Thursday, September 07, 2006

"He was 19 and green with a new M-16 just doing what he had to do"

We ran errands this morning. Dh needed to renew his drivers license. My son and I dropped dad off at the exam station and drove nearby to watch the donuts cook. My almost three year old was chanting a Rita Rae (I love Rita Rae you can check her cd out at the library) song, "march, march, march..." as I was fumbling with my change and the the cashier says, "he is ready to go to war, huh?" I laughed and immediately a sense of horror came across my insides as I thought of sending him off, then the lady continues..."my son just returned from Iraq." I smiled. If I had tried to say something I wouldn't have been able to choke the words out. I experienced first hand what Vietnam did to my daddy.
I'm having trouble remembering the exact date, but I think tomorrow would be my dad's 55th birthday (If you are thinking I am off on the years, I may be, BUT his mom actually fudged his birth certificate so he could go into the army early). I spent a lot of time in college dealing with the separation of my parents and then the death of my father. He was so sick from the drinking that his body just gave out on him. That was in May of 1994, that would make him what? 43, I think. Eleven years older than I am. On the way home from running around all morning we listened to that new song from Big & Rich (when dh is driving he picks the station otherwise it would have been KNWC for me) about that vet from South Dakota "the 8th of November" (link)

BIG & RICH LYRICS"8th Of November"Said goodbye to his momma as he left South DakotaTo fight for the red, white and blueHe was 19 and green with a new M-16Just doing what he had to doHe was dropped in the jungle where the choppers would rumbleWith the smell of napalm in the airAnd the sergeant said...look up aheadLike a dark evil cloud, 1,200 came down on him and 29 moreThey fought for their lives but most of them died in the 173rd Airborne[Chorus:]On the 8th of November the angels were cryingAs they carried his brothers awayWith the fire raining down and the hell all aroundThere were few men left standing that daySaw the eagle fly through a clear blue sky1965, the 8th of NovemberNow he's 58 and his pony tail's grayBut the battle still plays in his headHe limps when he walks but he's strong when he talksAbout the Shrapnel they left in his legHe puts on a gray suit over his Airborne tattooAnd he ties it on one time a yearAnd remembers the fallen as he orders a tall oneAnd swallows it down with his tears[Chorus]Saw the eagle fly through a clear blue sky1965...On the 8th of November the angels were cryingAs they carried his brother awayWith the fire raining down and the hell all aroundThere were few men left standing that day[Chorus]Said goodbye to his momma as he left South DakotaTO fight for the red, white and blueHe was nineteen and green with a new M-16Just doing what he had to do

It must have been a sign or something. So I dug through my old college files to find some poems that I wrote about my dad. In honor of his birthday I will bring these words back to life for just a few moments.

Last call from dad
I hear the familiar voice
and my heart skips a beat.
I feel the tears well up in my eyes
as my ears strain to hear
the same voice that used to say, "I love you"
Only, this time saying, "I'm sorry"
and wanting love to come back.
The emotions are running wild.
I sadly whisper, "I love you, too"
He cried, but it's too late.
The damage is done, there is no going back.
It hurts and there's no cure.
We both know that it is over.
For he lost a family and more,
for us a father that no one can replace.
It was good, the times we had.
Too bad, it's gone forever.
Blame it on the war
If I sit and think quietly
I can almost see their faces
Painted with green and brown.
Their eyes are dull holes
so that you can see right through
Their heads, almost.
They hear the slightest sound
And are ready to kill.
Sometimes when I think
Real hard I can see him.
He is young, blond and innocent.
But when I see his face
It is hard and almost looks
Like an old man's face.
He doesn't look like my father.
He once told me he rode in
The helicopters. He had a weapon.
They only stopped to pick up the dead ones.
Some didn't even look that they did in the
Beginning. Some were even his buddies.
But he didn't know it. He couldn't tell.
Their faces had been blown off.
Later as we sat and watched
"China Beach" he started to tell me
A little about the oriental women
And their weird round hats.
He told me about the heat, the drugs and
The blood. But, he didn't say a lot.
He used to have nightmares every night.
He would wake up screaming and in a cold sweat.
The only thing that helped was the alcohol.
The only thing that helped killed him.
He is gone now.
They say it happens a lot to the survivors.
They say it's not their fault.
Blame it on the war, they say,
Blame it on the war.
This is an excerpt from my journal, a few weeks after my dad died.
I hear the rain and feel the pounding in my heart. Will it ever stop? Everyday it comes down harder and louder. Everything is moving so fast. I need to rest. Where am I? Can anybody see me?
With every second it is coming closer. But, what is it? I can't see it I just feel it. I am trying to ignore the sound but it keeps coming.
Everyday the same, get up, do what you gotta do, go to sleep. Still, I feel it. It almost hurts. It is always coming, always there. How can I get rid of it? It's with me all the time, a feeling, a huge dark cloud all around me. I am being suffocated, doesn't anybody care? I need help, I can't run because it keeps up with me. I can't hide from it because it always see me. Will it get me? I am so scared.
I want to stop, to let it take me. I wonder if it will hurt? Maybe it will be easier. I will just stop and rest. I need to stop. I don't care if it gets me. I just can go on any further.
I think I see it, it's all around me. I feel it. I need to sleep, so tired, I need to lie down. Now, I can't move. I can't go on. I don't want to anymore.
Are you in heaven, daddy? I miss you. Happy Birthday.
Love, your first born.
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