By Michael "V-man" Viehman

Dedicated to my son: Nicholas R. Viehman (Of him, I am proud.)

I've been thinking a lot lately. About Vietnam, mostly. My Vietnam, in particular, and just Vietnam and war in general.

My son, Nick, is 15 1/2. Seems he was born yesterday. He's a good person, as are most young people today. The bad ones get the press--just like Vietnam vets, I guess. In his first half hour of life, I held his little hand and told him, "I'm your Dad, son; and I will protect you from all that I can in this life."

I have tried to do that, but he is growing up so fast. I have tried to teach him compassion, honesty, and all the other important things that he will need to be a good person--all he will need to be a man. I'm sure that I have left some out somewhere along the line, and I know that my example could/should have been a lot better in many cases. I've tried. I've tried to teach my son to prepare him for the world. But I'm worried that the real thing that will influence him the most will be what he has seen in me.

Others have seen glimpses of what he has grown up with. My moodiness. My periodic quick anger. My withdrawal. He is not, by a long shot, stupid. He is well aware that Vietnam has me by the throat. How could he miss it? It has permeated my life like the smell of nuoc mam has permeated my refrigerator. The kid eats with chopsticks--well. Dad taught him at his request.

I've been blessed in an important way. Since I only have to work 10 days a month at the Fire Department (24 hour days), I have had a lot of time off with my son in the summers. We have camped and hunted and fished together--a lot. Thank you, Lord.

Truthfully, as much as my boy needed me, I needed him. He was/is a good companion in the woods. He is mature beyond his years--always has been. Not 'cause he's my kid either. Sorta like a shrunken adult. Oh, he's getting a few interesting teenage things going on, and Dad has to threaten to kick his ass every so often; but he is, at heart, a good kid.

He is taller than me and becoming wirey and hard--like a man. And yet, he is still my child--the one whose hand I held that first half hour of life. Were *my* parents this torn as I grew up?

I wonder what he thinks about all this? He wanted to walk in front in the woods one day. I asked why. He said that the branches were whipping him in the face. I told him, without a thought, to keep his interval. As we returned from the river one day, he walked in front. I kept my interval. He was proud and self-assured in his being able to lead. I'm glad.

As we proceeded deeper into the gloom of the forest from the light of day by the river, I watched his back. I didn't see my son. I saw, in his walk, in his build, in that light, in another time, a brother from Vietnam. I walked, unknown to Nick, with him again. Did the tears that he saw in my eyes confuse him when he turned around. I don't know. I don't think so. He's been my son for a long time, and he's seen it before.

I'm very much afraid of how my problems from Vietnam will affect him in his life. He's quickly becoming a man. He has been with me for a long time. I consider, with fear and trepidation, the thought of how my anger and moodiness and withdrawal may have affected him. I fear that he (as well as my wife, Michele) will become more victims of that fucking war.

We've brought it home to our loved ones like a virus...and it still has no cure. And, it will keep killing us, and our loved ones, until we find that cure. One thing I *do* know--my son will never go.



Copyright © Jan. 1995 all rights reserved

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M. Viehman --
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