A True Tale for Memorial Day by anahata.c ()
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In college, I had a friend who fought in Vietnam. He had several decorations, and came home with one leg. He was torn on all sides, because he believed fiercely in the people he fought with---his fellow soldiers---and he would've given his last breath for them. He hated what the communists had done to their people, but he didn't believe the war was worth it any longer. He was torn to pieces by it. Yet he wanted everyone to know how deeply his comrades had fought there. He went back and forth each day, tortured by it. He got no understanding. No one heard him. No one wanted to engage. He said, "I come back, and I'm invisible. No one sees me. It's like I'm not there..."
He'd been in counseling, but the counseling didn't work. He didn't know how to open up to someone who didn't understand war. And therapy was costly, there was little support for soldiers. And you could see him sink. He started withdrawing. He muttered to himself, often when with people he loved. It was heartbreaking. He was such a caring soul, but he was receding. Disappearing. I tried to get him to get free counseling---but he didn't. He called me one night and said: "Friend: Please come over. Now."
I went to his apartment; it was late. He opened the door: He was in his fatigues. He hugged me a long time. Then, with all the calmness in the world, he said, "I'm sorry," and he shot himself. He shot himself in the head. There was no pulse, no movement: He was gone.
I leapt to him frantically, called an ambulance, but didn't know what to do. I'd been told never to move someone with a brain injury. I frantically tore off my shirt as a bandage, stood over him, but I didn't know what to do. I wished I were a soldier, I wished I were a doctor. He was still, no pulse, and I didn't know what to do. The ambulance came quickly. When we arrived, I stood in the ER, shaking, when a nurse walked up to me and put her arm around me: "Sir, sit down. He was gone the minute he pulled the trigger. But please remember: What you saw, he saw daily, over and over, with no chance to digest it, no chance to get past it or to mourn. I was there: You'll never understand what these people saw." Then she knelt: "To come home and be treated like they're invisible? Imagine that! So remember him. Be humbled. Don't let him slip through the cracks. Remember him." Then she patted me on the cheek and walked away.
There are so many like Tim, who saw a world few will ever see, who knew things few will ever understand. We must honor them. For you, Tim, and all your comrades of so many wars who fought knowing you were making the world a better place: A deep bow of love and gratitude. You won't be forgotten. With gratitude and blessing for you all,
Artwork Comments (23)
RodS () Online Now! 3:15PM | Mon, 30 May 2016
It's hard to type when your eyes are filled with tears... What a sad story - and even sadder is the fact that it happens so frequently... Still....
Though that would be a horrid thing to see and experience, thank you for sharing this, Mark. We must never forget the sacrifices that have been made - and are still being made. God Bless our men and women in uniform.
SunriseGirl () 3:29PM | Mon, 30 May 2016
I really have no words to express how much this touches my heart, :(
anaber () 5:44PM | Mon, 30 May 2016
I cannot say a word that worth, Mark! I can think that i can imagine---but no! i cannot ! I am simply deeply moved inside my heart! You were 'called' by him, so to can share not only his sufferance, but the whole sufferance that wars involves, whatever that they are for and mainly, because He trusted YOU deeply--till the core! and He knew that you would transmit it all to the world, with truth ! With heart and soul! It was a extremely painful experience for YOU, whose words, probably, were not easy to find to explain, how unjustly are cast aside those who fought for freedom. But YOU did it Mark! And i can imagine how hard all this it was for YOU! Thank you for sharing this terrible experience!! BUT while sharing this with us, YOU are telling the world how unfair the wars always are! YOU are doing the most profound tribute to Tim and to all his fellows and also to all that are still going through similar terror....I bow to HIM and to ALL that still in our days that are suffering equally and i bow to YOU, for all the courage and love that you put in your words. I am deeply touched! They always will be remembered! My deep gratitude to them. Thank you for this memorial Mark.
