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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Was Told I was Wrong To Go To Viet Nam

(C) James J Alonzo


My step father that raised me was a heavy handed parent back in the 1950's & early 1960's.

In today's times he would of been arrested for child abuse. He also was heavy handed with my mother but that ended when I was 16 years old. He never hit her again. However my mother loved him so in the interest of peace and harmony I did my best.

1978, Some years after I had been back from Viet Nam we did try and find ways to move closer in the last two years of my step-father’s life. He had been diagnosed with cancer, and it was Terminal.

There were few things we had in common. However, One of them was boxing. We both loved the sport, so I would take him to the ‘fights’ when he asked.

He had never served in War, as I did in Vietnam. But we never really talked about my experiences until one day, when we were on our way to the boxing fights at the city auditorium; we stopped at a diner to have a snack.

All of a sudden the conversation became very serious, when out of the blue he said,

“You know you were wrong to go to Viet Nam!!”

“ What?“ I was shocked, “This is coming from the man that was "Joe Patriot" and used to tell me that it was an honor to serve my country?”

“You know,” He continued, “you’re not the Jimmy I knew before. The Jimmy I knew before died in Viet Nam!”

I first ignored his hypocrisy, but I couldn‘t forgive the cruelty of his statement. I told him something I had felt for a very long time but had never said it out loud.

“Fuck you! You’re an asshole! I can't believe the media likes to say you’re from the “ greatest generation.”

He didn't say anything, just looked at me in kind of a very strange way.

" You know yours was the last generation that grew up believing there was a man in the moon, so how great is that?" I said in anger.

His was the last generation that grew up in rural communities untouched by modern technology, unknowing of all that is going on in the world.

I grew up in the information age, knowing everything, seeing everything, watching history unfold in front of my well-worn TV eyes.

His was the last generation that grew up having the full American dream intact; mine was the generation who saw the American dream tarnished by exposed lies, the high taxes, Assassinations, Watergate and other political, and business corruption.

Finally, and this was when it got very serious, I told him that his generation was a generation who was able to come home after fighting in a war not only knowing what you did was necessary but everyone around you knew it too.

My generation; part of us fought in a war we did not understand and when we came home, we were demonstrated against, spit on, yelled at, shunned, and left alone, by the other part of our generation.

We were denigrated by being emulated in movies and other media programs as drunks, druggies, mentally unstable killers.

We had no justification, no heroes, no protection of the heart, and no treatment for the one wound no one could see.

And his generation,,,,not only sent us to this war, they didn't support us when we came back!

We were left on our own to figure it out by ourselves, and many of us, unable to deal with the reality of what we did and what we saw, did the logical thing to survive– the only thing we could do to survive– we buried it.

We buried it in the deep place with in ourselves, inside where no one could see, no one could touch, and no one could hurt. Some buried it so deep they withdrew from the world around us and have never been able to reenter.

It was one of the most interesting and sad conversations I ever had with my step-father.

He argued with me on every point except the last– and when we got to that point, he looked at me and said, quietly, and simply,

“You’re right.”

And there was a very long pause after he said that – neither one of us said anything, nor when we both had tears in our eyes. My stepfather tears, I knew of no explanation, maybe because his stepson had been hurt and there was nothing he could do about it.

Moreover, me, I had tears in my eyes because it was the first time I had admitted aloud to someone I too had been emotionally wounded in ‘Nam. I guess It caught us both off guard. It was one of the few times that I felt kind of close to my stepfather. I am sure it was because we had shared a deep and significantly personal moment.

We never talked about that conversation again, but I remember that moment of sharing, with one whom I had never really shared anything with, my step-father.

© Copyright 2011 James J Alonzo All rights reserved.
James J Alonzo has granted Agent Orange Legacy its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.

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