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Pathfinder

Pathfinder

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Published by Lola
Place yourself in the head of a young man not even twenty-one heading out for a jungle war thousands of miles away from home. Imagine his demise. Feel his pain. Explore your feelings about the Vietnam War.
Place yourself in the head of a young man not even twenty-one heading out for a jungle war thousands of miles away from home. Imagine his demise. Feel his pain. Explore your feelings about the Vietnam War.

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Published by: Lola on Jan 19, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/17/2009

 
PathfinderBy Lola CarlileHe trudged to the edge of the densely plant-filled forest only to find acrevice that would hide him for a temporary stay. He tentatively brushed away thebroken shards of tree bark, bits of animal fur, and stagnant leaves. He furtivelyplaced his entire body within the trench and finally closed his eyes. He couldstill hear offensive sounds in the distance and attempted to stop his breath; itwas so loud.Would they find him buried here and still alive? Or would his spirit give up andhis essence float away? His tiredness was one he had never experienced and onethat hurt in areas he wasn’t aware could feel anything anymore. The bloodied,bandaged leg was wobbly and sometimes shot out without his will.Breathing in felt as if tiny corpuscles were trapping the air in fear it wouldleave again. Breathing out was more difficult. He might cry out in plaintivewails if he weren’t careful. Control. Staying in control. That’s what got him sofar….It was stifling hot lying there in full combat regalia. He had forgotten hisbackpack many yards and eons ago. It didn’t matter much. He needed sustenance andsleep, mostly sleep. As he started to enter the sublime pillow of sleep, hevaguely heard something foreign. He knew what it meant, but he couldn’t rousehimself long enough to register the slanted eyes and rough touch….****He hadn’t planned on entering the service at all. He was mighty happy working atthe bank, going to junior college, and living at home. This war that everyone wastalking about didn’t seem to matter much to this teenager just barelymatriculating into adult life. The worst fear he had would be that his fatherwould find out that he had sponsored a party for the bank at their home while theparents were out.Mom and Dad had just pulled up as he trudged out with the last load of beerbottles and paper plates crusted over with something akin to a chip and dip plate.No suspicions. Good. He was a good boy, went to church, and generally pleased hisfamily. The fourth of seven kids, he was neither the older privileged or theyounger spoiled, but he was different. He saw things in a different way andunderstood life to a degree none of them could. Even the teachers saw that he wasdifferent and needed support. Dad didn’t think he should be put up a grade. He wasno different. They were all alike. His litter of seven. Clean little pups. Alltreated the same, or so ole’ Dad thought.But he inadvertently found a way to garner attention. Simple ways. Ways like beingtoo skinny and not eating to his Mom’s satisfaction. Varying trips to the doctoronly proved that he needed to eat more. He wasn’t sick. He was just way tooskinny. So while his dog ate his green beans on the floor, he was indulged withbanana bread with no nuts as requested. Although the family was poor and money wastight, he was allowed extra glasses of milk.Then something on the other side of the globe uprooted his entirely satisfyingworld and college, the bank, and home disappeared. At first, he thought he coulduse his wits to control his destiny. The Army came calling first and he high-tailed it to the Air Force. They examined him, prodded him, talked with him, andtested him. A fine specimen. They promised a soft assignment, far away from thegooks in Asia.Italy was wonderfully sunny and rustic and the females were so very enticing intheir sometimes too tight tops and short pants or skirts. He felt validated in hischoice. The Force had solemnly kept their promise.
 
At least for a few months. Then he found himself on an airplane headed there. Theplace that was in constant uproar and a place most young men didn’t fathom as atemporary home. Some went albeit roaring drunk with raucous actions, ready toplunder and emit all the testosterone they could. Others vacuously begged off withcomplaints of gender identification or idle complaints of disease. He had doneneither. Now the plane would land and the third chapter of his adult life wouldbegin.Before they landed he spied a mystical fog hovering over beautiful trees. It was amesmerizing sight and one that made him feel as if he were visiting Disneyland andriding the tram over the entire façade once again as he had as a young boy. It wasas if his uncle were guiding him to get out of the tram and go on a ride. Someride it turned out to be….As the aged transport C57 careened to a stop on the short airstrip, he noticed thechange in scenery as well as the stifling air. He had never breathed in such heavyair, the scent of which almost made him pass out. The others on the plane weren’tready for this party either. He didn’t know what was worse – the tittering of theplane or the deep unforgiving dive of the landing. He grabbed his stiff olivebackpack and stood up slightly dizzy and quickly headed for the nearest exit.Whoa! Wait a minute. That tarmac sure looked hot. He was sweating profusely as hewaited for the rest of the team to line up. This felt like grade school, but itsurely wasn’t a field trip – this was war and he was in the midst of it. His heartpounded so loudly he felt it was ready to explode. Tiny beads of perspirationtrickled down his forehead. It was time to boogie.The signal was given and the group ran to the long steel barracks. No time to lookat the surroundings, nor any time to perceive a feeling of liking this place ornot. Just running to a tin can and shutting the door. What was next? Over threemillion tons of bombs had been dropped on Vietnam by 1968 and public opinion wasincreasingly negative, especially on college campuses.He was just a kid – barely 20, not old enough to order a beer, but oldenough to shoot someone. Damn. He stood in line to get supplies he would need onhis reconnaissance flights. He was one of the lucky ones. ‘Cause he was smart.Put into intelligence. He hoped that would be in some captain’s office,intercepting the mail or something mundane like that.“Son, here’s your gun.” He didn’t know anything about guns. Never had one. Neverwanted one.“I don’t want a gun. I won’t shoot anyone.”The burly supply sergeant heaved a heavy sigh. He looked at the frail young manwho looked like he should still be in high school.“Look son, I have to give you a gun. It says so in the orders. But nowhere, and Irepeat, nowhere, does it say I have to give you bullets.”He took the gun. He would never remember the color, the size, or any details aboutit. It was just a gun. Worn to warn others that he had strength and might. Itwould be the first thing he would lose. He didn’t think about anything other thanhis country needed him and he was scared shitless.Later on, they rounded up the newbies and gave them an orientation. Don’t eatoutside the base. You’ll get sick, especially if you eat from stands off thestreet. He ate on base and became violently ill. From that time on, he made it apoint to eat off the street vendors goods. Never sick from that time on….On his rare days off, he ventured downtown and liked what he saw. Beautiful women– all willing to be his girlfriend. So many that his ideas of going to war weren’tall that stressful at times. Or, if they were, the tender caresses of a femaletook all that pain away. He was determined to make these people see Americans askind and loving. He was successful in that part. The girls’ parents liked him andhe immensely enjoyed getting to know the culture. At one point he even consideredleaving the service and becoming a monk. His spiritual growth was immense. He wasseeing the world for what it was and wanted to meditate to a higher level.

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