Faemike55 () 5:47PM | Mon, 30 May 2016
my thoughts and prayers are with you and with Tim and others like him! Thank you for sharing this with us.
eekdog () Online Now! 6:47PM | Mon, 30 May 2016
Just grasps you by the heart, Mark. Many thanks for sharing.
goodoleboy () Online Now! 7:12PM | Mon, 30 May 2016
What can I say? The comments above should cover it all, but I'm stunned by your narrative. I would have never imagined that you had such an traumatic experience. When in the Army, I had spoken with a few soldiers who threatened suicide, one of which was distraught because he was being sent to the Pacific rather than to Europe, and the other when I was overseas because he had received a Dear John letter from his fiancee in the USA. Fortunately, they never fulfilled their intentions. But that was WWII, the last "good war." Vietnam is another story altogether. Many in the public felt that our guys were "baby killers" in an unnecessary undeclared war. They were reviled and spat upon after returning home. They weren't honored and praised like the World War II veterans. They were treated, instead, like invisible lepers. In any case, yours was a real gut-wrenching event, which has come to light on this memorial day.
npauling () 8:05PM | Mon, 30 May 2016
A really heart rending story and the image will stay with you for the rest of your life. It must have been a shock for you and then to realize that you couldn't do anything. All soldiers need to be recognized and helped as they do a job that no one else wants to do. Even here the soldiers that were in Vietnam weren't recognized and there were a lot of consequences over that but at least now they are treated with the help they need though still more is required. If I had my way they would be paid far more than an executive is. Very well written.
Richardphotos () 10:35PM | Mon, 30 May 2016
very touching story. I knew a man years ago that spent time in a mental hospital in Texas over a traumatic experience in Vietnam. I tried to enlist but was refused. shortly after that the war went crazy, and I felt fortunate that I was denied military service
wysiwig () 10:45PM | Mon, 30 May 2016
An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day and there are just not enough resources to help them. It is a national disgrace. Your story was heartbreaking. I can only assume your friend did not want to die alone and chose you to see him go. Sounds like you were a good friend to Tim.
I lost someone close to me as well although the story has a happier ending. Dave and I were best friends all through high school. After graduation I went off to college. Dave joined the army. And then he volunteered for Vietnam. And then he volunteered for combat. And then he volunteered for Long Range Recon Patrol. These were small groups of soldiers who would infiltrate far behind enemy lines to conduct sabotage, gather information and assassinate select enemy personnel.
He came home without a scratch and married his high school sweetheart. And all seemed well until his wife began telling me of how he would explode in anger over the slightest things. He began to withdraw from friends and family. She tried to get him to go to therapy but he had refused. Since I had known him longer than anyone else she asked me to help. I managed to get him to the VA for help and stayed with him over the course of his treatment. We hugged and sometimes cried together and, over time, he got better. But since I had seen him at his most vulnerable he began to avoid me out of shame I suppose.
I helped to save a friend but lost a friendship. Even knowing what I know now I would do it all over again.
giulband () 11:43PM | Mon, 30 May 2016
I read with difficulty your words not because English is not my language, but because they hit me hard. I think these things should not happen this event in his deep sadness strengthens my conviction that the true victory of a war is in having avoided ait. Sorry if my words in translation can be expressed evil, for this reason also I leave the Italian version !!
Ho letto con fatica le tue parole non tanto perchè l'inglese non sia la mia lingua ma perchè mi hanno colpito duramente. Credo non dovrebbero succedere queste cose questo evento nella sua tristezza profonda rafforza in me la convinzione che la vera vittoria di una guerra sta nell'averla evitata. Scusa se le mie parole nella traduzione possono essere male espresse, per questo lascio anche la versione italiana !!
blankfrancine () 4:44AM | Tue, 31 May 2016
Very sad recollection,Mark. I hope for a day when there is no more war.
blondeblurr () 10:11AM | Tue, 31 May 2016
This brings back memories of the 1992 Movie with Al Pacino: 'Scent Of A Woman'... story as follows...
(Frank, Al Pacino, is a retired Lt. Col. in the US army. He's blind and impossible to get along with. Charlie is at school and is looking forward to going to college. To help pay for a trip home for Christmas, he agrees to look after Frank over Thanksgiving. Frank's niece says this will be easy money, but she didn't reckon on Frank spending his Thanksgiving in New York.)
I immediately recognised, in one of the last scenes of that movie, which you described in your short story, at that moment what also happened to you, namely with the same ending. It was very tragic then and so powerful, it touched me in the same way - and strange as it may sound, I agree with 'guilband' - wars should be avoided at all costs, I am dead-set against it when used by greedy politicians/warmongers as a weapon at the cost of human life's. [make love - not war !]
