Very short but powerful war story I found on the internet just now
I found this story here:
by Dan Griffin
It was several years after I came home from Vietnam, and the family was about to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner at my sister Ritas house when she said, you have to see this now. I asked her if it could wait until after we ate dinner; she said no you have to see this now. She
had this very serious look on her face and a solemn tone to her voice. So I said to myself, Id better listen to her. We went into her bedroom; I sat on the bed while she reached into a dresser drawer and pulled out a stack of letters with a red ribbon tied around them. Rita said, these are all of the letters you wrote to me while you were in Vietnam.
She said that the letters were in order from the first to the last and she wanted me to read them now and in that order. Rita and I are very close; as a matter of fact she was the only one of my brothers and sisters that I wrote to. Rita closed the door and left me alone to read the letters.
I sat on the bed; the letters were open in a stack. I took off the red ribbon and looked at the first one; it was four pages, with large flowing words describing the beautiful countryside. I wrote about the friendly kids and the lifestyle of an exotic people. Each letter after that became shorter and shorter. They went from four pages to three, then two, then one. The letters became darker; not just the subject matter but also the handwriting became darker as if I was bearing down harder on the pencil. I didnt write about beauty any longer, just death. I would write about the heat and the filth; things like; my friend John Nurse was burned
to death today. The very last letter was just a couple of lines and it looked like I wrote with the pencil in my fist, very dark, like I was bearing down very hard on the paper. I wrote; I cant wait to get out of here, I hate this place.
When I finished reading, I placed the letters on the bed; I felt alone. The room was silent. I could hear my family talking from the dining room and smell the turkey dinner. I realized why Rita had shown me the letters; she was showing me how much I had changed from when I first
got to Vietnam and what I am like now. I left the letters on the bed and walked out to the dining room. My family was seated at the large table, eating. No one looked up, I sat down and a couple of times my sister and I exchanged glances, but we never spoke about the letters again.
I read this and the first thing that popped into my mind was "holy shit! That was me when I was in Iraq!"
I stopped calling home and would just send brief emails home every couple of days to let people know that I was still alive. I went several months where I just couldn't bear to call home and talk to my future wife (fiance at the time) or my parents. I became a very dark person and I started to wish and hope that I'd die in Iraq rather than go home. I felt like I had nothing to go home to.
The worst part about the feeling is that, after being out of Iraq almost 8 years, a big part of me wants nothing more than to go back to the war and never come home. Returning home has been the hardest part of the war for me to deal with.
Anyways, I found this story when I did a google search about veterans writing workshops. I've had a crazy idea bouncing around my head for a while that I'd like to write a book about the war and I have no idea where to begin. Anyways, I found this and I thought it was worth sharing.
Write. I'm glad you are looking into it and thinking about it. You've got a story to tell and the ability to tell it well.
I also encourage you to keep following your desire to write. Sounds like it'll be good for you and you have a story to tell that I'm sure others want to hear. I know I do. Glad you're home and also with us here at DU.
USA Engineers, '76-'79, 62B
Now it seems "normal" for soldiers to have multiple tours in a combat zone, five, six, seven cycles through the morale-crushing experience reflected in the letters.
For most, Vietnam was one tour and out. In the huge throng of draftees and one-term enlistees, the career soldier's experience seems to be lost. I wonder what what was a normal number of tours for a career infantryman.
The cycle of going into that dark place, then going home and pretending to act normal, then repeating, seems to have no end in this Middle East conflict, more-or-less constant since 1990 Desert Shield and 1991 Desert Storm.
Good post, thanks.