James H. Smith


Tonight I just feel old, seems all the years are telling tales and the body is listening. Several things have come together I’m sure to cause this, Memorial Day and the fact I should be going to visit a friend who left us in Vietnam, but I’m sure he will understand if I don’t come. I don’t feel up to the two hundred mile drive right now. But by damn Nate, I’m going to set me up a beer and have one for you too.

Last Saturday a young mare put me in the ER for three hours – x-rays of both arms and to sew up a hole in my head. She crawled up my front walked down my back rolled me into a ball and slammed me into a gate post. Doc wanted to put a splint on the right arm and put the left in a sling, no bad displaced break, so I said no thank you, I’ll just take them off as soon as I leave the hospital. I’ve worked her every day since and we are getting along better (smile, smile) I’m still walking and talking.

Now tonight I’m sitting here thinking of the long paths that have been walked to get to where I am today and the friends lost along the way. Thinking too much I guess – or perhaps it’s the pill I took. I saw a man on the news tonight, with Memorial Day coming on he was crying. And I thought that old grey haired man is about my age and his pain is as if it happened yesterday. So I look away and out my window, I find the dead, the bodies of theirs and ours left behind and yes, forty years ago is but yesterday. In our minds we are not older; the guns sound just as loud, the sound of the choppers coming still send a thrill through the blood. And if able I would saddle up tonight.

But that is a path long past walked, what would we do different if we could walk it again? Nothing I’m sure, we were young and invincible. One of the questions I’ve always wondered, why did we walk away from a war we had won and just give it to the other side? What was all the sacrifice for, not only those who died but also the ones who lost their life and kept on living? Now with Memorial Day upon us I think it’s time we honor all of the above. What of the war we are in now? In forty years will these Vets be treated with respect or will they be the Next group to be swept under the rug and forgotten. I was in a VA clinic awhile back and heard a young clerk say they were phasing the Vietnam Vets out, you know we’re getting old and dying off. I think they wish we would die off a little faster, but I’m a stubborn old fart and will hang around as long as I can.

To all have a good Memorial Day, remember and honor your brothers and sisters both living and lost. While I’m at it I’ll pour a third beer and toast every last one of you, Thank You

Author’s Note: For Memorial Day, 2008