His story was never told. He believed nobody wanted to hear it, and he was probably right. After all, the dance contests
and survival contests on TV are more important than an old man marking time so he could die. He had nobody to encourage him to live. Nobody could take that kind of time- they are all too busy with their own priorities.
He knew his time was near. He knew exactly how it felt because he had been there before. He wasn’t afraid now as he was
back then. He even welcomed death. Nobody cared, he was sure of that. When nobody cares, you want to move on, right? His closest acquaintance is the nurse that would bathe him and help him eat. She had been his nurse for forty one years, and he knew she would
retire soon. All the others had quit coming.
He was happy to know that today’s soldiers are honored and supported. Not like back then. Not at all. Back then, he was
told he should have died over there. He was spat upon, called murderer, baby killer, rapist. He couldn’t understand that. He had conducted himself honorably, always. He had taken food and medicine for the ones caught in the fight without shelter. He honored
the captured and fallen enemy as fellow soldiers deserving of respect. At home though, he was called those horrible lies. That’s why he went back. At least the enemy understood him. He didn’t want to go home, anymore. His country hated him. He was sure of
that. He stayed over there for almost two more years.
He remembered being in country and then a huge flash and explosion. The next memory was waking up. It was quiet, dark,
too. He tried moving. It felt like he was moving but there wasn’t any weight. Later, he awakened again and there was light. He was in a room. There were strange instruments around him. He looked to his left and could look out a window. There were cars moving.
American cars! He thought the only place to find American cars was Saigon but this many? He didn’t know. He was never there. He was always in country.
Somebody came in. A nurse?
Maybe. She looked at him and left immediately. Seconds later a man (a doctor?) came in. He was soon joined by more people that looked like medical pros. He knew they were talking but he couldn’t hear them. He tried to speak. Nothing would happen.
In the next few weeks he learned he had no legs, no left arm, only part of his right arm (and it wouldn’t move) and something
was wrong with his insides, too. He was in the USA and had been there over three years. The war was over. His dad had died. His brother had died over there just days before the war ended.
His sister came to see him and was able to write on a board that his mother was living with her. Too much tragedy in only
a short time had taken her will to live. Mama wouldn’t last much longer. Then, his sister didn’t come back.
As he awakened he suddenly felt warmth that he hadn’t felt in decades. It felt like the last time his mother had hugged
him as they said goodbye, the warmth that only a mother can give. Then he saw her holding out her arms for him to come to her. He did.
As the coffin was lowered into the ground, and the honor guard was leaving, one person stayed at the grave. She knew him
well. She knew what he suffered. She marveled at his ability to survive. She loved him for being the most heroic soldier she had ever known. She had seen hundreds of them. Yes, she even cried. She was his nurse. Now, she would retire.
There are heroes in our VA Hospitals all across this nation. We will never know their stories if we shut them out. Find
the fortitude to visit them soon. They were there for the USA but where is the USA for them? You are the USA.
No, that’s not right.
We are the USA!