You are a very brave man Mark, for having endured such sadness for so long and now shared it with us and I do hope, that it has lightened and eased your heavy burden at last, even if only ever so lightly. 🙏
helanker () 12:48PM | Tue, 31 May 2016
A really beautiful, but also very sad tale. It must have shook you deeply in your foundations for years after such a horrifying and tragic experience. I agree with what Ana said, that he must have trusted, that you would some day be able to pass it on to the world. That is what you did today. A beautiful tribute to your friend, dear Mark.
auntietk () 1:11AM | Thu, 02 June 2016
It makes you wonder, doesn't it, how the culture that venerates war continues to thrive. Your story shows the face of the ongoing cost, and no amount of marching and flag-raising can change the ending ...
nickcarter () 10:29AM | Thu, 02 June 2016
Un toccante memoriale , una storia che fa riflettere sugli orrori della guerra , qualunque sia il motivo ,giusto o sbagliato , per il quale ci si è battuti!| Grande tributo Mark! A moving Memorial, a bitter story about the horrors of war, whatever the reason, right or wrong, for which you have fought! | Great tribute Mark !
romanceworks () 9:57AM | Sat, 04 June 2016
I'm so sorry you had to witness such a tragedy, Mark, and yet I am glad your friend, Tim, had a friend like you with him at the end. Someone who not only saw him, but loved him deeply. Tim's story was beyond heartbreaking, because it was so real, so true. There was no coming back from the depth of his pain. I also experienced the Viet Nam war, from the perspective of a very young wife waiting for her soldier husband to come home. I was lucky, my husband returned in one piece, at least physically. But the days of waiting and worrying were endless. Many of our friends came home in a box, or missing body parts, and all were invisible. And the grieving young wives, some with babies, were also invisible. My only close friends were other war wives, because no one else understood. We were all so happy when Claire had her baby, and then a few days later her husband, Tom, was killed.His entire platoon was wiped out. I will forever remember her holding her newborn baby while sobbing at her husband's casket. Thank you for telling Tim's and your story with such honesty and heart. Those who gave so much need to be honored and remembered and seen, not just for one day, but for every day that we all enjoy life.
jocko500 () 10:32PM | Wed, 08 June 2016
thank you for telling this story. I never was in the arm force. i did join the drift but did not join up and they never called me. I never saw them invisible people. did not know most of the ones i did meet was in the war at all , in other words i did not know about it like you see so many people you walk by on the streets, you do not know they live where they been what they thinking or thought of. Yes i had friends that went off to war as the drift did call them but when they came back I did not know about it as they never try to look me up. My best friend went off to war and came back but i moved away. he stay here in the town he grown up. I did not see him from 1971 to 2011 and then i saw him in a hospital as he had a heart attack. i did not talk to him much the first time but then i went back a few days later and saw him by myself as the first time I went with another friend that I did not see in the same amount of time. i talk to him a long time and he say we going to have to go to all the old places when he gets out. He left the hospital a few days later and was dead about two weeks later as he had another heart attack. he was drinking beer with the med he had taken. not good for him. i was mad at God and the world for a little time but then I knew i was wrong to be this way . God had given him a lot of times to turn to Him and i knew it from the last time I talk to him as he told me his life story more or less. I even told him about jesus some he laff about the friend that show me he was in the hospital as i told him he been going to a biker church. I at peace with God. Hope you are too as it not your false, I sure God try to help him like you tried to get him to go places with you. it was God that was leading you to do this to help your friend.
beachzz () 2:26AM | Mon, 20 June 2016
Mark, I missed this somehow and have just now read it. I can barely see the print through my tears; it's a story that has probably been told my far more people than we know about. I am so sorry you had to see this, but as someone else said, Tim needed someone there. I hope he's at peace. This IS what Memorial Day is all about.
bakapo () 7:42PM | Mon, 11 November 2019
OMG, I am so heartbroken for you. To have to witness such a tragedy is heartbreaking. He wanted you with him I suppose, to feel love one last time and maybe he was hoping you would tell his story. No one should ever feel invisible and our soldiers are our heroes, they should be treated as such. Thank you for sharing this story, Tim is not forgotten.