Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Conversation In The Viet Nam War

(C) James J Alonzo

As a squad leader there were times I had to check on the guard details at base camp. For the past few days whenever I had to go down to the perimeter at night, i would pass by him, which in it's self was unnerving. He was always at the same place, leaning against the same pile of sandbags. Whenever i saw him, my first reaction was a fear, an apprehension of the unknown.

Part of me didn't want to deal with him, however part of me felt that if i got to know him a little better, the fear would go away.

Throughout my life I had been taught that there was nothing to fear from people like him. But still, I've always had misgivings of people like him. I knew that overcoming those feelings would be well worth the effort. There were too many of his kind around to let my fear and prejudice rule me.

That night was a hot choking humid night, and the mosquitoes were hungry, the jungle outside the perimeter was pitch black. This particular night I walked up and sat down beside him like I'd known him for years. I felt sure he wouldn't mind, i could see he didn't to mind the heat or the mosquitoes.

We looked at each other for a while and then I sort of struck up a conversation. I wanted him to know the reason I'd singled him out was because, in my ignorance he scared me, and I always made it a point to face my fears.

After i had spent a little time with him, I feel some empathy with him. I knew that before my tour in Vietnam was over, we might have a lot more in common than we did now but I hoped not.

Knowing that part of his life was a story similar to my own, there was no reason that in another time or place we could of been friends. I spoke to him about his life and I was assured that he had had known happiness and sadness, love and anger, fear and strength.

I knew as we talked, he too had held a woman's hand at night, watched the moon and stars reflecting off the water, hearing the laughter of children, thinking of how beautiful life was going to be after the war.

It seemed to me that we had a lot in common in our lives and this war. Like me I was assured that he too marveled at a beautiful sunset, and laughed at a silly jokes. and yet we came from different places, a different culture, yet he didn't seem me.

I remember as I was talking to him, thinking he looked like crap! He smelled, but that was expected, and understandable, for this was war. He had messy dirty hair, his skin like dark leather stuck to his thin face, the hollowed look of his dead eyes.

Looking back to that time in Viet Nam, I was glad I'd taken the time to have an imaginary conversation with him. He was dead now, just another soldier like me, who had tried to live his life the best he could.

His life was ended now, but not for me. His death made me want to keep my wits, concentrate on the skills I was taught by the training i had received.

© Copyright 2012 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.


Anonymous said...

James, fantastic. I think a whole lot of us lived that same life... Thanks

James J Alonzo-DiCenzo said...

Thank you for taking the time to read this. My writings are there to teach and help the children to understand that Viet Nam and the soldiers were not treated like the soldiers in Iraq & Afganistan.