This morning I stood in the street having this discussion with Terry F. He is a few years younger than I, but I've known him all his life. He's a little rough around the edges, unkempt beard and a long ponytail. He has spent his life as a carpenter and general handyman - a good man, skilled and honest - a good man to know.
We were talking about the army and war because earlier he had talked to his son and daughter-in-law. His son has been laid-off from Cargill for some time, there are no jobs in sight, and he needs to provide for his family. He made one of those hard life decisions. He is going back into the army and will soon be moving to Kentucky. Terry is really down. Not only is he worried about his son's safety, he won't be able to see his two grandchildren regularly.
Terry himself was drafted, went to Ft. Leonard Wood for training, then sent to Vietnam. Shortly after he arrived he was in a fierce, close-quarter fight, and in the smoke and the fire and the fear, he bayoneted a young Viet Cong. He got down and cradled the dying bloody boy in his arms. The soldier kept patting his pocket and signal blinking with this eyes. Terry opened the pocket and took out a packet. There were photos of the man's young wife and children. He nodded that he understood. "He didn't want to be there any more than I did." Shortly, the young man bled to death in his arms. When the smoke cleared they had a number of prisoners tied up. He agonized about it for hours and late that night he went to the prisoners one at a time and showed them the pictures. Finally one of them recognized the photos and called their names. A brother? A close friend? Terry said nobody was watching. He cut off the man's ropes and gave him the pictures. "He reached out and squeezed me like this," he said, softly touching my shoulder, "then he was gone". His hand still on my shoulder, Terry said, "I gotta go now before I start crying again". He turned away and got in his pickup. He didn't have to cry. I did it for him, for his family and for a family back in Vietnam.