Frank J. Montoya
DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?
Do you know who I am? I’m George, your old grey-headed neighbor who lives down around the corner from you. I used to wave at you most mornings as I was watering my lawn and you were on your way to work. Sometimes you would wave back; sometimes you wouldn’t, and we’ve said “Hi” to each other a couple of times down at Wal*Mart. I don’t get out a whole lot nowadays. The old achy bones don’t seem to want to co-operate too much anymore. The wife says it’s old age and arthritis setting in and I suppose it is, but it’s mostly my right knee that’s the problem, though. I got a German machine gun bullet in that knee just as I hit the beach at Normandy on D-Day back in June of ‘44, and it has never been the same. My memories of D-Day are getting dimmer all the time but I guess I must have done something right that day because they gave me the Silver Star; for bravery in action, or so they said. I do remember helping a few wounded buddies get to cover and after throwing a few well-aimed hand grenades, I took over that same machine gun that got me and turned it around on a bunch of Jerries and kept on firing until I blacked out. From loss of blood, I heard later. World War II was one tough situation but our boys can do the impossible when it comes to fighting for freedom and the American way of life. I was put on limited duty and after the war; I came home, married my high school sweetheart and worked as a clerk at the post office for more years than I care to remember. Well, anyway, I’ll be hittin’ 78 next month so I guess it’s time for me to slow down and take it easy. Maybe we’ll see each other down at Wal*Mart one of these days. In the meantime, take care now.
Do you know who I am? My name is Eddie. I was a mechanic down at that garage on the old highway south of town. You used to bring your cars in for service and emissions tests. I recall installing a fuel pump in your Chevy pickup a while back before I retired, or maybe it was a water pump. I do remember one time when you were in for service; you saw me hobbling around and asked me if I had foot trouble. I probably told you I had a sore foot. That’s what I usually tell people. Actually, there’s a long story to tell about my foot. You see back in high school I loved go out for sports. I went out for Track and Field and Football every year and I got several letters for placing first in the 100 Yard Dash and the Mile Run. I dreamed about running in the Olympics. I wanted to be another Jim Thorpe. I enlisted right after graduation and before I knew it I found myself in Frozen Chosen. I was just a spindly 19 year old when we hit Charlie where it hurt and chased him all the way up the Korean Peninsula to the Chinese border on the Yalu River. But when they turned a couple of hundred thousand Chinese regulars loose on us we had to beat it back down South to regroup and wait for reinforcements. That was one tough trip. We had to fight Charlie and Old Man Winter at the same time. Charlie didn’t get me, but Jack Frost sure did. It was bitter, sub-zero cold and snowing on that march down to Seoul and my right foot got frostbit so bad I lost three toes. No more 100-yard dashes, no more mile-runs, no football and no Olympics, for sure. But I can’t complain. Life has been good. I’ve got a wonderful wife who is the light of my life. I’ve got two great kids and four terrific grandkids. Now that I’m retired, I just take it easy. I go up to Cripple Creek now and then, watch a little TV and get together with my buddies down at the VFW or the American Legion. If you still go down to that garage on the old highway south of town be sure to tell them that Eddie used to service your vehicles and I’m sure they will do a good job for you.
Do you know who I am? I’m Steve with High Country Carpet Service. I cleaned your carpets a couple of months back. I hope you were satisfied with the job I did and hope you’ll call me again the next time your carpets need service. I have my own business and I’m my own boss. I like it that way because I can do as much or as little as I please. I couldn’t work at a regular job because I’m one of those guys you’ve probably heard about that’s still fighting the Vietnam War. It’s been over 30 years but I still dream of jungle patrols, ambushes, land mines, booby traps, punji pits, landing zones and medevacs, not to mention nightly rocket and mortar attacks. You name it. Those memories haunt me a good deal of the time. Years ago, they called it “Shell Shock”, later it was “Combat Fatigue”, but now they have a new, longer and fancier name for it: “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” or PTSD. I see a doctor at the VA Hospital in Denver and he says I’m doing better, but I don’t see how. My biggest problem is a recurring dream I have about what actually happened on my last patrol just before I rotated back to the States. I was part of a Search and Destroy Mission, hunting for Viet Cong. We were marching along, single file and my best buddy, Scott was following right behind me. This was his last mission, too. We would be going home in just a few days. As we were moving through thick undergrowth, my foot got caught on a root and I stumbled to the ground. Instead of waiting for me to get up, Scott said: “Look out, clumsy!”, and stepping over me, took my place in line. I immediately got up and fell in line behind him. Less than a minute later we were ambushed by Viet Cong and Scott was literally torn in half by AK-47 automatic fire. I fell on top of Scott, calling his name, knowing he was dying and knowing full well that it should have been me lying there, bleeding to death. He barely whispered: “Get ‘em for me, Steve” and he was gone. That day has been with me ever since. Very often in my dream I see Scott back in Iowa, driving a tractor on the family farm, and then the scene shifts to Washington, D.C. and I see my name engraved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, and I know that is the way it should have happened. Sometimes after a hard night, I just can’t go to work. That’s why I’m so glad to have my own little business and I can re-schedule my work if I have to. My wife has learned to live with my problems and it hasn’t been easy for her. She is a mountain of strength, support, and consolation. I really don’t think I could make it without her. Well, now you know all about me. I hope it won’t keep you from calling on me or mentioning my name to your friends if anyone needs my services in the future.
Do you know who I am? I’m the Army Sergeant who rents the house across the street from you. We wave at each other now and then and say “Hi” usually when I’m on my way in to Fort Carson to report for duty. I’m a career Soldier with almost 15 years service. I was sent to the Middle East to help free Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion during Operation Desert Storm. Since then I’ve been on a couple of “peacekeeping” missions to Bosnia and Kosovo. I love the service and I am proud to have the opportunity to serve my country while providing a good living for me and my family. I am what you might call a “Flag Waver” and I am glad to bear that title. You won’t be seeing too much more of me anymore because I just received orders assigning me to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Now I must take my family back East to live with my wife’s parents while I’m gone. It’s winter and the kids will miss some days of school, but they’re used to that. We have moved around quite a bit during the past twelve years. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, but I will go anywhere and stay for as long as it takes if I can help rid the world of terrorism and ensure a happy, safe, and secure future for my family. If another military person should happen to rent this same house, I’ll thank you now, in advance, if you would please wave, or say “Hi” to him now and then. That way he will know that you recognize him for whom and what he is and that you appreciate his dedication to our country and the way of life he has chosen. I love the Pikes Peak Area and I hope I can be stationed here again. If that happens, maybe we can meet again, someday.
©Copyright September 2002 by Frank J. Montoya