This comment is by ogwriter on the Call for Submissions for War Stories
TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic war story
I was lucky and so was my brother Andre’. We sat and watched our fates being decided by a new draft lottery system that enabled us to escape the horrors of Vietnam. Our oldest brother, Don-Alvin, wasn’t as fortunate. He did two “tours” of duty in VN and came home with lots of stories to tell. I will share one with you if I may.
One day we were just hanging out together and Don-Alvin asked us if we wanted to hear a story about the war. He hadn’t been home long and from time to time he would get a feeling and huddle us together for our talks. Later, I would come to understand that what he was doing was venting and that this was critical to his psychological recovery. In us — me and Andre’ — he had two people who wouldn’t judge him and that loved him unconditionally. I liked to think it helped him.
He asked us, “What do you think doing a body count must have been like for me?” Saying nothing, we shrugged our slim shoulders our in unison and Don-Alvin added, “Since you asked, I’ll tell you. After a fire fight, we went out into the killing fields, often in the jungle or a clearing in the jungle. From there the count would begin.” He then turned to us and asked, “I’ll bet you think we counted bodies, don’t you?” Andre’ and I looked at each other quizzically and said almost in unison, “Yeah, you probably just counted who was dead and added it all up, right?” He laughed, but it wasn’t his usual laugh, which typically rose up from the bottom of his belly filling him and whatever room he might be in. His eyes narrowed, his brow furrowed and his laugh was a sardonic humming,and was inaccessible to us.
In that moment, he was back there, in the war. He leaned towards us, lowering his voice as if he didn’t want anyone else to hear and said,”It didn’t go quite like that. When you got to the killing fields you looked around and began to gather up body parts. A arm was there, maybe a leg was over there, and a torso might be somewhere else. You gotta understand that the weapons we used destroyed bodies, mangled them sometimes beyond all recognition.” Hearing this, we wanted to cry, me and Andre’, but didn’t. To this day, I’m not sure why we didn’t. My brother continued,”Once you gathered up all of the body parts, then and only then, would the count really begin.” After hearing this and other stories of real war from Don-Alvin, Andre’ and I would stop watching the sanitized, propagandized, army films and cowboy movies we had grown up watching.
Photo: Gruenemann / Flickr