Randy E. Richmond
We were with some friends the other day, celebrating an anniversary and breaking some bread, drinking a couple barley pops, swapping stories and marveling that none of us ever ended up in jail or hurt bad. Hadn’t seen Jim in awhile – he was the jarhead of our bunch. Even after so many years you didn’t have to guess that. A few tattoos, one of which is a bulldog, a marine cover that was always atop a gray head cropped ‘high and tight’ and the unmistakable carriage that shouts ‘Semper Fi’.
This is a guy who after meeting a local gold star mom from here, asked if she’d ever been to see her son at the wall. After she told him she hadn’t yet had the means to do that but hoped to one day, he took out his wallet and gave her enough for her round trip ticket to D.C. (and he’s not independently wealthy). Another time he couldn’t sleep and got up in the middle of the night, went for breakfast and ran into a soldier on leave. The young man couldn’t catch a ride till late in the morning so Jim put him in the car and drove him the seventy miles to his momma’s smiles.
That’s what kind of a guy my friend… my brother is. And that’s why it hurt to hear an older man look at him and ask him a little sarcastically… “Vietnam? That was a long time ago wasn’t it?”
Guess that’s true enough, it was a long time ago, but knowing him for many years now I also know it was last year, last month, and maybe even last night. He said nothing but I could tell it hurt him too. The older man dropped it before telling him one of the two things I expected to hear next, either forget about it; it’s over or embrace it and live with it. Forgetting it is an option that Jim and so very many would give most anything to avail themselves of but… impossible. As for embracing it, now there’s a good one! Not too tough an assignment when it’s already got a 35 year death grip and lip lock on you! And yet… we’ve all heard it before.
After witnessing this I found my thoughts going more and more to the youngsters who are now in harm’s way. Wondering if they have any idea that they are just now taking the first few steps on an odyssey that may never end… a journey to a peace that may elude them… to a world where there are many who won’t remember, understand… or care.
I hope things are different for them… and I can promise that I will never be that old man that asks… “Iraq? That was a long time ago wasn’t it?”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll embrace my God, my friends, my family, America, and those who stand and fight with her.
©Copyright April 9, 2003 by Randy E. Richmond