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It has been over 35 years since it all happened. Thirty-five years since that day I was sent away. Was I sad about leaving my family? No of course I wasn’t. I was ready, ready for anything. Or so I thought. They gave me the new M16. They told me I was ready.
It was over 35 years ago. I still remember that day like I remember the day I came back.
I thought my family would be waiting for me as I got off the plane. My baby sister, my older brother. All of them. No one was there. Of course there were plenty of people there. Faceless people yelling at me, spitting in my face. All with signs. I tried to only focus on the people with faces. There were none.
I walked down the street today. There still are no people with faces where I live. The people on the TV: not a single one has a face.
Sometimes I think I see a face. The dark hair, the dark skin. Eyes stretched out wide. The faces that I wish I had never seen. I look quickly at them. There they are, waiting for me. Whether it’s behind a bush or beyond the hill, they are waiting for me.
I shake my head a couple times trying to rid me of these memories. I can’t not think about those faces from my tour. He showed me the jungles. He said it’s a humid atmosphere. Boy, was he ever right? I took pictures of those faces. The faces of fear. The fear in their eyes not knowing which one is friend and which one is enemy. Destroying everything in our path, in my path.
Those memories are always here. I hid the mirrors from myself. I don’t know what I’ll see. Will I see my own face? Will I see the shrapnel scars left on my face? I’m scared to look. Scared of what I won’t see.
I’ve walked down the street in that little town before. How do people see me? How can they see me? They have no eyes. I sometimes hear them call out. They call out with no mouths. I can only hear one thing: “Victor Charlie.”
The voices are all so clear. I can see faces now. Wait, I know these faces. I know that voice. The voice that is yelling at me:
“Victor Charlies ahead. Victor Charlies ahead. Private, move forward. Move, move, move.”
How can I move, I think to myself. Grenades are all around me. I’m in fear for my life. One wrong step. One false move. I could be gone. Gone from this earth. Gone from this world. The world that placed me here in rough terrain.
I reach down into my pocket, sweat dripping from my eyes. I can’t see what I’m looking for, but I find it: the picture of my family.
Now I can’t tell if it’s sweat or tears rolling down my face. He yells, “What the hell are you waiting for? There are over 1200 VCs on the other side of that hill. Let’s get a move on soldier. Your brothers are 40 yards ahead.”
I wipe my eyes and take a cautious step forward. Nothing. I jog to keep up. I sprint to be faster. I storm ahead of the people around me. I hear screaming in the background. Soldiers yelling at me to slow down.
I stop, drop the gun, and drop to my knees. I spread my arms out wide and yell, “God take me away. Take me away from this Hell hole.”
I didn’t get the answer I was looking for. I feel something in my arm. It’s a little tingle. I look down, then fall down. The faces of the soldiers, my brothers, all fade around me.
I reach out for them and grab onto something. I clench my fist tight afraid to let go. Afraid to hold on. The cold pavement is below me. I’m lying on the street. The faceless people back in plain view. I’m back, unfortunately.