When Our Troops Come Home

When Our Troops Come Home
Ken Jones, PhD

When Our Troops Come Home

When Our Troops Come Home More information about PTSD Follow Ken Jones on Twitter

Copyright 2008 Ken Jones, PhD ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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When Our Troops Come Home

For my brothers Ned Neathery Jim Bondsteel And Gabe Rollison


When Our Troops Come Home TABLE OF CONTENTS Forward Preface to the Original Edition 4 PART I Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 PART II Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 PART III The Journey Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 PART IV The Medusa Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 PART V The Morass Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 PART VI The Metanoia Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 PART VII The Reflection Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Credits for Chapter Quotes The Iceman The Cauldron 8 15 17 21 26 28 33 34 37 41 43 46 48 50 52 55 59 61 63 65 73 79 88 91 93 97 99 105 113 www.whenourtroopscomehome.com .

It is offered as a gift to families and friends who desperately want to understand. Alaska May 26. We understand the bond. or the guilt of having survived. This then is a beginning.the one percent who serve. the nights without sleep and the need for the next adrenalin fix. When Our Troops Come Home is a description of an interior journey for warriors returning from combat. You are not alone. It is simply this: That never again shall a generation of America’s warriors have to endure what we endured on the long journey home. the love that exists among warriors.whenourtroopscomehome. You. 2008 Memorial Day www.com . who did our trigger time in Vietnam. at first. Across the decades and generations we. just one of thousands across our country. the families and friends who await their return – you. And it is offered to our warriors as one more voice reminding you that you are not alone. Understanding these things we who served in Vietnam have an obligation. We understand the fear and rage and guilt you experience. who have experienced combat and know that your world is forever changed. there are no words to express the losses you have endured. We understand how. Ken Jones Anchorage.When Our Troops Come Home Forward You are not alone. look to you with pride and admiration for who you are – America’s warriors .

the immaculate miles of white on white. "Relax son.When Our Troops Come Home Preface to the Original Edition Even now I recall them. I knew that there was no such thing as being short so long as I was within range of anything in Viet Nam. Moments after the stewardess' announcement. but the click of the microphone button just before the flight attendant's announcement. As I watched the unfolding beauty of the Alaska winter I felt like a hundred-yearold child seeing snow for the first time. in preparation for our arrival in Anchorage. But even then I knew. beside the runway of the Tan Son Nhut Airbase in the Republic of Viet Nam. www. This was a refueling stop. I nodded and tried to smile. the infinite blue of the clear winter sky extending beyond forever. trying to stop the 122mm rockets that were raining in on the airbase during the 1968 Tet Offensive. three rows behind the trailing edge of the 707's right wing." The resulting cheers and laughter started exhausted men moving again. please bring your tray tables. So I watched and ate the fear and willed the aircraft into the sky. The aircraft made a sweeping right turn and headed south. There was no such thing as short. "Gentlemen. March 1968. I had stood hours before. It was the knowing that turned my knuckles white as I gripped the armrests and watched the world accelerate along the tarmac outside the aircraft window. We could deplane for an hour or so if we liked. space enfolding itself in majesty. the ridgelines and mountaintops articulating the solitude of being . It was one of the grunts who had been seated up forward. Finally. For most of the month prior to my departure we had been in the Iron Triangle with the 101st Airborne. We were beginning our descent into Anchorage. As the jet climbed and turned outward bound. there was no longer any such place as home. we were out of range.the Brooks Range." My aching hands let go of the armrests. The PA system awakened me. I slept. The last time I was blown up was eight days before I was supposed to leave the country. I still recall the helplessness and terror of sitting in the window seat.whenourtroopscomehome. the old staff sergeant sitting next to me leaned over and offered his reassurance. a male voice came over the system in an authentic impersonation of the impersonal monotone flight attendants use for landing announcements. you're going home. as it taxied onto the active runway and surged toward its takeoff speed. Alaska. staring blankly into the humidity and heat. Not the words. seat backs and stewardesses to their full upright position for landing.com .

the trauma induced by combat. as we spend time together. It was the same with me when I began my journey. It was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. It is my hope that. was that they were alone in their anguish. There were also a number of wives of Viet Nam survivors who were desperately seeking answers to questions they did not understand. Many of the men and women I have spent time with were survivors of combat in Viet Nam. it becomes impacted. She was old. I gratefully accepted. If the pain is not shared and dissipated. airline-issued blanket. She smiled at me. The blanket stopped my shivering and her smile made me warm. This book is about trauma. it is the possibility of healing from trauma that is paramount. you will come to understand that. the mystery of life is renewed and affirmed. The symbols of a person's life are obliterated. It has been my honor and privilege to share in these people's anguish and healing. khaki summer uniforms. How could there be this much sunlight and such intense cold? Inside the terminal I stood shivering. It is a story recounted in metaphor and symbol and direct experience. whatever its form. expressed by the person with whom I talked. I remember her. www. shatters the soul and breaks the heart. I didn't get a chance to thank her. The journey took sixteen years. although this story is recounted around the trauma of combat. half-sized. Over and over again I heard the words that "had never been spoken". Even here it was only seventy degrees. Trauma leaves a human being cut off and isolated. once with the mind and once with the heart. Deplaning was swift and stumbling. During the past three and a half years I have had the opportunity to spend moments and hours and days and months with human beings who have experienced trauma. Much of it as a result of my time spent as a volunteer counselor at the Anchorage Viet Nam Veterans Outreach Center. Brilliant sunshine. through the love of those willing to share their pain. In the desolation and aloneness. All of us wore short sleeve. questions about the pain and silence of their husbands concerning anything to do with Viet Nam. is devastating. She walked up and offered me a blue. Such material is intended to be read twice. maybe forty-five. When Our Troops Come Home is the continuation of the journey begun in the frigid sunshine of Anchorage in March of 1968. She turned and disappeared into the milling crowd. Forty. How could people live in these temperatures? I saw her walking toward me. The assumption. Trauma. This is the nature of interior journeys. specifically.whenourtroopscomehome. People are left alone with only themselves. a stairway was pushed up to the front door. It tears the mind. The doors were opened and it took only seconds for the cold to sweep through the cabin.com .When Our Troops Come Home When the aircraft stopped. The nature of trauma is to force people to face meaninglessness directly. They felt relief when someone spoke their language.

Alaska www. there is a place called home. I was trained in recon. Truly. I am a grunt. I just say what I see.thank you. Ken Jones June 1987 Eagle River.com . let me say that I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist or a social worker. To the lady who met me at the Anchorage Airport so many years ago .When Our Troops Come Home Lest anyone be misled.whenourtroopscomehome.

com .whenourtroopscomehome.When Our Troops Come Home PART I THE CAULDRON www.

com ." www. the first often tasting like the second. Nobody wants to stand inside the track when it's moving. Tracks in column. Hot. 1967. Our mission is to burn or destroy every structure and kill anything that moves. "Three zero. Southwest of Chu Lai. It's only mid-morning and the sun beating down on our tracks makes the metal so hot that our gunners have to sit on their flack jackets. It's my job. paralleling the stream. a sergeant and two enlisted men. Animals. Dense brush beyond. Moving. a captain. The locals are VC supporters. alternating their front slopes left and right to establish clear fields of fire. I know what this is about." "Roger. three zero. People. I've already been blown up once. Marine advisors. "Jerry?" "Yeah. The company of ROK’s has four U.old men have guilty dreams .S. Livestock. It is a VC staging area. It has been declared a free fire zone. Our track moves on. Nothing. roger. Moving." Edward Abbey Down The River August. A stream." "Hang a left. Find us a place to ford. Search and destroy.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 1 "First up in the morning. Anything. three six. The area we're going into is seven miles wide. Ken. Waiting." "Three zero. An embankment ahead. Our cav platoon is linked up with a company of South Koreans. Nothing." We move out. The rest of the tracks herring-bone. We all know the mines are out there.whenourtroopscomehome. as usual . Banks too high and steep to negotiate. Intercom.I start the fire and build the coffee. Everything. The feeling settles in. twenty-three miles long. Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline. I'm driving the lead track. ROK Marines.

The stream turns south. The ROK's are moving in a crouch." "Three six. www. Move up and cover three zero. He's been blown up. Jerry is a twenty-seven-year old staff sergeant. Jim Fleshhood is driving three seven. Bayonets fixed." "This really sucks. Three zero." We move on." The tracks move out behind us.When Our Troops Come Home "This sucks." "We got a place to ford.com ." "Three elements. Ready. too.whenourtroopscomehome. Fifty meters across. three six." "Three seven. Clear field of fire." "Yeah. Move east and come on line. Jesus. my track commander. "Jerry. Three two moves to our right rear. Go." "Yeah. The sergeant and one of the enlisted men are on three seven. I climb out of my coffin and watch the tracks move toward us." "Roger. Three seven moves to our left rear. Drainage ditch ahead of us. A negotiable slope on the opposite side. We wait. A slight rise to our right front. They don't like it either. A steep drop. maybe fifteen feet down. Cover. We're moving up." "Roger. Stream bank where we came from. His eyes haven't stopped searching the ravine and brush beyond. Same thing. Our gunners are behind their gun shields. it's hot. The Marine captain is riding three six. Sand at the bottom. We both know. No other place to pass. three six." "Yeah. Jim is my best friend. The tracks and infantry are almost to us.

" "Three six. Quick.When Our Troops Come Home I look at Fleshhood." "The ROK's are sending squads through to secure the other side. the top of his head and his eyes visible above the driver's hatch. We know. but I know it's there. Up the opposite bank. Negative." "There's a mine in there. www. Nothing. There's got to be a mine in there. Move out." "Three zero. Across the sand." "Three six. We were blown up together last month. Do you want to sweep it or walk it first?" "This is three six. three zero. The crack of the radio startles me." "Three zero. Cover." "Three zero. Low. Do you see anything?" "Three zero." The ROK's move out. roger. Nothing." "Let's go. "Three zero." "I know. Slowly. We wait. We just look at each other." "Yeah.com .whenourtroopscomehome. Three six. You see anything?" "No. Roger." The rest of the tracks are set." Jerry and I look at each other. "Three zero. "Jerry?" "Yeah. three six. But it's there. Nothing.

Three seven is invisible in the black smoke. Let one side of the track land before the other and it helps absorb the shock. Right in our tracks." Into the coffin. Dust off! Dust off!" I rip my headset off. Forever. I explode out of the driver's compartment. Up the incline. Slightly to the right. follow three zero. Front slope in the air. "Three two. shit. Up." "Three seven. Jesus." "Three seven. www. Three two is hauling ass across the sand. Jerry and I smile at each other. Three seven is coming in at a slight angle. Starting down. I pull myself back. I hit the accelerator." "Yeah." "Three seven. I don't remember running across the sand. Nothing. three six. Nursing the levers. ROK infantry coming down on both sides." I hold the steering levers and depress the accelerator with my right foot. three six. We're on the down side of the slope. Maybe a quarter of a track width. The track moves toward the rise. three six. Up the other side. Stay right in his tracks. Ten inches maybe. hold what you got until three zero makes the far bank then follow three two across.com . I hold my breath. Waiting for the track to counter balance and drop down the opposite side. Ken. My legs catch the rim of the driver's hatch. ROK's are down and screaming on both sides of the track. roger.whenourtroopscomehome.When Our Troops Come Home "Well. Waiting for the explosion. Sand flies. Some just disappeared. Up. you heard the man. Jim's a good driver. We made it. Crunch. We made it. we're alive! Three seven is approaching the berm. The nightmare begins. They're going to come down slightly to the right of my tracks. Shit." "Three two. The blast knocks me backwards." "Three two. The track falls forward." "Three seven. "Six.

Please get me out!" Fleshhood pleading. Jim is screaming. Maybe two others. No way to get inside. I'll be good. "Get me out.When Our Troops Come Home Three seven is on its back. The metal coffin moves. Hear the scuffling and yelling from the other side. "Jim! Grab my hand!" someone yells." "What?" Crunch. The snap of machine gun rounds beginning to cook off from the heat inside three seven. "Oh. Just me and the Marine. Others shouting. Three seven shudders. They're getting to him. The Marine sergeant. Please! Get me out!" "Jim!" "Please get me out. "I'm stuck. Snap…snap…snap…snap. Quiet. Choking. He's inside. "Try the other side!" Can't see. The barbed wire that was coiled on the front of the track is tangled around everything. ROKs are moving their wounded away. Digging…Digging…Crunch. I can hear the fire without seeing any flames. No one else around. Jim screams as they pull him out through the tangled barbed wire. The eyes. I can see daylight under the front of the track. I hear the rounds ricocheting inside the track. I'm burning!" There's no way. Top hatches against the embankment. www. I fall down the slope. Some clearance. The rear door is lodged in the sand at the bottom of the ravine. The fuel tanks are going to go. Black smoke billows up from underneath. Clearer on this side. He looks up. Very calm. A slight breeze. I can hear Fleshhood. Jesus. Panic! Dig at the sand.com . Tears streaming. Three five's engine roaring. Forehead resting on his arm. There's only six inches between the embankment and the driver's hatch. Crunch. Crunch. Around the back.whenourtroopscomehome. Three five has pulled to the top of the berm and is trying to bulldoze three seven up. Thirteen tons of metal stuck on its back. The smoke is choking us. Someone else is with me. He's just laying there. Crunch.

When Our Troops Come Home The Marine. His fatigues ignite.com . "I'll get you out." "What's stuck?" "My leg. Crunch. reaching us now. I'm on the outside. Snap. I start to move. "Gimme a fucking' fire extinguisher! I need a knife!" The fire extinguisher appears in my hand. The extinguisher freezing in my hand." His hand reaches for my left arm. He's on the inside. "Wait. I start to crawl in. The Marine groans. Two bodies already burned black. Right leg clear but jungle boot and fatigues already smoking. "I'm stuck. More fire. Others around. Crunch. Snap…Snap…Snap. He grabs my flack jacket. The gun shield is across his left leg at mid-calf." The smell of flesh burning. Nozzle pointed at his free leg. Just a second. "Wait. Snapsnapsnap. Face to face. Shit. The Marine and I are on our bellies.whenourtroopscomehome. A white cloud. I gotta get you out." "Bullshit. Wait. Swoosh. "Where's that fuckin' knife!" Snap." Quiet eyes look at me. Head on his forearm. See the flames inside. Crunch. "Hit it again!" Crunch." "No. The Marine and I are alone." I bend down to look. goddamn it!" "I can't move. Pull. The extinguisher is empty. Snap. "Pull. Crunch." The knife appears. it's hot. www. The gun shield doesn't move.

Snap. Bile in my mouth. Just the Marine and me." "I can't. Safety clicks off. quiet eyes…. My mind shrieking. Quiet eyes. Finger on the trigger. Snap. "Shit. Wake up! Sweating. Quiet. Eyes quiet. On one knee beside the Marine. Time stops. www. Holding his hand. I cannot remember if my weapon ever fired. I have not yet walked away from the dream. a round ejects. Trigger moving back. Muzzle to his head. Just shoot me. I walked away from three seven." "Please. "Please?" Snap. Snap.whenourtroopscomehome." The M-16 is in my hand. Charging handle back.When Our Troops Come Home "Shoot me." "I can't. the bolt springs forward." "What?" "Shoot me.com ." "Please!" Teeth gritted. Snap. Another round chambers.

They died in firefights. Death viewed its handiwork with satisfaction as the scorched. and death. death clung defiantly and in jubilation to the absurdity of Viet Nam. is an ever-present reality. very old. The theory seemed to be that if the language of war could be made less specific. California in 1968. In Viet Nam death raged. I spent 15 years watching. the act could be made more palatable. Firefight . for those of us who were there. of an experience that. Death exerted its dominance through all of the human senses. into an olive drab plastic bag. it never really goes away.whenourtroopscomehome. Survivors did not come back to the world with maturity. amid retching and curses. tree-like husk of an incinerated human being was stuffed. www. It took me years to realize that I died in Viet Nam. And a lot more than I wanted of some things that turned out bad. Death was not attended to by skilled professionals competent in the art of giving death a peaceful appearance.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 2 "I've had all that I wanted of a lot of things I've had. What did Viet Nam smell like? Diesel fuel. Somehow things were never called by names that conveyed meaning to anyone who was not a participant.being most comfortable in my aloneness. surrounded by flowers and grieving loved ones. It did not lie on satin covers. pausing only briefly to assure itself that the mutilated body that another young man held in his arms had no pulse.com . I have been a detached observer . Death glided effortlessly through the gunfire. Ever present. listening.an interesting euphemism. full blown and evil. Viet Nam is like herpes. My body was transported back from Viet Nam to Oakland. and trying to understand." Merle Haggard Wanted Man Death did not come peacefully in Viet Nam. They returned very. Once you get it. cordite. the survivor’s sense of smell. In Viet Nam men were not killed in battle. I went to Viet Nam when I was 19. Our time here will be spent in a sharing of the personal side. the feeling side. especially the most primal sense. from the bowels of the earth. Death shrieked in ecstasy amidst the screams of the wounded. Like a rumble after a high school football game.

The cauldron of Viet Nam. A flat surface where the artist uses perspective to evoke feeling and emotion. High-tech death is sudden. Mass produced. To allow the emotion. In an emerging. Viet Nam survivors cling to their reality. The high-tech funeral in Viet Nam was a memorial service. Detached. non-descript. We survive alone. On Death and Dying. dehumanizing. I knew a platoon sergeant that came to Viet Nam with the expressly stated purpose of either winning the Congressional Medal of Honor or being killed. Without dignity. There were few details given on how men died. We arrived alone. the humor. And it makes no difference. the feeling. The difference between a memorial service and a funeral is that at a memorial service it's easier to forget why you are there. We went home alone. For me. The music is America in motion. Body bags are the epitome of high-tech death. I watched him get blown to pieces when he stepped on an antitank mine. WIA. And we cried for him. Going nowhere. We survived alone. Viet Nam is a play. On and On. The purpose in Viet Nam was never to win. So far we have seen Viet Nam as a painting. the hurt. the vanity. the anthem of Viet Nam is Richard Harris singing MacArthur Park. www. To this day I do not understand the words. The killed. sanitary. There is nothing in fast food America that offers a comparable level of intensity. The purpose was to kill. maimed and missing became KIA. and the tragedy to come to fruition. high-tech America. Viet Nam is not a painting. unmeaning words. The most poignant lesson being that survival does not guarantee anything. The rest of us were relieved that we wouldn't have to be there when he won the medal. A friend of mine once said that God was a comedian playing to an audience who was afraid to laugh. Perhaps it is time for us to perform the closing act. Especially continued survival. One in which we still participate. The language of high-tech war. Viet Nam refocused our attention on the personal component of war. The music touches me. While reading Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' book. I was most struck by the length of time in which the patients had to die. Total acceptance can be used as effectively as total denial to isolate the living from the dead.whenourtroopscomehome.When Our Troops Come Home Even name became nomenclature. Memorial services never had bodies.com . MIA.

