They came to this land as youths and left feeling like they were old before their time, filled with suffering and grief from losing their innocence and friends, knowing that they would never see those faces again and their smiles and laughter that were never to be seen on this earth by them again.
In the rice paddies and rivers of this Emerald Land, the blood of so many was left to enrich the earth, to give back to Mother Earth the life that she had given. That both sides gave their blood for a cause that perhaps only a few really believed in is what made this a waste and a shame that can not be forgiven.
As the youth went through the fields in the driving rains of the monsoon, they left their innocence somewhere behind them as they met the enemy and fought for a cause. Most, after they were there for awhile, began to understand that this was not worth all the lives on both sides that were shed for some politician's fancy, not for a reason but just because.
Perhaps the lies that were told and the things that came out in later years helped to sour some of the boys who became men there in the Emerald Land and to not make all the dying worthwhile. Some of us, who were there, actually believed in that lost cause while we were there until, at some later date, we found out the lies had made all the deaths, hidden behind some politician's smile.
The Red Rivers that flowed down to the sea filled with the blood of both sides were a testimony to the futility of the fighting that took place in this land so far away. Even the children of the land were used to killing and maiming; they never had the chance to grow up as children but were used as killing machines instead of being at play.
Mixed in the rivers and streams of this place were the tears of those of us who lost our friends that came to this Emerald forest, so far away from home. Shedding our tears as the bodies of our friends were put on those planes and taken back to their loved ones back in the "world" to be laid to rest in the soft loam.
Of course, the country sent someone to try in console their families and handed them the flag that draped over the coffin as the body was laid to rest in this soil. But, was a little bit of cotton a replacement for a loved one that had died so very far away in a land that has no real meaning to the loved ones back there who were burning the midnight oil?
At the grave, perhaps a crying mother, a lover or a friend added to the tears that had been shed for this boy that had gone so far away just to shed his blood and die. You see, a lot of us over there lost our friends in this senseless war; and yes, most of us will now admit it that we still, in the middle of the night, when we are in the mood, will cry.
On the rivers of this Emerald Land sailed the small boats that searched out the enemy and perhaps found them to kill and main each other for this senseless cause. We wonder now why this happened and what would ever have possessed this mighty land of ours to seemingly be trapped into something that just happened "because."
In the end, as we bailed out of this land and left it to its own defenses, perhaps those of us who lost our friends wonder why did this all take place in this forgotten land. Perhaps it was just a politician making a little bit of power for himself and that is the true shame because there was no real reason for the senseless loss of our friends at the enemy's hand.
So the senselessness of all this has eaten into so many of us that were there; and we returned home to only face the scorn of those who remained at home and protested while we were slugging through the jungles and rivers to die and then come back on a flight, perhaps in a bag to be buried with "full honors," while the protestors got arrested.
But time is the eternal equalizer in things like this; and in the end, one of the ones who stayed at home became the leader of this mighty land and led us although he did not go, while those of us that were there and lost some of our friends wonder why this could happen and what ever happened to those friends of ours that died and what they would say at this show.
Some came back just to bury themselves in a bottle and drown out their sorrows and memories of this time in this land, so very far away from home in the land of tears. Perhaps there is room in America's heart because they built a memorial to those who died, but what about those lost souls that have been struggling down through the years.
Down deep in our hearts, those of us who were there still remember in the dead of the night that we still have left something in this Emerald Land that never came home with us. We left the blood of our friends there; and that can never be washed from our memories, although we try and forget it because it hurts so much that our friends never got much of a fuss.
For the others who came home, from wars both recent and those in the past, were welcomed as heroes and given their honored place in society to show that America cared. The Vietnam veteran didn't come to that, but to scorn; and that stuck in our craws down through the years because of our friends who had died so senselessly there; and for them, our tears were shared.
So, in the spring, when things turn green all around, some of us remember this far away land and the colors, sights, and sound that take us back to this far-distance place, remembering for a moment or two the innocence lost in our youth and the futile loss of those other young men who went with us to glory; and we remember their face.
We do not look for pity because we have our nightmares down deep inside of us; but when the 1,000-yard stare comes on our faces, we have gone back to a time so far away and long ago that what our minds remember seems to keep us trapped; and we keep returning to that place that we left, remembering for awhile and yes, even sometimes with a smile where we had to go.
For not all of it was bad; it is just hard to remember the good times that we had because they were so intense for us because we knew we might die on the next day, sometimes playing hard so that we didn't have to think of what might happen or had happened to others, wondering if we were next in line for this for us because it was not child's play.
Those, who have heard "puff" growl or dived into the darkness of the tunnels, know the feeling and the smell of their fear as they went into the darkness or looked into the sky, sometimes not knowing where the hail of gunfire would go and praying that the pilots knew what they were doing and that there was no trap laid in the darkness away from the day.
Those that were flying dust off the mountains to take out our friends as they lay bleeding and dying have seen the pain in their eyes and have felt the pain they feel, wondering if they can save these poor lost boys who have come so far away from home just to bleed and die in a place that some of them realize can not possibly be real.
1817B Rock Creek Dairy Road
Whitsett, NC 27377
Tel: (336) 698-9453
Navy: 31 years