Warrior (Father)

My father was a warrior in the jungles of Vietnam. He hasn't said much over the years about what happened, and he had so much anger when I was growing up that I didn't want to talk to him about much of anything for a long time. †I did hear a few tales from his mouth. †One where he got malaria and writhed in agony on blocks of ice as his temperature shifted from fiery furnace, melting the block against his skin, and back to freezing, as he lay shivering cold under the humid jungle of a foreign landscape. And I always remembered the tale where his unit was ambushed and he melted the barrel of his gun while piling up dead bodies in a Rambo style blazing battle scene. †Because of him and my uncle in the Navy, I wanted nothing to do with the military; angry men that yelled at their children while my friends dads were so nice. He was like a brittle branch, always threatening to snap, waiting to be bent just a little too far, his temper splintering into pieces and slapping across the trembling striped surfaces of lost childhood innocence.

Fortunately, understanding DOES comes eventually, although slowly and with a lot of empathy and only if you let it and are willing to let the past go. I now realize how things might have been for dad. He was a machine gunner on the front lines in the chaos of the war. He killed a lot of people at the orders of his superiors, and he lived/survived. He did it for men who assured him that he was killing for his freedom, and his family's, and for his god. He did it because it was his duty, and he had been taught to serve, and to be brave even when you are terrified. When he left for war he kissed his wife goodbye, convinced he may never see her again.

He finally returned to the valley of saints in the belly of a bird,
A hero from the battles in the land of jungle, fire and pestilence.
He had held thunderstorms and the judgment of God in his hands.
They told him his soul was safe, he was merely exorcising demons,
It wasnít murder as long as he wore the right clothes
And flew the symbol of the chosen land above his tent door,
But still, it was best if he didnít tell his family too many details.
And when he stepped off the plane after risking life and limb for them
His fellow citizens greeted him with protest signs and angry stares.
They spat on him for doing his duty to God and his country.

And then they made a holiday for him that he had to work on every year.

And they promised to help him finish school so he could fulfill his dream of teaching young minds the secret languages of the universe, becoming a math teacher, but the GI bill took too long and he had mouths to feed so he ended up spending sunny days buried in a mine until his job disappeared and he crawled out to the surface to make a life as a janitor.

He risked his life,
He risked his soul,
He murdered men
Because he was told,
He gave up his dreams,
And had to pretend he was whole,
Imagine that pain
Underneath it all.

To me
Was always this symbol
Of love mixed with hate and fear,
A confusing existence
That still sometimes brings tears.
I used to do anything
To avoid having him near
But as perceptions become more clear
I more and more hold him dear.
I get sad when I realize
He may not have many more years.
So I admit, after all the years of conflict
I can at last say I love him, sincere.
Written by sammy4444
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