And.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 3 "I saw the pain in their faces over and over again. to realize that to step beyond survival is a reaffirmation of life. Perhaps our first step toward peace is the recognition of our willingness to kill. if there is one. Emotions. possessed. To live with Viet Nam. the survivor returned to a world largely devoid of close. dreams. The difficulty in integrating survivors back into American society is a shared responsibility. aimless. that affects every action. books and magazines seemed transfixed by this image. When the monsoons came the rain conformed to the contours of the land. drifting. More importantly. perhaps this is a hand in the darkness. The fear of not being able to stop crying is still too great. perhaps there are others. It is a feeling. The "me generation" of an emotionally protectionist. television.com . and beliefs are the natural contours of the survivor's mind. psychopathic. intense camaraderie. internalized. a killer. Veterans remember. The survivor lives with the guilt and pride. Like the monsoons sweeping over the countryside. The survivor is. For years movies. A knowing that there is at least one other person who understands. and shared moments amplified by ever present danger. Survivors relive. that it colors my perception like indelible ink. www. The storms encountered in Viet Nam both fit and changed a survivor's mental landscape. individualized America. In a sense it's true. the anger and love.whenourtroopscomehome. self-sustaining feeling I know. is like watching your five year old daughter die of leukemia. trained killers. From a reality of concern." Mark Baker Nam Survival is the most intense. Survival is so primitive in its origin. In the same sense that would permit an action thriller to be made about epileptics. intentions. Just as there is no crime without a victim. there is no survivor without the situation to be survived. capable of unspeakable violence. by Darwinian definition. high mountains and marshes. once learned. the fear and exhilaration every day. plains. mutual emotional involvement. There is a stereotype of the Viet Nam survivors as antisocial. One other person who knows. For those of us who were there. One other person who cares and says so. Men enraged. For those who learned survival in Viet Nam it is a laundry mark on our soul. Remembering is different than reliving. selfish. Most of them haven't cried yet. so all-consuming in its intensity. Viet Nam was a land of rolling hills.

felt. yellow. The survivor has encountered the reality of direct experience. The survivor now finds few events that allow the celebration of life in its most intense sense.com . a killer. Everything seemed to be compressed and distorted. Asking a survivor what it felt like to kill is like asking a rape victim. Love was one of the most intense emotions experienced by survivors in Viet Nam. If war is the outward manifestation of our belief in competition. Love exists beyond the illusion of its sexual expression. Love is loyalty. Love is commitment. immediate.000 yard stare". In the techno-macho illusion of Viet Nam the science of counter guerilla operations did not acknowledge the emotional basis of high-technology war. no longer depends on the circumstances of the environment. Love was materialized most frequently as its antithesis. Viet Nam was aliveness. slaughter. Viet Nam provided the drama in which men and women experienced themselves in the extreme. They returned as who they were magnified a thousand times. Red. The www. Edward Abbey makes the comment in passing about the survivors of Korea having a "40 mile stare". It was adrenaline. like a top that has lost its angular momentum. perhaps the recognition of cooperation is the basis for peace. He has killed before. wobbles. The drug problem in Viet Nam was not heroin. understood death. Viet Nam was not living. do not convey the awareness of combat. It depends on the survivor's personal capacity to redirect his own energy. and destruction.When Our Troops Come Home The survivor knows that he is. A perception of reality that is altogether real for the user. An awareness of life based on the personal awareness of death. to stabilize. It was seldom perceived as that. The artist who specialized in survival used vibrant colors. Returning to a world of second-hand information and active uninvolvement is disorienting. rage. The survivor.whenourtroopscomehome. Drugs offer an altered state of consciousness. Real. There were only two times a survivor in Viet Nam was aware of. Bullshit! Why is it that rape is more anxiety provoking than murder? Perhaps because the victim remains alive to relive the experience. Returning from a world of continuous present to one of assumed tomorrows is unnerving. Survivors returned with intensified personalities. The ability to regain momentum. In the appropriate situation he would kill again. It is difficult to learn to use pastels and create a comparable sense of aliveness. The concept of time is distorted. An awareness of the moment in the sensuous presence of the moment. even film and videotape. Survivors are victims of psychological and emotional rape. "How was it?" Rape victims and combat survivors can learn a lot from each other. in fact. In Viet Nam it was the same look described as a "1. Photographs. Survival is an altered state of consciousness. a different awareness. orange. intense shades of green. horror.

totally needed from them. For alone is where the fix is sought. The survivor was not taught to win. in a world where tomorrow is assumed? The survivor lives in a world alone. "Other time" is part of the unresolved question for survivors. The survivor retreated within himself to the aloneness with which he was most comfortable. How does an adrenaline addict satisfy the need to live in an altered state. Survivors played with "other time" like children reading the National Geographic. Fantasies about home. People who would care again. They grew because in a reality of death. In the reality of Viet Nam they had experienced love in an altered state. to expect. so intense. Everything else was illusion. what a survivor wanted most was love. the "other time" fantasies created so carefully for so long crumbled. It was "other time". wives. for the survivor who found himself suddenly in a world of uncaring people. The fantasies grew. The fantasies constructed around people were the most intense. Viet Nam became his "other time". And the survivor had forgotten how to ask. hurt. What could I face in the real world that was more demanding than what I had experienced in combat? Viet Nam was here. So. so heightened by his Viet Nam relationships that the fantasies the survivor created were beyond what any of those important people could comprehend. and gut grinding fear. As a survivor I felt the exhilaration of personal invincibility.When Our Troops Come Home date he was due to leave country and the present. A love so powerful that it literally denied death. perched on the edge of annihilation. the important people. Alone. In that altered state they had created the structure and fabric and intensity of a love that they could not communicate. www. In Viet Nam "other time" was used to construct fantasies. Discovering the past. Far away places. to savor victory. But when the word came to saddle up. right now. The need for love was so great. Speculating about the future. girlfriends. Fantasies about places and people and about how time would be spent. The right here. Survivors seldom asked for love. They expected it. Like dying of a heart attack during the Christmas rush at O'Hare International. Now.whenourtroopscomehome. parents. The survivor learned to survive. People who had cared. what was utterly. friends. children. "other time" was folded and put away. The people the survivor came home to. Once home.com . beautiful photographs. Where the rush is felt. The taste of seeming immortality. simply did not understand what was expected. It is the survival ethic that served so well and now haunts the survivor. The most perplexing quality of home was that there was always a tomorrow. Fantasies about important people.

When Our Troops Come Home

The survivor seeks the physical and emotional high of an altered state. When the current environment does not provide the high directly, the survivor manufactures his own. The pursuit of survival for the sake of survival. Not to win. Not to grow. Not to achieve. The survivor does battle within himself to maintain his identity as a survivor. The survivor was stripped of every shred of America's cultural facade. In a single moment he stepped through the portal into the infinite emptiness of beyond. He saw the human condition directly. In the seeing his mind was torn. His soul was shattered. The fear of winning is real for a survivor. Winning implies completion. A finishing. A void. An emotional vacuum. What fills the emotional chasm if a survivor wins? What in the present reality of America provides the impetus, the stimulation, the high? If I am not a grunt, who am I? A survivor quoted in Mark Baker's book, Nam, has a similar perception: "Civilian level is bullshit… you get in a fire fight and you see exactly who's who. There wasn't anything phony. It was all very real, the realest thing I've ever done. Everything since seems totally superfluous. It's horseshit". For the survivor, survival is living. Everything else is just waiting.


When Our Troops Come Home

Chapter 4 "You admitted to error! The trouble with you, Jakob, is that you have no convictions. Maybe you didn't make an error, but a discovery. No wonder you've had so little success." Russell McCormack Night Thoughts of a Classical Physicist Viet Nam was not the loss of the American vision. It was the beginning of the transition in which we now find ourselves. The Zen tradition of Japan has, for centuries, used a riddle called a koan to draw its students to their own realization. Among the more commonly known koans is one that states: You know the sound of two hands clapping. What is the sound of one hand clapping? The answer to the riddle cannot be deduced from rational, logical thought processes. If the student is to progress, it is the result of a comprehension, a realization, a knowing of the answer. An awareness completely outside reason. A perception arrived at by unasking the question. I sometimes wonder if Viet Nam was not posed as the ultimate American koan. Was Viet Nam right or wrong? The question has been continually restated since the mid-sixties. Could it be that the answer is beyond the context of the question? Perhaps the problem is that the question has not yet been unasked in a form that will provide us with comprehension. Viet Nam produced a generation of trained skeptics. Those who know that appearances are not reality. The knowing that a peaceful appearance is a prelude to violence. From a world of knowing to a world where even the questions have not been clearly stated. It's too bad that Jane Fonda and Green Peace cannot devote as much energy to saving survivors as they commit to saving whales. Jane, where were you when we needed you? Viet Nam was not a random, murderous chaos played out across the landscape of time, space and the American consciousness. It was a carefully orchestrated, shared experience of a generation. Viet Nam was a shared experience for all America. An experience that polarized our people. An event that created both the combatants and the protesters. Viet Nam brought back intense emotions to an unfeeling technological culture. America continues to relive Viet Nam. If it is true that a life of moderation is best achieved by living some


When Our Troops Come Home

time in extremes, then perhaps we are moving toward moderation. We have intensely experienced war and the protest against it. In a world perceived in the clinical terms of science and technology, emotions inhibit progress. While humanity may deal in feelings, governments are formulated and maintained by the strength of technological innovation. People are governed by the bureaucracies they deserve. Viet Nam was not an isolated historical event. It was a progression. Rather, a focal point of a progression. Warfare, once defined as an extension of diplomacy, has reached the point where it is recognized for what it is. Suicide on a mass scale. A drama played out by individuals on a grand scale. There is no good, no bad. No manifest destiny to be fulfilled. War is killing. It is not the passive act of dying. It is the dynamic, purposeful, premeditated act of killing. Viet Nam played like a coming attraction for high-tech war. The high-tech world is one in which the language itself is a kind of shorthand. The words and acronyms convey precise meaning to the participants and leave the uninitiated struggling to comprehend. So it is with Viet Nam. Viet Nam was high-technology warfare. High-technology war implies killing and being killed without ever seeing the enemy face to face. It makes no difference whether the means are NASA technology or bamboo technology. The result and effect are the same. Survivors remain victims by their own choice. Survivors purchased Viet Nam as a book of direct experience. To read, to relive that volume as a nightmare, or as a reference manual for formulating an insight into living, is also a choice. As it is for the survivor, so it is with the nation. Survivors are people specifically trained and well schooled at working effectively in small groups. The groups that merged and diffused while maintaining their own integrity. In a world of national unions and multi-national corporations, why would an entire generation of Americans participate in an experience that prepared them so well for quick, incisive reaction to immediate situations? I suspect that we will find out. Isn't there something tragically humorous about a nation that had the audacity to export its culture in the Peace Corps also manufacturing the experience of Viet Nam? Would it change our perspective to consider the military in Viet Nam as a Peace Corps with weapons? The seeker and the knower have different, seemingly irreconcilable perceptions of Viet Nam like the snapping of a large rubber band. The seeker sees the rubber band. The survivor feels the snap.


words. and swamps of Viet Nam. War is War. For the observer.com . man is most comfortable dealing with events. And in the moments of the reliving there is no past or present or future. Events. schedules. Love at the same level of intensity as it was experienced during the survivor's lifetime in the mountains. For the knower. future. The guilt of sending. Science. sounds. Peace is Peace. music. The need still exists. todays and tomorrows was not prepared to integrate the thousands of survivors whose perception of time was forever altered by Viet Nam. There is only the knowing. American symptom still infects our consciousness. From a world of untime the survivor was transported to a place where a gold wristwatch is a status symbol. the survivor. that insidious. Both the seekers and the knowers are beginning to have an awareness of the need to share the experience of survival. It is totally in character that as descendants of Aristotle we maintain that war is justified to preserve peace. National policy is an extension of the research laboratory. activities and situations that can be physically manipulated. jungles. As a creature of physical reality. experiences perceived and organized in relation to linear time. Seekers would hope to find definitions. actions. Guilt. persistent. linear time has little meaning. The guilt of not going. The seekers suspect. Past. to re-experience love. Like a never-ending public crucifixion. The survivor experiences time through the association of intense emotions.When Our Troops Come Home The survivors who were able to "adjust" were those fortunate enough to find a person who sensed that beneath the actions and words of anger and resentment was a consuming need to experience. Survivors know. define Viet Nam. Like a low-grade infection. The guilt of going. specify. non-specific. present. Peace is not a state of unwar. In prepackaged America. www. We face death by default. The problem with scientists' petitions for peace and disarmament is that they don't have the armies necessary to enforce them. The guilt of coming home. time is organized along the linear span of yesterday. physical reality. We are unwilling to choose peace. today. the seeker. The need is growing.whenourtroopscomehome. tomorrow. Events. anxiety-provoking. A society so intently focused on time. measurable. and the governments it perpetuates have their egos invested in quantified. the capacity to conduct high-technology warfare. Viet Nam was not a K-Mart war. stereotypes and prior experience to describe. smells and situations in the present trigger a reliving of the past. We assume we cannot live with war.

When Our Troops Come Home The fear of success has been identified as a personal anxiety for Americans. No wonder we are so afraid of it. the diplomacy to prevent. so it is with the structure of our national psyche. masculine process. Could it be that its national corollary is a fear of peace? War. this is an invitation to accept. How would our world be different had Newton formulated the proofs that for every action there are an infinite number of equal and opposite reactions? For all of us. Peace requires no physical manipulation to maintain. If the seeker would know what a nuclear confrontation is at a personal level. From observation and insight. Mediocrity is not moderation. quadrisonic. At the personal level there is no winner. to understand that we are all truly survivors of Viet Nam. is an active. His mathematical proofs laid the foundation for classical physics. In a high-technology war all the munitions are labeled "To Whom It May Concern". An "other time" where all that was best and worst in America's children displayed itself in a multi-dimensional. An intuitive awareness. no loser. Peace is. Peace is a state of being. Newton postulated that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. War is a logical. technological. Viet Nam was a real life fantasy where the individual lived out his greatest fears and aspirations. is threatening. www. It is anxiety provoking. From classical physics through the quanta to the nuclear age. Peace is un-American.whenourtroopscomehome.com . There is only survival. and the anxiety over. the actual attainment of peace. We have no technology for peace. Just as unwar is not peace. the preparation for. It will be interesting to see if America has the character to live in moderation. the knowers and the seekers. As. with the survivor. Peace. mosaic. The question currently posed is whether the American people can survive the transition of their own government from a belief in war to a belief in peace. energy consuming process that can be pursued in the manipulation of physical events. for whom the war is not over. not unwar. In the quiet of our time here. ask a survivor what it is to survive the detonation of an antitank mine.

whenourtroopscomehome.com .When Our Troops Come Home PART II THE ICEMAN www.

Jenny had not spent time along a mountain stream before. sweetheart. to the wives who will never feel their husband's arms around them again.whenourtroopscomehome. And the feeling described so well in a song from long ago settles on me. the feelings come without the words to express them. the hurt. The stream would never flow quite the same again. The three volleys of seven shots fired and echoing in the distance.com . the desperation. It didn't seem to care. It wasn't long before Jenny discovered throwing pebbles into the eddy." Richard Bach Illusions "…His unswerving commitment to his duty and his unselfish sacrifice are a credit to himself. Children are very profound people in small bodies. My daughter is two and a half. The trunk created a quiet place in its own backwater. The untime of perception. The water didn't seem to care whether or not a Three-year-old threw pebbles in its way. are you sad?" "No. the disbelief set to music as a long bugler plays taps. We stood on the bank next to a fallen tree. How many times have I heard the words? How many wives and parents and children heard the words? The starched. I just love you very much. caught up in her pleasure of discovery. A week ago we went to one. neatly folded American flag presented to them formally. "Daddy." The words came forth with no conscious effort. his unit. The sharp taste of pine needles. growing leaves. concentrating on the task at hand. Yet irresistibly. She was changing the course of the stream forever. A term based on the assumption that a person's death had even less meaning than their life. A synonym for the dead. Pebbles ready. Minutely. I looked at Jenny." www. to the children whose fathers never came home? I'm sorry? Wasted. and the United States Army. I looked out into the stream. And I realized what I knew. The motion of running water. It's springtime and the melting snow forced the current irresistibly downstream. There were green. its surface moving on. I watched. enjoying her play. Microscopically. The quiet caring of the sunlight. A shorthand term for the act of killing. The loss.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 5 "Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive it isn't. What do I have to say to the parents who lost their child. and it was changed. Infinitesimally. "Is that all there is?" Even now. The stream moved on.

When they were hit. We fought to keep them alive long enough for the dust off to get in. We loved them. And sometimes there was nothing we could do.whenourtroopscomehome.com . I cannot be sure what those men said. Somebody was there. Those men were family to us. We yelled and screamed and pleaded. I am beginning to understand what I heard. The manner of a person's dying is as meaningful as his life. there is something that is very important that you understand. We loved them. We held them in our arms and prayed. www.When Our Troops Come Home Those men were not wasted. Death is not wasted. The statement of a loved one's dying changes us forever. The reaction was immediate. We cared. Lives are not wasted. Are you listening? To the survivors whose sons and husbands and fathers did not come home. The statement is important. that glasses spilled and bowls overturned. we did everything in our power to keep them alive. We tried so hard. They were family. We tried. But they did not die alone. They were a part of us. When a man went down it was like a child with a piece of meat stuck in his throat. They had already decided. It made no difference that dishes and silverware went flying.

whenourtroopscomehome. I waited stone silent in a moonless. The survivor reads people's souls in their eyes." "You mean when they attacked you?" Her voice was toneless. Tell me about the countryside. "I killed people. "I mean. stinging. ammonia stench of the sun baked dead? How do they speak of the intuition of the ambush they walked into? How do they convey the unspeakable process of growing old in a young man's body? How do they bring the awareness of knowing to rational conversation? The survivor knows absolutely that it is possible to care without feeling. spoiled. "What you're saying is so heavy. How do they verbalize the rancid." "Do you know what I did?" responded the survivor. I killed people. The people. The survivor was watching her eyes. www. An unexpected medicine ball. before he spoke. I was very good at it. Sometimes it feels like that's what I did the very best in my whole life. Like a teacher dissecting a frog in biology class." the lady said. "No". It swelled in her eyes like a wino's vomit. I ambushed them. It had simply never occurred to him that anyone would conceive of Viet Nam as a fair fight. Knowing. Detached. that the lady had sand bagged her soul. Some humorous experiences.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 6 "A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. shadow blackness and when they walked by me. the lady said." The next question was unasked. "You mean it wasn't a fair fight?" The question thumped against the survivor's chest." Henry David Thoreau Walden Viet Nam survivors seldom talk about their experiences.com . It was my job. Your friends. The survivor read her eyes. I mean. They never knew I was there. "There must have been some funny things. I blew their lungs out with an automatic weapon.

