Ben E. Weihrich

WHO ARE WE?

You can see us in parades with strange hats on, at political gatherings with the same hats on, at the gravesites of our fellow comrades giving the last salute. Sometimes we sit in wheelchairs at the VA Hospital w/iv bottles and O2 tubes in our nostrils, maybe on hospitals beds being wheeled around seeing the doctors.

Maybe sitting on the park benches feeding the pigeons and a brown sack with a whiskey bottle inside, walking the duck pond talking to ourselves, yelling out strange words or riding a bicycle singing out cadence in a loud voice and cops behind him.

Could you have seen me somewhere? Maybe in an old movie with bullets and cannons shells flying over my head, ducking behind a tree to escape a rifle shot, to be put on a stretcher and having a flag folded over my coffin and handed to my mother, my wife or my two children? Have you heard these words – “ON BEHALF OF A GRATEFUL NATION AND THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES…”? Maybe in a motorized wheelchair with a sign on the back – “Agent Orange put me in this” and American flags flying taped to the back of the handles.

Did you stop and ask who I was, open or wheeled me thru the doors of the VA Hospital, stopped at my grave on MEMORIAL or VETERANS DAY and place a flag on my grave? Did you see some people do the same on those same days and ask why? Do you flinch when jets, go outside to see the helos, sudden shots or TAPS rang out? Have you had someone feed your meals to you, change your clothes or diapers? Did someone listens to your stories, to your cries in the night and to calm your body after a frightening nightmare that has being going on for 30 years? Have you seen my name on a black wall, a brass placard, a gold star hanging on my mother’s front window, on a gravestone in a cemetery?

If you have done anything like the above or know somebody like the above mentioned, you might know me. Let me know if you do by hugging me, saluting me, placing a flag on my grave, to sing a song in my honor, to help me thru that door, to help my family to take care of me, deliver that meal on wheels, to check on me and make sure that everything is alright.

If you think you might know me please come see me at the PERMAIN BASIN VIETNAM MEMORIAL on MEMORIAL OR VETERANS DAY. I WILL BE THERE SAYING HELLO, GOODBYE AND HOW IN THE H*LL ARE YOU TO MY FELLOW VETERANS?

I could have a uniform on or not, wear a silly hat or a pin on the same or collar of a shirt or suit jacket, have long or short (clean or unkempt) hair. Be not be afraid, I do not kill anymore, shoot anyone, or swallow anyone whole. I come here to give PEACE and to SEEK PEACE. DO YOU KNOW US NOW?

Why do you come here?

Author’s Note: Printed Midland Reporter Telegram, May 2002