Thurman P. Woodfork

THE REAL DEAL

In ‘Nam, one would think that Death came without affectation or pretense of any kind. However, he sometimes donned a smiling child’s face before he wrapped his victims in his lethal embrace.

Other times, he’d hide with poisoned fangs, coiled in a narrow underground tunnel, or bury himself in the ground behind a mossy log. He would burrow down into rice paddy dikes, waiting to explode the life from any unlucky grunt who stepped on him.

He was fond of lying in wait for the unwary soul beneath a booby-trapped wounded or lifeless body. Death hiding within death. Then again, he might greet you face to face, with a knife and a snarl.

Death rarely came peacefully, and more often than not, he stank – of rancid clothes and gamy bodies, not to mention the spilled contents of those bodies. And what are soldier-boys made of? Hearts and minds and bones and blood and guts… as well as buddies’ love

Most of the time though, death came matter-of-factly: with a bullet or a bomb. That’s not to say that his arrival was anywhere near unemotional or cut and dried. Just how unemotional can a young man be when he’s still in his teens, or barely out of them? Especially when he regularly watches his friends die in the midst of violence.

There was always emotional turmoil, accompanied by pain, terror, noxious odors, nasty sights, and some real, heartfelt, hot, bitter tears. Often, it was dulled by weariness; however, it was there, just beneath the fatigue.

But ultimately, there is only one ending – when you’re dead, you’re dead; not a lot of ambiguity or artificiality about that.

Submitted for the March 2005 IWVPA Club Theme Project, “Affectation