Caring without feeling. Crying was a part of the experience. the feelings. logical. Sinners condemned. "Do you really want to know where my feelings come from?" And in the silence that followed. When do the tears come? What triggers the release? How do we heal the wounds? The yelling. Caring so much they will not feel. Caring without feeling. the praying. day after day.com . Caring without feeling. were so overwhelming that the tears were the only link with reality.whenourtroopscomehome. the screaming." he said. "We were talking about how I feel. The survivors have forgotten the feelings crouched waiting behind those walls. Survivors have worked very hard not to feel. The survivors fear for their lives. the pleading. I think they care more. www. Why not just find a quiet place and cry? Alone." she whispered. pent up power. The tears were accepted. Released feelings may assault the very structure of their life. Survivors fear feelings. I don't think so. The survivor had been home from Viet Nam for 15 years. How do we heal the wounds? How do survivors heal themselves? Is it the uncried tears that are necessary? The tears that hover at the brink so often and are stoically withheld. Original sin. analytical. They aren't enough. the lady's eyes never left her hands. Like a waiting claymore. The lady was his mother. What's different now? Do survivors care less? No. They have carefully. "No. Together. The survivor studies the texture of the tablecloth. The survivors fear disability. Is it because the survivors are afraid they'll never be able to stop? In Viet Nam no one ever looked down on a man who cried. to create the ramparts of objectivity. Acceptable.When Our Troops Come Home The lady's eyes dropped to her folded hands. Years of diligent effort. facade may be swept away. Afraid of the lethal. But thinking is not feeling. No. The vulnerable person inside the carefully constructed. The survivor has chosen to forget. arduously constructed a state of emotional amnesia. There were times when the situations. Survivors.

and profoundly simple statement: "Fuck it"." Al Santoli Everything We Had Day by day. The fuck it day. The day the circuits finally short out. Walls could be broken. Being ambushed. And finally the one situation. never seen or heard from again. The endless tiredness. where children and pigs lay side by side after the artillery lifted. the last ounce of bullshit. Moment by moment. Casualty by casualty. ultimate acceptance that feelings do not alter the situation. either on dust-off choppers or in body bags. Friends simply vanishing. The neurological circuits began to overload. The individual could still be reached. These were the first order of business for the survivor. villages burned. the body count. Body by body. Laughing too loud and too long at nothing. The survivors began to freeze their emotions. We still cried. What was tropical became arctic. And all the hate and rage. At first we thought a wall was good enough.com . I asked. That's just fuckin' it! On that day the earth's axis shifted. From physical vomiting to the emotional dry heaves was a relentless progression for the survivor.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 7 "Before I went over I knew a couple of friends that came back. The walls built to contain the hurt and pain and rage and desperation were not enough. It don't mean nothin'. The day hell froze over. The tracheotomy performed in the dirt with a pocketknife and the hollow bottom half of a ballpoint pen began to take its toll. The wounded make no difference. Walls could be breached. the puking. www. all the caring and concern are summed up in that one unacceptable. The fatigue. all the love and hurt. the feelings froze. Walking through the villages. Snap! That's it. make no difference. 'What was it like?' and they didn't know how to explain it and I didn't know what I was asking. The final. Dying makes no difference. The day the dry heaves stop. left its mark. Cover. Being mortared. the single moment. but also on the college campuses. Ground taken. Protection. Incoming rockets. The tears. In an instant. Humor. Viet Nam evoked a vernacular of profanity not only in the delta and highlands.whenourtroopscomehome. Killing makes no difference. Profanity became the shorthand to express emotions. The day the survivor reached a knowing that his own feelings were more dangerous than incoming fire. The recognition that feelings make no difference.

The reality was a piece of the survivor's soul. Piece with Honor? Each survivor experienced that day. He has assumed the perspective of a survivor.com . Emotional cryogenics. His only function was to get himself and as many of his people as possible out. The reality was a piece of a leg blown off. Only the here and now. Survivors do talk about Viet Nam. young warrior had become a death broker. It's the intensity of their language that's unacceptable.When Our Troops Come Home The naïve. Like a star collapsing on itself. The point spread that would become known as Peace With Honor. Only the knowing. The survivor imploded. Whatever it took. The event horizon at its edge where time stands still. www. No tomorrow. The reality was a piece of paper marked "remains nonviewable".whenourtroopscomehome. No yesterday. For me it was the day three seven blew. The Ice Man. The reality was a piece of shrapnel in the throat. The black hole. The reality was a piece of a lung shot away. For another survivor it was listening to his friend trapped inside the cockpit of a B-52 going down over North Viet Nam. The player who had given his all and suddenly realizes that the game was rigged before he ever took the field. Someone had bet on the point spread.

com .whenourtroopscomehome.When Our Troops Come Home PART III THE JOURNEY www.

Fuck it. Quick. Who will forgive the survivor for the enormity of his acts? Who will accept the primordial intensity it takes to remain unfeeling? Who is prepared to accept the deluge of tears that must accompany the thawing? Forgive? On what basis? With what justification? The survivor stands convicted by his own actions. From the weeks and months of humping equipment down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Agile. in any civilized country on earth. By his own memories. I hurt to say hello. Fascinated. A typist at Cam Rahn Bay. Fixed on his legs. I could never bring myself to say hello. Big boys don't cry. How does the survivor admit to his family that he is guilty of acts and feelings. sinuous legs. I needed to say hello.com . Crying never solved anything. then what? Fuck it! Sometimes the survivor tries to pretend he was a supply clerk in Saigon. One of his teammates was a Viet Namese boy. Acceptance. www. How does the survivor admit such actions and feelings to himself? The survivor learned his emotional lessons as a child. Muscular. Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry for. He internalized them on his fuck it day. would be met with prison if not summary execution? Murder. Arson. 1945 Forgiveness. It doesn't work. When tears become unacceptable. I just want to go home. Watch his legs. Built well for his age." Dwight D. But we elude the real question. Muscular. A good athlete.whenourtroopscomehome. Thawing. My oldest son played basketball on a junior high school team this year. Absorbed. which. Could I forgive myself? Would he forgive me? I have not yet said hello. Guilty as charged. Assault and battery. The survivor uses "other time" to try and create alternative memories. I wanted to say hello. Especially his legs.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 8 "Morale is the greatest single factor in successful wars. Eisenhower June 23. I would go to practices and games and watch him. Assertive. His legs were those of the VC and NVA I killed.

When Our Troops Come Home

Chapter 9 "… This made the Viet Nam conflict symbolic, even mythological, from the outset. The ideological battles eventually became more real and substantial than anything taking place in the field, which placed the combatants in grave danger, for they were not trained for mythological warfare." Walter H. Capps The Unfinished War Guilt is the morea eel that lurks in the crevices of my mind. Waiting. Waiting to tear my throat out if I ever make the mistake of swimming too close. Guilt is the slimy, gooey slug that wanders endlessly across the trails of my memories. Guilt is the metallic shades of brown and green covering the skin of that huge snake coiled on the tree limb of my imagination. The snake ready to drop and strangle the life out of me in a careless moment. Guilt is the black shiny eyes of a starving rat hiding just beyond the door of my consciousness. Guilt is the death stare of an opossum squashed on the highway leading to my dreams. The death grimace. The bared teeth. Guilt is the tapeworm in my soul. Know how to get a tapeworm out? Starve yourself for two or three days. Open your mouth and hold a piece of food just in front of your teeth. The tapeworm slithers out of your stomach and wriggles up through your throat, attracted by the food. Grab it. Inch by slimy, putrid, retching inch pull it out. That's what guilt is. Guilt is disgusting. Guilt is loathsome. Guilt is disabling. Guilt is the cancer of the spirit. For the survivor guilt is like having too much to drink. Needing to vomit and not being able to. The survivor searches for the emotional equivalent to shoving a finger down his throat. The release of being able to puke and collapse. Guilt is the wheelbarrow in which we carry a whole wardrobe of other feelings. Insidious costumes. The trappings of evil and dangerous men. Men who have the potential for violence. Men who cannot be trusted, especially alone with their own feelings. Look at this. Look at what's in here. Ah, here's the ensemble of aloneness. Unworthy, unlovable, unforgivable. When I wear these I am most detached. No one can see me. Least of all myself. The secretive attire of the stuck, powerless, guilt-ridden victim. The survivor. Who packed this bag? Are these the clothes I chose for myself? Looking at what's in here, item by item, I'm appalled by my own creativity. Why do I keep them? The rational, conscious me has no idea. The addict knows.


When Our Troops Come Home

The adrenalin addict knows. That camouflaged, face-blackened, cold-eyed, fleshconsuming addict knows. For he is the one who dominates my "other time". The one who seeks the rush from reliving the moments of pain and exhilaration. The addict who fabricates illusions of aliveness on the never-ending stage of my memories. I must keep these costumes. I must keep them with me always. For how else can I conceal my real nature in a world of nonusers? Guilt, the habit of the priestly order of the Ice Man. Savored, luxuriated in, retained as the last vestige of a time that history would rather forget. Look at it. Look at this thing we call guilt. Look at it in the light of your own awareness. Disgusting, maggot-infested, putrid, stench-filled guilt. I've shown you mine. What about yours? Remember how we found Charlie in the bush? We went out wandering around until we got hit. It was stupid. Walking through the bush, wanting to get even, just waiting to get blown away. Why? So we could call in the gun ships or tac air or fire support and smoke Charlie before he got us. When you think about it, doesn't that pull the hair on your leg a little bit? Live bait. Live goddamn bait! So pumped on adrenalin and rage that, even though we knew better, we went anyway. And for what? To come home and find out we were warmongers and murderers? Killing and dying in a place we had no business being. Remember? Everybody said so. And we began to believe it. Even the people who agreed to send the troops in after Tonkin Gulf said we didn't have any business being there. An immoral war they called it. As if there was any other kind. Shit. The war we could never win. That's bullshit too. I remember a friend saying that his unit wasn't losing when he left. Well, we weren't losing when I left either. We were kicking Charlie's ass. We were getting hit. We were losing people. We were tired and exhausted. But we were there. Every damn day we were there. We got blown up and shot and burned, but we were there. We gave everything we had to keep our people alive. We did the very best we could. Goddamn it! We were not losing in the field. Not when I came home. Not when any of us came home. I am really tired of pushing the wheelbarrow load of bullshit around that smells like a loser when I know I did the very best I could. Just like you, I gave every goddamn thing I had! Angry? You're goddamn right I'm angry. Somebody had to be responsible for Viet Nam. Have you ever heard anybody stand up in public and say, "I'm responsible for this?" Have you ever heard a Congressman or a Senator or President say "I'm accountable for what happened over there?" Maybe they did and I missed it. I haven't heard anybody say it lately. You know what happened? You and I were the ones who did it. We pulled the trigger. We called in the air strikes. We leveled the villages. We


When Our Troops Come Home

killed the civilians. You and me. The people in the bush. We did it. Accountability by default. You want accountability? All right goddamn it, I'm accountable. Me! I did it. I was sent there to kill people and I did. I was responsible for keeping my people alive and I did my very best. Many times my best wasn't good enough. And I'm sorry. You want somebody who's responsible for the death and carnage? Okay you got it. It's me. Me, goddamn it! But I'll tell you one thing. I'm not pushing this load of bullshit one step farther. Not one more step. They can take this load of guilt and shove it! And there's something else. There's nothing anyone can say or do to me that will be any worse than what I've already said and done to myself. I quit. I'm going home. My wife needs me. My children need me. And I need them. Fuck it. I'm going home.


Just me and the clouds.com . And the voice. Everywhere.whenourtroopscomehome. Peaceful. Isn't it strange what acceptance can do? Pastels envelop me. Energy free to be itself. "Because I haven't been forgiven yet. Isn't it quiet here? Moving through the mist. I did. Accepting." "Ken?" A voice from nowhere. I wonder who the decorator was? Marshmallow substance clouds. Lao Tsu Tao Te Ching Isn't it quiet here? This place called acceptance. It's too fast. wonderful. A place that simply is. wait. Clouds forming effortlessly. "No. Content. Going home. ever changing. That without substance can enter where I know the value of non-action. A strange. A soft place. But it can't be this easy. Constantly moving. "I thought you left your load behind. There must be something more intense than just accepting. This place called accepting. Teaching without words and working without doing Are understood by very few." "Well. alive place. Warm. "What?" "Why can't you go home?" No one else here. Quietly going about the business of being clouds." "Don't you think accepting is enough?" "How could it be enough? There must be some kind of penance to pay. Too easy. feeling textures that radiate aliveness in a way I have not known before. I can't go home yet. What about all the killing and suffering?" "What about it?" www.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 10 The softest thing in the universe Overcomes the hardest thing in the Universe.

But those were thunderstorms and hurricanes. Why would I have to forgive the wind and clouds? It's not like they destroy things on purpose. A human being." "Haven't you seen what clouds and wind can do. Forgiveness is something that must be accepted too.com ." "Do the clouds need to be forgiven? Should the breeze apologize?" "What? What kind of question is that? How do you forgive a cloud? Forgive it for what? Forgive the breeze? The questions don't make any sense. Understand." "Ken?" "What?" "What makes you think that you are any different than the clouds and the wind?" "Are you telling me that accepting is enough?" "For now…. What do you see? What do you feel?" "I don't see anything. It just happens sometimes. You are indeed accountable. Do you understand what you know?" www. Ken." "But I'm a man." "That's true. the price has been paid. If forgiveness is so important to you. whatever you did. And the only thing I feel is a breeze on my face. sure. that whatever you were. Just these clouds. Ken?" "What?" "Haven't you seen the smoke and flames of the forest fires started by lighting exploding from the clouds? Haven't you seen the winds rip homes and buildings apart leaving people dead and homeless?" "Well. too. Don't I?" "Look around you. If you are willing to let it be. What has that got to do with me?" "Don't the clouds and wind need forgiveness?" "This is crazy. There's nothing here.When Our Troops Come Home "I must need to be forgiven. I can't go around killing people and just accepting my way out of it. then you are forgiven.whenourtroopscomehome.

Garon and Ryan. They're waiting for you. My little girls. Fifteen years she's been waiting. No longer empty. The people I ached to be with. Waiting. Quiet. parting clouds.whenourtroopscomehome.When Our Troops Come Home "Can I go home now?" "Please do." "I made it. The earth feels solid and warm beneath me. Sweetheart. They're smiling. They're smiling. Going home. "Peggy?" "Yes." www. Content. Waiting through the dreams and flashbacks. my wife. Do you see them? It won't be long. Accepting." I can feel the voice smiling. I love you.com . Their daddy is coming home. moving. Leaving. And Peggy. Do you see them? In the distance there. Peaceful. They've waited so patiently. Jenny and Jillian. Patiently waiting. Ken. Waiting through the long silence. My sons. The people I have missed so much. Caring. Waiting through the darkness. Drifting. The clouds are drifting away. my best friend. It won't be long now. Fifteen years we've been together. Feeling." "I knew you would.

whenourtroopscomehome.When Our Troops Come Home PART IV THE MEDUSA www.com .

These fluid. the flickering light from a distant source silhouettes her body. It's mid-February 1984. I have discovered that coming home is only the first step in the journey. Her image. the one with whom all the Kings of the earth have committed fornication.whenourtroopscomehome. As I suspected. The safest table in the restaurant. A year since we last talked. Guilt. She slips seductively through the shadows. each one a writer's conversation with himself that can finally be shared with those willing to listen. The table in the farthest corner with wood paneled walls on two sides. The breastworks built to constrain those feelings. Excavating. The sound of silken motion. broken-fingernail hands of the stonecutter. her sound. The gnarled dusty. We talked about the wall.com . Aloneness. My table. This has been a dismantling year. One day at a time. The faintest echo of her footfall reaching deep inside me. Her suggestion communicated with inaudible clarity. I have discovered something else in this past year. I have fought it. Enticing. airy. Gracious people here. The ghosts came with me. I "came home" about this time a year ago. Lithe. And I have come to understand why I have so diligently avoided the novels about Viet Nam. And with the ghosts come the feelings. filmy. Chink. I have been spending my time unbuilding the wall.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 11 "… 'Come here and I will show you the punishment given to the famous prostitute who rules enthroned beside abundant waters. Quietly. In the interim I have learned that coming home is not being home. Coming home is not the same as being home. and who has made all the population of the world drunk with the wine of her adultery. Chink. open. calling me. I've read books about Viet Nam. vaporous entities that hover around the brink of my consciousness. railed against it. www. Dimly. A year. The most alluring woman I've ever seen. Chink. A brick at a time. Finding bits and pieces of myself. barley discernable. The one in the large back room where the children's birthday parties and little league award ceremonies are held. The brightly lit. her fragrance. They've reserved my table. Anger. family atmosphere of the local pizza parlor. can you believe it? Twelve months that vanished in a blur and lasted forever. it is in those pages that the images of the ghosts reside. shouted obscenities in its face.'" The Book of Revelation Chapter 17: Verse 2-3 Will you sit with me awhile? I'm here in my place again.

desirable woman I have ever envisioned. seductive. supple.whenourtroopscomehome. Raven black hair accenting the contours of her bare shoulders.When Our Troops Come Home The woman. invisible solidness of her thighs. Cunningly sultry. Can you resist her. young man? Don't you want to come with her? www. Her ankles and golden sandals intermittently seen through the swishing of her translucent gown. She wants me. The amber depths of her eyes reflecting my desire as I approach. Beguiling. She has chosen me. She conveys the purest essence of woman. Her breasts rising rhythmically with each breath. Magic in her movement. muted colors which are beyond the limitations of the photographer's lens. The woman all men seek. She's there awaiting me in the vivid. Her slender waist and rounded hips tapering to the inviting. The woman beyond the woman seen monthly in our magazines. The most beautiful. slender. wanton.com . silk-enshrouded legs. Waiting there for you. Long.

