What little I had I gave away. My orders came down, so I took everything out and spread it on a cot and stood looking at it. Give it all away; it don't mean nothing! What could I do with this crap back in the World?
I pulled my AK-47 down from the wall. I have to give it away, too. The one the gook shot me with down in the Delta. It will be the first thing I will give away. A buddy had picked it up for me after he fragged the gook that shot me on an Eagle Flight fourteen long months ago. I have kept it since that day and have counted my blessings many times. It is my lucky charm; my Mojo; my Saint Christopher's medal.
The night before I left there was a party down at the Doc's hooch. Drunk and disorderly were my middle name. I had a hard time believing that this was really coming to end for me. The more I thought about leaving, the drunker I got.
On this last night sleep was impossible--not even the sleep so familiar to grunts pulling guard on a night ambush, sleep where the body stiffens and nods, but the mind still churns along, listening, sniffing, seeing past the heavy, heavy, eyelids.>
I sat in back of the hooch and watched the wire and listened for the soft plushy sound of incoming and if they come I will hear the rounds screaming like the screams of the dead and count them with my fingers. I will sit through everything--the mortars, the rockets, the skinny sappers hugging their packs while they crawl along the ditch out back, and I will be silent, because I am going home in the morning. I know they cannot kill me; I'm going home!
Everyone talks about what they are going to do when they get home. Those magical words spoken with no small reverence, "I'm going home, back-in-the-world!" A mystical place held to ground by trees, green like the color green that dripped from the hand of God. The green of all green. That's where I'm going in the morning. God, or the Devil could walk into this hooch and call me, saying, "Come with me, I will take you to my house and give you soft fine clothes, your fondest wish--simple rest. But I would not go with them, because first of all, first of anything, I must go home. I have come too far, done too much, seen too many things to deny myself the ritual of stepping back from all this.
Now it's my turn. I have to go home the way I came, alone and with nothing, that's why I have given everything away.
In the morning I was still drunk (and a bit disorderly). I caught a convoy to Long Binh for out processing. Finally I see what I've longed for, my Freedom Bird. "See that plane new guy?" "That's MY FREEDOM BIRD!" But as I get ready to board I realize that I am not alone, this place and its people are with me now and will be forever. The dream is dead; only the ritual remains.
During the flight I find myself feeling as if I just lost my home, my family, MY WORLD. Could this really be? The dream is dead; only the ritual remains.
March 2001: I wrote this many years ago when I was struggling with the loss of connection with my Nam Brothers from the 2/47th. Since that time I have been very fortunate by renewing many old friendships from Nam. I now know that I didn't lose my Nam 'Family" as I thought when I wrote this. We were all just out of touch for a while as we worked at getting on with our lives. We only lose our 'family' when we allow it to happen. The lesson for me was that you shouldn't wait and think that you will get in touch with your Brothers from Nam later. Do it today! You will never regret doing so....you most likely will regret not doing so. Use the Internet to search for them, write to any old addresses you may have, check our 2/47th web sites, do something, but please don't wait. You life will be much richer for reaching out and reconnecting with your Brothers. Trust me on this one, mine sure is. Bob