I have a number of anniversaries, some shared, some not. Some are joyous, some not. Some are made to be celebrated. Others, well, probably not. I spoke to an old friend today, recalling a day that was meaningful to us. It was an exciting day, a day that began a huge adventure that would change our lives forever.
This feels like a melancholy piece. Since I published Just Let Me Walk Away about my experiences in Vietnam, it seems everything I write is about that. That is not so but it often seems like it. I am not feeling badly for myself but I am sad for my friend. Here is what he said to me when I asked him if he remembered where we were on this day so many years ago: We were a very long way from home starting a great adventure. Some days it seems like only yesterday the memories, even the smells are still so fresh in my mind. Other days it seems so long ago. I don’t think many people remember Viet Nam now or care much about what we did. We’re old history now and somedays I feel like I’m in everybodys way.
Well, old friend, you’re in the way alright. And you have been since the day you first pulled on those boots. Because you were in the way we still have our country and our way of life. No, you were not recognized when you came home alive and you will never receive what you deserve. “Thank you for your service” which we often hear these days is a nice gesture, much appreciated, but a gentle cup of cool water delivered in the desert years after the bones were bleached. There were no grandstands when we entered that desert and we did not expect any when we walked out. Old history now? I suppose so. But you know who you are and I know who you are. Old history? I suppose so. But that is life. And it is grand…as are you.
Ray Kenneth Clark