He'll be OK. reading people. Beyond is a larger room. The television stands watch here. Settling in. Neatly tucked into his blue. facing the chairs next to the walls. Energetic. A commotion in the TV room. About as comfortable as possible for bodies in transit. Age? Early thirties." Plato The Republic November 1982. A business traveler. dress-for-success ensemble. The open collar of his pale blue shirt conferring an attitude that he's more concerned with doing business than impressing anyone. Struggling to gain control. threepiece. The television mumbles on. The club is separated into three sections. Why don't you just shut the hell up!" What's going on? A man moving toward me. A young man. Time to call Peggy and let her know when I'll be home. The drizzle turns to rain against the windows. The atmosphere has changed. A hundred eighty pounds. Seems like a good man to have on your side. Moving faster than the accommodations would dictate. restrained voice grasping at me. Frail.whenourtroopscomehome. An www. The Horizon Club is a lounge area that Western Airlines maintains for people awaiting flights. one.com . Everything is fine at home. with small tables between them. The man excuses himself as he passes in front of me and sits heavily in the chair next to mine. He looks solid in his brown tweed sport coat and tan slacks. News time. The TV commentator drones on. facing each other. He's hurting. The entry contains a reception desk and small bar area. A fingernails-on-theblackboard sensation. The strained. they cannot be expected to show any gratitude for culture they never received. Four lounge chairs arranged in pairs. Quick impressions. Peggy has a way of bringing back my smile. Relaxing now. The Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Who cares? I put my magazine down and withdraw to the phone near the back wall. The third area is for phone calls. concluding his nonstory about Viet Nam. Sofas back-to-back in the center of the room.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 12 "Being self-taught. almost anemic looking. It's late afternoon. Lounging people. The phone call is completed. A sofa and some over-stuffed chairs sit in attendance. Six o'clock. though. Three phones on tables between the semicomfortable chairs. "You don't know what you're talking about. There's static in the air. A kid. Conversations have stopped. The apparition appears. An angry man. waiting people. For most of us here it's comfortable enough. Six feet. I know the feeling.

Rambling on and on. The phone rings. if he draws blood. Hands folded in my lap. it's OK. He made the mistake of giving his position away and he's paying the price.When Our Troops Come Home energetic anemic. A plastic smile. Me? I'm just sitting. "I was out of line.whenourtroopscomehome. and hand my business card to my friend. Like a child picking the scab on a mule's leg. A ragged voice speaks from my friend. philosophical questions about war and social justice. The academician posing long. if he picks deep enough. I stand up to leave. constrained variations of yes or no. involved. Thinking about how may different ways you can kill someone with a newspaper. Alone at my desk. Maybe." My friend is struggling again. The receptionist walks back to announce a flight departure. Why don't you go back and watch television?" The kid is either totally insensitive or incredibly stupid. Gee. I apologize. "I was there. My friend's responses are clipped. I'm really sorry. Saturday morning. My man looks up from the chair beside me as the neoprene person slides by me and takes up a position on the couch facing us. Watching. Blonde hair prematurely thinning. you feel very strongly about Viet Nam. Wire rim glasses. The conversation rambles on. If he picks long enough. I'm really interested. "Look." I offer. Words. The mouse is enthralled with his own dialectic. Unmeaning words. www. My friend is enduring.com . The kid really doesn't understand what he's dealing with. Overused words. My flight. How could anyone be so naïve? He doesn't realize how close to the edge he is. He has to be either an actuary or a Yale divinity student. Legs crossed. Come on back. I studied the war in my political science class. "I'll be in my office tomorrow morning if you want to give me a call. I don't know who he is and already I hate him." "Thanks. "Oh. you've got a plane to catch." he says." Plastic man won't let it be. he's going to get the shit kicked out of him. Ken. probably both.

I just knew that I was talking with someone who spoke the language. too bad…. An infantry platoon leader. The first person I had really talked to about Viet Nam since I returned.com . Did you kill that son of a bitch?" "No. I don't even remember what we talked about.When Our Troops Come Home "This is Ken Jones. Mr. Like so many other good friends. www. And I'll never forget him. Jones. We talked for two hours." "I know. I can't remember his name. I let him skate." "Yeah.whenourtroopscomehome. I haven't seen or talked to him since." My friend had been a Marine lieutenant in I Corps. Our conversation finally wound down to goodbyes." "Uh. I was at Sea-Tac yesterday…. Another person who needed to talk.

sailing men set off for Greenland's shore…. God. however.whenourtroopscomehome. the voyage must be completed. I must make friends with the ghosts. A hundred whaling. this one does not take the foremost place. "What shall we sing?" I ask.com . Coming home is not the same as being home. The gray. This can't be! I'm home! I paid my dues. Our special time. Once begun. Two spoons in a drawer. I spent my time. where am I? How can I be so alone? It's bedtime at our house. They listened with their hearts and those things that they could not understand they accepted. Moving on in a place without contours. Mud sucking soundlessly. and that. among the problems that give my mind solitude. Chest deep in the frigid waters of the swamp. Snuggled in close. There are some journeys better left unstarted. OK…. Smoothing her soft blond hair so it doesn't tickle my nose. Some of the important people have listened to me. The high ground where I stop to rest dissolves into the mist. gripping in my chest. A land without relief. The passage is a wasteland. empty. the self. without landmarks. My arm around her little chest. The flashbacks recede to be replaced by a numbing. I take it from her and put it into my mouth.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 13 "I must confess that my own personal feeling about mortality has never been of the keenest order. Home again. A father-daughter bedtime ritual. A little hand emerges from the cover. "Oh. Her back against my chest and stomach. alone with the ghosts." William James Human Immortality Dreading the quiet. the soul. that one. There is nowhere to hide. relentlessly at my boots. The journey through the psyche. Longing to be alone and fearing the aloneness. The war is over. bleak land where the ghosts reside.'On the twenty-third day in the month of June in eighteen-fifty-four. One of my favorite things is tucking Jenny in at night. On the way to being home. In their acceptance I began to find myself. Thumb and first two fingers holding the invisible song.'" www. The motion of the waterbed giving way to its warmth.

A place that's never green. Just hang on. He's resting quietly now. And the sunlight's seldom seen. its tempo attenuated to a lullaby. "Greenland is a dreadful place. No field dressing large enough to cover the wound. "Whaleree. The chopper's on its way.When Our Troops Come Home A rousing sea chantey.whenourtroopscomehome." "I'm sorry sweetheart…. The words flow without the conscious thought of recollection. You'll be OK. lovely sleep song. Whump. I got ya'…. A song learned in the long ago hootenanny days of the early sixties. olive drab towel around my neck. The unused rice paddy is hard and cracked. Only the filthy." Not the song title but I know the one she means…"There is a river called the river of no return. Jenny's breath rustling the hair on my forearm. I sing the songs I remember. The shadow of the blown-out track bequeathing us shade. His back across my folded leg. I've got you. Where there's ice and snow and the whale fishes blow." The little hand again. Unspeaking lips. Its hulk offering protection from the firefight still raging to our front. The reddish gray matter of the wound luminescent even in the shadows. "Hang on. A quiet. The life giving sound of an incoming chopper. "What's this one?" I whisper." Whump. Peggy sings the children's songs. babe. I got ya'. What song should we sing now?" www. "It's OK. Sometimes it's peaceful and sometimes wild and free…" A song of love and a voice calling from the endless ongoing passage along a river." "Daddy you're hugging me too tight. Thankful eyes. sleepy eyes. Not much blood now.com . A song that evokes sleep and the quiet transition to a little girl's dreams. Surgically removed by a piece of shrapnel from the rocket that took out his track. My arms holding him. sweat soaked. My body shielding his from the tempest of the landing chopper. Holding his spirit in. Fluttering. My left leg curled underneath me. His head covered. More seeping than bleeding. The left rear portion of his skull is gone. My face buried in his shoulder. babe. Have to keep the dust out of the wound. Whump.

Attack! Fumbling for the shaving cream. unfeeling face. Ed Abbey's words overwhelming me…. I've been here for a day or so. Smearing the lather on an unseen. Their eyes are dim with it. Come on you asshole. one from each eye. www. Move! Do something. get control of yourself. Just another morning. And there they are. No reason I know of. Come on Ken. The kid half lifted his head. and the words came slowly. The absolute blackness of the all consuming nothing. limp-legged. The weight was really on him. The crushing pain in my chest. 'How long you been incountry?' he asked. I'm uncomfortable with light this early in the day. 'All fuckin' day. So goddamn heavy I'm going to fall through the floor. and when they smile you have to accept it as a token. Searching for the razor through the firing slits of my eyes.' he said. Like a daffodil being smothered by cow shit. "The outback of beyond. The two glistening trails. Looking up to face myself. I feel my solar-plexus tense to ward off another onslaught. I've showered in the dark. Nothing specific to associate it with. Heavy. The gripping hurt in the center of my being. The pressing." The place the man Jesus wandered through when he was contemplating suicide. Looking up to the mirror. gnashing mandibles of eternity. Clenching the lip of the sink.m. their faces almost puffy. that they'll stay tired until their tours are up and the big bird flies them back to the World. Squinting my eyes against the glare. not hauling bricks. Razor in hand.com . and Fouhy tried it. The contrails of emotion. God I hurt. suck it up! Oh. I'm going to be overrun by something I can't even see. gripping. Keep moving. Not digging. overwhelming sense of loss. Heavy-handed. Just another habit. Up against the wall. The light switch next to the mirror. That question could not be serious. disappearing into the white puffiness of the shaving cream. Fall through myself.whenourtroopscomehome. just hanging on. Fall into the crunching." Michael Herr Dispatches Four a. Fall into the utter total darkness.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 14 "Every torpid movement they make tells you that they are tired. There was a standard question you could use to open a conversation with troops.

"Hey Ken.only all the time.m.com . "Ken. 8:05 a. sweetheart…. I'm not ready for this. It's the law." www.When Our Troops Come Home No! No. Older than I ever thought I'd be…. My most basic rule I'll never cry again…. The first phone call of the day. how you doin'?" "I'm terrific. do you ever feel like you're living two lives?" "Only all the time. not now! I haven't cried in sixteen years. Bob. Fuck the wall! Screw this whole goddamn trip.whenourtroopscomehome. How are you?" And as we talk my mind drifts back to a recent conversation with Peggy. Older than I ever wanted to be.

mothers are seduced by her charm and poise." Marlon Brando The Formula So very beautiful. A woman who insists and resists.whenourtroopscomehome. This most precious part of herself she now releases to this other woman. The mother remembers these things. The woman in whose passionate embrace resides the claim of manhood. Her beauty is so alluring. she had cuddled as an infant. The woman who will consummate the mother's son. www. her hand slides down his arm and briefly grasps his fingertips. posses the young men through whom she gazes. The note pad he made for her in Cub Scouts. Indelible memories. sleepless nights with bringing down the fever. A passionate woman. So compelling in her desire. A knowing woman. uneasily reassured. She keeps them in the silver box. This boy the mother protected and nurtured over years of happiness and hurt. This toddler she taught to speak. who encourages and disavows.com . her being attract." she whispers. The same clear-eyed baby who sought the nourishing sustenance from this mother's own breasts. who delighted her as he learned and grew. Trembling. so reassuring in her manner that. inside the top right-hand drawer of the dresser in her soul. She has little need for words. however reluctantly. The first visit by the tooth fairy. The first report card. The boy she took to his first day of school and quietly wept for at the beginning of their separation. The same son whom.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 15 "…We violate the laws of Christ and Newton and wonder why our children wind up in porno films… We have brought the American nation to that grand plateau where insanity is a greater problem than starvation. So charismatically wanton. The first time the neighbor boy blackened her son's eye or kicked him in the groin. The special Christmases. her movement. "God be with you. Her acts. And so the mother releases her son. The woman a mother can never be. Special trinkets. The same small boy she spent anxious. only perceived moments before. exhilaration and juvenile despair. her unspoken desire so intense that mothers have feared and been cajoled by her throughout time.

He knew her directly in the passionate. In their own time. The woman who is the answer to his question." And it is the father's heart that is stricken as the son turns to walk away. "You have an obligation as a man…. And they let their sons go. The faintest scent of her perfume once again fondles his nostrils.com . In their own way. The fleeting glint in her eyes seals his heart. unspoken. The self-imposed limitations etched in his being by years of silent questioning and the enervation of experience. He seeks the searing heat of her body for himself. Tempting. unspeakable question. lustfully in the unfulfilled manner which left that deep. The father has looked into her eyes. There are no words he can speak without disclosing his most intimate relations. The father who has lusted for her looks at his son. as the boy's fingertips drop loosely from his mother's grip. Perhaps the risk is worth it. The father knows his limitations. Powerful. www. Can his son answer his question? The father’s answer was instilled long ago in preparation for this moment. He has had his affair with the woman.whenourtroopscomehome. Waiting. looks beyond his son to the woman's outstretched arms. who has known her. anyway. Compelling. he looks to his father for final reassurance. She stands there. And so. The unspoken message is there for the son to see. The fathers knew better. Or he has sought to know her vicariously. "Would I have been man enough to satisfy her?" Now this same woman beckons his son. The father. clutching grasping way that men often seek to prove themselves. A woman he will never truly know.When Our Troops Come Home The fathers have known her. abiding.

their need for each other." "No. The woman who has no form. do not use troops. sweetheart. so becomingly attired. "Oh. But. please don't go. It is the wife who feels most threatened. And in that moment. If only she could reason with her. Sun Tzu The Art of War The wife lies in their bed next to him. In her heart the wife knows that if ever she encounters this woman face to face she will kill her. Why can't others see what she sees? Why can't her husband sense the same dread so present in her own being? If only the woman would appear to her directly.whenourtroopscomehome. profoundly. the wife meets the woman. I have to. the husband to his wife. She knows his affair has already begun. that clarity of comprehension. "Baby." www. You want to!" "It's the same thing. come to an accommodation. Hate filled and grief stricken. deeply. She knows. "But why you?" she asks for the hundredth time. The woman. their quiet moments together. leaves the wife cold and shivering. a phantom. For she must contend with an unseen. If you are not in danger. I gotta go. no substance. The son to his parents. She knows intuitively. to the wife.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 16 "If not in the interest of the state. There is nothing she can do. no antidote. The words are caught in the damp gasp of her throat." "Baby. a specter. She assumes. unknowable mistress. she knows that she is losing him. If you cannot succeed. the woman is unseen." Already. do not act. despite their lovemaking.com . do not fight. She accepts.

is there a war where you're going?" "Yes…yes." "I don't know how to read." "You're going to the war?" "Yes I am.whenourtroopscomehome." "Can we talk to you while you're away?" "I'll send special letters just for you. feelings too intense to express. Lots of men dressed just like daddy. still sleepy from the early start.com ." "Mommy will read them to you. there is. a lock of hair curled in her tiny fist.When Our Troops Come Home The children are not consciously aware of the woman. constrained glimpses in each other's eyes. Masses of people. The little boy's head resting on his mother's leg. when will you be back?" the little girl asks. son. son. They only know that mommy has been crying a lot and hugging them more than usual. Her miniature thumb resting comfortably in her sleepy mouth. sweetheart. Waiting for the hammer-fall of the boarding announcement. Dad?" "I'm going to a place a long way from here. The children are in their parents' arms. catching brief. "Daddy. sits with her back against the chair. The gate area is crowded. Daddy has told them he has to go away for a while. Waiting. patent leather shoes not quite reaching the front of the cushion she's sitting on. "Where are you going. her black. Her head and heart reverberating with the thoughts and feelings that are reserved for women who hold their children while their uniformed husbands stand in line for an airplane ticket. A trip to the airport. The little girl." The little boy looks up from his father's lap. The final moments. thoughts. The children and the wife wait while he stands in line. Heavy eyes trying to take in all the bustling activity around him. Not trusting themselves to speak. Hugging their children. The wife quietly stroking her little boy's hair. Moments." "Dad. It's an exciting day. "It's going to be quite awhile." "Will you come back?" www.

" "I love you. The final embrace.whenourtroopscomehome. The little girl's head rises slowly from her mother's shoulder. A daughter's special smile. Reassuring answers. He bends down to lift his carry-on bag. www. I want to be just like you. The neutral. son.When Our Troops Come Home "Yes." The aircraft is ready. He puts his son down on the plastic contoured chair.com . So many unspoken words. "Daddy?" "Yes son?" "When I grow up. The woman is waiting. His wife's eyes plead one last time. Sleepy eyes barely open. Satisfactory answers." Honest answers. metallic words of the boarding announcement press them more deeply into themselves. Fatherly answers.

assessing the damage. The burning. and with the heart saying 'It is my duty'. What he has seen and felt and lost today are his forever. The scream of terror and rage and hate. The one face down in the paddy. with no expectation of a reward. The wood line is cleaved by the relentless.whenourtroopscomehome. the father. He screams to see if anyone can hear. Yawning to relieve the pressure in his ears. The bodies are all around him. The earth shakes. No place to go. The shelling has stopped. melting husk of the medevac chopper testifies to the intensity of the firefight and the accuracy of the unseen enemy gunners. There is no place on earth as quiet as a battlefield in the first moments after an artillery barrage lifts. He screams above the roar. He's waiting for the one-five-fives to lift their barrage of the tree line. the husband. trying to merge with the earth. The last round of the fire mission blends with the first. Soldiers are glancing left and right. The cacophonous symphony of shell after shell landing so close that the smoke rolls across him like a foggy shroud. The shrill silent scream of a bad tooth when ice water hits it. The barelyheard. Pulverizing his psyche. Others he owns. malicious intensity of the artillery. www. No terrain feature elevated more than the twenty-inch high paddy dike that has given him shelter. reorienting themselves." From the Bhagavad Gita Can you see him lying there? The son. he hunkers down and waits. Spitting out the dust.com . The concerned segment of earth that has concealed him from the incoming automatic weapons fire all afternoon. The wooded hillside that has vomited death on him and his family all afternoon. Inside the screaming echoes and re-echoes. feeling the gritty texture of dirt on his teeth.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 17 "A sacrifice is pure when it is an offering of adoration in harmony with the holy law. curled as tight as a pill bug. Trying to hear above and through the ringing in his head. The sun is moving toward the horizon. The concussion of exploding rounds hammering his body. He screams to confirm his own existence. There is movement around him. Satisfied. Some things a soldier is issued. The same deadly hillside he has traversed for months. He screams obscenities and prayers. metallic. squelch-interrupted voice on the radio asking for a situation report.

