I visited the Nevada Vietnam Memorial at Mills Park in Carson City, NV today. While there, these few words flooded my mind.
I should never have returned, but I did. Why me? I, of all people. There were so many so much better than I. So, why me? Why was I the chosen one?
I went because I was called. I didn’t want to go, but I did. I could have gone north, but I didn’t. I could have lied, but I didn’t have the wealth to sustain the lie. So I went when my number was called.
Yes, I went. Like so many before me, and many more after me, I went. When I was called, I answered the call. And then I survived to return. So many didn’t. So many of the ones I knew stayed.
When I returned I was standing, not proud, but I was upright. Too many did not return the way I did. After all these years, maybe I should be one of them. Back then, it would have been over with quickly. Now all that’s left is just small visible scars on the outside that hide the injuries on the inside. And as it is, as it still is, the pain lingers. And it grows.
Doc should have been one of those that returned. But he stayed. Not by choice, but he stayed anyway. Doc was one of the good guys. He gave his life for me—for me and all the others. For Bishop, Slater, Machado, White, the black guy, Black, the white guy, Sgt. Pete, and the LT. There was the cherry, never did know his name, Jackson, T-Hall, Max, and, oh yeah, Harrison.
Harrison and I went down together. You know, he was two weeks short. He should never have been where he was, but he was. And he and I went down at the same time. Doc was there for us. Then he and Harrison went together. They left me. I guess I was the lucky one. I don’t feel all that lucky.
They never found Doc or Harrison, just bits and pieces. Not much of the LT, either. Jackson and I were brought out on stretchers. The rest, they scooped up and returned in bags. Jackson joined them two days later.
So, why me? Why was I the chosen one?
I’m not remarkable. I’ve done nothing noteworthy. Of all those young men, why am I here and they aren’t? Mac, that would have been PVT Thomas McEntire from Chattanooga, TN, would have said that God has a plan for me. If this is His plan, it’s one helluva SNAFU, if you want my opinion.
There’s not much time left. If I am the chosen one, then I better get to doing what I’ve been chosen to do. I just wish I knew what that was. You see, the jungle has returned. It’s trying to reclaim that which got away. I’m rotting from the inside, and Doc is not here to save me this time. I can’t save myself. I couldn’t back then, and I doubt if I can now.
It won’t be long and I’ll join those that went before me. I just wish I could say that their sacrifice was not in vain, but I can’t. They gave their lives for something that no one cares about. For something that will soon be allowed to fade into a history that no one remembers. But, I remember. I will always remember. For however many days I have left, I will remember.
Good night, Mrs. Jackson, wherever you are.