30 years later…..

July 22, 2012
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“And how do you think the Vietnam War has affected you now?” Asked the interviewer.
“Well to be completely honest, the war messed me up a little, both physically and mentally.” I said.
“How so?”
“Well for starters I have a limp that will never go away, a few scars on my legs and arms, and sometimes I randomly get these headaches that hurt like h*ll out of nowhere.”
“Ok that’s the physical what about the mental?”

I thought about that question for a while. Should I tell her? I really didn’t want to I didn’t like reliving the war too much, it still made me kind of jumpy. Thinking about all those …..
“Mr. Perry?”
“I’m sorry if that’s a question you don’t want to answer we can move to the next one if you want.”
I looked over at her I think she said her name was Olivia. I thought it was funny that she said that she’ll move onto the next question if I didn’t want to answer. Would we end this interview if I didn’t want to answer any of the questions? Because I sure as heck didn’t want to answer any of them. I wondered why I had agreed to this interview when I didn’t even like remembering the war let alone explaining my experience to someone else. When Olivia showed up at my doorstep with pencil, notebook, and recorder in hand asking if I’d like to tell my take on the Vietnam war my first thought was no. But I knew I had to, this was a story that needed to be told to as many people willing to listen, which brings me back here to this interview I had to continue.
“No, that’s all right I’ll answer it. Sometimes I still see the war, it’s something you can never really forget no matter how hard you try. I could be walking through the street and all of a sudden think I see a Vietnamese soldier aiming at me, or when I hear loud sounds I think it’s an explosion going off somewhere one time I actually dove to the ground because of it, I got a lot of strange stares that day, haha. But the worst is when I’m asleep I’ll have these dreams that take me back to the boonies with the squad Peewee, Johnson, Monaco, Lobel, and James. In one dream we all got separated from each other and the Congs killed us off one by one, when they finally find me they point a gun at my head, smile, and pull the trigger and then I wake up screaming.”
I looked up Olivia seemed to be soaking in every word I said so I continued.
“I mean those things still happen now but not as much, you should have seen me when I first got back into the World I was a wreck. I could hardly go out without hallucinating and forget about going out at night. I mean I can now but back then nope, I made sure to lock all my doors, windows, and anything else I could find to lock I would.”
“Ok, I heard that you and Mr. Gates came back from the war together do you still keep in touch and how about the other members of your squad?”
“You talking about Peewee? Yeah I see him about once or twice a month. When you fight in a war with a man he becomes your friend for life, of course that includes the others too. I don’t see them as often as I do Peewee but I still talk to them. Johnson seems fine he’s finally let himself admit that there were deaths in the war and the only thing we can do is pray for them. Monaco still loves me and Peewee to death for saving his life he even keeps sending me gifts, at first I didn’t know why I was getting them but as soon as I opened it I knew it was from him, he even showed up the next day in person to thank me again. Jamal seems fine I think he’s the strongest one out of all of us I haven’t seen him break down even once or act any differently. Lobel on the other hand he was never quite the same after he killed that Vietnamese soldier it’s like he lost a part of himself, I feel sorry for him but I can understand it a little.”
“Next question is: How do you think you’ve changed from the time you entered the war till the time you got out, you were only seventeen right?
“Yep, I was only seventeen when I entered. I didn’t even know who I was when I enlisted, the war kind of helped me figure that out though. I was a scared kid trying to find out where I belonged in the world most of us soldiers were actually. I figured out that I really had no dreams or aspirations, I just wanted something different than the life I had. But after going into the war I realized that I had a lot of things I wanted to do and see and then only thing I could think about was surviving long enough to be able to do them. That war changed who I use to be and I’ll never be the same person I was but I think that I’m a better person now.”
“That’s interesting Mr. Perry. Do you have any last words you’d like to say?”
“I’ll just say this; war is something you’ll never be able to stop seeing, even when you get out of it, it sticks with you for life.”
“Ok, that’s all I need thank you Mr. Perry.”
I started to get up to walk her to the door but she stopped me and said she could walk herself out and that was it, my story was going to be told to anybody willing to listen. I’ll bet Peewee will be happy that I included him.

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