out my emotions on this post, Yvonne. I love your writing. That's why I keep coming back, like a bug to a zapper.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Suzanne,
Thanks. Do you ever feel like we're stuck in a wheel of sadness?

Sarah,
Thank you! I don't know who Ani DiFranco is but I like the quote. There was a news report yesterday on NPR from Vietnam about all the disfigured children and birth defects related to the dousing of Agent Orange our govt. subjected them to. And America has never admitted any liability and our own soldiers have to fight for every dime of their health care benefits. Soldiers today are still being told that their PTSD conditions are preexisting. Complete bullshit, for lack of a better word. I'm glad you keep coming back.

catwoods said...

Yvonne, this post is elegant as always. Your writing captivates the soul.

My dad was in Vietnam,though not in the thick of the fighting like your friend's father must have been. His job was to strap the pilots in. He still has nightmares about being the last face many of them saw.

We can never understand the impact of war without being there ourselves.

Thanks for the gentle reminder of those who need our support and our packaged of happiness.

smander said...

I'm new to your blog and found this post very moving. It was clever the way you referred to him as an explosion specialist and then mentioned that he could not get employment because he was “explosive”. Great use of language. Thanks for sharing.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Cat,

You are too kind and so generous with your feedback. Thank you. What your dad did, there aren't words for that. I can't even imagine. Our words, while heartfelt, seem trite in comparison. Thanks again for sharing.

Smander,
Hello and thanks for commenting. It's always a pleasant surprise to see a new name/face. Thanks again for taking the time to let me know what you thought.

Jingle said...

very insightful discussions...

Olivia Herrell said...

Oh, Yvonne, this is so poignant. My nephew is in the service, luckily in Korea, but still. I worry.

You have captured the true essence of war and my heart bleeds for our soldiers, for the boys and men who go and for the families that do without them. Even if they come home, they don't come home. They are someone else entirely, deeply affected and changed by what they see and are made to do in the name of honor.

Disturbing indeed. Thank for tackling this subject.

~That Rebel, Olivia

Yvonne Osborne said...

Olivia,
Hello and thanks for visiting and commenting here, on a post I hestiated to submit in the first place. I appreciate your feedback. So true....they never truly come home. From one rebel to another.