My husband and I were listening to NPR’s article about returning combat vets — and we felt like monsters again. But we were both in the army during the Vietnam area — he was a doorgunner with the 101st Airborne.
When watching “Full Metal Jacket” we were laughing our brains out at the barracks suicide scene — which was a portrayal of what we had all threatened to do in basic training to our D.I.
“I’m gonna shoot the motherfucker and then blow my own brains out!”
Listening to the story about the returning Iraq vets, we ended up howling.
No one during Vietnam would be surprised or confused or hurt because the military wasn’t taking care of him or her — we KNEW the military considered us meat. Cannon fodder. There were no illusions about what the military thought of us. We never ran into problems with what the rest of the community said or did to us — all that “hate the vets” crap was few and far between and mostly myth. It’s about as true as the bra-burning story they used against women who want a living wage.
Listening to the sergeant on the article claiming he got over the death of friends in combat, we recognized the sort of dead-eyed flat-effect psychotic who wouldn’t know what a friend was if he offered to hang an officer upside down in the shower and leave the cold water on. That boy is in denial, or he doesn’t have the emotions of a rock.
When we heard him stop himself before blurting out “That’s what they’re there for,” we started howling and choking with hilarity.
Somebody hand these poor kids copies of All Quiet On The Western Front before they go, and The Road Back, when they get back. Both of them by Eric Maria Remarque, who served in the German Army in WW I, and went through all the same crap.
Oh, that’s right. They can’t read.
I guess they’re the guys Kerry was talking about.
But if your kid can read, I’m not kidding — if you have a kid who is going to go into the military and be transformed into something that isn’t your kid any more — for every God’s sake get him or her a copy of both books! If nothing else, it will give the kid a taste of what to expect, so it’s not such a horrible, mind-breaking surprise. It’s not going to make anything in combat any less ghastly — but it will prepare them, and if they can have a little true preparation, instead of the empty gung-ho patriotism that forgets they’re only fragile human beings, then — IF they come back — they might come back with their minds a little more intact, or at least a little more prepared to heal.