And in the final act of defiance and contempt he tears the flesh from the enemy's neck with his teeth and spits it back into the face of the ragged cadaver. all that is repulsive. hugging him. red fluid. There is simply a snap in the family's collective consciousness. The form is lost in the shadows. tugging hands of his brothers loosen. There he is. Hands grip his arms and shoulders trying to drag him away.When Our Troops Come Home The movement freezes and recoils under the withering eruption of weapons fire from the tree line. Totally lifeless. he looks back one last time. The rage evaporates. reloading. Screaming. Stumbling. He pauses to look at this. filthy uniform. The surge begins. The orgasm of death is satiated. Still he clutches at the tattered rags. The empty. The gripping. Gouging. all that has torn at his guts and soul lays there before him. And all the hurt. Crying. No order is issued. The unseen enemy is still there. His gaze lingers. The lust to kill an unseen enemy face to face. Firing. The desperate. The spinning. Falling. penetrating. Stress has a way of bringing a family together. Firing. The tears well in his eyes. The ragged line of men sweeps into the bunkers and fighting holes. Sweeping forward. No command is given. Casualties and dead men ignored in the mayhem. Overrun by the need to obliterate the very essence of this creature. passionate need to get even. slicing. Dug in so deep that even the artillery hasn't forced their withdrawal. An empathic. leading him away. He yields himself to the bizarre.com . www. Possessed by the rage. That special form of insanity referred to as heroism under fire. swishing whisper of rounds going by so close he can hear them searching for him. Firing. whizzing. firing. this man.whenourtroopscomehome. Terror transformed to rage. The holes in his chest still oozing the clotting. As they walk back down the hillside. the terror and rage seize at his being. lifeless stare. psychotic. the black-clad body of a dead Viet Cong. Daring anyone. An arm surrounds his shoulder. He's reaching the breaking point. He is approaching that moment when death is more acceptable than the terminal waiting. Slashing. This day he has learned to hate. and not dead enough! The knife in his hand plunges again and again into the black. dismembering. the loss. everyone to kill him if they can. explosion of men and weapons and death. A dead man not dead enough. chilling. The physical incarnation of all that is evil and deceitful. The adrenalin overrunning his system. The rounds gouge at the earth around him. Running. Ripping.

whenourtroopscomehome. To kill until I am in turn killed. not of a splendid vision. Can you see her? Seducing the generations. glorious. And in that final moment as I feel myself moving into the long spiral tunnel. losing control of my muscles. The self-assured presence of a satisfied woman. Resolved. The anger.When Our Troops Come Home In the vengeful act of killing he has obliterated that which can kill him. Having already died and been killed so many. concealed. The hatred for gooks. enriching the earth. He has killed death. in that fleeting. completely.com . boiling hatred. The only gift she will accept. abandoned effort. The unspoken. Having held those others who preceded me in their final moment. He has instantaneously achieved immortality . Can you see her? Reclining on the cushions. as long as I was still alive. for the place and situation that cost our lives in a wasted. aware of my life's blood returning to. A debt finally. The hatred and violence of emotion directed at an activity. Simply giving. finally. freely paid. I had not given enough. totally knowing that I have given all that I am. at a war which we were not permitted to win. not of a sense of rightness. soughtfor and cherished moment. the outrage. willingly. The repressed. To endure until death overtakes me. feeling the warm presence of urine saturating my groin. Given not of patriotism. The hint of a smile at the corners of her simmering lips. Owing the earth. Beckoning your children. The sacrifice she demands. simmering willingness to kill again in combat. www. senseless.until the next time. To kill endlessly. owing those others a body. many times. The double bind of committing everything I had to surviving and yet feeling that.

com .When Our Troops Come Home PART V THE MORASS www.whenourtroopscomehome.

powerful. The grade is fairly steep despite the winding course of the driveway. Sounds without objects. energy regenerating the magic of our souls. Quadriceps in urgent consultation with the reasoning portion of my brain. really. The house is built on the side of a steep mountain. Eyes focused eight meters in front of me. Brown Life Against Death My study is a quiet. This is the place where I am free to write. It's about a mile and a half from our house to the road where the mail box stands. Free to share. Mail collected. The front of the house faces west." Norman O. Dazzling bolts pat the earth on the butt. humanness and immortality. I love this place for it is where my energy merges with the earth and through her with the vastness of the universe. Holding onto the banister of restraint against the beckoning of gravity.whenourtroopscomehome. It is here that I will write of things that will speak with my soul. One foot in front of the other. to be. Floor to ceiling bookshelves are built into two walls. A basic skill. to dare. The magnificence of the infinite sounds of life erupting from the seemingly still-life mosaic of mountains and brush and sand. Evenings are glorious. Each morning I run down the driveway. Letting go. www. The upward journey draws me inward. loving. Luxuriating in the desert's symphony of quiet. Golden clouds yielding to the brilliant orange incandescence of desert sunsets. The back of the house looks up a near-vertical face of rock. comfortable place. Pulse rate climbing. A dirt driveway winds its way from the house down to a two-lane road on the valley floor. Painfully aware of the gravity I joked with going down. Free to explore. On the downward trek I was conscious of the outer world. The view from the window overlooks a high desert. The language of life. One wall has a counter top with cabinets above it. Back up the hill. The thunder and lightning storms hold us in their arms and speak of life and death.com .When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 18 "For modern secular humanist intellectuals have in the main followed Plato and Descartes over the abyss into the insane delusion that the true essence of man lies in disembodied mental activity. The fourth wall is solid glass. Settling into the rhythm of moving up the hill.

Charge! The last remaining feet. Sucking in the dry mountain air and exhaling it in great. The exhilaration of being home in the desert. Just a few more yards. Home again. steamy droughts.whenourtroopscomehome. This is the place my heart retires to as I sit in airports and hotel rooms and pizza parlors writing memos to myself.com . Almost home. Rounding the bend where the pine tree shades the drive. Attack. I don't live here yet. dripping into my eyes. www. The satisfaction of living where I belong. A place where even going out for the mail has meaning. Breaths coming deeply. Sweat soaking through my tee shirt.When Our Troops Come Home Near the top. No.

Nobody has ever described you as a cutting intellect. Driving along the long. unsolvable riddle.com . I want to be at peace. How do you get there? What has to be done? What's your action plan? Well. flat stretches of Interstate Five. You know what has to happen to get on with your life. When I go in search of feeling. www. Ken. I cannot afford pride so I trot like some philosophical Aesopian ass down the California roadways. whenever I decided that today is the day. to spend my "other time" with Peggy and the girls. In hotel rooms. there is nothing. I think I need to find a quiet place. of peace. now is the time. To be home and available to spend time with Garon and Ryan. but hoping that this humble pilgrim's gait will carry me all the way home. just cry for awhile and then everything will be all right. Just get it done. You've been wandering around in this fog for years. when I intellectually stand alone with myself. more than once. The nothing of numbness. I want to be one congruent person again. sharing in the moments of their creation. Do it.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 19 "Greed for results and misjudgments of pace are always harder to spot in yourself than in others. whenever I mentally excluded all the distractions. OK. What has to happen to get you what you want? What do you want? I want to be home. sorry not to cut a handsome figure. Not the nothing of stillness and quiet. The nothing of the insoluble. nothing happens. enough is enough. the silent conference room in the retreat house of a monastery. I have reasoned it all out in the ongoing conversations with myself. but the nothing of the absence of anything. I've tried. that sounds reasonable enough. so let's just get the job done." Jim Shapiro Meditations From The Breakdown Lane All right. Sitting quietly in places that should have been safe the kitchen table in the early hours before sunrise. I need to focus my mind and I need to let the tears through. You know.whenourtroopscomehome. Yet. So what's holding you back? You're the one with an attack mentality. To be home living out our dreams for the future. but in your more lucid moments you're at least semi-rational. I want to be home. of insight.

The micronic shift of tectonic plates. Let it be. It is time to recall myself as bamboo and vines. There will be an answer. When I look directly at it." There is something happening. Let it be. something deep and basic. Let it be. Raising the hair on the back of my neck like the build-up of the atmosphere's electrical charge before the lightning strikes. www. I am aware of it. It is time to wait. "Let it be.When Our Troops Come Home I know the sound of quiet guns. to melt. There is movement. but it is more than an intuition. to blend into my surroundings. it disappears. No visible difference in my surroundings. What is the sound of peace? The words and music drift through my mind. but it is more than a feeling.whenourtroopscomehome. There it is again. I can sense it.com . The sense of movement I can only see out of the corner of my eye. Let it be.

" Trusting Jenny to climb up on my lap after dinner for our special time together. The recognition and denial of knowing what I must do. The convergence zone of feeling and knowing. of sorts.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 20 "Sooner or later. I'm seeking that special continuum where emotions and thoughts coalesce. the self-image becomes not worth preserving. Drifting. www. No matter how divergent my paths. Those letters weren't some totally incomprehensible word I was expected to be able to pronounce before I could graduate. Forward motion. Part of the journey. the length of my wanderings." George Sheehan Dr. Trusting Peggy to be there when I need a hug. Building to the critical mass which requires movement. A place I dread. Dealing with the guilt made me vulnerable to the hurt. Skirting my awareness. Daddy's home. a moment where I can see what I see. Trusting myself to wait. yet avoiding the decision to press on. The moment when I gazed up at the white letters inscribed on the long green sheet of paper above the blackboard. Trusting that my world will continue. Please. A place. There are days when I wish I had my guilt back. It's been flitting around the edge of my consciousness for a couple of weeks now. I know that I can't attain what I desire until I've been there. ill-defined. I'm in control again…sort of. Understanding what I need to do to resolve the hurt and anger. I remember that mystical day when I was in the first grade.whenourtroopscomehome. Trusting myself to sort through the morass of conflicting emotions and irreconcilable thoughts. But I know what I'm looking for. illusory. can't I just stay here? It's not so bad. Deciding to work effectively. inclusive place. A satori. I remember the relief and ecstasy when I finally realized that the letters didn't spell anything.com . The place that I must pass through. No more. Trusting Jillian to come pattering down the hall exuding her realization that "Daddy's home. Sheehan on Running Waiting. how rambling my pursuits. Trusting myself to be home. An illusive. this one thing I know: I must eventually pass back through the portal if I am to be home. A day at a time. Deciding that waiting is an acceptable state. to spend enjoyable time with Peggy and our children. to see what develops. That's what I'm looking for! It's time to go. The waiting turns to repressing.

whenourtroopscomehome.com .When Our Troops Come Home PART VI THE METANOIA www.

Grant me just one solitary moment of peace and let me die. I recall my initial encounter with the abyss fondly now. Sitting. for it is the condition of the true lover that the more he loves. Finally blown into tiny pieces by the ricochets of thoughts and reflections pinging off the infinite looking glass of " if only. Whimpering. Ken?" "My heart. Folding. Directly. if I had even that perspective left. for what? To wake up and see that I am blind? Here I stand. the more he longs to love. A shattered soul. To have come this far. To finally begin to regain consciousness and realize that I cannot see." www. I don't know who I am. The composite of a grunt. Too tired to stand any longer. God. Exhausted. I am standing at the threshold of a tightly sealed door. the brutal isolation. So tired. Beaten.whenourtroopscomehome. my heart. Therein lies my nakedness. A traveler in the infinite emptiness of beyond. I am no longer the warrior and without that persona I have no perception of who I am. A door whose mass increases exponentially with every effort I make to will it away. Holding onto my Self. My mind cannibalized itself. to have endured the self-consuming fear. The pieces of my soul in a green plastic bag. The remnants of my heart sutured with concertina wire. Oh. A door I cannot see. to be almost home. After sixteen years this is all that I have been able to salvage of myself. standing alone in the darkness. the inward directed rage. Regaining consciousness in total blackness after the years of self-sedation. All that I am. just let me die. So it is in the darkness that I find myself." There is nothing left of what I was except the memory of remembering that I used to remember me. A door whose presence imposes itself upon me intuitively. The blackness holds my soul. my self in the silence of its being.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 21 "Do not wonder at this. The remnants of a warrior. Here I stand. I accept the darkness. I do not know where I am.com . An empty body. Collapsing. Me before the door. "What have you got there. A broken heart." From The Cloud of Unknowing I cannot see the nothing any more. Oh God. Please. Stripped naked of all that I was.

" "Did someone step on you?" "No…not really…. There were just people…screaming….I just picked it up and kinda' sewed the parts together with a piece of barbed wire I had with me." "How?" "I don't know. I was holding my chest…." "Did you try to talk to them?" "Yeah." www.it was just so loud.I was hurt bad…you know? And when I got to where home used to be it was gone.whenourtroopscomehome. I…ugh…." "Then what did you do?" "Nothing….It really hurt…and all the people were screaming…. …My soul was shattered….…. And then I didn't feel anything any more.I was just trying to keep from getting stepped on and hold my heart together.When Our Troops Come Home "What happened to it?" "It…got broken.com .I was just sitting on a curb listening to the screaming…and…ugh…I began seeing and hearing all at once…together…you know? I could have handled either one by itself but having them both on me at once…it was too much." "What were they screaming?" "I don't remember. but I really hurt and I couldn't speak very loud…. tearing pain in my chest and this awful ripping sound…and I looked down and my heart was just laying there…broken." "So what happened?" "I don't know exactly….It was crazy.I just seemed to see more of what I saw and hear more of what I heard…and I was holding my heart as tight as I could and there was this searing. there was nowhere else to go….was trying to come home.They couldn't hear me. "Did you stay on the curb?" "Yeah.

" "Why sad?" "I don't know.." "Yeah.com . I know.Actually. the only thing I've really learned is that no matter how bad you hurt you can always hurt more… you know? "Yeah. I know. I don't even think I'm afraid any more…." "That is sad." "I'll be gentle." "God." "Why?" "Because I have come this far and the door is closed." "I've never let anyone hold my heart." "Yeah. May I hold it?" "Will you be gentle? It's really sore where the flesh has grown around the barbed wire. It feels like the only thing I've ever really done is endure and now it's finally down to this…down to the dying…all that way…and I don't even know what it means. I hurt. Why did you sew it together with concertina?" www.whenourtroopscomehome.there wasn't anything left to hurt." "I know. Ken…may I hold your heart?" "You want to hold my heart?" "Please.When Our Troops Come Home "That didn't hurt?" "No. And I don't have anything left to give….it just feels so sad." "How do you feel now?" "I'm afraid..

I can't give you my soul too. Tears falling from his eyes." "You didn't have any bandages?" "No.com ." "What's in the bag." "How come you haven't told anybody?" "Oh…at first I thought no one was listening…then I realized I just didn't know how." "May I hold it?" "Ugh…No. He looks up. Ken?" "My soul." "Yeah. "You really hurt don't you." Watching as he holds my heart." www. He looks at me directly." "There's so much hurt here. Ken?" "I told you I did." "Why is it in a bag?" "Ugh…because it's in pieces and I was afraid I'd lose it. Tears that sizzle as they drop from his cheeks and meet the enflamed tissue of my heart." "Why?" "Because you already have my heart. Silent tears.whenourtroopscomehome. No I don't think so." "Where did they go?" "I used them all on my brothers.When Our Troops Come Home "It was all I had.

" I hear what he says and I clutch the bag that holds my soul.whenourtroopscomehome. Ken?" www. Don't you understand?" "Ken." "My job is to put these back together for you. It's just taking too much energy to hold together what's left of me. don't you. "Ken?" "Yeah." "Oh. You didn't need me until now. I sit. do you know why I'm here?" "No. I can't give my heart6 and soul again! I couldn't survive being wrong again. This is all I have left." "What do you want more than anything else?" "I want to be home. when you give me your soul I have something to give you in return. It's too far. thanks a lot. a couple of pounds of flesh wrapped in barbed wire and a body bag full of pieces.When Our Troops Come Home "Why not?" "Don't you understand! I gave my heart and soul once. I don't even know why I'm here. Where were you when I needed you?" "I'm here." "Do you really want to be home?" "Yes. staring at the door I cannot see.com ." "What?" "You know all about enduring. can you?" "No…I don't think so." "And you can't get there. knees drawn up against my chest." "Ken.

com . what do I have in my hands?" "My heart and soul.When Our Troops Come Home "Yeah. don't you…hearts and souls?" "Ken.May I have your soul now?" "You really do know about these things. May I have your soul?" "It's all I have. It's the living side of enduring…. And deep within my core I know what I have always known and only now recall. What is is. broken pieces into his palm. All decisions are final. And when you give it to me I will give you all I have." "Yes. Beyond. He stretches out his hand and I pour the shattered. you can't go where we've been and not know about hearts and souls. Are you a grunt? A Brother?" "I'm a brother. And all the tears withheld for years cascade through my being. grateful acceptance." "Faith?" "Yes. "Ken." Hesitantly. weeping. I unzip the bag." "Are they separate?" www. The brilliance of the light is immediate and does not startle me. No longer stoically withholding the tears of anguish and rage but releasing the sobbing. above." "I'll tell you something you don't know.whenourtroopscomehome." "What?" "Faith is the other side of enduring. below through the chaos of compassion I watch his eyes and know the healing has occurred. I'll show you the way. I think so." "And I can be home?" "Yes." "It seems like I should know you. The exhaling explosion of despair and anguish is violent and quiet and I am safe. There is no going back.

whenourtroopscomehome. We stand facing each other. "Ken. and my tears will not stop. Ken?" "Yes. Be gentle with my gift. Fully present in the infinite pleasure he derives from giving. You respond. 'I love you. 'I love you'. I give you back yourself." I try to engage my mind to find some adequate form of repayment. Is that right?" "Yes." "Sure you do. A whole person does not react." he says handing me back my self." "Respond? I don't understand." "I can have me back…the me of me?" "Yes. you.com . They're one. Here. how do you respond?" "I say. Is that right. Will you accept it?" "Accept it? I ugh…I don't know what to say…I don't know what to do…" The smile he offers is from one who has known me intimately throughout time. Seeing. too'. they're together.When Our Troops Come Home "No. It's a gift. A brother's smile. "I have given you. Just looking. when Peggy holds your hand. when you are a whole person you don't need to say or do anything. rests her head on your shoulder and says." "And how do you respond?" "I don't know. "We are brothers." "And how do brothers respond?" "I don't know!" "Ken." www." "Then this is my gift to you.

" www. I love you. brother.whenourtroopscomehome." "I love you too.When Our Troops Come Home "There it is.com .

