I knew my mother was proud of me, but I was oblivious of her suffering as she yearned for me to return from Vietnam for virtually the entire year of 1968. It was she, alone, who prayed for my safety every waking moment, wrote to me every week, and remained vigilant in order to keep me abreast of family, friends, and my peculiar interests on the home front.
As Mike began to think again about his war experiences and the impact they had upon his life and the lives of the men of his generation, I could sense the anguish he was experiencing as he began to think about events and people that he usually tries to suppress now. So, I asked him to stop, that I would put down on paper some of what he has told me through the years.
When my husband, Justin, came home from Iraq, I felt completely relieved because he was safe. That was all that mattered. I had been friends with another spouse who had not been as fortunate. Her husband died because of an IED explosion and left behind his wife, a five year old, and one on the way. I was very happy and we celebrated with a vacation but I could not help but wonder what it must have been like to be in my friend’s position with the loss of her husband. I continued to live life without too much more thought on the matter. We were together and ready to move forward once again in our lives.
The images are haunting me, filled with the familiar scent of a home. I cannot escape their temptation and familiarity; after all, these memories are the only cherished possessions I was allowed to take with me. No, they can’t take that away from me. Nothing can ever take that away from me. My identity is reduced down to “once upon a time…before the war…before the genocide…before the hateful destruction… Before…Before…Before… Before the Death came and took so many away-to some of them welcoming final escape the horror they were surviving.” Finally everything is over-for some of us. What a strange and cruel comfort that is.
My husband of 23 years never felt that he belonged anywhere except in a jungle hunkered down in a bunker. He was sent to war at 17 years old. He was still a lad, not even through his formative years. The Marines became his parents. He was told how to think, act, and defend his fellow Marines. His life from that time on was lived with the messages he learned in those first months in boot camp. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam, each 13 months. The scars of war were severe. Severe on him and his family. The best book I read was called, Vietnam Wives. The book pretty much explains it all for Vietnam wives.