Rhea Noel MacDonald
Why? Why didn’t we see it coming?
They came from out of nowhere – fast and strong. They gave no warning, they just hit us as hard as they could and took half my unit. The sound of the gunfire: out of nowhere, Charlie was upon us. Deep in that jungle, we were surrounded. We heard their screams, but still had no time to respond. I lost most of my men. Only a few of us survived and only because for some reason, Charlie pulled back – maybe we were the few lucky ones hidden well and fighting hard. Not that any of the rest didn’t fight as hard; when you are staring Death in the eye, you fight with all you have.
In the morning light, seeing what is left of those brave souls who we lost, it turns my stomach. I have seen death before, but this was brutal. The smell alone is enough, but to see them like that…I can’t take it. How am I going to be able to write their folks and tell them how brave their sons were? How am I going to be able to explain just how hard they fought the unseen enemy? How am I going to tell them how hard it really is out here?
Days go by, no relief at all. Sure, we can get a bit of sleep, but without the men to replenish us, we are alone and scared. We sleep in shifts, one keeping watch over the other. Back to back. This is hell. We are hungry and lonely. We are truly afraid. When are they sending more men?
The sound of the choppers, finally: the sounds of men, calling our names – we had lost the radio in that fight, so they were calling the names of all of us. Tears stream down my face as I hear the names of the dead. They reach us and pull us out. They grab what is left of those we lost. In a few days time, we will be back, a new unit and a new fight. It doesn’t end for us today. It won’t for a long time.
Though the war is over, in our minds it never ends. We live each day wondering if it should have been us, and not those we lost. The wall they built, that place of solace and pain, is but a mere reminder of what we went through. When I go there, I see them. I see the faces of those left behind, those that died and those I loved. I see them in my dreams: feel them around me always. They talk to me, and at times I shut them out. I have to if I want to be sane. I know they loved me. I know they forgive me for being alive, but can I forgive myself?
Why did we go? Why did we endure such utter loss and hatred? It wasn’t out fault. It wasn’t our war. We just followed orders. How could they have treated us so badly? Why did they hate us when we came home? Didn’t they understand it was do or die? Didn’t they understand we hated what we were doing?
I must go to sleep now: rest is finally upon me. Tell everyone I know how much I truly loved them. Tell them I am sorry for the silence. Tell them that in Heaven, they will finally know all of what was inside me. Tell them, I will now be able to cry and not fear those tears.
©Copyright August 2, 2003 by Rhea Noel MacDonald