Tom's one of our gunners. and does not expect to see it again. 1967. Three One. Ammo belts laid back into the guns. The new summer sun rises behind us as we stand down from the morning perimeter alert.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 22 "The mystic never presses his luck." "Roger. North of Chu Lai. The grating of a helmet liner removed from a steel pot. fully packed with gooks. We gotta’ recon a route into the mountains. My job is to make sure this baby will go anywhere it has to. Jerry. what's goin' down today?" "Light duty." Bodies shuffle. The driver.Grab something to eat. He accepts the vision. The crinkling of the plastic wrapping torn from a block of C-4 and the hissing sizzle of a chunk of the plastic explosive igniting to heat a canteen cup of water. drop the wooden splashboard and open the engine cover. Tom walks around the corner of the track." "Who's going?" "Three Zero. Three Zero Delta. Latches click open the covers of the sixties and the fifty. "Hey. There's a sweep laid on for tomorrow with the 25th. "Gooood morning. Weapons checked. Likes to fire up his sixty. I walk around to the front of the Three Zero." "When?" "Half hour….whenourtroopscomehome. Check the weapons and the track and I'll go up to the CP to see if there's anything else happening. Good man. and Three Two. Charging handles and bolts slide back on sixteens." George Sheehan Running and Being June 13. sputters south along Highway One to our left front. Today that means up the side of those mountains west of us. Someone behind me sees it too and wishes a mine on it.com . A Lambretta. Excitable kind of guy. Viet Nam!" Sorry bastard. www. Magazines tapped into the M-16s. The clinking of holes punched into an empty C-Ration can to make a stove. The first filmy smoke of a cooking fire ascends from the cluster of hooches outside the perimeter four hundred meters below us. tells few if any. Someone turns on a transistor radio just in time to have the AFRVN disc jockey bestow his ubiquitous curse on us for the day.

" "Oh yeah. different day. There was a screen door at one end and the other end was out of sight. It must not be all bad." "Yeah? What was it?" "I don't remember all of it. I'm serious." "Sheeit. Well. Not me baby." "I had a strange dream last night.When Our Troops Come Home "Hey Ken. We were just sitting there looking at a while wall across from us. I guess. You ain't short 'til they fly you out with no legs." "Huh. man.com . We were just sitting on a bench looking at the wall. Tom leans up against the front slope of the track and watches the smoke from the cooking fires below us. I just remember you and me and sarge and Smitty all sitting on a bench in this long corridor. Same shit." "Yeah. "Ken?" "Yeah. Well we ain't been anyplace where there's a wall lately." "No." "Shit. The grunt's daily eucharist concluded." "Did we say anything?" "No.whenourtroopscomehome. I'm a day shorter." "What were we doin?" "Nothin'. www." Our ritual is over." Smitty comes around the other side of the track. what's happenin'?" "You know. I reach inside the engine compartment to start checking belt tension and fluid levels." "Hey man. why don't you change your shorts before we move out.

Smitty clasps both hands together and I stop while he climbs up to his gun.whenourtroopscomehome. Smitty clenches his right fist. Tom scrambles up the other side to his gun. Three Zero is the scout section leader. is waiting at the CP. We roll backward. I pull back to the left lateral and the track backs. Both his hands are open. Smitty is ready to ground guide me out of our position on the perimeter. Shift lever to reverse. The pungent fragrance of the exhaust fumes. The throbbing pulse of the engine. My foot slipped.com . Jerry. The track comes alive. "Goddamnit Ken! How many times have I told you not to haul ass through the firebase!" "Sorry Sarge. Wants us to pick him up at the CP. let's go. Three One and Three Two are moving to the gate." I climb up the front slope and drop into the driver's compartment. I step on the accelerator.When Our Troops Come Home "Sarge just called. motioning back. We're special and we know it. I reach down. We're always lead track. the engine kicks over and hits. Yank the laterals back to unlock them and look to Smitty. You ready?" "Yeah. I'll tell you when to turn off. I depress the accelerator. our track commander. turning left. We're www." We rumble away from the CP at a sedate ten miles-per-hour. "Go!" he shouts. I wait for the intercom." "You lyin' fuck." "Roger. I stop and he climbs up into his turret behind the Fifty." "Where to? "South on Highway One. Pull back hard on the right lateral and move out amid the chorus of "Fuck you's" and "son-of-a-bitches. I've already heard the radio registering complaints with the CP about our speed through the firebase. press the starter switch. Today is going to be all right." as the dust we kick up settles onto the C-Rations and into the coffee of the crews still on the perimeter. Jerry is yelling acknowledgment of something to the CP tent as we pull up. pull and turn the master switch. Yep.

" "OK. He is unreal. Ammo cans and equipment sliding and banging against the rear of the track. It's always just Doc. "Man. moving south on Highway One. Driving by feel. Laid back. We can do anything and if we aren't dead when he gets to us. Three One and Three Two are waiting for us. "Ken. can we make it over that embankment?" "Yeah. fifty meter intervals. Not included among them is raising a cloud of dust to settle in the first sergeant's morning coffee. Power.When Our Troops Come Home allowed certain privileges.com . Hearing the curses of my gunners above the engine roar as they fight to ward off the weight of the sixties and their gun shields while they cling to the top of the track. Pressed all the way back in my seat. The trick will be to apply enough power to make the top of the grade without doing a forward roll down the other side. A narrow-gauge railroad track stretches parallel along the west side of the highway. The angle is so steep the embankment disappears and all I can see is blue sky. What else is there? Of all the special people. Slow down. Doc's from West Virginia. he's the Man. I wait an instant www. Points on a map that are meaningless even when we arrive." Jerry gets on the radio to lay out the plan for Three One and Three Two. There haven't been any trains on the track for years. He really hates this place. Now up the slope. Power. what do you think. The bank is steep with a narrow plateau at the top. Waiting for the first hint of a downward motion. Easy. I don't think I've ever heard his real name. is this really necessary?" Down into the ditch along the road. Nobody is very excited about it. My palms wet with perspiration. Intercom. Power. Flat out. Now it's just an obstacle we have to traverse. There it is! The first sense of downward movement. We're ready and the expected comment comes over the radio as we hang a right off the road. even on a little nothing mission like today's. The track is headed up at full power. not sight. I can make it but you better hold onto your ass when we start down the other side. Doc will get us out. Oh shit. Idle chatter about turn-off points and possible routes on the radio. Shackled map coordinates on the destination relayed and confirmed. Doc is aboard three two. Totally committed to being one with the balance and power of the track.whenourtroopscomehome. It's built along the top of an embankment to keep it above the rain that collects in the flat land during the monsoon. but he won't let any of his people go without him. Three tracks in column.

Up. As I look back at him his eyes focus on me and a laugh erupts from our centers at the same time. Three Zero. The track stops its forward motion and rocks back and forth. I read lips.com . Did you make it?" "Three One. then add just enough power to ease us over on a downward cycle. Up. I hunch up waiting for an ammo can or radio battery to smack into the back of my head. watching for the front slope of Three One to emerge above the top of the embankment. Goddamn! Laterals all the way back. Down we go. Piece a cake. I have to let the arcs we're rocking in suppress. I look up toward Jerry. "You crazy fucker! Get us down from here!" Nothing like a little hard reality to refocus my attention. We're sliding like a bobsled almost straight down. We jolt to a stop and I hear the increasing intensity of the curses coming from Tom and Smitty. Oh shit! The bottom of the embankment comes full in view as I fall forward and my right cheek slams into the edge of the driver's hatch. Apply power. We move onto the level ground. There's no question that Three One Delta and Three Two Delta are going to bring their tracks over. Starting down. Timing." I climb up out of the driver's compartment. Smitty and Tom are throwing equipment to the back of the track again and sorting out the ammo cans. My lungs fill and I freeze with my hands cramping from the tension. Timing. Timing the arcs. Animals. Tracks locked.When Our Troops Come Home and yank back as hard as I can on both laterals. www. and I stoically accept the accolades pouring through my headset. The frozen moment vanishes in a rush of adrenalin. All the way down. its center spanning the sections of the narrow gauge railroad. It's OK. "Three Zero. Three One. The show is funnier watching it from this side of the embankment. Accelerating on an upward segment of the arc can still flip us backwards and upside down. His knuckles are turning white holding onto the gun shield surrounding him. His eyes are staring straight through me. Down. Ease up on the laterals. They obviously have no appreciation for a master craftsman at work. Jerry is smiling. That's a roger. His mouth is moving but he hasn't let go to turn on the intercom. gathering momentum as it slides and falls forward. holding a rag against the cut on my cheek. Touch the accelerator. Down. Timing is the key now. I can hear all the equipment which had come to an arbitrary resting place on our way up. Laterals forward. I sneak a look to the front and see the hills bobbing up and down. My eyes slam shut. They'd never live it down if they didn't.whenourtroopscomehome. Timing.

"Ken. Three One to our left rear. Now I see why they sent us out. It's so straight up and down. The face goes out of sight in both directions around the hill. No gooks." "Yeah. it almost looks like it was man-made. the vehemence of their objections to our route duly noted as they pull up alongside of us. Nothing. No villages.com .whenourtroopscomehome. The gooks would have it mined by the time we get back tomorrow. open country between us and the hills.m. get some beer off one of those Lambrettas this afternoon and head back to the firebase. I can't go straight up. Haulin' ass." "I don't want to blow one out. instead of being content to be themselves. Dry paddies." Flat ground." "Let's move out. as usual. Nobody traveling in the dust. "Ken. Besides. The hill itself looks negotiable. We gotta find a place where there's a slope or blow one out with C-4. They're brushier and steeper than they looked at first.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 23 The reason why men are so anxious to see themselves. we'll have a great story to lay on everybody tonight. All right! The hills become more distinct as we roll toward them. Just ride over. can we go up that?" "No." Thomas Merton No Man Is An Island Three One and Three Two both make it. take a look. well. is that they do not really believe in their own existence. which way?" www. We stop. Doc is shaking his head in disbelief. make it back to the road. man. you ready?" "Yeah. What a kick. It's 10 a. Three Two to our right rear. but there is a vertical face about eight feet high that separates the paddies from the hillside. The route we need to check is through the foothills leading into the mountains about a mile to the east. The hill in front of us drops off sharply to the flatland.

We start up. No sweat. The track starts its counter-balancing descent. "Looks OK." "Let's do it. Three One and Three Two form a column behind us. It's old and weathered. A small depression lies beyond the wall. The track swings toward the wall and I line up on the slot. "Jerry." The earth is softer than it appeared from a distance. The flak jacket hanging over www.whenourtroopscomehome." "Roger. washed out by the runoff from the monsoons. Sarge. The slope's OK but we may throw a track if the ground doesn't give going over. Up the slope. how 'bout over there?" "Can you make that?" "I think so.When Our Troops Come Home "Head south." We keep rolling south looking for a break in the wall. Looking for a route up the hill beyond." "Go." "Roger. move out into the paddies a ways so we can get a better view." "Roger.com . Half a mile south of where we first encountered the embankment is a broken down segment." We turn left and move out." Right lateral back hard. "Ken. It's a shape charge going off under the third road wheel four feet behind me. The roar of the detonating mine is so loud I don't even hear it. No sweat." "You want to try it?" "You see any place better?" "Negative.

The driver and right gunner from Three One are running toward Tom and looking for Jerry in the smoke and dust. I look again at the furor and carnage below me. and I know without hearing. the dust cloud rising from the explosion. that a dust-off will be coming for them shortly. and that my choice now is to return to the unmoving form inside Three Zero. As I turn. And the music. Three Two is pulling to the left to provide cover. So effortless. The knowing pervades me. I begin to turn toward the light. There is an immense stillness. "Ken! Ken! Can you hear me?" "Yeah. that the music is continually present. Jerry is twisted and motionless. "Are you all right?" "Yeah. There's a pulling of me. Somehow there is the knowing that the light is always there. My eyes shut tight and I feel the impact as I struggle to release the breath trapped inside of my body. It's so quiet. No one says anything. If I turn toward the music. Doc is already moving toward Smitty at a dead run. the source of the symphony I feel. The music fills me. I'm going home. The music is coming from somewhere behind me. A chopper comes in and all four of us are loaded aboard. if I look at the light. Being helped. throbbing pulses surging through my arms and legs. My face contorts as the hurricane of dirt and fragments hurl past me. I can see the shadow cast by the increasing brilliance of the light behind me edging toward the body slumped forward in Three Zero's driver's compartment. Where's Jerry?" The following minutes are motion and weakness. still inside the turret that was blown forty feet to the right of Three Zero. We just look at www. I want to go home and it isn't time." I hear him faintly over the ringing in my ears and the pounding.whenourtroopscomehome. It's so easy. The music draws me. Stumbling. Doc has my head in his hands as I open my eyes again and try to focus my vision. It's so incredibly beautiful. The overwhelming awareness that it is my choice as to whether I return. What's the hurry? The floating quiet is so peaceful.com . I will never return to my body. I understand and I am no longer a participant. I see Smitty trying to get to his feet behind the track.When Our Troops Come Home the back of my driver's seat disintegrates. Trying to remember where I'd seen Jerry lying somewhere in the confusion. Three One's track commander is already on the radio. Tom is laying face down twenty feet to the right. As I open my eyes I look down on the husk of Three Zero wallowing in the dirt. my eyes stay fixed on the form in the driver's compartment. The form flashes toward me.

The most bizarre impressions are how fast everyone is moving and the fact that all four of us still have all of our arms and legs.When Our Troops Come Home each other without expecting anyone to see us. Coming back. Listening for the music. Drifting off. The dust-off chopper comes down at the 25th Infantry's battalion aid station. Looking for the light.com . Vaguely aware that I am sitting on a bench between Tom and Smitty in a long corridor. www.whenourtroopscomehome. We are staring at a blank white wall.

com .When Our Troops Come Home PART VII THE REFLECTION www.whenourtroopscomehome.

The drive in from Bethesda to D. is easy and quick. Right. a concession stand immediately to the front three hundred meters out. Access is across a wooden bridge from the north bank. so I walk. The point of the Washington Monument emerging above the trees. I get out. a park to the left. www.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 24 "The draftees who fought and died in Viet Nam were primarily society's 'losers'. The walk signal flashes. the same men who got left behind in schools. She drives away. and other forms of social competition. Turning.com . She's covering me as the fear rises. South across Constitution." I say. May 26. The marker on the lawn says Interior Department South.C." The Forgotten Generation Sunday. easy to ride with. four lanes. We turn left onto a broad avenue. "OK. The dome of the Jefferson Memorial across a reflective pool to the right. I appreciate her simplicity and understanding. The car pulls over to the curb. passing the morning in casual conversation. The Watergate Hotel on the left. Left. nondescript and poignant. A pair of geese paddles out of the shadowed channel toward open water. The trail winds along the pool bank. Her comments about the road construction and the description of the landmarks flow easily. "I'll give you a call when I'm ready. History comes quickly now. open the back door and pick up the sealed manila envelope and the faded green coat. To the left front is a lakeside pool. She's gracious and cordial and light. My sister-in-law is a lifelong resident of the Washington area. Bending. jobs. arrives at the stand and then diverges again." she replies. A sense of drawing closer. two each direction. Large buildings to the right. The lush greenness beside the road gives way to the banks of the Potomac. the coat neatly folder over my left arm. The sign parallel to the street says Constitution Avenue. Farther to the left a wooded island is set in the lake. 1985. I appreciate her more than she'll ever know. The light changes. holding the envelope in both hands. The overhang of the Kennedy Center casts its shadow of unfulfilled hopes across the highway and we drive through the coolness toward the Capital Mall. I wait on the curb. up onto the opposite curb to the junction of several asphalt trails.whenourtroopscomehome.

A temporary. on the left of the trail is a group of teenagers and their chaperones. Today what little courage I have is very limited and extremely fragile. The brush obscures visibility beyond. Past the counter and hooch and bamboo cage of the MIA exhibit. And so it was at the Wall two years ago that my journey began. I was overcome by the knowing that if I had really done what was expected. jaw clenched. Heavy words. A path parallels Constitution. As I disappeared below the horizon of the Memorial that morning. The West Wall is obliquely present in front of me as I gaze along the axis of the East Wall. Those I had neatly put behind me. On that morning two years ago I had come to pay my respects to those I considered separate and apart from myself. Viet Nam Veterans' Memorial. They were an intimate part of me. walking out across the grass. I was here once before. the tip of the West Wall. A roar impresses itself to the southwest. domed www. Walking in the direction of the arrow now. Washington National Airport is beyond the far horizon. Close enough. my name would be inscribed along with theirs. Those who were a half step slow or at least unlucky. cloudless. shattered my illusion. Ahead of me. desperately needing to run away. the Wall hammered at my being. the Wall absorbed my arrogance and reflected my illusion in itself. chosen solitude. head down. The manila envelope resting patiently on top of it. The memorial begins to emerge from the close horizon.com . manned by vets in camouflaged fatigues and tiger suits. The sign points to the right and asserts itself directly. The Wall showed me no pity and I fled. it says. The Wall gazed through me and I was overwhelmed by the knowing that the names inscribed on its face were not disassociated men and women. Growing deeper and larger with each step. I kneel on one knee. The depression to my left and up toward an irregular tree line on the left. and I become aware of the heat and rising humidity. Their conversation and banter only a murmur at this distance. I'll stop there another day. When I turned to face its presence. Watching. A trijet. Over a slight rise. surges into a blue.whenourtroopscomehome. Kneeling alone in the grass. Waiting. left me cracked and broken. I angle off the trail to the left.When Our Troops Come Home To the right front the ground rises in a gentle slope. Watching the group of teenagers jostling each other as they approach the beginning of the descent at the East Wall. I have felt the immensity of the Wall. in the spring of 1983. Watching. The coat folded neatly in front of me. They've off loaded from the tour buses parked at the curb and they're milling around waiting for stragglers. Watching the couple with a baby in a stroller rise from the ascending path before the Wall. The Wall knows who has come to hide in illusion. Those who did not survive. DC something-or-other. First.

Her tone and manner soften. The rest I'll save for later. I'm aware that the woman park ranger has started to move toward me. I try to reply. She nods and moves away. but the best I can do is to raise my hand. and I ask my friend's forgiveness as I move past the group with the envelope still unopened. The contents of the envelope were given into my care by my people. It's time. may I help you?" she asks. She starts to say something and her eyes move from the envelope in my hand to the faded olive drab cloth beside me. I choose to go. A very gracious lady. twenty meters out. The coat still folded at my side. I do not want to go. We look at each other and do not speak. As I look at the envelope in my hands. They aren't moving. I feel my feet absorbing the unevenness of the square. There is one item which is necessary now. She's heard the unspoken request before. Two or three steps forward. granite cobblestones as I move slowly along the path leading to the point of the East Wall. An oriental gentleman walks by. We pose no threat to each other. The end of the East Wall forms a stiletto point as it rises from the depths. please. Yet even here names are engraved in the polished granite. Now it is time. Just give me a little space. in sacred trust which I will not desecrate. and on this morning neither of us considers the other pertinent. I am not yet prepared for the descent. I turn back to the right toward the podium which stands sentinel at the intersection of the trails. chattering crowd seems somehow a sacrilege. www. My eyes fall back to the envelope and I watch my hands slowly tear away the top. Around the podium stands another group of teenagers wearing white painters' caps with their tour group name stenciled on the front. one of the items sealed inside the manila envelope. Picking up my coat and envelope. "Sir. I look at the envelope in my hand. moving from right to left. The Wall begins to grow on my right. She smiles in response. I am compelled to go. The roar builds and diminishes as the jet turns outward bound and fades into a different future. shake my head and offer a smile.When Our Troops Come Home expanse. A friend has asked me to look for a name in the Book of the Dead which resides on the podium. and I feel a sense of frustration and a flash of anger at not being able to approach the book in quiet and solitude. The name he gave me is written on a yellow note slip. I look at her directly. in a giggling. I sit down on the edge of the Wall.whenourtroopscomehome. A little space. unpolished. Before I am ready the cobblestones turn hard right and become large rectangular granite slabs. To consider opening it now. her ponytail waving below the brim of her park ranger hat.com .

