Robin Amy Bass

VETERANS DAY, 2005

Randy,

Your words touched me and made me think…

As a lot of people may already know, my boyfriend Tim is a Viet Vet. I did not find out about his having served in Vietnam, until we reunited the second time around. This was 19 years after our initial relationship which was from 1979 to 1988.

In 2003, I was reading an entry on Tim’s on-line diary (this was before we actually got back together), in which he talked about a Billy Joel concert we had attended back 1984. When Billy Joel dimmed the lights and started to play “Goodnight Saigon”, Tim gave my hand a squeeze. I thought he was being romantic. Tim never told me about his involvement in Vietnam, until that entry. It took him 19 years!

I could not understand why, until we sat down and talked… and he had me recall how our Vets were treated when they got home. The protests, the name calling, the spit!

It took Tim many years to come to terms with the way he was treated. I still see a certain look come over him, when the TV shows soldiers walking through airports. I know he remembers the welcome he got, if you can call it that!

While I cannot speak for him, I am certain there are things he will never forget, and things he will not forgive. I can’t say as I blame him. I understand his mistrust and his continual request that I tell no one about his time in Vietnam. He does not even want me to talk about it to people, who already know, unless he has initiated the conversation. I understand and do my best to respect his silence, although I believe that a missing piece of the puzzle fell into place for me and answered a lot of questions I had, with regard to Tim’s anger and pain.

Perhaps I am being naive but it is my hope that the number of Vietnam Vets has doubled, because our guys have finally realized that they are indeed among the first who deserve to stand up and be counted.

A stroke of luck led me to Tony and the IWVPA. I had so many questions. I had so much writing inside of me. Up until then, I was posting my poetry and essays on my own on-line blog… but I knew I was not talking the right people and they had no way to reach me.

At work, there was a gentleman named Art who talked about his years in the military… but he always said there were certain things he could not divulge… then he would proceed to detail all of those things… making sure I knew how strong and skillful he had been as a soldier.
I had no reason to doubt him… but my co-workers made fun of him all the time. They said he was making it up! They called me gullible. I have since found out, he is indeed, the genuine article. Art was the one, who sat down and explained what PTSD was, what he had gone through… and how difficult it was to talk about “the real stuff”.

When I mentioned Art to Tim, and said there were those who said he was lying… making it all up, Tim’s reply was, “Why would anyone want to make up something as horrific as that?”

It is ironic that there are now people who claim to be the very thing, people spit on back in the 70’s. It is ironic that presidential candidates now embrace their military service, when they once chose to hide.

The more we talk about it, the more I see that there are those people in life, who like to romanticize tragedy; those who will steal from the dead; those who have such little regard for their own self esteem; those who are clueless when you mention the words honor, courage, faith and brotherhood; those who have never sat down and had an honest conversation with anyone… not with others – not with God – not with themselves.

I have a feeling I know where the phonies and wannabes hang out… in the sleazy fictional section of life’s library. Believe me, theirs is a short lived shelf. (They are, no doubt, a subsidiary of Poetry.com)

Maybe it’s my upbringing, or maybe I’m just lucky, but I pride myself on being table o spot a cheap imitation every time and while I am content to carry a fake Louis Vuitton hand bag, that’s about as far as it goes. My real one is sitting in the closet, out of harm’s way. If someone steals the fake… well, it’s no great loss. But my real one… well it’s special and much harder to replace.

At a distance the phonies and the wannabees may pass themselves off as the real thing for awhile… but like just like those vinyl handbags copies, sooner or later, the exterior wears away and what you are left with is cardboard and straw and metal that turns your hand green when you grab on to it for any length of time.

At my last job, there was a Croatian woman named Vashti who liked to wear what I wore. If I came in wearing a new red dress, she would show up a day later, head to toe in the exact same outfit. Not just once in awhile… we are talking ALL THE TIME. One day, she even wore a blond wig. (Did I mention she is 6 feet and brunette?) It infuriated me, until someone pointed out she wanted to “be me”. That made me smile, because I knew she never could… anymore than I could be her and become born-again Bosnian.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, as Veteran’s Day nears (It is also Tim’s birthday), I think we owe it to all our Veterans – living and dead, to remember them, honor them, and love them and thank them.

As for the wannabes and phonies, it is my opinion that they don’t deserve to be in any part of the spotlight they are attempting to steal, and the more they try, the more transparent they become… till we just can’t see or hear them at all.

Sincerely,
Robin

A response to “Veterans Day, 2005” ©Copyright November 9, 2005 by Randy E. Richmond