Peace with Honor
from Children of Vallejo
Martin sat in his wheelchair watching the images on the television screen: desperate men, women, and children scrambling up the staircase on the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, attempting to board the helicopter, their last chance to escape. How many would make it? How many would be left behind, and what would happen to them? Martin wanted to scream, to throw something at the screen, but there was nothing within reach.
His physical therapist entered the room, come to take him for his daily regimen of learning to walk again. Allison was a fine professional: strong, knowledgeable, compassionate, dedicated. She looked at Martin’s face, then at the television screen. She found the remote and turned it off. It was quiet then, for a moment.
“Look, that’s not your concern, Lieutenant. It’s over. It’s done. Listen to me—”
“That’s not your life anymore. Are you listening?”
“It’s done with. Nothing more you can do. Okay?”
“You did your job. You did the best you could. True?
“Now your job is to get well and to walk out of here. Got it?”
“All right then, let’s get this show on the road. Got a tough day’s work ahead.” She took control of his chair and wheeled him through the door and into the hall.
Martin didn’t answer. He knew she was right. This was his life now: to work, to learn, to get stronger every day, and as she said, to walk out of this damn VA hospital. Vietnam wasn’t his problem anymore. The dead and the wounded weren’t his problem either. How many dead? Was it fifty thousand? How many wounded? He couldn’t remember. This place was full of them, kids mostly. Some would recover, live fairly normal lives. Some would not. Some would swallow a gun or shoot poison in their veins. Some would drink themselves to death.
And for what? Don’t think about that.
What was accomplished? Don’t even go there.
Why were we there? Just forget about it.
And what about the innocent civilians ripped apart in the crossfire? God help us!
No, you went where they sent you and you did your job. Now let it go.
It’s not your life anymore, Martin. It’s done and it’s not part of you, not ever again.
None of it.
Not one friggin’ goddamn bit.