I do not come today in the arrogant self-assertion of a survivor. I do not have to face the Wall alone. with this ring on my hand and the envelope in my keeping. I realize what is different about this morning. A small gold ring upon which are inscribed two interlocking circles. I come with the humility of a veteran. next to my own ring. www. The man who asked me to wear it for him here. I place his presence on the ring finger of my right hand. As I watch my fist clench and see these rings side by side. I come as one who has asked the permission of his people to be home. I know what I did not know two years ago: I am us. Navy diver. The ring is worn and faded. It is imbued with the presence of the man to whom it belongs. Today. durable and proud.When Our Troops Come Home The ring is silver and solid and heavy.whenourtroopscomehome.S. to be consecrated at the Wall. I come in the reverence of one who knows and cares and lovingly remembers. I come as one who knows that their permission is granted. The emblem of grunts that breathe bottled air. On its face is the insignia of a U.com .

Gently I place his offering at the base of panel One West. I begin the descent. Downward to the point where the East and West Walls merge. Flowing with the Wall into its depths. opening the envelope. to the right of the V. by boredom or divorce. Here I stop. a bond that cannot be broken by a word. written by the family of www. or anything other than death. offering its fellowship in the steady increments of my steps. I approach the Wall and kneel. It is one of the signs of family kinship among those who walk the Wall and those who repose within its majesty. The roar of a departing jet joins us and I stop to face the polished granite. Handwritten on yellow note paper and carefully folded." Phil Caputo A Rumor of War Laying the envelope down gently on the edge of the Wall. is a note leaning against the Wall.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 25 "It is. There. I feel the sun settling heavily on my shoulders and it makes no difference. unlike marriage.com .whenourtroopscomehome. The white tapered candle I lean against the V of the Wall. Holding his brother. And I commend my brother's thoughts to the care of Richard Van DeGeer. for all the names are mine. below the year etched in the stone: 1975. Its living heart. and at its base I lay the small silver cross one of my sisters has asked me to return to her. The starch breaks easily as I slide my arms through the sleeves. The symbol of a Freedom Bird. There. I am not looking for a name. The innermost part of the Wall. is the image of a climbing aircraft. I stand quietly alone among the tourists and unfold my coat. The Wall rises. A poem. I kneel in silence. I wait for a brother to finish transferring a name from the rock to a sheet of paper. A symbol reborn on the face of a sheer granite wall. whose name is engraved there in the rock. the Wall accepts my presence. The most intimate thoughts of a brother who is himself embarked upon the journey. moving across the reflective ebony surface. offering the gifts my people have sent with me. As I button the front snaps the Combat Infantry Badge sewn above the left pocket adheres itself to my heart. He walks away gripping the name. The moment is over and it is time to walk. A symbol which had lost its meaning. Its deepest point. Sometimes even that is not enough.

but I didn't know it was so many…. I have nothing to say. The lady is wearing white shorts and a pale blue sleeveless top." I reply. facing the Wall." My tears flow quietly for all those to whom these words are spoken. reaches back to pat me on the arm. It's just above eye level. The candle and cross are placed carefully back into the envelope. it could never be said in words. The man on the right. "Hey. for him. His arms outstretched. They each begin to shake their heads. They talk to each other quietly as they search the face of the Wall. It's white with a gold bill pulled down to keep the sun off of her neck.com . its message so direct and personal that I immediately strike the words from my memory. The man beside me on my left is wearing a suit and tie. Being here with him I begin to catch glimpses of the conversations flowing past me." The teenager dressed like a salmon lure. If it cannot be expressed in our faces and in our grip. Our eyes grip each other as solidly as our hands. An elderly. head down. Their conversation stops and the Wall enfolds them. he puts his left arm around his brother. gray-haired lady with a Southern drawl: "I didn't know there were so many. They find the name they seek.whenourtroopscomehome. and walks toward us. My brother beside me takes him in his arms and allows him to let the anguish spend itself. All the words but these: "Long gone and not forgotten. "Hanging in. what is this anyway?" A brother talking quietly to his wife. Sharing ourselves with the brother who remains. I'd seen the number. and together they move off through the crowd. When the tears have dissipated. The cap is covered with pins and www. I wish only to be present here. The lapel pin of the 101st Airborne and the wheelchair he's sitting in testify to his right to be here. This moment I am strong. No words are spoken. He takes it. "How are you?" he says. "Are you all right?" The voice comes from beside me. I stand and step back to the edge of the grass. gives life to the Wall. They hug each other for a moment. in silent affirmation. I'm here for him. I can help him carry his ruck. left and right. Finally his head raises and he looks one last time at the name that. "I got him medevaced out but he died in Japan.When Our Troops Come Home one who rests here. We stand together. wipes the tears on his sleeve. Two brothers stop in front of panel Seven West. I extend my hand. walks toward me. head down. tears glistening on his cheeks. palms flat against the stone. No words are needed. He turns. Her baseball cap is on backwards.

Pictures are taken. Naturally attractive. I have done what was asked of me. It's time to move on.com . My brother will make his pilgrimage to this place." "Will you stand back please?" A requested command to those near the V of the Wall.whenourtroopscomehome. It is no longer necessary to see the granite panels. www. The man in the wheelchair moves over to the wreath. As I move up the path along the West Wall I watch only the feet of the person in front of me. She's pretty. But for today I am here to represent him as his people silently salute the wreath and the commitment of the Airborne. Down the east walk two men carry a wreath. The Wall has accepted me and the offering of my family. The back leg secures the page of poetry I had offered. She's about forty. The green plastic name tag pinned to the side says Volunteer. "Yes ma'am. Park Service. "Are you OK?" she asks again. One of the survivors of Firebase Ripcord. An unknown piece of high ground at the edge of the Ashau Valley where American men were sacrificed for bags of rice in 1970. Red carnations set in green. And just now she's beautiful. tanned and blond. In the center is the glaring Eagle of the 101st. the same way every nurse is beautiful when you first regain consciousness. It is enough to know that for a space in time I was granted the honor of standing in the presence of The Presence.When Our Troops Come Home ribbons. Hands are shaken. jump wings and buttons. Steady blue eyes with silverfish blue eye shadow. The men set the wreath on a tripod at the V. She cradles a copy of the Book of the Dead in her left arm. I am here to take in this moment for another of my brothers.

Across the path at the edge of the grass is a huge oak tree. "Yes Ma'am. "There are people on my grass.000 yesterday. good parents were spared the immediate sort of suffering that our inferiors were undergoing. so it's oak. The trail here is asphalt again. I was here once before. I call them. It might be a maple but I need an oak right now." she comments." I smile at her observation. "Is this your first time at the Wall?" she asks. I have seen some tourists." For a moment she's quiet.com . Tree people. The reflective moment passes. theoretical fashion. A lot of veterans…a lot more tourists. The bench I sit on is hard and solid." The sternness in her tone surprises me. "No. "Lots of people go through here. The vets stand and sweat and cry. People in shorts and T-shirts cast quick.whenourtroopscomehome. "About 70.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 26 "The children of the bright." She holds the cigarette in her hand but does not light it. Pensive. "Do you mind if I sit here and have a cigarette?" It's my blond lady again. www. The back and seat bolted to a wearever metal frame. as they might be opposed to political corruption or racism in South Africa. It feels good to have a friend that big." James Fallows What Did You Do In the Class War. And because of that. It's painted flat black. I've seen them. when our parents were opposed to the war. they were opposed in a bloodless. The tourists walk by and go sit in the shade. Daddy? The breeze whispers by to reassure me as I move away from the west end of the Memorial. puzzled glances as I walk toward a bench still wearing my field jacket. She stands up and puts her unlighted cigarette back in the pack. She looks across the passing crown and absently fixes her gaze on the Wall.

In passing through the Wall I had forgotten the statues were here. They tell me. A dozen steps bring me to the edge of the dispersing crowd. It's too much. The sling has been removed. The closely cropped head of the black soldier. There is a quiet whisper. "I don't let tourists walk on my grass. I'm safe. The crowd begins to thin. www. "Please. This is as far as I go. An M-16 in his left hand. Her blue eyes soften. Somewhere deep inside me I hear a sigh that pulls me ahead. It's the longest short walk I've ever taken. If I stay here. I look at the ground as I walk. Come stand where we can see you. This is silly. Not a command. I don't have to see." she says. Just a request." I don't want to go and I cannot not go. And I have to go anyway.whenourtroopscomehome. I am not ready for this. Sleeveless arms in his bronze flak jacket. I stand through the heat and humidity that have taken up residence on my shoulders. The sun glints off of metal to my right front. I fear the eyes. I don't have anything left to walk over there with.When Our Troops Come Home She looks at me. I know when I am centered on the statutes. I lean forward and rest my elbows on my knees. A clear view of the statue is blocked by people and small brushy trees. I have nothing to fear…except the dread. The contemplative quiet that had settled over me is gone. It's a portion of one of their heads that's reflecting the morning sun. I'm afraid of their eyes. There are too many people over there just now. Inanimate objects. Magazine inserted and I know there's a round in the chamber. Where are you people going? Please don't go. I hope she gets to take one of those salmon lure specials to her taxidermist. No I'm not. Better I should wait. This is it. It's too far. Her eyes move back down toward the Wall. What little courage I did have was expended at the Wall. These are bronze statues. There is absolutely no doubt. I feel my pulse rate going up. How could I have forgotten! The sunlight is so heavy. I love that lady. I've seen the pictures. A lane opens through the people. People taking pictures have occupied all the ground in front of the statutes. How could I have forgotten? I'm not ready for this.com . An oblique view." I watch her move off through the crowd. "I share the grass with vets. The statues were not here two years ago.

I remember my last few days in country at the 93rd Evac. when the steam is exhaled from the earth. Most of all I remember having gooks so close that you could kill them with a handgun. Sunrise. I had a mattress to lie on." Victor Frankl The Unheard Cry For Meaning The earth between me and the statues is damp and bare. His right arm beginning to rise. The bronze sculpture itself is set upon a raw slab of granite. And I remember what the blast from a . I remember how my quadriceps quivered and raged against my mind for the last fifty meters up a hill. I see the hands and I remember the filth. I remember the pain. The sunlight reflects off of his taut forearm and I see the veins that course the blood and adrenalin through his body. and I remember the calluses that grew within my boots.45 can do to a man's face and how the back of his head explodes in splinters of bone and multicolored goo. The center figure stands straight and tired. My gaze moves upward and I see fatigue pants. I look at the bronze of the statue and I see my feet. skipping eyelets near the top. The hands. his left arm reaching slightly back.com . Fingers and thumb extended and separated.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 27 "… 'having been' is still a mode of being. The center figure's boots are laced. The quiet movements along the www. I stare at the unmoving statue and I see my legs. I resist the pull to draw my view upward. even after I reached the point where leeches didn't mean nothin'. perhaps even the safest mode. The holster on the figure's right hip. And I remember how. I remember the black slimy leeches that attached themselves to me and sucked my life away. I finally got to take my boots off and I remember how my feet dried and cracked and oozed blood and a clear watery liquid. Countless feet deny vegetation any chance at all here. I remember how I tried to walk down the center of the ward on the outside edges of my feet. I remember sunrise in the bush. how loathsome they were.whenourtroopscomehome. A small diameter metal chain is threaded through the eyes of metal posts about ten inches high surrounding the statute's base. Beneath the trouser legs I know that the sinew and muscles are alive. I see the pistol belt on the center figure. The magazine pouch for a .45 on the left where I wore mine. and real sheets.

And the rage at being left alive to do it again. and how they tore to give the insects access to my torso. www. I see the statue's shoulders and I remember the all-consuming ache. They are my shoulders. The ammo belt he wears has the points of the rounds facing in. the boys who became old in a single morning or an afternoon on a hot LZ with no support and nowhere to run. I see the fatigue shirts on the men who stand beside the center figure. A daily exercise that reminded me of the rage. I remember the dirt that was ground into the pores on the back of my shoulders. and I see my hands. It was a ritual. I remember the perpetual discoloration from the straps on a ruck. I remember how each morning began by clenching my fists so the scabs would crack and excrete the pus and water.When Our Troops Come Home perimeter. and how finally we were just too tired to care. How it became infected and inflamed into giant pimples the size of a quarter. and how the stench was all-pervading and how we tried to sit upwind from each other. how each cut became infected and swollen overnight. I remember the short. A hand suspended in time and space.com . Flak jackets that absorbed shrapnel so that a man could be spared to live his life without an arm or a leg. An M-60 laid across his right shoulder. four-inch frame. I remember the cuts from thorns and razor-sharp grass. Sleeves rolled up. I remember how we looked at the open sores on each other and watched our bodies rot. I remember the terror of being helpless and vulnerable and wanting to die because everyone around me had. And I remember what it felt like to try to spread 160 pounds over a six-foot. His pistol belt is under his fatigue shirt. Carrying ammo like that will eat you alive and jam a sixty in a heartbeat. The statue on the left puzzles me. And how we felt fortunate to have the bruises because we had been spared the insufferable heat of a flak jacket. I see a hand outstretched. and I remember. Then I realize that the third figure is a new guy. And the ungodly sting of the antiseptic that was applied afterwards. In the act itself I became mean and got into the mood to kill.whenourtroopscomehome. intense milli-second of pain just before the wounds broke open and swollen claws became hands again. I remember doing that once and how the belt chafed the skin off my sides and the clips that attach the canteen covers and ammo pouches gouged pieces of flesh from my body. I look at the shoulders of this unflinching bronze statue. The figure wears a bush hat. I remember how the shirts were always wet. I remember how the bottom of my stomach would fall out and I could not restrain the tears when the impacted sores were lanced and squeezed. The broad bands of green and yellow and deep purple that descended down from the top of the shoulders to wrap under the armpits.

I'm not really seeing them until I realize that they're looking at me. I can no longer raise my eyes. Lost somewhere very deep. They stand guard now. Hearing shutters click. The eyes that know what is. I remember the profanity and involuntary gags when ham and muthas' was all we had left. They see it all. while the insects crawled up my neck and into my ears. It's less than fifteen feet from where I stand to the statue.whenourtroopscomehome. into themselves. I want to thank them for their consideration but I feel too vulnerable. It is their duty to bid the final farewell to the souls who are released from the stone each time the living and the dead are reconciled. Everything I want to say is stuck. Standing alone in the crowd. and I see my body. dried. It's hot and I sweat and I stand. For they are the witnesses who watch the Wall. And the satisfied smile when there was just one more tin of pound cake or peaches. In my momentary distraction from the figures I realize the people I was standing next to have moved away and no one has taken their place.When Our Troops Come Home I see their bodies standing there. I look upon their faces. There are few audible comments. I see their mouths and I remember the lips that breathed life back into men who had already died. Finally. They move away and I think about how nice it is to have so many lovely blond ladies to share this place with today. I remember the weeks along the border. and I remember lying beside trails. crinkled maple leaves gathered before the figures. The eyes that have stared into the infinite nothing and seen it all. As I look upon these bronze figures I know what they see. Relentlessly. It means everything. The corner of the manila envelope moist and crumpling in my left hand. I see the exhaustion and vigilance etched in their cheeks. The camera beside me snaps. afraid to move.com . not wanting to and yet needing to. I feel embarrassed and ashamed. They relax. I stand in isolation before my brothers for www. Standing here in this group of people I recall who I have been. An infinite abyss. People are moving behind me. but no one is standing or walking in front of me any more. The eyes that have gazed into the void. I count the brown. How my eyes were swollen nearly shut from the mosquito bites. I study the chain and posts at the base of the bronze reality. Two on and two on and two on in perpetuity. erect and inert. gently they draw me to their eyes. They stand alert and watchful as they testify to bonds renewed when a veteran finds his brother's name in the granite. The people just look. Two little blond girls pose in front of the figures for their father's snapshot. I smile. The eyes that say that "it don't mean nothin'" is a double negation. The sun and humidity ascend together.

pulling me away. A Freedom Bird. The tidal wave of grief. but it is no longer the me of me. In my heart I know that his right hand reached out to grasp mine." I raise my head to meet his eyes.whenourtroopscomehome. rumbling tremor of loss. Eight steps to the base of the statue. The words I cannot say are said. the mounting. "I love you. distinctly. In the mounting." It is all I have to offer. I can't go. I saw my brother smile. www. whispered reassurance. The anguish of separation rises from my soul. as he held my hand. In the presence of the receding roar I speak them plainly. I can't stay. It is an ever-living part of me that I can recall if need be. I hold it tightly and my soul hears his voice: "Farewell. The roaring surge within echoed by the accelerating jet engines beyond the trees.com .When Our Troops Come Home I know that I no longer have the look. soaring blast I hear the quiet. Those behind me will testify that the figure did not move and in that moment. It builds and crests and sweeps toward me from within. It is everything. I remember the me who shared their gaze and I know that I am no longer that person. In my mind I know that the center figure did not move. My feet move.

