MISSING IN AMERICA
The brief article, Missing in America, which follows was written by George Eyres Masters (GeorgeEyersMasters.com), a Vietnam vet, a Marine, and an author worthy of your attention.
If you've never hunted humans, if you've never been hunted, if you haven't been shot at on a regular basis, one thing you could try is to appreciate what this person has been through.
Jack, my co-pilot, sleeps in the passenger seat. His chin rests on my upper leg. The car in front of us wears two Support Our Troops ribbons on its backside. One is yellow, the other red, white and blue. Both are made in China. On the right rear bumper is a black and faded MIA sticker. The driver of the car probably means well but by now I've seen too many ribbons. While the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq kill and maim I can't help but think how they are also shaping the future of returning veterans. Many of these men and women will come home and go missing and you won't even know it. Returning from a war is more than getting off an airplane and putting on civvies. Combat changes a person. It changed me.
I'm driving angry
I want to tell the guy in front of me: You want to support the troops? Get them the hell out of the line of fire. Or- If you think this war is such a necessary enterprise haul your ass on over there and spend some time in Indian Country. If you're too old, pull your kids and grandchildren out of college and send them.
I'm driving sad
If you've never hunted humans, if you've never been hunted; if you haven't been shot at on a regular basis, one thing you could try is appreciate what this person has been through. Then get down on your knees and pray, and thank your lucky stars it wasn't you.
I'm driving lost
It's Viet Nam, 1968, Quang Nam Province. I work up a spit of bleeding gums, saliva and bug juice and spit into the cow-cropped dry grass to my left. Rolling my shoulders, keeping Valdez in sight, I wonder about the skeletons we passed an hour ago. No way to tell who they were or how it happened. Three sets of bones, picked and bleached, partly clothed in faded, rain flattened tatters of black and white. Sprawled outside four fighting holes, two of the skeletons lay mostly intact, arms reaching, legs cocked as if trying to crawl back to their open graves. The third had no skull and no sense of direction. Couldn't make up his mind which way to go. Bones everywhere in the parched, knee high, wheat colored grass.
Concentrating on the ground, on where to put my feet, I breathe in shallow drafts. Turning my head I scan the hot, windless valley. Alone under my helmet, wet under my flak jacket, the sweat rolls like marbles down the inside of my legs. Single file I follow Valdez, the radio man, ten meters to my front. Valdez, with his antennae tied down, shifts his rifle. Where Valdez steps, I step. I feel more than see the forward progress of Koster the point man. Then Frenchy, Davis, Stillman, Billy Mac and Valdez. Hearing Barberra behind me I'm aware of Duke and Ski like a snake knows his tail.
Packed inside myself I'm jammed in and scared. The rifle angles down to the left across my body. On full auto my finger's hooked outside the trigger guard. Feeling the sun steam through the damp towel around my neck I want to turn a canteen upside down behind my helmet and empty it. Not enough water left in the canteens for that, not until we find more water. Damn windless heat thumps me through the flak jacket.
We cross an open field of cracked earth and yellowed grass that crunches beneath my boots. Heat worms up through the soles of my boots. Toes cracked and bleeding, heels aching, my swollen feet fester in the canvas and leather. Twin belts of gun ammo cross my chest, triple canteens hang off the back of my belt. An M-16 bandoleer is slung over my shoulder and the magazines inside clink lightly. Two grenades, like giant steel eggs, hang smooth and round off my flak jacket pockets. C-ration cans clunk against the sticks of C-4 explosive in my trouser kangaroo pockets. I hate being in the open like this.
Breathing shallow to keep the burn out of my lungs. Fear pulses the big leg artery, my crotch is laced up tighter than the jungle boots. Helmeted shade, my eyes sting as I scan the valley left to right, right to left. One foot in front of the other. The sun up there crouches like a big animal with its jaws open and growling.