Monday, December 19, 2016

My Brother and Vietnam

Excerpt from my book, " Ripples In The Lake"  Chapter 20
That word could strike terror or incite excitement in all the boys around me. You either wanted to go to war or you didn’t. Most of the boys I knew wanted to go and soon in 1968, my middle brother Cliff was drafted.
He was only a 19 yr old kid but was going to do his duty. At that time, protest was going on around the world. Kids were burning draft cards, running away to Canada and being put in jail for refusal to serve. Some mutilated themselves so they would be a 4-f instead of an A-1 which would send you to a quick boot camp then over seas.
Cliff went to boot camp and special ops training as a Green beret, then off he went to war. I don’t think any of us had any idea what he was encountering or how it would forever change him, but it did.
We would write to him and I remember us sending him a couple of boxes of home made and store bought goodies. At Christmas, we received a package from him. Inside were army boots, tea, and a few other things that he had around to send to us. I cry as I think of it now. How terrible his life was, but how much he wanted to send something, anything, home to his family. It was a connection with something other than blood, guts, and gore. I can only imagine based on the many images I have seen of what terror lived in his heart night after night, awaiting certain death. It did not matter if it was a physical death; it was death in every sense of the word, emotional death.
A few months later we got the notice that he had been blown up in a tank and taken to Tokyo for recovery. We were not able to communicate with him and then a few weeks later, we got a letter that told us he had been sent back to war. Their patch him up, ship him out motto was alive and well. He came home at 13 months when his tour was done and they tried to get him to re-enlist. He had been promoted to Spec 5 or 6 in this short amount of time. I once complemented him on his quick promotion to which he replied, that he was promoted because they were all dying. It was a shock to me a 16 yr old but it was a reality of his world.
He was not the same boy when he returned. Vietnam had forever changed him into something, that even he did not understand.
I wrote this for him:
My brother went to Vietnam at the tender age of 19
He came back a man changed for all the things he had seen
He walked off that plane proudly, ready to kiss the soil
They spit in his face and jeered, as he thought about what he had toiled
His wife left him for another, as he served his country dear
She took that hope that kept him safe, and made him feel most near
But still he gave some of himself, though they tried to take that too
But when he stooped to kiss the ground; that hope left him anew
He lost himself in a bottle, and trust deserted him
He tried to clear his head, but could not find the way
He had no one to turn too, certainly not the VA
He felt alone and found a cell, the only way to cope
Would he give his life for county again, my guess is that it would be nope
We who stay safe in our homes, and live without a care
Never know the ramifications, of what they lose to dare
To feed the dream we were raised on, and taught back in the day
That thing that became known as, The American Way
He lives in solitude, he cries when he is alone
He asks for nothing, and gave all that he could
I wonder if we were asked to serve
If our answer would be, we would
Now he is but a shell, of that teen who went to fight
To save our freedoms for us, and to give us the right
To vote and walk on the street, safe from all strife
To live and love inside your homes, with children and a wife

(Photo courtesy of his son, Cliff Jr) 

(Photo courtesy of my sister Donna, given to her by Cliff Sr) 

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