The Wall holds me to itself again. He descends and hands the name to someone I cannot see. place my hand on its trunk and push. The right margins are ragged on each panel. Looking out across the grass. Looking down the slope. One of the volunteers adjusts an aluminum step ladder in front of panel Four East. The wall reflects us as we are ragged and irregular at first glance. The granite says it all. It's OK if she does. I paid full price for admission. I glance down to make sure I still have my envelope. but they move in formation toward the left. It's cool here in the shade.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 28 "So you need a teacher to learn that there is nothing to learn. and I allow the hugs to be there. but not damp. He climbs up and transfers a name onto a sheet of white paper with his flat carpenter's pencil. I'm tired. I lean back against the maple's trunk. I do." Roshi Philip Kapleau Zen Dawn In The West I don't remember leaving. but when it truly counts the brothers come on line. I wonder if she'll reclassify me as a tree person. The tears come again. I sit down. I'd just like to sit down for a few minutes. perfect margins to the right. I look again at the Wall and see something that had gone unobserved when I was up close. The earth and grass beneath me are moist. Not far in front of me is a single maple tree. On the East Wall all the names are dressed left. Here and there a single brother stands as I stood earlier. I sweated a lot. and I don't care. It stands at the edge of the grassy surf where the sunlight laps the shadows. I think about my blond lady somewhere down by the Wall. I walk up to the tree. but here I am walking through the adolescent maples. Absorbing the coolness. It was hot standing in the sun. especially my eyes. Just walking. The entire Wall stretched out in front of me. The tree is a good snuggler. There is a constant motion in both directions before the Wall. That's what I need right now.whenourtroopscomehome. I notice the damp spots on the front of my field jacket. It doesn't move. The lady park ranger is containing the crowds at the east end of the Memorial. ragged edges on the left. The names sweep along the Wall from both sides and converge at the V in two perfectly-formed lines facing each other. And the people keep moving by. I just need to rest for a little while.com . The trees that form the irregular line I had seen earlier this morning. www. On the West Wall the lines are reversed.

whenourtroopscomehome. I try to suck it up. A group of teenagers has bailed out early and are heading up the slope from the center of the Wall toward the trees. They break and hurry off left and right. Two geese swoop past from left to right headed for the pool I saw this morning. They lower their voices as they pass the Wall. Somehow I have the feeling that I haven't been out of her sight all day. It's quiet. They're residents here. toward me. I see the back of a pair of white shorts and a light blue sleeveless top going down the hill. I've been to the statues. minigun trill above me. tanned lady doesn't even look back. They know. It seems like I've been here for hours and years. righteous claymore. there's something not quite right. I smile when I hear again the forcefulness of her command. an intuition. The tan legs and white tennis shoes move past me in a blur from behind. Maybe I should go. I've been to the Wall. My blond. No. It's a feeling." She sweeps through the group like a quiet. "Move off the grass. www.com . What more is there to do? What more can be said? Why do I have this feeling that something is somehow unresolved? Birds flutter and land and speak in a rapid. I'm not ready for a group of pubescent tree people. please.When Our Troops Come Home Movement to my front.

When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 29 "If any man thinks he slays." From the Bhagavad Gita I feel heavy. fold my arms across them and rest my head on my forearm. This one's just a little steeper than most. what else could there be left to do?" "It's not what." "Cut me some slack." I say the words without looking up.com . "I've been here all day. www. We sit for awhile. Ken. "Oh yeah? I didn't see you." My head snaps up. Man. Ken. The lethargy vanishes in an instant gush of awareness." "You were busy. The sunlight erodes a patch of shadow. Long day. I sense him more than hear him. "I was wondering if you'd be here.what are you doing here?" "I knew you had one more hill to hump and I thought you might need a little help with your ruck. neither knows the way of the truth.whenourtroopscomehome. there can't be anymore hills." "Man. I draw my knees up to my chest. It's who. and if another thinks he is slain. "I'm tired." he replies. The birds come and go. I feel OK except…." My words come out as more of a sigh than a sentence. I walked the Wall and I've been to the statues." "There are always hills. The eternal in man cannot kill: the eternal in man cannot die." "This is a heavy place. I just want to head back and spend some time with Peggy. "So how ya' doing?" he asks.

The fatigue trousers bloused. it's today and it's now. The tears begin to run down my cheeks even before I look to confirm his presence. The quiet. "Man. I try not to see. sweatstained jungle boots. No. No! And I collapse into myself. He is my Marine. Oh God. I'm alone. And I know that no matter where I was those steps would be centered on me. No. Not now. and I am weak and afraid. His face is easy. Searching for reality.When Our Troops Come Home "Oh no! No. His sandy colored hair close cropped. I'm aware that he's kneeling in front of me. I am so fucking sorry…" I'm choking on the tears and I can't see and I can't stop crying. Centered on me. My face is buried in the hollow of his shoulder and my hands claw www. The words repeating themselves through my lips over and over and over. My head shakes involuntarily left and right. He's looking down at me. His tan deep and radiant. I hear the solitary steps approaching. Please!" His eyes are steady. Not today. I'm so sorry. I raise my head. "Ken. I am so sorry. No. He wears no name tag. He's right here. He's strong today. I couldn't get you out and you were burning…and shit!" His left hand slides up to cradle my head. past his knees. Oh God. I feel his right arm encircle me. I'll be back in awhile. The rustling of the grass stops. faded olive drab. please help me. All I can do is sit on the grass. Tied off with the shoelace sewn into the hem of the cuff. I fall back against the tree trunk. His jungle fatigue shirt matches the trousers. On his left chest picket is stenciled the insignia of the United States Marine Corps. No. My head falls back onto my arms. and I flinch as he lays his left hand on my shoulder. Slowly I raise my head.whenourtroopscomehome. No. "Oh man. but they're there." And just like that he stands and walks back into the trees. No. Not today. I stare straight ahead. quiet eyes. The last ounce of anything I had left evaporates. How could he just leave? No. neutral. not today. not today.com . Palms flat on the ground. My whole body stiffens. I can't believe he just left. He leans forward and pulls me to him. no. As I look into his eyes I see quiet. The scuffed. God. Oh no. begging the Wall to save me. Coming to grips with the fact that this is my reality. sobbing and sobbing. God it can't be. He doesn't need one.

I rub my hand across my face and feel flecks of grass adhere to the dampness on my cheeks." "No right? Man you were down and I couldn't get you out." He nods without looking up." www. place my finger against my left nostril and blow." I hear the words but they don't register. The gasping breathes moderate. I'm sorry. I turn my head. He holds me so tight and I cry and cry and cry and cry and cry. When he speaks. his voice is even softer than I remembered. Holding a blade of grass between him thumb and finger.When Our Troops Come Home at the back of his fatigue shirt. I know. "Ken?" "Yeah." We both look at the blade of grass he twirls. Legs crossed. So I just look. I can't breathe. Years of tears pouring over my soul." "Me too brother…me too." "Ken. I'm struggling. I'm so tired. We just look at each other. "What? You're sorry? For what?" "I was scared and hurt and I was so afraid of burning.whenourtroopscomehome. I take a deep breath and push back. "Ken." "Yeah. Oh God.If you hadn't stopped me I would have tried to cut your leg off and drag you out…. The film in my eyes begins to clear. Gently he lets me go. He's sitting now. Trying to bring myself back to where we are. I can see again. I want to cry all over again and there aren't any tears left.if you had crawled under that track you wouldn't have come out either…. I tried…. My nose is running and clogged. Utterly spent and still shuddering. And I had no right to ask you…. I wanted to see you today because I needed to tell you how sorry I am. I swab away the tears and dampness from my face onto my sleeve. "I know. But I knew I didn't have that long left….com .

I'm aware that there's something between us. I think so." "What was that?" "You said dying was serious but not fatal. Not anything that separates us.When Our Troops Come Home "I was listening when you said something awhile back that was right on. I remember. "No. I heard the words…every day. His voice is quiet and a little shaky. As we stand there I have to ask the question.com . "Well." "Yeah. And there were a lot of nights. I know. "It was August 1967 when the shit went down. You've been closer to me than any living person." he says. "Where are you going?" His smile is real.whenourtroopscomehome. Ken. I'm looking down as I start to say the words but realize I need to say them directly and raise my eyes to his." The birds sweep back into our tree. www." "You were right. We stand and brush the grass off of our pants. But ya' know…I don't think there's been a day in all that time when I didn't think about you…. I never got to tell you that I loved you. That was a long time ago. Ken. In all that time. too…. No. but a bond that binds us inseparably. I can tell you that you are right." The tears form in his eyes and begin to overflow. I think about what he said for a minute before I reply." "Yeah. that's the other thing I needed to say to you." "Well. you're wrong. and fly away." It's time to go and somehow we both know it. His teeth are white and even. but I heard the music." "What?" "That I love you too. I never saw the light. chatter.

I've needed to talk with you for a long time." "Goodbye. Ken. "You're right…I'd rather have them all. The crowd at the center of the Wall moves without knowing. as a breeze rustles through the leaves about me. if I told you my name. "I never knew your name. His arms swing freely now in sure fluid motion. would you rather have one name or all of them?" My eyes shift from his face to the black granite memorial behind him. There are so many things I want to ask and none of them matter. He steps over the low. and. Brother." I reach out to hold his hand one last time. Back to my left. www. his bearing changes.com . There's just one more think I want to know." "Ken. I hear the word spoken by a solid bronze voice: "Farewell. I cannot hear the beat he walks to. but does not acknowledge his passing." My brother has gone home." He smiles and lets go of my hand." "Ken. as quietly as he spoke. and a lane opens.When Our Troops Come Home "Ken. Nine inches to the front. He takes my right hand in his and covers it with his left. Six to the rear. perceptibly. His heels begin to plant themselves more firmly in the sod. Now I'm going home. what would you do?" "I'd go find it on the Wall. "Goodbye." I watch as he turns and walks out of the shade down across the pool of sunlight. he merges with the Wall. I stand still for a moment. Home is a good place to be. He walks casually for fifty meters or so and then. single chain at the edge of the walk. but I know that he hears someone calling cadence.whenourtroopscomehome. takes six steps forward. The lady park ranger herds some tourists out of his way." "I hear that.

My words come out with more than anger than I intend." "Will you come with me. Suzuki Zen Buddhism It's time for me to go. I've been to the Wall. As I walk through the trees. Ken?" "Where are you going?" "Let's walk back over by the Wall. T." He nods his understanding. seeing the veins in the leaves ducking under the branches. I don't know how I feel…except that I don't feel numb anymore. What's a few more minutes? www. back to where it costs money to reach out and touch someone.whenourtroopscomehome. "I was going down toward the pond.empty and full…sad and happy. I feel like crying and laughing. It's time to go back to the world. One last look at where my brother no longer resides and I turn back toward the trail behind me. "How could you just leave me like that?" "Ken. What do you want from me?" "Will you come and see?" I'm too tired to argue and this is the man I trust.When Our Troops Come Home Chapter 30 "In the actual living of life there is no logic. what you two had to say to each other was between the two of you.. "Where are you going?" he asks.com . for life is superior to logic. "So how do you feel.. Ken?" "Shit. I feel the man walking beside me. and my anger is gone. There are some pay phones down there." I know he's right. too." D. I don't know." "Man.

My lady park ranger is still moving folks off the grass. "I told you. I take off my field jacket and fold it over my left arm. The Combat Infantry Badge is still sewn above the left pocket. I really want to go to the phone and call Peggy. They're covered. I see two brothers standing next to each other looking up at the statues. I can't see my blond lady." He nods and smiles and he looks at me. to the east end of the Wall. We're at the edge of the trail that runs east and west behind the trees." www. right?" I look back and I know what he's saying. Past the quiet crowd and clicking shutters. The sun is past its zenith. And it's all different than what I thought. most just quietly walking. "What do you see. I'll go with you. I smile and he sees me. "What are you thinking. Ken?" "Nothing really…. Our steps are easy. What do you see?" I've never heard his voice this stern. We walk on through the lime green pants and pink shirts. It's scary. Past the bench I sat on earlier." "Pay attention. One of the last pieces breaks loose within me and floats to the surface where I can finally say it. We step onto the trail together and turn right. "It don't mean nothin'." I hear myself say the words and I still don't want to go. through the baby strollers." We come to the trail intersection and turn right again. Ken?" "I see the Wall. There are hundreds of people below us. through the camouflage shirts and tiger suits. but somehow it's different. He's waiting. "Yeah…it means everything. "Yeah. I see the Wall. steady.com .When Our Troops Come Home The last fifty meters one more time. Later. There's no need for us to join them. I was just looking at the CIB on my jacket.whenourtroopscomehome. It's hot. some standing. Back toward the intersection of the trails where my brothers stand watching the Wall.

" "What kind of people?" "Hell. They're just regular people. walking down into the Memorial again. The Wall is present. I don't know. I watch the people. and." "Have you ever seen that look before." "What do you see then?" "It feels like I'm looking at people who don't know where they are…. "Man." Finally.com .When Our Troops Come Home "Ken." "Why not?" "They're looking down. but most of them are just people. The Wall is a given.whenourtroopscomehome." The confusion has me. "Look into their eyes. that's not right…. Ken?" www. I don't know what you want!" "I want you to look at the living and tell me what you see.they know where they are and the hurt is really on them. but most of the people up the east side are looking at the ground. What do you see?" I try to do what he asks. Maybe it's part of their tour. I understand. I know who the brothers are among them. "Why do you suppose they're here?" "I don't know. Ken. It's strong and enduring and safe. I don't know what I'm supposed to see. It's like a hurt they can't even talk about. "I see people." We start to wind our way through the crowds. as we walk. Tourists.No. "I can't see their eyes. stop looking at the past and tell me what you see.

what allowed you to come back?" "My people. these are the people we wanted to see when we came home. Damn. I'm losing it again. It's the one the granite reflected back at me the first time I was here. Always.whenourtroopscomehome.and you were there. I had to run away." "Yeah. "Yeah." How can there be so many tears? I feel his arm around my shoulder. did you hear about the homecoming parade in New York City?" "Yeah. "Ken. it bothers me. "I know the look.through the nights that never ended and the days I couldn't face. I was really glad I wasn't there.When Our Troops Come Home His words slide effortlessly through my ears and grab my heart. Right here in a crowd of strangers. They loved me through it ." I say." "If you ran away once. one of my brothers marched in it. Peggy and our children…and my brothers and sisters who had been where I had been. 'Please Forgive Us'." "What did it say?" "It. They were always there. Where were they when we needed them?" "Ken.through the rage and the guilt and the anguish . A lot of them don't know a single name on this Wall. Most of these people aren't grunts. I'm grateful for his hug." "Why?" "Dick told me that they were marching down one of the streets and there was a big sign some people on the sidewalk were holding up. How come?" "I had to come back. uh…it said.com . My people loved me through it ." "But you're back today. doesn't it?" "Yeah…yeah." "That bothers you. Some of them didn't even really know there was a war going on. look around." "You're not willing to forgive them?" www. I know it…but how could they not know? Shit. I understand.

Day after fucking day." His words are right." "Of course…. those are the people you must be willing to forgive. and their very rightness enrages me. and the poem and dozens of single roses laying next to the granite." "That's right.When Our Troops Come Home "No. We're approaching the center of the Wall. They couldn't know. I feel like one of those flowers.whenourtroopscomehome. I know he's right. A bond that most people will never understand. It was there. Year after year. "Ken. For you to be home. The selector switch on rock and roll." He doesn't reply. did you ask each other's forgiveness?" "No. The wreath is still here. because the politicians and press will be here tomorrow. All they ever saw and heard was the media bullshit. but it is what is. This Wall wouldn't be here if it weren't for those bastards that sucked us dry. there are people who will never comprehend what it is to have a Brother. "Bullshit!" Those people killed us. They will never have a family…not in the way that you know family.He's my Brother. Ken. Cut off and given. And in fighting off their own pain." www. but it was never said. yes…I mean they were just regular people. "Ken. It wasn't necessary. It doesn't make sense. What is there to forgive? They didn't know. Not really. there are always going to be those people who would rather kill than live. when you and your brother were talking back in the trees. Letting the sun absorb me." "I know…so what?" "Tomorrow is Memorial Day. I mean. And I know it. The words come hard." Somehow. How could they know what really happened in the bush?" "It's Sunday. Ken.com . They won't ever expose themselves to the risk." "You're shaking." "Ken. There is a bond between you. they inflict it on others. Why are you here today?" "Shit. truly home.

You're the 'man on the ground. You had a term for it in the bush. How can I justify that?" "Ken. I will fight them until they do me for good and I will forgive. Ken." "Ken. No one has the right to expect that of me…of any of the brothers. it's the last fifty meters home. searching for some way out. But he holds my eyes in his and I have nowhere else to go…except home.it's too much. Ken. And now you share the responsibility. Forgiveness is the steepest part of the hill. a wounded healer. I don't expect it of you. You have been healed. To hold onto that hate means that you can't be home.' You become what you participate in. It was a gift. The words are spoken because I have no other choice and I know it. You of all people know that killing can never be justified." www. just as one of your brothers told you. It can only be forgiven." "But they're still killing people and getting our people killed.com . It is time to forgive…those who would not forgive you…for losing a war…they would not let you win. Still I fight it. Anything. Is that still true?" "Yes. Being home is all that matters. but I ain't doin' it! I'll never forgive them. You might be right. all the shit we've lived with and endured…. will you forgive them?" "Yes. Why us?" "Because you know how. I feel pieces of the crust cracking." "Then it is time to forgive. My family has already paid enough.whenourtroopscomehome. you told me that what you wanted more than anything else in the world is to be home.When Our Troops Come Home "You're fuckin' right I'm shaking. You are called to be what every grunt who comes home is called to be." My mind reels and spins. Are you going to quit?" "Oh fuck…. "Why me? Why the brothers? Man. "Ken. you have been a killer. No one. Something." "Ken. No one will stand in my way. I'm just telling you what is." In my soul I know he's right.

"Ken. but his voice is soft and gentle.When Our Troops Come Home I look at the Wall. And I know what I know about my people. As we stand alone among the throngs." "Of course you do. Ken." He steps forward. He looks puzzled for a second.I'm closer to you than you are to yourself. I thought you already knew…. and the people. or what?" He stops as we reach the west end of the granite. are you going to be around to help. so I look down among the crowd." He smiles and continues to walk. Few people love like a grunt." His words trouble me. will you share your grass with the tourists?" www. I follow. and the commitment becomes a part of me. I stand and shake my head in disbelief. As I catch up there is a question that comes out as a statement. You picked it up. I hear his question." "Well. He starts to walk along the trail up the side of the West Wall. I'm embarrassed to look at him. It seems like a long time since either of us has spoken. The enormity of what I have just said sinks deep into my being. I just needed to hear you say it.whenourtroopscomehome. I don't know what it is. His arms extend and we hug each other. Ken. because very few ever had to hate the way we did. the wreath. Ken." "Accountability for what?" "The accountability of life for life…of life to Life. "I've spent so much time with death that I don't know anything about life. You just don't know what you know yet. "Ken. "Sometimes I get real scared. "Nothing was laid on you. whatever. "It feels like something very heavy got laid on me.com . But what was it?" "It was accountability. The place where I began the day." As soon as he says the words. I understand. the roses. wait a minute." "OK.

"Ken?" "Yeah." www." He hugs me tightly and pats me on the back.com .whenourtroopscomehome." "Welcome home.When Our Troops Come Home "Yes.

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