Ben E. Weihrich

YEAH – I KNEW HIM

The “DUKE”(John Wayne) in “THE FLYING LEATHERNECKS” said it best when he found out that one of his buddies had “brought the farm” (KIA – killed in action),”Yeah – I knew him”.

Yeah – Vietnam: I knew him. I knew of his dreams, his loves, his wish to be in the arms of his family. To be working on his hot rod, instead of being a “tunnel rat”, to be at the ballpark cheering on the Dodgers or whoever, instead of doing a “body count” in some jungle.

Yeah – Vietnam: I knew him. To be on the beach enjoying the sun, surf, the girls and having a few cold ones, not waiting in a damn rice paddy on an ambush: to be home at Christmas time singing carols in the snow, instead on a LRRP or on a search and destroy mission.

Yeah – Vietnam: I knew him. Holding his newborn child in his arms and looking at his wife in love and wonderment. Not screaming out in terror in the middle of the night because of some nightmare that happened today or a dozen years ago.

Yeah – Vietnam: I knew him. Late at night, in the bunker drinking hot beer, talking about things and girls. Maybe the women we loved, going steady with, married to or just got a “Dear John” from. Remembering her pretty eyes, the way she made love, the way she kisses, maybe how she could make us feel to beside her or away from her.

Yeah – Vietnam: I knew him. Knocking the grand slam at the softball game, selling that new car to the newlywed couple, planting the last seed on the north 40, instead of holding on to his closest buddy, making his last moments in this hellhole the best, sharing his last smoke because there was no way to save him.

Yeah – Vietnam: I knew him. Every time I light a square, because he left his “Zippo” to me, the one he brought at the PX and engraved “Joe Ragman – Nam, II Corps, War Zone C”. My mind flashes back to those days.

Yeah – Vietnam: I knew him. As I knock on his parent’s, wife’s or girl – friend’s door, to pay my last respects. Telling how we were friends, how he felt about the war, how much he wanted to be back home. As I gave them his last letter, which he had not mailed. I saw their eyes fill with anger, hurt, tears and then the questions. Damn

Yeah – Vietnam: I knew him. As I stared into his face that’s lost forever in the never-never land of the V.A. Hospital and drugs: He never came home as Joe Ragman, but as a zombie. Lost forever somewhere in that last firefight, dancing the “Thorazine shuffle”.

Yeah – Vietnam: I knew him. As the friend who lives under the bridge or deep in the woods: Scraping an existence off Mother Nature or out of the dumpster of Burger King or grocery stores. Hiding out to escape the stares, the hatred, and the ugliness of the war. Staying loaded to kill the pain, the loneliness, the desperation of life.

Yeah – Vietnam: I knew him. As I walked among the rows of white headstones in the “Garden of Stones” looking at all of the names, dates and places. I look at “The Wall” finding and touching your name. I remember the good and bad times, the hopes, the dreams. I cry, not in sadness, but in hope that “This Wall” shall be the last memorial to those who fought in a war. In a war where all sides, the Victor and the Vanquish, lost. There are no winners in a war.

Yeah – Vietnam: I knew him. Here’s to you, Buddy, to your memory, to honor you, to remember you and love you. “Sleep in peace, comrade dear, God is nigh[1]”*

Author’s Note: For My Brothers and Sisters who stood the watch in the “RICE PADDIES”